Richard Phillips Shares his Top 10 personal list of the best horror movies of all time. TS
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Fantastic reinvention of the boogeyman with clever innovations of getting killed gruesomely while dreaming. Robert England made a name for himself by being typecast and giving the best one-liners during the 80s –second only to Arnold.
9. Let the Right One In (2008)
A Swedish film set in a gloomy, wintry hamlet outside of Stockholm, about a boy who is tormented by bullies and falls in love with a girl apparently his age who is actually a vampire who then becomes his protector. However, we are not sure if his love is requited or she needs him for other reasons. This coming-of-age tale is as beautiful as it is disturbing. Lina Leanderson is amazingly tender and brutally vicious. The end is unforgettable not because of how the bludgeoning of human anatomy is revealed but how the cinematic anatomy of the scene unfolds.
8. The Thing (1982)
In this day and age of torture porn, everybody is trying to out-do each other pushing the limitations of gross-out gore. There may not even be limitations any more since Tom Six (The Human Centipede) crossed the line with an unrelenting quantity of nauseating absurdity one can barely sit through (I’m sure there are others on some arcane list including a half a dozen Italian filmmakers of the 1970s/80s). However, there is still no comparison to the shock and sheer revulsion one might endure watching John Carpenter’s The Thing. This is back in the 80s, mind you, when graphic violence was piecemeal or shot in quick takes so the audience didn’t have enough time to discern how fake the FX was at the time. However, they did it right in the beginning of the film when a dog’s skin literally turns inside-out to divulge the shape-shifting alien that assumes the form of ANYONE it kills. Kurt Russell is the reluctant hero, which automatically qualifies the film as a classic.
7. Halloween (1978)
The first slasher flick with the highest production value and proof that less is more when it comes to scaring a packed audience. There is no other piece of rubber on this planet more sinister and iconic than the vapid, in-side-out mask of Captain Kirk discovered reluctantly when the producers couldn’t decide on the appearance of deranged Michael Myers.
6. Poltergeist (1982)
This was the first movie that took haunted houses to a whole new level literally and figuratively. Let’s not forget that Spielberg did not direct this film – Tobe Hopper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) did. This was back before the PG 13 existed, so Poltergeist teetered between R and PG for a while. Someone from MGM with a bag full of loot must’ve greased the MPAA and the film was eventually released PG. The demented clown and the face-ripping were enough to entice every warm-blooded junior high lad from Timbuktu to Toluca Lake to fleece 5 bucks from his parents to catch a matinee screening in the summer of 82 (with a chance to get a fleeting glimpse of The Thing as well).
5. Salem’s Lot (1979)
Let us not forget that Salem’s Lot was a made for TV movie and not released in theaters, so if you were born between the years of 1966 – 1974, you may have had a serious fear of casement windows until adulthood (I still do). The scene of the kid-turned-vampire floating through the window to gnaw on his older brother’s neck is one of the scariest scenes in prime-time history and the Rubicon of seventies horror movies.
4. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby had distinctive 1960s counter-culture creepiness like no other film during that time. The proclamation at the film’s climax by Sidney Blackmer, “God is Dead, Satan Lives” was more poignant 40 years ago because the ethos of the 60s revolution was more than just burning bras and dropping LSD at drag races and graduation ceremonies. Being a Satanist was the ultimate anti-establishment statement. Rumor has it that Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey was a technical advisor on the film and portrayed Satan in the rape/impregnation scene/dream scene. But it was later disclosed he was trapped in the Alps banging Austrian flight attendants with L. Ron Hubbard.
3. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
John Landis took a huge gamble mixing comedy and horror and it paid off. American Werewolf in London was not only groundbreaking in mixing genres, but Rick Baker’s make-up/creature effects created a new Oscar category (Best Makeup). The most memorable scenes are the dream sequences in the hospital — especially the dream within the dream, within the dream (take that Inception). This one is in its own special class as one of the scariest, most shocking, hilarious, uncanny, rich-in-dialogue, sad, romantic films of the 20th century.
2. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick is the man, especially in lieu of the new evidence that he may have made the Shining as a confession of his complicity in faking the Moon landing.
1. The Exorcist (1973)
I watched The Exorcist on a dare like many kids did 35 years ago and to this day, it still scares me. The movie made its TV debut on Channel 20, a local syndicated station in the Washington DC area and was abruptly interrupted by an interlude of local, low-quality commercials that made the experience more uneasy and bizarre. It was if the neighboring businesses were in on it, collaborating with Friedkin, Blatty, and the Devil to ruin our lives. I have watched “The Exorcist” well over thirty times as way to conquer my fear of it and I remain fascinated with the narrative and nuances of the performances. Blatty’s script is one of the best of all time. It’s a pure recipe of good and evil implicitly defined, it has a hero with his own struggles of bereavement, faith, and substance abuse, and an innocent child defiled by the ultimate, incorrigible evil that EVERYONE fears whether he or she believes in Satan or not – and finally a valiant sage (Father Merrin) that comes late in the game and galvanizes the hero to perform the ultimate sacrifice and save the little girl. This is the greatest horror film ever, and Friedkin knew he was going to make history.
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