Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Top 10 Best Horror Movies

On All Hallow's Eve, the monsters shall rise...

Last week we counted down the Top 10 Best Horror Video Games, and just in time for Halloween, we have the Top 10 Best Horror Movies!

Fun fact, every Halloween, I always make it a tradition to have a horror movie marathon. I grab a couple of friends, we get a plethora of candy and Count Chocula, and just watch a lot of classic horror movies. This year I'll be watching The Shining, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Seven, but it just goes to show how much I like horror movies. In fact, I always make it a point to get a few new horror movies every year just so I could have a good time on Halloween.

I feel like I don't even need to explain why I'm making a list of the best horror movies. I can't begin to count how many horror movies have impacted cinema as a whole or even why so many people make it a tradition to go see at least one horror movie during October. It just feels right to scare the shit out of people during this time of year, and there's no better way to do that then sitting in a dark room and watching monsters and killers do what they do best.

Now without any delay, here's the best movies to watch today that will really get the chills going and make you cautious about walking down a dark hallway in the middle of the night. Happy Halloween...

#10: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
I couldn't have a list about the best horror movies without including Rocky Horror in some capacity. I freaking adore this movie from head to tow. This is the definition of a cult classic and has become so popular that everyone on the face of the Earth has at least heard of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. From satirizing classic B movies to Tim Curry as the irresistible Dr. Frank N. Furter, this movie as become a tradition for many horror enthusiasts, and I mean that quite literally.

Midnight screenings of this movie litter movie theatres around October, and all of them encourage massive audience participation. I even went to my first one last year dressed up as Brad Majors, and I married someone in the first scene of the movie. I also got into a huge line and forcibly passed a dildo around between my legs, but that was because I was an RH virgin! Take a step back though and think about that, as much as you don't want to imagine me passing a dildo between my legs. A literal cult has developed around this movie where situations like this are not only normal, but encouraged. I will always call Brad an asshole and Janet a slut, and that's not even getting into the other bizarre traditions that Rocky Horror fans have created for the midnight screenings.

Then you have classics like "Science Fiction Double Feature", "Sweet Transvestite", and of course "The Time Warp" that are sung and performed at nearly every Halloween party in existence. Rocky Horror has become such a cultural landmark that even the idea of remaking the movie is seen by some to be heretic. And for good reason! You don't mess with Tim Curry! If you have no idea what Rocky Horror is like, go to a midnight screening and see for yourself what all of the fuss is about.

#9: Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Ah, another cult classic, this one by the beloved Sam Raimi. If you have no idea what the Evil Dead franchise is, imagine a movie series where the main character has a chainsaw for a hand and fights evil demons summoned by the Necronomicon, a literal book of the dead. Add in some crazy monsters, copious amounts of blood, tree rape, medieval zombies, and awesome one liners, and you have one of the best horror trilogies of the 21st century.

When I asked myself which was the best movie in the series, I know there are a lot of people who love Army of Darkness, but there was no doubt in my mind that Evil Dead 2 is the best in the series. This is an action movie so over-the-top that it becomes a comedy. It has so many dark and grizzly scenes in it that are taken too far, but not in an offensive way. Instead, it's just hilarious to watch it. I've always been fascinated by horror-comedies, because by their nature, they should not work. Horror is meant to elicit fear and terror from the viewer, so why would you make a horror movie that evokes joy and laughter? Well, because no one else would do it. Give me three examples of horror movies that are also really good comedies, and I don't mean children's movies that are kinda funny and whimsical, I mean piss your pants funny. Chances are, you probably can't. Evil Dead 2 fills a niche that we never knew needed filling.

Then there's Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell is just fantastic in this movie as Ashley Williams. He's manic, badass, funny, scary, and everything that a horror movie action star needs to be. After all, if he's stuck in a single house for the entire movie with monsters swarming around this one house, he's gonna have to pull some serious effort to make us care about him. And he does. How can you not love a man with a chainsaw for a hand? What else to say besides... groovy.

#8: Coraline (2009)
When it comes to Coraline, I almost forgot to put this movie on the list entirely. When I first came up with this list, I knew that I wanted to put a children's movie on this list as a sort of "unintentionally scary" entry. Not many children's movies are designed to outright scare kids, and most kid's movies have little moments that are scary, but won't scar them because it'll eventually lead to a happy ending. For the longest time, I was actually going to put The Great Mouse Detective on the list for its dark atmosphere and climax. But then while I was on Facebook, I saw a picture of the Other Mother from Coraline, and all of the memories came flowing back to me. This movie is legitimately unsettling from beginning to end.

On the surface, it looks like a pleasant kids movie, but something never seems right with the animation style or the character designs. Our story is about Coraline, a young girl who wants to find a perfect world away from her drab and boring one, and she does. She finds perfect versions of her family and friends in this magical world, and they constantly invite her to stay and live with them for real... and then everything goes south fast. When the shit does hit the fan, I always knew it was going to happen, just because every character looks... wrong. Every person in the other world has buttons sewed on their eyes for an unexplained reason, and when its finally time for the movie to go full nightmare mode on it, IT HOLDS NO MERCY.

I saw this movie when I was 17, and it still gave me the creeps. It looked absolutely horrifying when the movie changed gears, and made it instantly unforgettable. The Other Mother is a terrifying antagonist, and watching her physically go through a metamorphosis is not only memorable, but piss inducing. I know most people don't really care about movie ratings anymore, but this movie earned a hard PG when it came out. Remember when that used to mean something? Hunchback of Notre Dame got a PG rating for showing heavy scenes of lust and attempted murder (both done by Judge Frollo), and The Secret of Nimh got a PG rating for its intense violence that showed mice murdering each other. Most kids movies now a day are PG because of the occasional swear word, lewd situation, or sexual joke, but that's nothing compared to this. Coraline earns it PG rating because this movie will probably screw your kids up. And I love every second of it.

Seriously, this is a movie that's been underrated for the past few years because of how recent its been, but it is a horror classic sort of like the same way that Silent Hill is a horror classic. The movie gets into your head and turns pleasant imagery into ungodly nightmares. Do yourself a favor and find Coraline and watch it with some friends and just see how they feel watching someone have buttons sewn over their eyes.

#7: Alien (1979)
"In space no one can hear you scream."

I feel like Alien doesn't really require an explanation at this point. It's the definitive space horror movie (well intentional space horror movie coughgravitycough) that was done so well, no one has ever tried to replicate it since. The Alien franchise has had its peaks and valleys, and while a lot of people will debate whether Alien or Aliens is better, I went for the original just due to its atmosphere.

I can't stress enough how this movie feels so much different than any other horror movie because of its space setting. Everything feels lonely. Everything feels hopeless too, and adding in Xenomorphs is enough to make anyone shit their pants. No joke, when I was looking up the posters for the entries, I just typed in "alien" into google, and the first thing that came up were Xenomorphs instead of the grey headed, stereotypical alien design. That's how pervasive this movie is into our cultural psyche.

Sometimes, words fail me when it comes to describing an entry, so here's the original trailer for Alien. It should perfectly explain everything.

#6: Oculus (2014)
We meet again Oculus

Modern horror and I have a strenuous relationship. In the past decade or so, most horror movies have put a strong focus on either excessive gore, cheap special effects, or using found footage to ge their scares across. While these are all good tools to try and elicit scares from the audience, the problems with them is that directors will use them haphazardly without any regard for the characters, plot, atmosphere, or the actually things that provide scares. For example, take the most recent Paranormal Activity movie that released just this week. I haven't seen it, nor will I, but based solely on the trailers, it's putting an overreliance on poor special effects and having them shown to use like a found footage movie as the sole scares. From the trailers, there is nothing else that's scary about the movie besides the special effects. No mood, no atmosphere, no silence, no nothing. 

Now Oculus is a different story. It's a movie that immerses you in its world and asks you what is real and what isn't. It's a movie that will constantly play with you and show you a scene or graphic violence, only to swiftly sweep it under the rug and say it was a hallucination before returning to its plot. This movie plays with its audience, and despite it telling us the ending in the first five minutes, it's still a great thrill ride. 

I had the pleasure to see this in a theatre around Halloween, and I fell in love with it. While everyone else saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I was terrified of every scene in this movie. Psychological horror is always something that's difficult to perfect, but I think Oculus does a damn fine job at it. 

I never thought in my life that mirrors would be scary, but Oculus proved me wrong. 

#5: The Thing (1982)
In recent years, people began to look back and realize that John Carpenter's The Thing was one of the most under appreciated horror movies ever made. When it first came out, not many people really care about it, but over three decades later and people have remembered "Oh wait, this movie is awesome!"

The premise is that at an outpost in Antarctica, a parasite enters the outpost and completely assimilates anyone it comes into contact with. What makes it interesting is that anyone the parasite assimilates is fully controlled by the creature to the point where no one has any idea if a person is infected or not until the creature reveals itself. So for the rest of the movie, it's a game of who's human, who's a monster, and who can you really trust?

I love this movie not just because of its premise, but because of its setting. If everyone has talked to death about the psychological aspects of the movie, then I'm gonna talk to death about the setting! I love the fact that this movie takes place in the harsh wastelands of Antarctica. Everything is so empty and lifeless there that even just the environment would be enough to kill a person. So in order to stay alive from the bitter cold, you have to contain yourself in a small environment or else risk dying. Add to the mix a creature that assimilates people in close quarters, and you have a setting where there is no escape, no hope of rescue, and death all around from the subzero temperatures. 

It's isolation at its finest, and ice as a motif is usually one of my go to horror tropes. There's just a beautiful contrast when you're surrounded by a terrible nightmare that will cause nothing but grief and insanity, but you're in an environment that is nothing but tranquility. All there is is ice and snow, both of which have been undisturbed for centuries until your arrival, and with your arrival, you also bring untold nightmares with you. In other words, you're alone in a world that's meant to be alone, and it only cements the fear that there's no one to save you from your own mistakes and from the monsters that stalk you. The Thing will make you feel alone and cold, but you won't mind it in the slightest. 

#4: Misery (1990)
Misery is probably the most grounded and realistic horror movie on this list, yet that shouldn't be viewed as a weakness. Instead, Misery is the definition of unsettling. When an author crashes his car in a storm, he's nursed back to health by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes.

Oh, and did I mention that she's absolutely insane, violent, and psychotic? Cause she is. She is very much a lunatic. 

Not only does this movie take place in a cold, remote cabin (yay for snow!), the movie is pretty much just Annie Wilkes and the author, Paul Sheldon. It's just these two living together, but even that is giving the movie too much credit. It's more like a make shift prison with Paul beaten, tortured, and abused relentlessly because Annie loves his work and him, yet hates anything that he does. She'll be super sweet and polite in one scene, only to go into a berserker rage at night and break both of his legs. I only just recently discovered this movie, but dear lord is this a movie that any celebrity or public figure should see. 

The original book was written by Stephen King, and I know that Stephen King is a somewhat polarizing figure in the horror community. Some of his movies are masterpieces, while others are trope laden, lazy, and generic. He has several amazing gems that have defined the horror genre, but I wouldn't be the first to say that he's the "Master of Horror". In fact, I would say that he has good ideas and concepts for books, but they're usually marred by a flimsy execution. There are only three of his books that supercede this notion and are actually damned fine movies are The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, and of course, Misery

Misery is a movie that I can't help but think fondly on, yet dread every time I watch it. Whenever Annie isn't around and Paul is attempting to explore her house, I'm always afraid that she'll either come in while he's exploring or that he'll leave something out of place so that she'll know he was there. Make no mistake, Annie Wilkes is an intelligent psychopath, and I would not want to cross her any day of the week. In fact, I would say just watch the movie for Kathy Bates alone, because nothing else you'll see this Halloween will be as frightening as her. 

#3: The Babadook (2014)
Last night I was sitting around with some friends and, being the season, we started to talk about horror movies that we've seen and enjoyed. Movies like The Conjuring, The Shining, and Exorcist popped up, but I started talking about The Babadook. They never heard of it before and have no idea what it even was, so I decided to try an describe the plot to them. Halfway through my explanation though, I realized that I couldn't really describe it. Trying to convey The Babadook to another person is a nigh impossible task because of how mundane, cerebral, and aggressively frightening this movie is. 

I never gave it a proper review when it first came out, mostly because of time constraints, but I feel like I have enough free time to at least explain what this movie is really about; depression. Our main character is depressed over the loss of her husband, how frustrating her young son is, and how her life is pretty much mired in the past. So when her son starts acting out even more and claiming that it was because of a creature called Mr. Babadook, she's had enough of him and everyone. 

And then Mr. Babadook starts to have fun with her. 

There is not a single jump scare in this movie, but I applaud The Babadook for trying something that isn't done often in horror movies. The movie wants to actually tell a story and get a moral across. Just think about that for a minute. How many horror movies can you say have symbolism, morality, and want to express a viewpoint about a psychological disorder? When was the last time a horror movie had a point besides going boo? Well, only a handful, but very few have ever tackled the subject of depression quite like this. 

Looking back at this movie, it told one of the most logical and subtle horror stories I've seen in ages, perfectly melding character progression with Mr. Babadook and his various attacks on the family. I can't think of a better monster that debuted in a horror movie in the past decade than Mr. Babadook. He doesn't have a single, defined appearance, but he's iconic in the same way that he's terrifying. He never has a definitive shape or appearance, and most of the time we just see other characters reacting to what he looks like, but the few glimpses we see of him are enough to make anyone unsettled. What else is there to say besides IT WAS MY MOVIE OF 2014! HOLY SHIT JUST GO SEE IT ALREADY. 

#2: A Clockwork Orange (1971)
So I'm probably going to have a lot of people tell me that A Clockwork Orange is not a horror movie. The main goal of the movie is not to scare its audience or give them a thrill as they watch it. And yet, whenever I think of disturbing and scary movies, I can't help but go back to this movie and how much it likes to traumatize its audience. I'm sure that other movies may be scarier than A Clockwork Orange, but how many other horror movies have people who will outright refuse to ever see this movie because of its content? Very few I imagine. 

If you haven't heard of this movie, be warned that it contains some of the most disturbing imagery ever put to film. In this movie alone, we have teenagers violently beat one another, murder each other, and we actually see a full blown rape scene in this movie. Granted, it doesn't look as real as in I Spit on Your Grave, which lasts for a solid 15 minutes where we see every last detail of it, but we get Alex DeLarge beaten an old man into submission before taking his gang to rape a young woman while singing "Singing In the Rain". Why? Because it's fun. Then there are the torture scenes that Alex must go through, making this a pretty abrasive movie to watch all the way through. 

More so than any other horror movie on this list, A Clockwork Orange will stick with its audience and actively test their morals and ethics. When you see Alex DeLarge beating a homeless man, do you feel sympathy for him later on when he's helplessly beatn by the exact same homeless man? How about when he's force to attempt suicide to escape the torture that he's been put through by the father or the woman he raped? Even at the end, has Alex even learned anything through all of this? There are no easy answers to these questions, and they pose the viewer to watch the movie again to get their answers. It just so happens that the movie they're going to try and analyze is so dark that watching it multiple times may not put them in the best of minds. If you don't think that A Clockwork Orange is scary, then watch it again to see some of that old ultra-violence. 

#1: Silence of the Lambs (1991)
It was the one horror movie to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars. It's lead actor, Anthony Hopkins, won Best Actor for his role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. This is probably on of the best, if not the best, horror movie to have ever been released. 

I adore the Silence of the Lambs series. I love all four movies, I love the characters associated with the movies, I love the musical parody Silence!, and I absolutely adored the recent TV series Hannibal. Yes, I am a Fannibal, and I want my season 4 damn it! Still, that's neither here nor there, so let's just talk only about the first major adaptation of Silence of the Lambs

While I don't think that it feels as real as The Babadook in its depiction of horror, the strength of this movie lies in its two main villains, Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill. Where do I even begin with these two? Dr. Lecter is an intelligent psychopath who is known to not only be fiercely intelligent, but also as a horrifying cannibal. Seeing him actually eat his security guards or describe the dark deeds he's done is simply fantastic. Look, Anthony Hopkins won a Oscar for this role for a reason. We grow to understand Hannibal Lecter through this movie and we can see exactly what makes him tick, which is something more frightening than any other monster in my opinion. No one should ever fully understand the mind of a psychopath, and certainly not one as dark as Hannibal Lecter. 

Buffalo Bill is a completely different story though. Bill is the scariest character in this movie by far and is shown several times that he is merciless and out of his mind. One of the biggest scenes of the movie is watching him dance around half naked in a cloak as he prepares his woman suit as a woman is screaming in a pit for salvation. And what does Buffalo Bill do? Throws lotion down there to make sure her skin is nice when he slices it off to add to his suit. I can't fully explain why, but there's just something simultaneously brilliant about Buffalo Bill and something downright terrifying about him. I can't rationally explain why, but when you watch him on screen, you know for a fact that you aren't watching a man on screen. You're watching a monster. 

Then again, we're meant to watch monsters in this movie. Clarice Starling is meant to be an surrogate for us. She's a neutral force as we watch lawful evil and chaotic evil go about their daily lives. We can see both sides of the monstrous spectrum through her, and come to our own conclusion as to who is worse, Dr. Lecter or Buffalo Bill? Even then, lives are still lost and Hannibal gets away to eat another day. It's like staring into the abyss, and the abyss is staring back. Twice. 

When I originally started this list, I had no doubt that Silence would be number 1. It's my favorite horror movie of all time and one of my favorite movies period. There's so much to love about this series, though I fully admit that this series is not mentally well. I wish I could talk about other characters like Francis Dorlahyde or Mason Verger, but I can only talk about Silence of the Lambs here, so let me make this as perfectly clear as possible. 

Silence of the Lambs is the best horror movie ever made. End of story. 

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