First, let us establish a few things. These are not my favorite 13 horror movies ever, although some of them do make that cut. Also, while an avid horror movie fan and consumer, (one of the only genres I ever pay to go to the theatre for,) I do not just consume horror movies to be scared.
A horror movie is good to me in one of two ways: one, it is genuinely frightening. To be genuinely frightening to me, it is not really about the blood and gore and jumps, (for instance the first Saw is the only one I put any stock into.) Rather, a genuinely good horror movie is well-thought out, well planned, ingeniously terrifying or interesting, just as the first Saw is, yet is watchable. The Human Centipede is a genuinely horrifying, well-thought-out concept with a great villain brought to life. It is not a good horror movie because I don’t ever want to watch it again, and I really don’t want to see its sequel, which looks more disturbing than the first.
A good horror movie is not just horrifying, instead I leave feeling satisfied about watching people die, a hard thing to accomplish.
The second way a horror movie can be good is if it is so epically bad or ridiculous or both that it leaves the realm of fright and becomes hilarious. This is also a fine line to trot, the example of which for me is Insidious. It is a well-made movie with great talent. It is not scary. It is a good horror movie because I laugh and jump at all the right times, and I still leave satisfied. (If you are truly afraid of Insidious, sorry this is my example, but I just can’t take Darth Maul in hooves playing with mobiles to old-timey music or the gas masked seance or the ghosts of Marilyn Manson’s family seriously.)
That being established, you have to sift through a lot of crap in the horror genre to get one of these two things, and if I still get the occasional giggle out of it, I think it was worth the time, case in point every Hellraiser movie ever.
But for those of you who don’t like living on horror movies alone, this is my list of 13 horror movies worth the time of watching it, based on one of my aforementioned reasons above. While some of these are adequately famous, most people probably haven’t taken the time to see them (particularly if you’re of my generation,) because you didn’t know it existed, thought it looked bad, are too young, or just otherwise missed out:
13. Splice. This movie was bizarre and at times hard to watch, but it ended up with my feeling rather satisfied about the whole thing, oddly enough.
Clearly sporting a decent budget and actors, the plot includes Adrian Brody and his fellow scientist girlfriend cooking up creatures with the spliced DNA of different kinds of animals that would ideally make some BAMF fighting creatures, or more ideally be used to make really resilient livestock. And naturally, they decided to mix a little human DNA in there for kicks, and quickly birth a baby girl monster.
After a little interspecies erotica between her and Brody takes place, who knew it would happen!? (as accurately predicted by their other wormy monsters,) she changes sex to a man and gets pretty aggressive, leading to more inter-species spliced action as she rapes Brody’s significant other. I won’t give away the full ending, but it was worth the watch at the very least as a very interesting full-circle plot. It doesn’t really feel like horror the whole movie, and it definitely has some truly laughable moments, but this movie was really a combination of both the reasons I watch horror movies.
12. Dead Silence. From James Wan who brought us Saw and Insidious this movie was way better than my expectations, which may be part of what made it so awesome.
There are some recognizable faces in here, including Donnie Wahlberg and Jason Stackhouse of Trueblood as the leads, this movie explores the far under-used creepiness of ventriloquism that I have always found off-putting. Jason (which is not his name in this movie, I just can’t think of him as anyone else,) once again does a great job acting like a somewhat scared puppy dog throughout. While there are some laughable action sequences of a ghost using her dolls against them, the opening credits sequence where you see a dummy being made is cool and disturbing, and the twist ending, while funny, is genuinely surprising and somewhat clever. Frankly, this is a less absurd horror movie than Insidious.
This acclaimed film made Guillermo Del Toro famous, yet the Mexican film probably never made it to your television. This retelling of a vampire story involves an ancient device that gives eternal life after multiple attachments to you. This is the scariest part of the movie as the spider-like mechanism genuinely seems to eat into the protagonist’s hand as it injects him with something that seems to be coming from the actual worm-like insect encased within it.
Naturally after that, he develops a taste for blood, dies, comes back to life, and then does battle with a rich man who wants the device for himself. This movie is masterfully crafted and told, and despite little truly chilling aspects, the whole movie leaves one feeling just that, chilled. While not as haunting as Pan’s Labyrinth, this movie is infinitely better than his recent tooth fairy themed Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
Yes, I know that’s a foreign movie poster for it. Deal with it. This movie may have enchanted me merely because it is set in Chicago, but I think it was more.
A graduate student investigating urban legends explores the myth that saying Candyman into a mirror five times will result in his coming to kill you with his hook hand. The stuff of childhood fantasy that no longer sounds scary is increasingly disturbing with each incident in this movie as people really do die. The actor who plays Candyman is genuinely creepy and convincing, and overall she turns into a sort of urban legend of her own to complete the circle. It is an older movie, and I rented it because I’d stared at the eye cover so many times that I finally just did it, and I didn’t regret the decision.
9. Creepshow. Creepshow is a 1982 anthology of short horror stories that supposedly come from a horror comic. It was directed by Romero and written by my favorite author Stephen King. They’re a little goofy and laughable and intermixed with a variety of comic drawings predicting the forthcoming events.
That being said, there is a lot of great talented actors in it including Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen and Ed Harris, and even one in which Stephen King guest stars as the main character and is taken over by an unstoppable-growing alien plant substance. He’s goofy and hilarious to laugh at as all his guest appearances in movies and TV are in my opinion. Despite the fact that the effects and things are laughably old, the stories are still interesting and hold up well, as does some of the makeup. This movie is on Netflix though, and I really enjoyed watching it, and definitely saw it as a precursor to Trick r Treat.
8. From Dusk Til Dawn. This is one of my favorite horror romps. Directed by Rodriguez and written by (and starring) Tarantino, it is a hard to beat movie highlighting the fun of the horror genre. An extremely young George Clooney and Tarantino are criminals on the run who take a family hostage to get them into Mexico.
Once in Mexico however, they stumble into the hotbed of a Mexican vampire clan that includes Cheech Marin. The opening sequence where they blow up a convenience store is my particular favorite, but Tarantino also makes a bad ass vampire which is also hilarious. Clever at moments yet maintaining ridiculous over-the-top gore is these boys’ trademarks, and this movie does not disappoint.
7. Teeth. Men, I know you will probably not be able to watch this one, so I will excuse you. This is a movie about a girl with teeth in her vagina. And it is sometimes too graphic for men to handle. Just the concept tends to make you squirm. But, to be fair, all the men who are attacked deserved it.
She, a devout Christian with some of the funniest shirts you will ever see, discovers her power when a boy tries to take her virginity by raping her after confessing the epic “I haven’t even jacked-off since Easter!” This movie is hilarious in all that happens. They act like this is a long standing myth and the doctor who loses his fingers to her screams out “It’s true! Vagina Dentata!”
She eventually comes to embrace both her sexuality as she discovers she can control her teeth and use them for good, and her womanhood as she owns her affliction and uses it to rid the world of scummy men. Full of unforgettable lines, this quickly became oft quoted in an apartment of girls, and was even made into an epic drinking game. Women will die laughing. Men might just cry.
6. Jennifer’s Body. I know I know, this movie looks ridiculous, and who can take Megan Fox as anything other than hot seriously. But this is genuinely one of my favorite movies ever.
Once you get used to the fact that the language is absurdly strange, (it’s Diablo Cody for god’s sake, are you surprised after Juno?) this movie becomes deeply funny at every turn. How often is there a girl demon monster eating boys? Not often enough. And how often is she killed by her best friend, a girl, not a boy? Never.
Also, there’s a weird make out scene between Fox and Amanda Seyfried for you men out there (I’m trying to make up for making you think about Teeth.) And by far, the best part of the entire movie and my favorite death scene of ALL TIME, Adam Brody (who all women can’t get enough of,) in eyeliner with his band sings 867-5309 into his knife before he stabs Megan Fox, whose character is named, you guessed it, Jennifer. For your viewing pleasure:
5. Dead Snow. This is a German subtitled film, so you must read for the payoff, but it’s worth it because guess what it’s about?? NAZI ZOMBIES. And these zombies are your smart fast zombies, and they have a bone to pick with this group of med student skiers. And it is epic.
The opening sequence of a girl running from them to In the Hall of the Mountain King is perfectly timed to the music. When her boyfriend later goes out to search for her, he ends up hanging off a cliff by zombie intestine, only to climb up and save himself (in the only truly scary part of the movie,) when he very realistically sews his own neck bite wound closed. Other than that, everything about this is hilarious and valiant action sequences are perfectly paired with loud German rock music, and this is a perfect example of the difference the music in a movie can make. I own this movie. It’s that funny.
4. The Lost Boys.
This movie is from 1987 and was one of my father’s favorites, so I grew up on it. It holds a special place in my heart as to where B-horror movies should belong. This vampire flick is about a pair of brothers who go to a town dominated by a gang of vamps lead by a very young Keifer Sutherland (or so you believe…) In fact they have a bigger creator, and their family must fight to rid the town of them before the eldest brother and his new girlfriend join the ranks of the undead. Truly a fun romp with bad ’80s effects, if you’ve never seen it, you should!
3. Fright Night. The new one. It is just like the old but with the power of an amazing soundtrack. Still, this movie didn’t do very well, which is a shame because it is hilarious with decent production and good actors, and the very definition of fun horror movies. Colin Farrell is the epitome of awesome vampireness as Jerry. His line “Hey Guy” has become a permanent fixture of my repertoire.
McLovin’ also makes a guest appearance and is hilarious as a vamp. Not to mention in an ode to the original, Jerry at one point kills the actor who played the original Jerry (who is also Prince Humperdink for you Princess Bride fans! I know?!) And the ending shot and credits to HUGO’s cover of 99 Problems is priceless. You will have fun watching this movie, I swear.
2. Natural Born Killers.
Extremely famous, based on a screenplay written by Tarantino, not oft watched these days. You should. Woody Harrelson is pricelessly amazing, as he always is when playing a crazy person, and Robert Downey Jr. as the journalist documenting their story and time in prison is hilarious. This story is quirky, weird, violent, funny and perfect in all the right places, particularly the diner murders early on. If you don’t like Tarantino don’t watch this because Oliver Stone did a great job of channeling him, but if you do, this is a bloodsoaked version of his style at its best.
1. Pontypool. This movie is probably genuinely my favorite horror movie. It is a zombie movie set in Canada in a town called Pontypool.
The plot follows a radio announcer who is hosting a morning show the day a strange plague of zombies occurs. In this movie however, it is not a zombie bite that turns people into zombies, rather it is like a virus that infects them through the language. It is like people get stuck on a word and never come back out of it.
The characters face both the zombies, the virus and the government quarantine for the remainder of the movie. It is hard to sell how interestingly this concept develops in the movie and genuinely leaves you thinking, god what if every time I got stuck on a word, where suddenly it doesn’t look right or make sense, I could become a zombie? At the same time, there is humor, but the action is chilling and the plot clever. I also take a lot of pleasure in a low budget successfully scary movie without the big tricks, blood or gore. Tastefully done and a movie that leaves you scared, confused and wanting to watch again as you think it all out. Worth at least two watches.