As much a story about the evil of religion as it is the danger of a woman scorned, Carrie is for me one of the most powerful horror movies ever made. For the most part, we’re forced to stand by and watch as young Carrie White is hammered into the ground by almost everyone in her life. Even when the vaguest sliver of happiness looks unusually close to providing this downtrodden teen with just one perfect moment, it all disappears in the cruelest possible way. Despite the fact that, in a strange way, we as the audience are made to feel implicit in Carrie’s ultimate humiliation, there’s an indescribable joy we’re left with when she wreaks her terrifying revenge.
While it may already be widely accepted that John Carpenter’s Halloween played an integral role in, not just the slasher film, but horror cinema as a whole, the style and grace with which it did so should never be underestimated. In 1978, we were were introduced to a psychosexual killer that would spawn a million imitators. But, to this day, not one movie has emerged from the same sub-genre that carries the same level of suspense, terror and innovation as the story of the night Michael Myers came home.
Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
The perfect balance of horror and comedy can be difficult to achieve. When a director gets it right, we get An American Werewolf In London, get it wrong and… well, do I need to remind you of Lesbian Vampire Killers? In Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg achieve this delicate blend almost effortlessly, while imbuing the film with a love and knowledge of zombie cinema that seeps from every infected wound. From the bottom of my heart, I believe this to be the perfect film. Not just the perfect horror film, but the perfect film – and I could give you a million reasons why. Glorious.
Last House On The Left (1972)
Some would argue Last House on the Left is nothing but a cruel and dirty tale of barbaric misogyny and brutal, mindless revenge. I would argue that if you put that on a poster, you’ve got a hit on your hands. While the film opted for the now legendary ‘To avoid fainting keep repeating, its only a movie…’ tagline, I would also suggest there is more to this statement than just a convenient marketing jingle. Last House on the Left was one of the first films to use true documentary-style filmmaking to put audiences right at the centre of a real, tangible nightmare. It may be sinister, it may be mean-spirited, but it is also incredibly powerful stuff.
Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
You could say there are many films that defined the 1980s when it came to horror. In fact, the VHS boom of the decade also meant you’d also have plenty to choose from. But in 1984, Wes Craven changed the landscape of the genre, just like he did 12 years earlier – and would again 12 years later. In this instance though, he’d also manage to create a modern day boogey man that would, in time, stand shoulder to shoulder with giants like Dracula and Frankenstein. Yes, there’s no question that Freddy Krueger would later become little more than a fridge magnet, but in his first outing the Springwood Slasher was the stuff of true nightmares.
Every now and then a film comes along that rocks you to your absolute core. Suspiria has probably been doing this for people the world over for 30-odd years now, but for me, it was just a few months ago when I was finally welcomed into its dark, surreal club. From the first few moments of this film, I was absolutely captivated. Suspiria is as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen on screen and boasts easily the most haunting and memorable score I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear. Often people will compare cinema to high art, often they’ll be doing so to sound smart or culturally aware. I don’t care what you think, this film belongs on a pedestal, or in a gallery… or on my telly… right now.
A fellow Cigarette Burner and host of our nights at the Mucky Pup, Will levels his sights at –
The Shining –
Jack Nicholson at the top of his game, Kubrick pushing Shelly Duvall beyond her physical limits so we get a genuinely distressed damsel, It pissed off Stephen King. Lovely stuff.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: the Dream Warriors –
To my mind the finest of the 80s slasher franchise cashcows. Freddy: I love that undead nonce.
The Descent –
proper, no-frills, buuiiiiiild uuuuup teeeeeeeeeeeeennnnssiiiiiiiioooooooooon: SCARYFACE! entertainment.
The Thing –
The cold, the isolation, Rob Bottin’s grotesque art. Hope there’s a cinema screening of this near me sometime soon.
(file under zombie or comedy horror, my favourite from both subgenres)
Not strictly a film I know, but it’s 90 minutes of audiovisual drama that really gets under my skin and creeps me out
If that’s too much of a cheat bung in Carrie.
The venerable Glyn Jones from the great Fantastic Voyages blog, waded in with the following blows to the gut –
hardly going against The Guardian’s choice here, but for being pivotal, innovative and still very scary
THE INNOCENTS (1961)
for ghost story/chilling horror
THE WICKER MAN (1973)
for cult British Horror/folk horror
DEEP RED (1975)
for Italian horror/slasher/giallo
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
for American 70’s new wave/zombie horror
THE THING (1982)
for 80’s horror/full-on gore
This only leaves myself…
I’ll be honest, I feel like a bit of a cheat here. I am privy to people’s various votes and so could sway things but adding my choices. With that in mind, I will stand back at the minute and leave you with the above choices….