Sunday, November 04, 2018

Review: Suspiria (2018) (WITH SPOILERS)


First off, full disclosure: I'm nuts about the original Suspiria. I don't personally know anyone who's a bigger fan of it than I am.

That's why it feels almost sacrilegious to admit this: there are things that Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria achieves that Dario Argento's should have but didn't.

2018 Suspiria actually manages to inform the plot with the historical subtext of the time; in 1977, Berlin was in socio-political upheaval. It's a sinister undercurrent spoken off in the background on television or radio, but it's also a convenient scapegoat for the Markos coven to authorities when trying to explain the disappearance of their dancer Patricia.

For a film about witches and covens, 1977 Suspiria was very light on actual coven activities. In practically no scene in that film are the witches seen huddling and conniving or, most importantly, performing diabolical rituals that have given cinematic witches their place in the horror genre. That was largely what made the 1922 film Häxan so terrifying, as did that last scene in the forest at the tail-end of The Witch. In 2018 Suspiria, every moment where the coven is gathered is quite chilling and thrilling at the same time, even (or especially, on hindsight?) when they talk internal politics. And then there is, of course, the climax in the secret hall, which you have to see to believe.

Above all, what gives this film such power is its use of dance, of the rhythmic and entrancing movements of the human body, as an instrument of bodily destruction. 1977 Suspiria used the dance academy as a convenient and promising backdrop for the demonic activities of Markos's coven but was not able to capitalize on it. In 2018 Suspiria, dance is a telekinetic force that punishes the body of a transgressor, or a summoning spell for conjuring the stuff of living nightmares.

This Suspiria, written by David Kajganich, will prove to be divisive. People will hate it for its grotesquerie and gore or its length or, yes, the whiff of pretentiousness or its craftsmanship and rightly so. The set design and cinematography are appropriately austere, not loud and garish like those of the original. DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's lensing makes the film look like an authentic product of the 1970s. While not as memorable as the now-iconic score made by the band Goblin for Argento's film, Thom Yorke's is impressive, properly chilling and never overbearing. If there is one department that must snag an Oscar nomination, however, it's the makeup design.

Which leads us to Tilda Swinton. We recognize her most easily as Madame Blanc, the stern yet surprisingly warm mistress of dance, who commands every scene that she is in. But she also plays two other characters under loads of astonishingly meticulous makeup. Under the pounds of extra diseased flesh of Helena Markos is Swinton. And the open secret that many other writers have exposed even before the film's release: Lutz Ebersdorf, the unknown actor who plays Dr. Josef Klemperer, is actually also Swinton. As she has proven time and again, Swinton is a master chameleon, and the makeup artists were certainly her accomplices. Dakota Johnson, who reunites with Guadagnino and Swinton after A Bigger Splash, is a good fit for the revamped Susie Bannion, who unlike in the original has more power than the beginning would lead us to believe. Jessica Harper, the original Susie Banion, makes a most welcome and bittersweet cameo appearance.

Something has to be said of the climax, where Susie Bannion is supposed to be offered as a vessel to the decaying Helena Markos, the supposed Mother of Sighs (Mater Suspiriorum). After the big reveal that marks the biggest deviation from the original, Susie Bannion, who is the real Mater Suspiriorum after all, unleashes a demonic entity from the bowels of the great hall upon the witches who voted to keep Markos in power and allow her to continue to claim to be one the three Mothers. She spares only a few. The whole sequence is a fever dream. It's grotesque, macabre, hypnotic, and exhilarating. Guadagnino abandons all restraint and lays waste to the mind as Mater Suspiriorum metes out calm, almost detached punishment to most and mercy to others, and the academy's dancers relinquish all control of their bodies to their diabolical matron. It's a deliciously surreal nightmare.

Guadagnino's two most recent films, the sublime Call Me By Your Name and A Bigger Splash, did not prepare for me for this demon that he unleashed into the cinematic world. But everything that he has done can be called beautiful, and that the same could be said about this pastiche of body horror and dark magic is a true testament to his astonishing skills as a filmmaker.

#1 HORROR FILM: THE EXORCIST (1973)

Previous Rank: 1

Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Jason Miller
Scare Meter: 10/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, music, sounds, visuals, Regan/Pazuzu
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070047/

Speaking of sheer raw power, nothing holds a candle to my favorite horror film of all time (a sentiment shared by many all over the world). When it came out, audiences were revolted, angered, upset...but they came in droves and made this a box office hit. After all, the film was as much an attack on the spirit and faith as it was on the mind and emotions. What other film could claim as much? No possession film before or since has come anywhere close to the audacity, boldness, and in-your-face brutality of the McNeils' harrowing spiritual battle. The cinematography, score, production design, sound, makeup...all come together under the masterful direction of William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his own equally terrifying novel, to make a chilling masterpiece that will shake you to the core.

As far as the ability of horror films to create a shudder in the soul is concerned, this is truly the standard against which all other horror films will forever be set.

#2 Ringu
#3 Suspiria
#4 The Shining
#5 The Thing
#6 Hereditary
#7 It
#8 The Conjuring
#9 The Witch
#10 The Descent
#11 The Evil Dead
#12 The Babadook
#13 The Omen
#14 Shaun of the Dead
#15 Insidious
#16 Halloween
#17 The Others
#18 The Love Witch
#19 Let the Right One In
#20 [Rec]
#21 It Follows
#22 Let Me In
#23 Dawn of the Dead
#24 The Sixth Sense
#25 Train to Busan
#26 Get Out
#27 May
#28 A Tale of Two Sisters
#29 Ju-on: The Grudge
#30 The Cabin in the Woods
#31 The Birds
#s 32-100

Monday, October 29, 2018

#s 2-24 HORROR FILMS

24. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Previous Rank: 19

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: lots of ghosts
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A boy who communicates with spirits that don't know they're dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/

This film is worth much more than the infamous twist. Expertly made, with amazing performances throughout (especially the mother-and-child pair of Collette and Osment), it's a legitimate spine-tingler that deserves its Oscar Best Picture nomination (perhaps even a win) and so much more. Probably the ultimate straight-up ghost movie.

23. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

Previous Rank: 18

Director: George A. Romero
Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: lots of zombies, with some nifty surprises
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia SWAT team members, a traffic reporter, and his television-executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077402/

As good as the remake is, nothing beats the original in terms of sheer grit, rawness, intensity, and novelty. Never has a mall, a prime symbol for capitalism, been used to such a horrifying extent. Even as you're thinking about the zombification of the masses by consumer culture, you're being pummeled by some of the goriest, nastiest undead in the Romero universe. And this time, compared to Night of the Living Dead, the swelling hordes are in full color. Also, this film boasts one of the best taglines ever in horror cinema: "When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth." Phenomenal.

22. LET ME IN (2010)

Previous Rank: 15

Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, visuals

IMDb Plot Summary: "A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1228987/

Stephen King called it "...the best American horror film in the last 20 years" when it came out, and he may have been right. It doesn't matter that it's a remake; even the author of the source material praised it to high heavens and said that it is special on its own merits. It's an excellent, tense, beautiful film, and like the original, a strong, fresh take on the vampire mythos.

21. IT FOLLOWS (2014)

Previously unranked

Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: that supernatural whatever it is and its relentlessness
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2016)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3235888/

I must admit: I had to watch this film a second time before realizing how masterfully made it is, especially with how it racks up the tension as the force inexorably moves toward its targets. But as early as that first viewing, I could immediately describe the film as intensely creepy. The word creepy was made for a movie like this, which crawls under your skin and makes you feel almost unclean for having watched it. The direction by David Robert Mitchell and the fine score by Rich Vreeland play a huge part in heightening that tension and terror. And really, what makes this one of the most intelligent and riveting horror films of the last 10 years is that you just don't know what's hunting you, except that it will get to you eventually, and you're going by rules that you're not even sure actually apply.

20. [Rec] (2007)

Previous Rank: 13

Directors: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: fast rabid zombies, lost footage, atmosphere, claustrophobia, sound

IMDb Plot Summary: "A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1038988/

A true assault on the visual and aural senses. This fantastic zombie movie is not as appreciated as it should be. The monsters here are downright scary, and added to that is the claustrophobic tightness of the space in which the characters have to move, dodging rabid maniacs out for blood. The "lost footage" style works really well, especially in the closing sequence. The sequel isn't as strong, but it does offer a very intriguing and rather unique take on the zombie mythos (incidentally, one of the most dangerous origins for a zombie infestation). The Hollywood version, Quarantine, is also quite good.

19. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)

Previous Rank: 12

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, visuals
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1139797/

Until now, I still cannot say if this is a better film than the remake. Like Ajvide Lindqvist (author of the Swedish source material) said, both are excellent. But of course, sentiment has to go the way of the original. Hauntingly gorgeous. Subtle, but really gets under the skin. That scene about testing the "myth" on vampires having to be invited in is phenomenal. So is everything else about the movie. This film came out at the right time, when the vampire was being diluted into some kind of bright (ahem), fey creature instead of the dark, inscrutable, almost alien life-form that it has been in more serious texts.

18. THE LOVE WITCH (2016)

Previously unranked

Director: Anna Biller
Cast: Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: psychedelia, witchcraft

IMDb Plot Summary: "A modern-day witch uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3908142/

I was blown away by this film. It is smart and witty, visually stunning, surreal, and mesmerizing. The garish use of color is almost reminiscent of Suspiria. The anachronistic medieval music is almost haunting. Proof that the Oscars are so myopic and so safe and boring with their choices is that The Love Witch was never a serious contender for cinematography, costume design, makeup design, production design, original score, original song ("Love is a Magickal Thing"), and even original screenplay when it so richly deserved at least a nomination in all of those categories (and yes, it was officially eligible). The film is hardly scary, but as far as true creativity and artistry go, this is a genuine modern masterpiece in the horror genre. Can't wait for what director Anna Biller gives us next.

17. THE OTHERS (2001)

Previous Rank: 11

Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, visuals, sound
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0230600/

Talk about atmosphere! In The Others, the setting is as much a character as the human players. The country home and its woods in Jersey are shrouded in mist, literally and figuratively. It's all very haunting and unsettling. Nicole Kidman is luminous; this is easily one of her best performances. Twist or no twist, the film is one of the all-time best ghost/haunted house movies.

16. HALLOWEEN (1978)

Previous Rank: 17

Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: 
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077651/

The ultimate slasher film. Michael Myers is an unstoppable, relentless force of pure evil: no ifs and buts about him. Awesome musical theme, too. This is where Jamie Lee Curtis's "scream queen" career was born. Well, you'd be screaming, too if you were chased around by an essentially invulnerable murderer in a weird mask. John Carpenter crafted a powerful, tense, hair-raising work of art in the horror genre.

15. INSIDIOUS (2010)

Previous Rank: 14

Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: visuals, music, spirits

IMDb Plot Summary: "A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1591095/

Talk about a perfectly titled movie! The best horror films stay with you for quite some time afterward. You hesitate to look at mirrors or out windows or through doorways because what you've seen in the movie is haunting your mind. They are, in a word, insidious. That's what Insidious the film did to me, and it's been a long long time since a movie has done that. It's this film that made me realize that great legitimately scary movies can still be made in this day and age. James Wan would prove me right again several times.

14. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)

Previous Rank: 10

Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: Romero zombies and gore amidst the comedy

IMDb Plot Summary: "A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365748/

Isn't this a comedy? Of course it is! But take a long good look at the zombies. They are, simply put, terrifying. Romero has given his thumbs up and essentially made this part of his canon, for good reason. Amidst all the laughter, of which there's a lot, is a commitment to showing the nastiest undead on film. What this film is is the perfect combination of comedy and horror. There's no better comedy-horror hybrid film out there.

13. THE OMEN (1976)

Previous Rank: 9

Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: music (that Ave Satani song!), tragedies
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "An American ambassador learns to his horror that his son is actually the literal Antichrist."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075005/

This film has taken quite a bit of flack over the years for its crazy set-pieces and for not aging well. Whatever. For me, it has aged quite well, and the sequences all still work. Portraying the Antichrist in a film, especially when he's a child, can be messy, but with such a fine cast and truly diabolical score (an Oscar winner), how can it go wrong? A lot of the scenes are genuinely unsettling. And of course, one cannot mention the horror of The Omen without mentioning the theme song: Ave Satani. Glorious. That the Academy boldly nominated it for an Oscar for Best Original Song never fails to thrill me.

12. THE BABADOOK (2014)

Previously unranked

Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: the creature, the book, the craziness

IMDb Plot Summary: "A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2321549/

In many ways, this was one of the films that reinvigorated the horror industry in the last 5 years. With It Follows coming out in the same year, 2014 was amazing for the genre. The Babadook is no holds barred monster horror, but also disturbing, unsettling psychological horror and coming of age story. Essie Davis turns in easily one of the all time best performances in the field and adds to the catalogue of unhinged mothers in horror. Dark, brooding, claustrophobic, and masterful, this true gem lingers long after the viewing.

11. THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

Previous Rank: 8

Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: gore, demonic possessions, animated forests...evil everywhere
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083907/

The legend of Ash and his chainsaw is born here, when Raimi's series was still serious in trying to scare movie fans. And it works. Lustful forest vines, deformed possessed bodies with demonic voices, the Necronomicon...it's a practically non-stop attack from all directions. The remake is sick fun, but it comes nowhere close to the sheer intensity of this original. Still one of the most visceral horror films, and the best among those following the horror-in-an-abandoned-cabin-in-the-woods trope.

10. THE DESCENT (2005)

Previous Rank: 6

Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, claustrophobia, imagery, sounds, cave monsters
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435625/

The relatively lacklustre 90s and early 00s were jolted awake by this British import, which is simply exceptional. An all-girl spelunking team (no damsels in distress here) in the tight dark corridors of an unknown cave, assaulted by creatures shaped by evolution in the subterranean realm. It's as delicious as it sounds. It has a fair bit of human drama, too. A harrowing film from start to finish.

9. THE WITCH (2015)

Previously unranked

Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: isolation, the forest, weird occult stuff

IMDb Plot Summary: "A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4263482/

A year after the one-two punch that It Follows and The Babadook served horror fans, a quieter but no less sinister masterpiece unfurled in some early film festivals like Sundance and never let go of a public consciousness that was hungry for more intelligent and subtle horror. The setting (1630s New England) not only is inherently creepy because of the historical context of that century (plagues, religious persecution, witch trials, etc.) but also lends the film an almost disconcerting authenticity (the dialogue can be quite difficult to follow) that nevertheless gives strength to how the diabolical force of nature (and the supernatural) attacks human faith. Like Antichrist and The Blair Witch Project before it, it portrays the forest as a consuming force of evil, but in much more insidious ways. The technical quality is topnotch, as are the performances by all four principal actors, especially Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb. Truly one of the absolute best horror films in the last 10 years.

8. THE CONJURING (2013)

Previous Rank: 7

Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: imagery, atmosphere, sound, a pastiche of many horror film elements

IMDb Plot Summary: "Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1457767/

James Wan is a true master of horror. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to top Saw and Insidious. But he did. Not necessarily in scares (Insidious is still scarier, in my opinion), but in just making a great film overall. The Conjuring is a more tightly constructed and more grounded film than its predecessors, and of course it's pretty darn terrifying. What's great about it is that the film throws practically every horror genre fixture at you, but you'll relish it. Vera Farmiga gives one of the all time best performances in the genre. Outstanding on all levels.

7. IT (2017)

Previously unranked

Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: PENNYWISE. 'Nuf said.

IMDb Plot Summary: "In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1396484/

I'm still not sure that I prefer Bill Skarsgård's Pennywise to Tim Curry's, but the 2017 film is definitely better. As many people have said, it's a very fine film even without the horror trappings: all the child actors are awesome, and the beauty of their camaraderie is reminiscent of Stand By Me (also based on a Stephen King story) and the more recent "Stranger Things," which happens to also star Finn Wolfhard but in an amusingly very different type of role. It's in the horror elements that audiences seem divided, but I for one found those elements quite strong. Skarsgård's clown is outright diabolical from the get-go, unlike Curry's, which bothers to pretend to be anything but. So perhaps some subtlety is lost, but given how practically everyone is even slightly afraid of clowns, and nothing good could come out of a boy talking to a clown in a storm drain anyway, it doesn't diminish Pennywise's power. He is a true horror monster in every sense of the word, and he's definitely one of the best. One of the smartest decisions of the filmmakers: splitting the story of the book into two films. Now's there more clowning around to look forward to.

6. HEREDITARY (2018)

Previously unranked

Director: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: KLOK!, and the diabolical forces at work

IMDb Plot Summary: "After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7784604/

The resurgence of horror in the last five years has led us to this masterpiece, for which none of those modern gems in the genre prepared us. We'd have to look as far back to the 1960s and 1970s, to masterworks like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and Hour of the Wolf, to find something even remotely resembling the almost spiritual terror that Ari Aster's Hereditary awakens in its viewers. It's harrowing and disturbing and mind-reeling, and so well-crafted; the cinematography and production design are among the best in the genre. Toni Collete, who earned an Oscar nomination for playing another horror-stricken mother in The Sixth Sense, does phenomenal work here. It's safe to say that hers is among the top five best performances in a horror film ever, with her level of commitment almost matching Isabelle Adjani's in Possession. Alex Wolff, who plays her son, should be getting much more praise for his insanely good performance. The film can be stressful to sit through on the first viewing, but a second is very rewarding, as you get to see more of the subtle signs that point toward the genuinely diabolical nature of what initially seems like a simple haunted house story. Hereditary is anything but simple, and I hope more future horror movies don't shy away from being as complex and unabashedly evil.

5. THE THING (1982)

Previous Rank: 5

Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilform Brimley, Keith David
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: body horror, atmosphere, music, paranoia
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084787/

The Thing is body horror at its finest. Here, the human body is taken over, destroyed, and morphed into the craziest configurations that an insane mind could come up with. And all around, the paranoia is a crushing weight. So is the isolation in that cold dark place miles away from civilization. It's a true battle for humanity, both on the individual and on the species levels. So it's not for the queasy or those who like jump scares, but it's certainly for those who like visceral horror. The recent remake was a decent effort but came nowhere close to matching the power of this true classic in sci-fi/horror.

4. THE SHINING (1980)

Previous Rank: 3

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: claustrophobia, atmosphere, imagery, Jack Nicholson
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081505/

"Here's Johnny!" Jack Nicholson is great here as Jack Torrance, whose mind is taken over by infernal forces in the loneliest, scariest, most claustrophobic ski-lodge that you can think of. This film strangles you mentally and emotionally. And then there are the visions, which are some of the creepiest in the genre. The signature touches of Stanley Kubrick's genius can be found all throughout. It's no surprise that many consider this the best horror film of all time.

3. SUSPIRIA (1977)

Previous Rank: 4

Director: Dario Argento
Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: psychedelic colors, atmosphere, music, imagery, gore
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A newcomer to a fancy ballet academy gradually comes to realize that the school is a front for something far more sinister and supernatural amid a series of grisly murders."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076786/

This is the horror masterpiece of the Italian master, Dario Argento. Sure, a lot of it doesn't really make sense, and it could be argued that Deep Red or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage are better films overall. But no one can deny the raw power of Suspiria. The splashes of color, the weird sets, the gruesome murders (some of the most memorable in the genre), the witches and undead, the eerie Three Mothers mythos, and the ultra-memorable score (none better) by the band Goblins...all come together like a witch's brew, decadent and horrifying and spell-binding. You have to see it to believe it.

2. RINGU (1998)

Previous Rank: 2

Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, music, Sadako
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A mysterious video kills whoever views it, unless that viewer can solve its mystery."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0178868/

A perfect film to watch with your closest friends, when you're all huddled together and screaming in the right parts. That's how I first watched it, which is why this film will always have a particularly special meaning for me. But on top of that, it's just simply phenomenal. No wonder it started a whole revolution of Asian horror films and Hollywood remakes. It's a really simple premise, but the atmosphere of this classic proves that in the horror genre, you can elicit so much with so little. Of course, there's nothing "little" about the big reveal near the end, that scene that shook everyone to the core and had us forsaking television sets for a while. Absolutely bone-chilling, and one of the most powerful horror films ever.

#25: Train to Busan
#26: Get Out
#27: May
#28: Janghwa, Hongryeon
#29: Ju-on: The Grudge
#30: The Cabin in the Woods
#31: The Birds
#s 32-100

Saturday, October 06, 2018

#25 HORROR FILM: BUSANHAENG (TRAIN TO BUSAN) (2016)

Previously unranked

Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Cast: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: zombies everywhere, especially in the train

IMDb Plot Summary: "While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5700672/

Romero zombie films will always be the standard by which zombie films are set, and for good reason. Even Shaun of the Dead, one of the absolute best zombie movies that is not Romero-directed gets great zombie subgenre cred by having been endorsed by Romero as canon in his universe.
This is why it was quite a shock to see such an amazing zombie film coming out of South Korea. It isn't Romero zombies that we see here, but they're utilized so well to drive what ultimately proves to be a pulse-pounding modern horror masterpiece that is also very, very emotional and heartrending, like many intense Korean dramas tend to be. So really, it's quality Korean family drama that happens to have some of the best cinematic zombies that you've seen in a long, long time. Brilliant.

#26: Get Out
#27: May
#28: Janghwa, Hongryeon
#29: Ju-on: The Grudge
#30: The Cabin in the Woods
#31: The Birds
#s 32-100

#26 HORROR FILM: GET OUT (2017)

Previously unranked

Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: "the sunken place," the zombiefied black people, the overall strangeness, the score

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young African-American visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5052448/

Such a well made, polished, and intelligent horror film! And very, very strange. I can't blame Jordan Peele for almost abandoning this dream project, because it seems too strange to become the mainstream hit that it eventually became. It's the first ever horror film to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, though it's clear that that happened more because of the strength of its socio-political message than its horrific elements. Still, Get Out has given the genre the respect and attention that it has always deserved. It's not easy to scare an entire audience from deep inside while at the same time making them rethink racial stereotypes and prejudices. This film did both, and in such an awesome way. Mention must be made of the one element of the film that failed to get Oscar attention: that creepy, spare, gets-under-your-skin score.

#27: May
#28: Janghwa, Hongryeon
#29: Ju-on: The Grudge
#30: The Cabin in the Woods
#31: The Birds
#s 32-100

#27 HORROR FILM: MAY (2002)

Previous Rank: 20

Director: Lucky McKee
Cast: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: visuals, music, obsession

IMDb Plot Summary: "Psychological horror about a lonely young woman traumatized by a difficult childhood, and her increasingly desperate attempts to connect with the people around her."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303361/

Before I watched this movie, I was not as big a fan of horror cinema as I am now. For some reason, it made me love the horror genre even if it isn't really scary. Lucky McKee and the amazing Angela Bettis together made a sympathetic character who was nevertheless...freaky. It might not be very scary, but it's definitely creepy. The tagline says it all: "If you can't find a friend...make one." Shudder.

#28: Janghwa, Hongryeon
#29: Ju-on: The Grudge
#30: The Cabin in the Woods
#31: The Birds
#s 32-100

Thursday, October 04, 2018

#28 HORROR FILM: JANGHWA, HONGRYEON (A TALE OF TWO SISTERS) (2003)

Previous Rank: 21

Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Cast: Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Su-jeong Lim
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, imagery
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365376/

A complex, layered horror film that relies on subtlety more than outright scares, though it also has enough of the latter. One of the most intelligent and most elegantly crafted films of the genre. Your effort to get through the sometimes plodding pace of the film will be extremely rewarded. Plus the acting by the whole cast is topnotch.

#29: Ju-on: The Grudge
#30: The Cabin in the Woods
#31: The Birds
#s 32-100

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

#29 HORROR FILM: JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (2002)

Previous Rank: 23

Director: Takashi Shimizu
Cast: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara
Scare Meter: 10/10
Scare Tactics: those damn ghosts, the atmosphere, sound, music
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0364385/

If this were a list of the scariest films ever, this film would easily make the Top 5. The film is as unforgiving and indelible as the spirits that latch on to whoever happens to even just step into that miasma of a house. In that way, it violates some of the rules for survival in a horror film (that being: there IS a way to survive), which can be annoying (as it extremely was in the 2013 film Oculus). But here you can accept that it's not just a cheap tactic by the filmmakers but an actual inescapable truth in spirit-filled Tokyo: Kayako and Toshio will find a way to get you anywhere. Absolutely horrifying, as horror films should be.

#30: The Cabin in the Woods
#31: The Birds
#s 32-100

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

#30 HORROR FILM: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

Previous Rank: 24

Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: a whole LOT of monsters

IMDb Plot Summary: "Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1259521/

What horror film fan won't be won over by a movie that 1) plays with conventions of the "slasher" subgenre (the "final girl" myth) and 2) features a battalion of cinema's iconic horrors? And then there's the big (huge!) Lovecraftian element to top it all off. It's a true gift to horror fans.

#31: The Birds
#s 32-100 

Monday, October 01, 2018

#31 HORROR FILM: THE BIRDS (1963)

Previous Rank: 28

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Rod Taylor, Tippe Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: a flock of killer birds, atmosphere
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

Perhaps not the scariest of the "ecological horrors," of which Jaws likely takes the cake, but Hitchcock's distinct direction flair and Tippi Hedren's presence make this film my favorite. All the shots of the malevolent birds as they swoop down and attack whole towns, or as they rest in victory over fallen humanity, are absolute winners. It's especially terrifying and powerful because it's never explained why the birds began to attack in the first place. Any sort of explanation would have probably diffused the strength of the biological horror.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

TOP 100 HORROR FILMS v. 2018

I released my first list of 100 Favorite Horror Movies in 2013. That was an extremely fun challenge. Since then, the horror genre has seen some kind of mini-resurgence, with fantastic, intelligent, and downright terrifying horror masterpieces coming out in the last five years and shaking up the industry. Even now as I write this, two much anticipated horror films have yet to come out on wide release: the Halloween sequel and the Suspiria remake.

So here's my brand new list, with several additions (which of course means removal of certain titles) and films moving to higher or lower ranks after re-assessing them.

Again, these 100 Favorite Horror Movies are not necessarily what I think are the best or scariest of the genre, but the ones that I love the most for various reasons, the scare factor being only one of them. It could be the mood, or the acting of the cast, or the music, or something unusual. Whatever the reason/s, these are the horror films that have defined the genre for me since my childhood, and that I love talking to my friends about.

Here are my 2013 lists:
#s 61-100: http://film-otaku.blogspot.com/2013/10/100-favorite-horror-movies-introduction.html
#s 21-60: http://film-otaku.blogspot.com/2013/10/100-favorite-horror-movies-s-21-60.html
#s 1-20: http://film-otaku.blogspot.com/2013/10/100-horror-movies-top-20.html

PART ONE: #s 32-100

100. THE DEVILS (1971)

Previous Rank: 97

Director: Ken Russell
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: nuns. And many other disturbing religious imagery.

IMDb Plot Summary: "In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066993/

Witchcraft and demonic possession in a nunnery: it's a strong hook to get into this infamous Ken Russell picture, but watching Vanessa Redgrave's over-the-top performance as a physically deformed and depraved Mother Superior is reason enough.

99. SOLYARIS aka SOLARIS (1972)

Previous Rank: 96

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Cast: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Juri Jarvet
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: hallucinations due to the crushing weight of an overwhelming alien mind

IMDb Plot Summary: "A psychologist is sent to a station orbiting a distant planet in order to discover what has caused the crew to go insane."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069293/

Many might not consider this a horror film at all; it's recognized more as a science fiction classic. But whatever, the film messed with my mind, so there. It's actually psychological horror of the highest order.

98. SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL 2 (1990)

Previous Rank: 95

Directors: Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes
Cast: Janice de Belen, Eric Quizon, Eddie Gutierrez, Manilyn Reynes, Anna Roces
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: shapeshifting vampiric monsters

IMDb Plot Summary: "Episode 1, a young groom in Baguio for his honeymoon is possessed by a homicidal spirit when he discovers a cursed ring and decides to wear it. Episode 2 is set in the eerie halls of a mysterious hospital where doctors practice voodoo and dead bodies go wandering in the night. Episode 3, and the most terrifying of all, is about a student who is a guest at a town fiesta in a remote province. The people's hospitable ways leave her clueless about a ritual that takes place at night."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318683/

Skip the first two of three segments and go straight to the superior third, "Aswang," widely considered to be the all-time best in this overstaying franchise.

97. REPULSION (1965)

Previous Rank: 94

Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: imagery, especially those hands
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Left alone when her sister does on vacation, a young beauty finds hereself besieged on all sides by the demons of her past."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059646/

If there were a "woman coming unhinged" genre, this would probably be one of the more disturbing. Catherine Denueve is aces as the mentally unstable woman who begins seeing strange doings...and performing even stranger deeds.

96. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)

Previous Rank: 92

Director: Don Siegel
Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: aliens taking over human bodies
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049366/

This is paranoia at its finest, a Cold War allegory that scares by making you doubt others' "humanity." Still the best among several versions.

95. HELLRAISER (1987)

Previous Rank: 91

Director: Clive Barker
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: hip demons and ultra-violent torture
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover, who's being chased by demons after he escaped from their sado-masochistic Hell."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093177/

Before Saw and Hostel, there was Hellraiser. It is true "torture porn," and the supernatural elements take the scares to an altogether different level. Plus, it has one of the most iconic horror monsters EVER.

94. GOK SEONG aka THE WAILING (2016)

Previously unranked

Director: Hong-jin Na
Cast: Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Do-won Kwak
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: demons, possessions, relentless evil

IMDb Plot Summary: "Soon after a stranger arrives in a little village, a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman, drawn into the incident, is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5215952/

This is a true modern epic of the horror genre. Meticulously made and masterfully suspenseful, with a riveting performance by reliable actor Do-won Kwak, perhaps one of the best acting showcases in the genre. It's a long film, as Korean horror tends to be, but none of those minutes is wasted.

93. A QUIET PLACE (2018)

Previously unranked

Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: the silence, the tension, weird aliens

IMDb Plot Summary: "In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6644200/

Such an assured and creative debut from actor John Krasinski. The tension created by the silence is even scarier than the actual aliens, though the latter are in no way disappointing. Emily Blunt's committed performance gives this already powerful film about survival and family love even more power.

92. CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962)

Previous Rank: 90

Director: Herk Harvey
Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Herk Harvey
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: restless and relentless spirits, atmosphere 
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055830/

When I asked my aunt to buy me a copy of Romero's Night of the Living Dead, she included this cult classic (previously unknown to me) as a bonus. I'm glad she did, because it's positively creepy. And they keep on coming.

91. DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI aka THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920)

Previous Rank: 88

Director: Robert Wiene
Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Weidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover
Scare Meter: 5/10
Scare Tactics: the Expressionist sets, a somnambulist
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Dr. Caligari's somnambulist, Cesare, and his deadly predictions."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010323/

This is one of the oldest legitimate horror movies, and it's a glorious viewing experience with the surreal German Expressionist art direction and Conrad Weidt's immortal, mesmerizing portrayal of the somnambulist Cesare.

90. VAMPYR (1932)

Previous Rank: 87

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Cast: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, imagery
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A traveler obsessed with the supernatural visits an old inn and finds evidence of vampires."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0023649/

This is a truly haunting (while not altogether scary) film, with its gloomy atmosphere and its uniquely derived images of restless, pale undead. From one of cinema's true masters.

89. VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960)

Previous Rank: 86

Director: Wolf Rilla
Cast: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: blonde-haired, glowing-eyed children with mind powers

IMDb Plot Summary: "In the English village of Midwich, the blond-haired, glowing-eyed children of uncertain paternity prove to have frightening powers."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054443/

You want scary kids? Forget Children of the Corn. Here's the real deal. They're murderous blondes with alien intellect and detachment.

88. POLTERGEIST (1982)

Previous Rank: 84

Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: imagery and sounds
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084516/

A classic in the haunted house subgenre, it's a guaranteed visual feast with effective scares. This is the film that made me (and many others) realize that it's never a good idea to build a house on burial grounds.

87. BLACULA (1972)

Previous Rank: 82

Director: William Crain
Cast: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: a whole lot of sass. And vampires, of course.
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)

IMDb Plot Summary: "An ancient African prince, turned into a vampire by Dracula himself, finds himself in modern Los Angeles."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068284/

Yes, an African prince turned vampire. What a fun film! A classic of the blaxploitation genre, it has enough of the scares but A LOT of the sassiness that makes it such a welcome and unique entry in the field.

86. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

Previous Rank: 81

Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hadman
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: undead horde, claustrophobia
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063350/

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE zombies, and Romero is THE God of zombie movies. This is the undisputed daddy of zombie films. But I like my zombies decayed and ravenous and aggressive, and I just didn't get enough of that here. Still, respect where it's due.

85. EL ORFANATO aka THE ORPHANAGE (2007)

Previous Rank: 80

Director: J.A. Bayona
Cast: Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: kids. From beyond. Atmosphere and music.
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464141/

Such an effectively creepy movie, this one. There's just something about abandoned kids and orphanages that is positively eerie, and the direction here is top-notch.

84. PATAYIN SA SINDAK SI BARBARA aka KILL BARBARA WITH PANIC (1974)

Previous Rank: 79

Director: Celso Ad. Castillo
Cast: Susan Roces, Dante Rivero, Rosanna Ortiz
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: spirits and possessed dolls

Plot Summary: Barbara returns to mourn the death by suicide of her sister Ruth, who married a man whose true love is Barbara. Ruth's spirit is restless, and her daughter, Barbara's niece, becomes involved in the spiritual attacks.

The film is a mess and the acting is all over the place, but this landmark Filipino horror film featured genuinely scary scenes with possessed dolls and long-haired restless spirits. Easily worth the more cringe-worthy scenes.

83. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

Previous Rank: 78

Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: the monster
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Victor Frankenstein builds a creature and brings it to life. But his creature behaves not as he intended."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050280/

The original Frankenstein is a deserved classic, but it's not a personal favorite. And of course, Boris Karloff's iconic makeup is THE signature Frankenstein look. But this 1957 film was a glossy, well executed update whose monster makeup on Christopher Lee made the creature both sympathetic and scary.

82. FENG SHUI (2004)

Previous Rank: 77

Director: Chito S. Rono
Cast: Kris Aquino, Jay Manalo, Lotlot De Leon
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: culture-appropriate conceit, spirits

IMDb Plot Summary: "A wife must save her family from a curse of a "bagwa" bound to them."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430082/

This is one of the better Filipino horror films, with a memorable hook, some creepy images, and more than a few witty contrivances. Still rather derivative, but at least it was adapted to local (Filipino-Chinese) culture.

81. CUBE (1997)

Previous Rank: 58

Director: Vincenzo Natali
Cast: Nicole de Boer, Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, mind-numbing (and killing) mazes, paranoia

IMDb Plot Summary: "7 complete strangers of widely varying personality characteristics are involuntarily placed in an endless kafkaesque maze containing deadly traps."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0123755/

The 90s is not generally credited as the most fertile of decades for the genre, so something as creative and innovative as the chilling Cube got a lot of deserved attention. It's mesmerizing.

80. THE FLY (1986)

Previously unranked

Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: the body horror (Brundlefly)!!!
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091064/

Somehow, I missed this deserved classic in my list in 2013. But since then, I have rewatched it and realized how great it is, especially in the context of the monstrosity of body horror. Top notch makeup and visual effects, too.

79. DON'T BREATHE (2016)

Previously unranked

Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, silence, the blind man

IMDb Plot Summary: "Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn't as helpless as he seems."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4160708/

I didn't think I'd like it, but I loved it, from the creepy opening shot (one of the best in this genre), through the harrowing nightmare that is the horrifying blind man played with gusto by a jacked Stephen Lang. This will probably go up the rankings with further viewing. It's a great film to watch with friends.

78. SIGNS (2002)

Previous Rank: 76

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: slinking mysterious aliens, some nice surprises

IMDb Plot Summary: "A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286106/

It was still a strong follow-up to Shyamalan's phenomenally successful The Sixth Sense, and the few appearances that the aliens made were positively creepy, whether it's a just a searching hand or a candid video shot.

77. POSSESSION (1981)

Previously unranked

Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: Lovecraftian creature, Isabelle Adjani's unhinged performance
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082933/

The film's plot borders on preposterous, but one thing that cannot be doubted is how powerfully raw and committed Isabelle Adjani's Cannes-winning performance here. She takes madness to a whole other level. That alone is a great enough reason to watch this, but there's also the mesmerizing slow burn until the appearance of the stuff of Lovecraftian nightmares. Come prepared emotionally and mentally because this is harrowing.

76. UNDER THE SHADOW (2016)

Previously unranked

Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: the mischievous and possibly diabolical djinn

IMDb Plot Summary: "As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4273292/

I never expected that the djinn could be so terrifying. The few glimpses we have of them here give just enough to make them crawl under your skin, even as you're struck by the real-life horrors of what war could do to societies and families. Masterful.

75. PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975)

Previous Rank: 74

Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Rachel Roberts, Anne-Louise Lambert, Vivean Gray
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, the uncertainty
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A story about the disappearance of several Appleyard College students, and a teacher, from Hanging Rock."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073540/

There is something sinister, diabolical, and almost certainly otherwordly in Hanging Rock, but it is essentially never seen. The stifling atmosphere and the head-scratching circumstances make this one of the finest horror mysteries of all.

74. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)

Previous Rank: 71

Director: Robert Aldrich
Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: the bitter and horrifying hag
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A former child star torments her crippled sister in a decaying Hollywood mansion."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056687/

Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford--allegedly real-life bitter rivals--are both excellent here, but it is Davis's terrifyingly demented Baby Jane Hudson that owns the movie and elevates it to pure, almost Grand Guignol horror.

73. HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986)

Previous Rank: 70

Director: John McNaughton
Cast: Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: cold unfeeling violence
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Based on the true life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099763/

Before he became the redneck that everyone loved to hate on "The Walking Dead" and the bad-ass alien smuggler with a heart of gold in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Michael Rooker was a more quiet, more intense, but also more amoral killer, whose emotionless murdering spree is what really makes this a memorable gem in the serial killer subgenre.

72. THE RUINS (2008)

Previous Rank: 69

Director: Carter Smith
Cast: Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: an unexpected creeping horror in the ruins
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A group of friends whose leisurely Mexican holiday takes a turn for the worse when they, along with a fewllow tourist, embark on a remote archaeological dig in the jungle, where something evil lives among the ruins."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0963794/

I did not expect to like this film, with its teen actors (though Jena Malone is nearly always reliable) and common "tormented tourist" vibe, but it was a very pleasant surprise. There are too few of those lately. Among other things, like the nice tension build-up, it's the unusual antagonist that makes this film worth viewing.

71. NECO Z ALENKY aka ALICE (1988)

Previous Rank: 68

Director: Jan Svankmajer
Cast: Kristyna Kohoutova
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: puppetry...and it's Lewis freakin' Carroll

IMDb Plot Summary: "A surrealistic revision of Alice in Wonderland."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095715/

Any version of Lewis Carroll's immortal story can be properly thought of as a bit of horror, with its mind-messing imagery and themes, but it's this one, which has the brilliant Jan Svankmajer's eerie stop-motion puppetry that takes the surrealistic plunge into a visual creep-fest.

70. SAW (2004)

Previous Rank: 66

Director: James Wan
Cast: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: sheer helplessness
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "With a dead body lying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who's been nicknamed 'Jigsaw'. The men must follow various rules and objectives if they wish to survive and win the deadly game set for them."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387564/

This film came at us like a sledgehammer with its refreshing plot and gruesome inevitability. James Wan would go on to direct even stronger, more horrifying stuff, but this is an amazingly strong start to both a career and a subgenre. It hasn't been matched by anything of the "torture porn" mold since.

69. UNDER THE SKIN (2013)

Previously unranked

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Cast: Scarlett Johansson
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: that dark room and what she does inside

IMDb Plot Summary: "A mysterious young woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. However, events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441395/

Utterly alien, seductive, mesmerizing. The spare score by Mica Levi just adds a depth of horror to this sublime science-fiction/horror hybrid, which should become a modern classic in both genres. Amazing.

68. PROFONDO ROSSO aka DEEP RED (1975)

Previous Rank: 65

Director: Dario Argento
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: giallo violence, visuals and atmosphere
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A musician witnesses the murder of a famous psychic, and then teams up with a feisty reporter to find the killer while evading attempts on their lives by an unseen killer bent on keeping a dark secret buried."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073582/

Perhaps the most well regarded of the Italian giallo subgenre, this Argento classic is as muddled as other giallo films but with very interesting visuals (mostly red, of course), twists and turns, and a healthy dash of lightheartedness that only makes the dark that much darker.

67. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)

Previous Rank: 64

Director: Oren Peli
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: videotaped unnatural sounds and images, atmosphere
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179904/

While the follow-ups are not too shabby as far as sequels/prequels go, this is where it all started. Genuinely spine-tingling. The "video footage" style works excellently.

67. PERFECT BLUE (1997)

Previous Rank: 63

Director: Satoshi Kon
Cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: a truly creepy fan
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A retired pop singer turned actress' sense of reality is shaken when she is stalked by an obsessed fan and seemingly a ghost of her past."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0156887/

What the Japanese animated film Akira is to science fiction, Perfect Blue is to psychological horror. Forget The Fan and other fandom horror films. This is the real deal. And the movie theme is very catchy...though it will make you think of crazy fans and killers for some time.

65. FIRE IN THE SKY (1993)

Previous Rank: 62

Director: Robert Lieberman
Cast: D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: alien abduction and surgical operation

IMDb Plot Summary: "An Arizona logger mysteriously disappears for five days in an alleged UFO encounter in 1975."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106912/

A caveat: I have seen this film only once, and a very long time ago at that, so it's probably a worse film than I remember it being. All I remember is that the scenes of alien abduction and dissections scared the bejesus out of me when I was young. I was restless and couldn't look out windows for quite some time after that, and there are times even now when I still remember it. Shudder.

64. BUG (2006)

Previous Rank: 59

Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr.
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, paranoia

IMDb Plot Summary: "An unhinged war veteran holes up with a lonely woman in a spooky Oklahoma motel room. The line between reality and delusion is blurred as they discover a bug infestation."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0470705/

This film is criminally underrated. It's easily one of the most disturbing horror films that I've seen, and it has topnotch performances from Judd and Shannon.

63. DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

Previous Rank: 56

Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Howard Sherman
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: claustrophobia, zombie hordes
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088993/

The world has been overrun by Romero zombies. What could be worse? How about being locked up in a bunker with not only zombies that are getting smarter but also living humans who may be even worse than the undead?

62. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

Previous Rank: 61

Director: John Landis
Cast: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: the drawn-out transformation
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082010/

This came out in the same year as The Howling and has proven to be much more famous and influential. That's not because it's scarier (far from it), but it's much more humorous, sentimental, and re-watchable. And of course, the drawn-out transformation scene showcases Rick Baker's astounding Oscar-winning makeup design.

61. THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

Previous Rank: 60

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Robert Houston, John Steadman
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere and crazy hillbilly mutant killers
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077681/

Thankfully, watching the vapid remake before the original didn't discourage me from trying it out. It is a deserved classic, truly terrifying, savage, and abominable. Probably the ultimate warning against long travels into unknown roads.

60. PHANTASM (1979)

Previous Rank: 55

Director: Don Coscarelli
Cast: A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: a really tall man with dwarf minions and a murderous silver sphere
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a mysterious arsenal of terrible weapons with him."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079714/

With so many elements going on in this film, it could have strayed into corny territory. Well, it is slightly that, but the subtle sci-fi aspect of interdimensional horror has an iconic and frightening visage in the Tall Man and his killer sphere.

59. BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992)

Previous Rank: 54

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, music, downright scary vampires
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "The vampire comes to England to seduce a visitor's fiancée and inflict havoc in the foreign land."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103874/

Before vampires became cool, they were SCARY. Few mainstream horror movies showcase scarier vampires than Bram Stoker's Dracula. Gary Oldman turns in an astounding performance as the legendary Count. The Oscar-winning costume design by the late Eiko Ishioka are glorious. The only false note: Keanu Reeves's perplexing performance as a Brit.

58. THE CALL OF CTHULHU (2005)

Previous Rank: 52

Director: Andrew Leman
Cast: Matt Foyer, John Bolen, Ralph Lucas
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: the Elder God Cthulhu, atmosphere and sound

IMDb Plot Summary: "While sorting the affairs of his late Uncle, a man accidentally stumbles across a series of dark secrets connected to an ancient horror waiting to be freed."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478988/

It took a group of devoted Lovecraft fans, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the produce the definitive Lovecraft adaptation. The lack of color (it's in black-and-white) only adds to the sinister dread that only a true Lovecraftian tale can invoke. Amazing.

57. THE GIFT (2000)

Previous Rank: 51

Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Hilary Swank, Greg Kinnear
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: psychic visions, imagery, sound

IMDb Plot Summary: "A woman with extrasensory perception is asked to help find a young woman who has disappeared."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0219699/

It's not really much of a horror movie, but I found more than a few scenes genuinely scary, even if they didn't involve Cate Blanchett's character's visions. Keanu Reeves turns in an effectively brutal and frightening performance as the violent redneck. And of course, any film is elevated by the ethereal Blanchett and her characteristically strong performance.

56. THE HUNGER (1983)

Previous Rank: 50

Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, music, ancient undead
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "The Egyptian vampire lady Miriam subsists upon the blood of her lovers. In return the guys or girls don't age... until Miriam has enough of them."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085701/

The whole thing plays like a 97-minute glam rock music video, and not just because David Bowie stars in it. The effect is a hypnotic plunge into the dark side of senescence and immortality, anchored by an uncanny performance by the luminous Deneuve.

55. ...E TU VIVRAI NEL TERRORE! L'ALDILA aka THE BEYOND (1981)

Previous Rank: 49

Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: gore, imagery, rotting zombies
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana where after a series of supernatural 'accidents', she learns that the building was built over one of the entrances to Hell."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082307/

Widely recognized as Italian horror master Lucio Fulci's true gem, this film is relentless in its almost gleeful showcase of gore and decay. A lot of the images here will stick with you long afterward.

54. ZOMBI 2 aka ZOMBIE (1979)

Previous Rank: 48

Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: more rotting undead and gore!
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Strangers looking for a woman's father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately searches for the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead."

Both the gore and decay of The Beyond take a backseat to what this oddly titled (it's an unofficial sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead, whose Italian title was Zombi) has to offer. Watch for an eye impaling and a zombie-shark fight as highlights, though the intensely rotting zombies are of course the true stars. They're among the most frightening ever committed to film.

53. 28 DAYS LATER... (2002)

Previous Rank: 45

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: ultra-fast ravenous rage "zombies," ultra-fast infection rates
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0289043/

Their status as zombies is debatable, but that they're absolutely terrifying isn't. Relentless, tireless, and ravenous, they're what introduced us to the anti-Romero zombie and confirmed that yes, fast zombies can be awfully scary, too.

52. THE STONE TAPE (1972)

Previously unranked

Director: Peter Sasdy
Cast: Michael Bryant, Jane Asher, Iain Cuthbertson
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: disembodied screams, apparitions, the maddening uncertainty
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A research team from an electronics company move into an old Victorian house to start work on finding a new recording medium. When team member Jill Greeley witnesses a ghost, team director Peter Brock decides not only to analyse the apparition, which he believes is a psychic impression trapped in a stone wall (dubbed a "stone tape"), but to exorcise it too - with terrifying results..."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069316/

So creative, suspenseful, and very, very eerie! This king of paranormal investigation films goes under your skin and stays there for a long time, just like the mysterious imprint that the plot revolves around.

51. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Previous Rank: 44

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Cast: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: lost footage, atmosphere, sounds
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Three film students go missing after traveling into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend leaving only their footage behind."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185937/

How this revolutionary film had so many fooled! It not only started a trend (the "lost footage" subgenre, which has never matched this yardstick) but was genuinely creepy, more for what it didn't show than for what it did, though that last sequence was positively horrifying.

50. DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)

Previous Rank: 43

Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: zombies on steroids
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363547/

It's that rare remake that does justice to the original. The zombies here are jacked-up and still terrifying. Aside from that, the film makes other revisions from the original, all of which are much appreciated.

49. RINGU 0: BASUDEI aka RING 0: BIRTHDAY (2000)

Previous Rank: 42

Director: Norio Tsuruta
Cast: Yukie Nakama, Seiichi Tanabe, Kumiko Aso
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: Sadako

IMDb Plot Summary: "In this prequel to Ring, a young Sadako becomes an actress in hopes of escaping her troubled past. But strange visions and terrifying powers begin to manifest..."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0235712/

It is nowhere near as effective as Ringu, but there are enough genuine chills and jolts in this one to make it a favorite. Plus, it has the ethereally beautiful Yukie Nakama as Sadako...before she became the stuff of our collective nightmares.

48. THE BROOD (1979)

Previous Rank: 47

Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: mutant kids and body horror
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist's therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, while a series of brutal attacks committed by a brood of mutant children coincides with the husband's investigation."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078908/

David Cronenberg is king of body horror. He has many other fine examples of it in his ouvre, but this is easily my favorite because of its gruesome concept and those mindless deformed children.

47. CARRIE (1976)

Previous Rank: 39

Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: psychokinesis, atmosphere, sound
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young, abused and timid 17-year-old girl discovers she has telekinesis, and gets pushed to the limit on the night of her school's prom by a humiliating prank."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074285/

Any film with a character who has powerful telekinetic abilities is almost instantly cool. When you have fragile Sissy Spacek playing it to the hilt, and a scary zealot of a mother played with utter conviction by Piper Laurie, you have an instant gem. Oh, and lots of fire and blood, too.

46. NOSFERATU: PHANTOM DER NACHT aka NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979)

Previous Rank: 38

Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, imagery, the Vampyre
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Jonathan and Lucy live in Wismar and the Count wants a house there. Varna is a port on the Black Sea, close to Dracula's castle."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079641/

This remake is hypnotic, ethereal, dream-like...truly beautiful. Its mists and pale colors and lonely silences make this one of the most visually appealing vampire movies of all time.

45. BATORU ROWAIARU aka BATTLE ROYALE (2000)

Previous Rank: 37

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Takeshi Kitano
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: violence, desperation

IMDb Plot Summary: "In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary 'Battle Royale' act."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/

It has an absurd premise, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing or terrifying. This highly original film shocked audiences with its audacity and wit. It's Hunger Games on steroids.

44. THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)

Previous Rank: 31

Director: Roger Corman
Cast: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: imagery, atmosphere, the colored Deaths
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A European prince terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the 'Red Death' plague that stalks the land."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058333/

A truly beautiful film, with its vibrant splashes of colors, including the always colorful personality of Vincent Price, perhaps never better. Plagues are a common horror trope, and here, with the multi-hued avatars of Death, it's used spectacularly. Grotesquerie at its most fanciful.

43. MISERY (1990)

Previous Rank: 32

Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: the obsessed fan
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A famous novelist is 'rescued' from a car crash by an obsessed fan."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100157/

I spoke too soon with Perfect Blue (#66 on the list). THIS is of course the definitive "obsessed fan horror." Those who don't consider this a horror film should lock themselves in a room with his/her own Annie Wilkes. It's true horror in a none-too-convincing disguise.

42. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

Previous Rank: 36

Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: the monster from the deep
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046876/

It's truly a fascinating creature feature. It's probably the least appreciated out of all the staple Universal Studios monster movies, but it's an exercise in restraint and cinematographic beauty, utilizing the creature's aquatic habitat masterfully. The humans are sympathetic, particularly the scientist. The Creature: a sad, regal creature brought to life through astounding costumes for the time.

41. SCREAM (1996)

Previous Rank: 40

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: serial killer, a play on horror film rules
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A killer known as Ghostface begins killing off teenagers, and as the body count begins rising, one girl and her friends find themselves contemplating the 'Rules' of horror films as they find themselves living in a real-life one."
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117571/

This film single-handedly rejuvenated the tired "serial killer" subgenre with a simple but creative concept that used the genre itself, clean execution, and a creepy villain in the form of Ghostface.

40. THE HAUNTING (1963)

Previous Rank: 35

Director: Robert Wise
Cast: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, sound
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057129/

Quite simply, this is THE king of all haunted house movies. It's the eeriest, the most mesmerizing, and the most memorable. Practically every major scene of terror here will latch onto your mind. Haunting indeed.

39. ITIM aka THE RITES OF MAY (1977)

Previous Rank: 34

Director: Mike De Leon
Cast: Tommy Abuel, Mario Montenegro, Charo Santos
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, imagery

Plot Summary: A photographer returns to his home town to take pictures of the traditional Holy Week rituals. He experiences strange visions and encounters with a restless spirit that has dark secrets to expose.

This is for me, hands down, the best of all Filipino horror movies. It uses religious ritualism, quite prevalent in local culture, to eerie effect. The blackness permeates almost through every nook and cranny in this masterful film by a true master of cinema.

38. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)

Previous Rank: 30

Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger, Gunnar Hansen
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: gore, a monster family
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "Five friends visiting their grandpa's old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072271/

As relentless and vicious as Leatherface (iconic) himself, this film takes no prisoners. It's so raw and in-your-face that it will make you absolutely fear long travels into isolated places. And chainsaws. This is as intense as home invasion and slasher movies can get.

37. ALIEN (1979)

Previous Rank: 28

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skeritt, John Hurt
Scare Meter: 9/10
Scare Tactics: claustrophobia, atmosphere, sound, the alien
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors, they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078748/

"In space, no one can hear you scream." The Nostromo is the dark, constricted womb that births alien horrors that clamp onto faces and burst out of chests. The Xenomorphs are as sleek and lethal as beautiful black blades and truly the stuff of cosmic nightmares. And of course, Sigourney Weaver's immortal Ellen Ripley is a heroine for the ages.

36. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

Previous Rank: 27

Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
Scare Meter: 6/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, music, paranoia
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063522/

The film begins with one of the eeriest movie theme songs, a sort of sinister lullaby, over shots of the apartments where the story will take place. Mia Farrow's luminous Rosemary becomes more and more unhinged every moment, and who can blame her? An overly ambitious husband and annoyingly sweet neighbors, who may actually be satanists of the highest order, are a recipe for paranoia. Or for carrying the Devil's child in your womb. Whatever works.

35. VARGTIMMEN aka HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968)

Previous Rank: 41

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullman, Gertrud Fridh
Scare Meter: 8/10
Scare Tactics: atmosphere, strange imagery
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "While vacationing on a remote Scandanavian island with his younger pregnant wife, an artist has a emotional breakdown while confronting his repressed desires."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063759/

It figures that I'd love a horror movie by my all-time favorite director Ingmar Bergman. Like all Bergman films, it's deeply personal, psychological, and chock full of interesting imagery. But here, the imagery is also frightening. It's a nightmare caught on film.

34. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968)

Previous Rank: 26

Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: imagery, the horned Devil and other demons
*Listed in 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (Schneider, ed. 2009)
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "In the countryside of England, the Duc de Richleau a.k.a Nicholas welcomes his old friend Rex Van Ryn that has flown to meet him and Simon Aron, who is the son of an old friend of them that had passed away but charged them the task of watching the youngster. Nicholas and Rex unexpectedly visit Simon that is receiving twelve mysterious friends."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062885/

Christopher Lee plays a champion of the light this time, and to great effect. This is an excellently made film, perhaps the best in the "Satan worship" subgenre. The visions, while not absolutely horrifying, are certainly diabolical. The preposterous ending can be easily forgiven. 

33. ANTICHRIST (2009)

Previous Rank: 16

Director: Las von Trier
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Scare Meter: 7/10
Scare Tactics: talking foxes, nature, body horror
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870984/

One of the most controversial films to come out a Cannes. Then again, what Lars von Trier film isn't? The visuals here are jaw-droppingly beautiful--particular highlights being the opening sequence with the child and the walks in the woods. But the beauty easily extends to even the most gruesome scenes, which are exactly that: GRUESOME. The squeamish will not be able to tolerate this film, but those who can will as a whole be generously rewarded. What does the fox say? "Chaos reigns."

32. SHUTTER (2004)

Previous Rank: 25

Directors: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Cast: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana
Scare Meter: 10/10
Scare Tactics: relentless spiritual attacks
*Listed in Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death (Marriott and Newman 2010)

IMDb Plot Summary: "A young photographer and his girlfriend discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after a tragic accident. They soon learn that you can not escape your past."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0440803/

While probably not as wholly effective as other horror films, this packs quite the scare. It easily has some of the scariest scenes committed to film, and the ending sequences are exquisite.