With Halloween coming up, and celebrating Treehouse Of Horror, and horror in general this week, I thought I would post about my favorite horror movies. There are probably thousands of lists like this one all over the internet, and mine is nowhere near as infallible as the rest, but it’s fun and might turn people on to movies they’ve never seen. Some of these are gory. Some are laid back and full of amazing atmosphere. Some are just plain goofy or have sentimental value to me. Regardless, I’ll back these movies forever and can rewatch them all of the time and not get tired of them. I hope you find something new or rediscover old favorites.
Special guest commentator on #8 is Megan Osztrosits from the band Couch Slut. She rules and I’m so glad she was down to write a bunch of words about one of her favorite movies. Go buy ‘My Life As A Woman’ by Couch Slut HERE!
Fifteen – Night Of The Lepus
Like most 19070’s monster/creature movies, this one isn’t great and definitely a weird choice to be on any horror list. Night Of The Lepus is a movie from 1972 about killer rabbits. That’s right: killer rabbits. A rabbit being tested on as a way to stop rabbits from breeding and taking over an area is given as a pet and escapes. Basically, after the escape, all kinds of goofy hell breaks loose. The movie is great as a dumb 70’s horror movie, but the reason I love it is because of sentimental reasons. My wife and I had a rabbit for 7 years or so and one day my wife brought up seeing this movie as a kid. From then on, the joke was always that Edwardo (our rabbit) was planning on leading a Night Of The Lepus style attack on humanity.
Fourteen – The Cabin In The Woods
Coming out in 2012, The Cabin In The Woods is a movie that is very hard to write about without ruining the crazy plot and twists that happen within. This is a movie that should be seen totally fresh. I randomly watched it one day with no prior knowledge about it and was completely blown away. Basic plot is a group of teenagers/twentysomethings go to an abandoned cabin for a weekend of fun and crazy, and I mean crazy, shit happens. Keep an eye out for the motorcycle jump that ends in the most surprising way. This is a great horror movie if you’re looking for something different with a good amount of humor.
Thirteen – The House Of The Devil
Ti West has become one of my favorite horror directors. His films all have an 80’s VHS feel to them that I love. The House Of The Devil was the first one I saw of his and still my favorite. The old school feel combined with modern special effects work so well together and West’s directing adds some incredible atmosphere to all of his films. The House Of The Devil follows the story of a college student looking to make some extra money and takes a babysitting job. Like most babysitting jobs, she finds out that the family is harboring a demon child that eats raw human flesh and the parents want to sacrifice her to him. You know, the usual stuff babysitters have to deal with. The midpoint turn in the movie is great and the kid in the movie is genuinely creepy. Also, check out The Innkeepers if you like this movie.
Twelve – Hatchet
Director Adam Green has become one of my favorite horror filmmakers in the last couple of years. He has a massive love and admiration of all things horror. His Hatchet series (there are three) is a love letter to series like Friday The 13th and Halloween. Following a group of tourists in a swamp tour that come across the legend of Victor Crowley (played by Kane Hodder), Hatchet is ultra gory and has some of the most brutal killings I’ve seen on screen since Dead Alive. One person gets her head ripped in half from the jaw while another gets and electric sander to the face. The movie is a bloody mess of fun and takes the slasher genre to new levels. Hatchet also has a cameo from Robert Englund to watch out for.
Eleven – Audition
This Japanese horror-drama-completely-fucked-up film is a slowburner leading to one of the most memorable last 15 minutes or so in cinema. Takashi Miike is probably the most well know Japanese horror director based on films like Audition, Oldboy, and Ichi The Killer. Audition is his masterpiece for me. Following a widower trying to join the dating scene again and creating a mock casting audition for women to be his new wife, Audition is psychologically brutal and ends with one of the most stomach turning torture scenes over put on film. It’s one of the very few movies that has ever made me uncomfortable. It’s also beautifully shot and wonderfully paced. The acting is top notch and the ending is so realistic that you can almost feel it yourself.
Ten – Evil Dead remake
The original Evil Dead is an absolute classic. Remaking it sounds like an idea that would be a guaranteed abysmal failure. I saw this movie in theaters and full expected the worst. 99% of remakes are total garbage, but I had hopes that with Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi involved, it would be at least descent. This movie completely shattered all expectations. The ways they homage the original while making this movie new were incredible, especially with the lost hand/chainsaw. The violence is incredibly real while also being completely over the top ala the original Evil Dead movies. The crowbar to the hand legitimately made me squirm in pain. They turn a character that for the first half of the movie is pretty unlikeable into someone you end up rooting for. By the halfway mark, I was 100% invested and in love with this movie. The violence is over the top and realistic at the same time. And the last 20 minutes or so are completely bonkers. Don’t let your love of the original make you skip this. It’s probably the only remake worth your time.
Nine – Return Of The Living Dead
Return Of The Living Dead is a movie everyone loves. I don’t think I want to know the person who doesn’t love it. It’s a perfect combination of horror and comedy with a great soundtrack. The acting is pretty goofy in the best way. The talking zombies calling for more cops and paramedics just so they can eat there brains is genius. Return Of The Living Dead has to be the first movie to have talking zombies (in the Romero fashion, at least). It’s a pretty intriguing concept. The zombie woman talking about eating brains to ease the pain of being dead is an incredible special effect, as is the weird goo-monster in the basement of the morgue. This movie is amazing and if you somehow haven’t seen it, redeem that.
Eight – The Devil’s Rejects
“Allow me to begin this piece by proclaiming my boundless and undying love and admiration for musician-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie. While I do not particularly give one small fuck about his music (though 15 year old me most certainly did) his journey into the realm of horror cinema has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise recently stale and boring genre that’s given us a dozen fucking Saw films and the Paranormal Craptivity franchise (barf).
It was April of 2003 and I was nearing the end of my senior year of high school when my mother – who is solely responsible for my obsession with horror and gore, allowing her four year old daughter to stay up late and watch Hellraiser or Nightmare on Elm Street – took me to see the theatrical debut of what would become one of my favorite modern horror movies of all time, House of 1,000 Corpses. I was positively delighted by the gritty nature of Zombie’s filmmaking style, the songs he chose as the soundtrack – especially his use of Slim Whitman’s “I Remember You” during the panic-inducing scene in which the main protagonist, Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley), shoots a cop in his yard execution style – but most of all, this new family I was introduced to, the Fireflys. Holy absolute shit, I hadn’t witnessed a fictional clan so gloriously twisted and deranged since those lovable psychopaths in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; so in awe of these freaks that I actually went back the theater for three subsequent viewings over the following week.
About two years after my introduction to House of 1,000 Corpses, I began to notice previews for The Devil’s Rejects, a sequel to the gorefest of torture and depravity I knew and loved. My initial thought was: “Oh. Fuck. This is going to be a shitshow.” Sequels are, in my opinion, rarely ever decent, let alone worth seeing. Actually, fuck being gentle about it: most sequels are total hot garbage and we all know it. I decided I couldn’t bring myself to face the inevitable disappointment of this second film, and waited until I could watch it in the comfort of my own home. No wasted money on a movie ticket and no regrettable popcorn binge, probably better off.
What a bonehead mistake that turned out to be. The first time I watched The Devil’s Rejects, I legitimately had to take a couple breaks to compose myself, if that’s any indication of how much more disturbing this film was than its predecessor. During my first viewing of this film, it seemed that Zombie decided to trade in a lot of the dark humor and bizarre montages (common in House) for a far more sinister narrative, one that includes quite possibly the most disturbing sexual assault scene I had ever seen by that time.
The Devil’s Rejects is a story of the Firefly family being hunted by the cop brother of one of the police officers shot to death in the first installment. While on the run, our mentally unhinged protagonists torture and kill a bunch more people, this time in a less humorous way and with seemingly more aggression, anger, and despair, like maybe they know their time spent killing is soon coming to a halt at the hands of a man determined to avenge his brother’s untimely death. The film ends with a wonderfully memorable scene set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” (I’m a big Skynyrd fan and do not care what you think about that) so it wrapped up the two part saga rather awesomely, in my mind.
Without spoiling what happens in the movie, I will say that while the final scene was incredibly satisfying and I walked away from The Devil’s Rejects feeling a little morose and dejected. That was it. A film and its sequel, and no promise of any additional adventures with the Fireflys.
In sum, both of these films are unique in their execution, a real treat for someone who grew up appreciating a lot of the early grindhouse genre. Films so absolutely gory, brutal, and punishing – two musts for any fan of sardonic humor, twisted gore, and sadistic torture. Any time I am feeling down, I simply watch one or both of these films, and before I know it, I’m cheering on one horribly demented and abhorrent circus sideshow of a barbarous family, and all is well again. Thanks, Mom.
Sidenote: The deleted scenes, which can be found on YouTube, are also fantastic and I highly recommend checking out Rosario Dawson as a nurse having her throat savagely ripped out by the one and only Dr. Satan.” – Megan Osztrosits
Seven – A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a movie that I know the more time I have to sit with, the higher it will end up on my list. This movie isn’t scary, but is about a vampire set in Iran. This film is beautiful and has an incredibly moving atmosphere to it. It’s a very subdued film with minimal dialogue. Sheila Vand who plays “The Girl” (the vampire) is incredible and perfect casting. The soundtrack is perfect and works in contrast to the desolate Iranian backdrop. This film is utterly brilliant and should be seen by as many people as possible.
Six – Evil Dead 2
The Evil Dead trilogy is a perfect trifecta of films. The first Evil Dead is terrifying. The second is scary, over the top, and has a Three Stooges level of violent humor. Army Of Darkness is basically an action adventure film with the humor of Evil Dead 2. All three are great, but Evil Dead 2 is by far the best. The movie ends up being the Bruce Campbell show, including a scene where he fights himself with dishes and his own severed hand. It also introduces the iconic chainsaw hand. I assume every horror fan has seen this movie. It’s pretty much perfect. The gore is so over the top and the blood is often different colors, like green and yellow, to add to the craziness of the entire thing. Bruce Campbell has talked about how brutal it was to shoot this movie because of how physical everything is and it shows. Bruce is often smashed into everything in the room and this was a time before CGI existed.
Five – The Thing
John Carpenter’s 70’s and 80’s output is pretty much unfuckwithable. Halloween, Big Trouble In Little China, The Fog, and The Thing are all brilliant. The Thing is by far my favorite of his films, though. It’s technically a remake, but you would never know from watching both films. Kurt Russell is the perfect leading man from the 80’s and turns in an excellent performance in The Thing. But let’s be honest, the absolute star of this movie is the practical effects work. This was made in a time before CGI and still looks way better than anything being produced today. The scene with the head tearing away from the body, falling to the floor and growing spider legs is still mind bending. If you haven’t seen The Thing, GO WATCH IT NOW! It’s one of the best movies ever made.
Four – Frozen
Adam Green, the director of Hatchet, took an idea that when I first heard about it, I thought was going to be the dumbest movie ever made. The plot revolves around 3 kids who get stuck on a ski lift over the weekend during a snowstorm. This movie is terrifying in how real it is. It something that can, and probably has happened. It makes you think about what you would do in the same situation. The scene where someone jumps and breaks his legs is brutal and makes me squeamish. The most brutal stuff in the movie is the small things, like falling asleep with your face on the metal bar of the ski lift. Waking up with your cheek frozen to the bar and the frostbite starting to take over. This movie is highly underrated.
Three – Alien
I back the entire Alien Quadrilogy fully. But Alien is definitely the most terrifying. Ridley Scott created the perfect horror/sci-fi film with Alien and the sequels never truly hold up to this one (Aliens comes close). The chest burster scene is so well done and genuinely horrifying. The alien deigned by H.R. Giger is beautiful and totally inspired. But the highlight of Alien is Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of Ripley. She is tough as nails and doesn’t put up with any of her male counterparts bullshit. Without even trying, Weaver portrays one of, if not the, ultimate horror/action star. Ripley forever!
Two – Let The Right One In
Let The Right One In is such a beautiful and well written, directed, and acted movie. It’s made me tear up or full on cry every time I’ve watched it. Lina Leandersson’s portrayal of Eli is completely androgynous and beautiful and heartfelt. You can’t not feel for her. The same goes for the character of Oskar. All you want throughout the entire film is for them to end up happy. I hold this movie in the highest regard. It’s easily in my top 5 all time movies. It’s got a similar feel to A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It’s not really scary, although Let The Right One In has much more violence. The entire film banks on your feelings for Eli and Oskar. Most people can probably relate to growing up and not feeling like you fit in, or getting picked on. Watching Eli encourage Oskar to stand up for himself, or taking it upon herself to help him not be messed with is great. Their friendship (relationship?) is beautifully portrayed and all culminates in one of the most heartwarming and beautifully shot endings I’ve ever seen. The swimming pool scene where you don’t see what happens, just the aftermath, is incredible and ballsy. In fact, everything from the swimming pool scene to the true ending is what makes me cry. It’s so fulfilling to see Eli come back and help Oskar. It makes my heart swell. It’s actually making me tear up just typing this. That’s how much this film means to me. Skip the remake. The Swedish version is forever the best and should be seen by everyone whether they are into horror movies or not.
One – Dawn Of The Dead
Dawn Of The Dead is my all time favorite movie. I’ve been in love with it and George Romero’s work ever since I first saw Dawn Of The Dead when I was 15. I think it’s the perfect zombie movie, in that it focuses on the group of survivors with the zombies as the background. It’s the same thing that makes The Walking Dead comics work so well (which I assume Robert Kirkman was majorly inspired by Romero’s Dead films). You get to watch this group of people who barely know each other finding a safe space, fortifying it, and then slowly splintering due to constantly being stuck with each other. They think they have everything they want living in this mall, but become bored with having everything they thought they always wanted at their fingertips. George Romero always has some strong social commentary in his writing, and Dawn Of The Dead is a perfect example. The zombies all converge on the mall because it’s “all the know.” They’re coming back to the place that they just mindlessly went to when they were alive. It’s consumer culture being shown themselves in a mirror. It’s also a film where no one is likable. You end up finding yourself routing for the zombies. In fact, Flyboy is so unlikable to me that I could watch him being swarmed in the elevator forever. I’ve actually been to the Monroeville Mall and completely geeked out on the two parts of the mall that are still in tact from the movie, especially the escalator. I could go on forever about Dawn Of The Dead, but people that are more articulate than me have done a much better job. This is the only movie that could possibly top Let The Right One In for me on this list. Dawn Of The Dead basically solidified the mythos of what we think of as zombies today. My entire fascination and love affair with everything involving zombies started here. I’ve owned at least 6 different versions on DVD and will watch any documentary with George Romero talking about any of his work on the Dead movies, even though I’ve heard all of the stories hundreds of times at this point. I have distinct memories of who I’ve watched this movie with throughout my life and can remember what stores I bought the DVDs at. It’s a movie that is so ingrained into my being at this point that I think about it at least once a day and it always makes me happy.
I had a hard time figuring out what movies would be on this list. In truth, it would have basically been all classics. It was painful not having Re-Animator, Dead Alive, Suspiria, and The Exorcist on here, but I wanted to have a good mix of classics and more modern films. I think I did a pretty good job of making that happen. I want to give a sincere thanks to Megan for helping out with the Devil’s Rejects part. I’m really glad I finally found a part for her on Xtapolapometal since she’s seen about half of a Simpsons episode ever. She is a pretty amazing person and everyone should absolutely check out her band, Couch Slut. And watch any movie on this list you’ve never seen. They’re all pretty easily available (except for Night Of The Lepus). This was genuinely a daunting task to put together and I’m pretty proud of it. Thanks so much if you checked it out and feel free to leave me a comment here or on Twitter to tell me what your favorite horror movies are. I’m always on the lookout for new ones.