Let The Right One In
This is simply the greatest horror film ever made. Yes there are scarier movies but there are none more sophisticated, beautiful, moving or surprising. It is so full of wonderful ideas that the totally pointless American remake, Let Me In, is also a very good film.
For more on this timeless masterwork of suspenseful cinema have a look at my blog entry on Hitchcock. All I will say here is that the film has had over fifty years of build up and it still holds up.
Atmospheric and shocking more than it is terrifying but above all else, absolutely heartbreaking and completely unforgettable.
More of a psychological thriller than a straight out horror film but incredibly creepy and highly compelling. I said it was going to be my film of the year when I saw it last January. I knew then that I wouldn’t see a better movie in twelve months of cinema releases and fifty three films later I wasn’t wrong.
The Silence of the Lambs
The second film on the list without any supernatural elements but actually human beings can be scary all by themselves. There are few movie monsters to equal Hannibal Lector and he isn’t even the main antagonist of the piece.
Sure the film is dated but beautifully executed and to be honest, the ‘what if’ thing doesn’t bother me with vampires and zombies but if the birds suddenly did turn on us we genuinely wouldn’t stand a chance. That scene where the crows gather on the climbing frame is properly scary.
Writer/director Guillermo del Toro has the most incredible imagination and this film is a true work of art. Following on from what I said about The Silence of the Lambs, this film has the most fantastical supernatural elements but still human beings are the scariest things of all.
I feel a little bit bad because I’ve not seen the original Japanese version of this but this remake is really really creepy. At least both versions are by the same director, Takashi Shimizu. It has the most basic haunted house plot but it is really well put together and actually, few films have terrified me more. The biggest scare comes at a point when you have been fooled into thinking you can relax for a minute. I couldn’t look out of windows for a week.
… and this one gave me a phobia of multi-storey car parks. I still can’t hear the name Helen without getting creeped out.
A wonderful old fashioned ghost story with great atmosphere. I do think that Nicole Kidman is a very good actress and this is her finest hour. It also has Eric Sykes in it and that guy is a proper British legend.
Not a horror film in any way, shape or form but a wonderfully old school ghost story from the genius of Noel Coward and David Lean.
Clever, funny and for the first half an hour at least, genuinely scary. There aren’t many films that can boast that.
I’m not up to speed with the whole franchise but 1 – 3 were really nasty and a lot of fun. It is like the violence of Tom & Jerry played out in the real world with real people and real blood and guts.
One of the finest animated children’s films ever made and definitely one of the creepiest.
American Werewolf in London
It is a classic and like Scream, one of the few films to properly balance scares and laughs. Unlike that film though this does both all the way through. Also that transformation scene is still incredible, thirty two years after the film was made.
Like the previous entry, this is a film that shows for all we have gained through CGI, we have lost a little something too. The transformation scenes in this movie (I’m talking about the 1982 version although the 1951 original is also great) are really impressive and really disgusting. The idea that any one of your friends could be the monster is a scary idea too and very well played here.
This time I am talking about the original, not its more famous remake. They just don’t make them like this anymore and this 1958 film has more charm than David Cronenburg’s version. That final image of the titular bug with a man’s arm and head is just creepy. Cheesy but creepy.
The Sixth Sense
Has any film maker ever fallen from grace as thoroughly as M. Night Shyamalan? This great little ghost story from the writer of Stuart Little is actually a fairly straight film lifted by a great ending but it is a great ending.
The Cabin in the Woods
Another of my favourite movies of last year and despite this list I’m actually not a great fan of horror films. (The fact that The Shining and The Exorcist do not appear anywhere in this thirty one probably shows that.) I do love Joss Whedon and this is pretty typical of his sense of humour. It knows and plays with film conventions as well so I like it for that. The scene where all the monsters escape is also just the most incredibly bonkers ride. It is a lot of fun.
Imagine a cross between The Blair Witch Project, King Kong and Sesame Street.
Another film that has already been covered elsewhere on the blog but it is brilliant and stands up to repeated viewings like few other films.
Truly Madly Deeply
Ghost stories don’t need to be scary, they can also be sweetly romantic and the same goes for Alan Rickman.
This is certainly not the first time this film has been mentioned on my blog (again, it has its own entry) and it won’t be the last. Brian DePalma always wanted to be the equal of Hitchcock but he couldn’t measure up. Korean director Park Chan-wook does and here is the proof.
Scoring a solid three points on the Bechdel Test here is a properly gothic, properly feminist and properly bloody story starring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton as mother and daughter vampires.
Shaun of the Dead
After Scream and American Werewolf in London here we have the best horror comedy from the deliciously film-addled brains of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. It is not overly scary but there are those twenty minutes in the middle where it forgets it is a comedy.
One of the greatest monster films of all time and it also has spaceships and robots.
Little Shop of Horrors*
Talking of mean, green mothers from Outer Space here is the greatest film ever to feature dismemberment, psychotic dentists, Bill Murray and catchy show tunes.
Rule 28 of surviving Zombieland: Always double knot your shoelaces.
The only directors to have two films on this list are Alfred Hitchcock and John Carpenter. I’m not sure I’d have predicted that second one going in to this but Halloween is a classic. All clichés start out as original ideas at some point.
The Woman in Black
The Woman in Black is a genuinely scary, old fashioned ghost story and I found the film a lot more frightening than the book (that probably suggests I have a poor imagination). There is one prolonged scene that is just relentless in its build up. I had to pause it when I was watching it to give myself a break.
This is a fiendishly clever film about a woman caught in a time loop aboard a seemingly deserted boat. Think of Groundhog Day meets Back to the Future 2 but with a crazy lady and a huge pile of decomposing corpses. Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve sold that last one very well.
*One for the kids