Friday, February 13, 2009

Top Ten Cases: Best horror movies

I was originally going to post this list on Halloween, but it was delayed for personal reasons. However, I figured Friday the 13th would be just as appropriate a day to rank the ten best horror movies. I'm a bit of a horror movie fan, but I will admit that I've mostly only been exposed to the mainstream stuff. I also took some liberties, like grouping franchises together.

I should preface this by stating that I very rarely ever find horror movies scary. Sure, almost all of them have those startling moments that make you jump out of your seat, but I typically don't find myself afraid to be in the house alone or having chronic nightmares. As such, "scariness" won't be the main criteria, although it will obviously play a part. Overall, I'm looking at general enjoyment and the movie's impact on the genre and popular culture in general. Here you go!

Click the "Read More" link for the list.

10) The Blair Witch Project - Scary? Not really. Nauseating? A bit. But this was an incredibly clever film, and you have to commend everybody involved for at least thinking outside of the box. Incidentally, had the Blair Witch Project been more successful in the long-run, this film easily could have completely reinvented the horror movie genre.

9) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - While this movie may not be entirely realistic, and it's been remade more times than...I don't know, I can't think of anything. Even though you're not likely to get attacked by a maniacal inbred who wears a mask made of human skin, it does ellicit certain natural and realistic fears. What happens if I get stuck in some weird place, and with seemingly everybody in on it, survival is fruitless. It really preys on that fear that a disabled car or flat tire can prove deadly.

8) A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise - In the "Freddy vs. Jason" war, I'm a proud member of the Freddy camp. I daresay that Freddy Krueger is the most well known and best recognized horror movie villain of all time (likely competing with Michael Myers and that guy in the hockey mask). This was one of the more difficult franchises to jumble together, since first few films had a much more psychological feel to it. Freddy Krueger was a dangerous, sick, psychopath. In the later films he was practically a stand up comic. I am eagerly awaiting the prequel, in which we see a pre-burnt-to-a-crisp Freddy preying on innocent children. Now THAT'S dark.

7) The Strangers - Now, I can see how THIS might scare the crapola out of somebody. Unlike most of the movies on the list, where the premise is unrealistic at best, and downright ridiculous at worst, this is a genuinely plausible, highly frightening possibility. Basically, three masked serial killers decide to terrorize and murder innocent people, with no personal motive whatsoever. The climax of the film, in which Liv Tyler's character asks why they're doing this to them, and one of the killers answers, "because you were home," is one of the most chilling lines you'll ever hear uttered in any movie. This is one of the very few horror flicks in which you can say to yourself, "this could happen to me." And that's pretty damn scary.

6) Saw franchise - While Scream brought horror movies back to the mainstream, the Saw franchise took away the laughs and brought back the gore, bringing forth films like Hostel. While some might argue that the Saw films are obligatory with their gore, they do set up some interesting psychological debates. Would you kill an innocent person in order to save yourself? Would you put your trust in a madman if it meant saving your life? If you can see past the gore, you'll discover that there's a pretty interesting story there. Also, due to their relatively low budgets, the franchise has been able to release a sequel every year. They've also come up with some clever ways of getting around that whole "bringing the killer back after he's been killed" problem.

5) Scream trilogy - I think it's entirely fair to say that Scream effectively resurrected the horror movie genre. It also completely changed up the formula. Following this film, we had a long string of movies in which there was a masked killer, forcing the audience to guess the identity of the murderer, instead of focusing on a supernatural villain. The fourth wall was removed, as well, with the characters openly acknowledging and even laughing at certain horror movie cliches. The third installment is undoubtedly the weak link, but the first two were phenomenal.

4) Psycho - Talk about cultural impact! To this day you still have people refer to this film as the reason why they were afraid to take a shower. Much like a number of other movies on this list, Psycho was tarnished by silly sequels and unimpressive remakes (honestly, Vince Vaughn as the meek and modest Norman Bates?), but the original still stands as a legend within the genre. Oh, and that twist of an ending is STILL alluded to, nearly half a decade later.

3) Halloween - High on the camp and supernatural without being explicit about it (which, in my eyes, is a potentially hurtful thing), I normally wouldn't rank this so high. But that's why I'm specifically referring to the original Halloween, and not the franchise. The original Halloween was a pretty terrifying premise: A madman escapes from an insane asylum and starts massacring teenagers. He does so while wearing a mask on Halloween, effectively avoiding any suspicion whatsoever. It got silly when Michael Myers suddenly continued to come back to life and had super strength (and I think he was possibly psychic at one point), but the original was a surprisingly strong film.

2) Carrie - While I have stated that horror movies don't scare me, this is the one exception to the rule. I have only seen this movie a handful of times (I can probably count it on one hand), and the first time I saw it I was a young child. The final scene, in which Carrie's hand emerges from the grave and grabs a mourner's hand, is one of the only times in the history of watching television and movies that I have jumped up and continued to be scared for quite some time. I don't think I remember a single line from that movie, but that scene is forever etched in my brain. You can go ahead and skip that 1999 sequel, though.

1) The Exorcist - Is this the scariest movie of all time? Honestly, I didn't find it that bad. But at the same time, how could you deny the impact this film has had on the movie industry as a whole? The image of the adult male standing on a streetlight-lit sidewalk is absolutely iconic. For better or worse, virtually everybody associated with that film will forever be remembered for THAT film. And unlike practically every other horror film, this movie was completely devoid of camp. And while it may not have rattled me, there are many, many people out there who legitimately believe this to be the scariest movie of all time. Between sequels, prequels, and remakes of prequels, the Exorcist has never come close to being duplicated.

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