I have long loved the horror genre. I’ll watch even the cheesiest, most absurd scary movies, from “Night of the Living Dead” to “Pumpkinhead,” it’s all gravy. But some are much better than others, much scarier, more artistic, more believable. Here’s a list of my personal favorites (in no particular order):
1. The Ring (2002): The premise of this flick sounds ridiculous – watch a short home video featuring haunting images of dead horses, a burning tree and a well in the middle of an empty field, and die mysteriously 7 days later. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually quite creepy. And the evil child at the root of all the misery, the devilish Samara, is one terrific villain. What sets her apart: unlike so many other evil spirits/ghosts, she doesn’t go away just because her story is unraveled and told; she is truly evil and will only spare your life if you’ve made a copy of her damning tape, thereby giving her more opportunity to take innocent life.
2. Psycho (1960): Alfred Hitchcock really outdid himself with this one. He really was the master of suspense, immersing his audience in situations that terrified them by the millions. And none more disturbing than Norman Bates sitting in a room full of stuffed birds, calmly uttering, “We all go a little mad sometimes.”
3. Halloween (1978): They don’t call Jamie Lee Curtis the ‘scream queen’ for nothing. Though the 2007 Rob Zombie remake was chilling and managed to stay true to the original while adding plenty of new material, it still did not outshine this classic. I first saw it when I was 5 years old and I remember holding a blanket over my eyes to shield myself from the horror. I watched it again as an adult, thinking it would not be nearly as terrifying as my memory of it, but found it easily stood the test of time. I guess watching Michael Myers stalk his victims like a predator hunting its prey never gets old.
4. 28 Days Later (2002): I sort of love zombie movies but this is the king of them all. It seems to me that if the zombie apocalypse ever would occur, this movie is a more realistic portrayal of what would ensue. Cillian Murphy is a wonderful leading man and none among the entourage he forms while surviving in a virus-ravaged Britain are the stereotypes usually found in scary movies. Instead, they are interesting, likable characters with some actual depth. And the climactic scene in the pseudo-Army brigade is one of the most intense, exciting, thrilling scenes in the history of horror flicks. Not to mention, Brendan Gleeson can do no wrong.
5. Wrong Turn (2003): I must first admit that ever since I saw “Deliverance,” I’ve held an irrational fear of so-called ‘hill people,’ or those who live far outside of civilization. And this movie did nothing to cure me of that. Though the villains are gross exaggerations of why it’s illegal to breed with family members, watching Eliza Dushku run from them through the deep woods of West Virginia did scare the crap out of me. It isn’t disturbing on the level of “Deliverance,” but it is full of moments that make you jump and a general eerieness that makes your skin crawl. I grew up camping and have no fear of the wilderness itself. But, if I stumbled upon some community of backwards folks wanting nothing to do with mainstream society, I’d shit my pants. And run, Eliza Dushku-style.