Welcome back for part two of my three-part series on my favorite horror movies of all time! Today, we jump into the fun stuff. I have a lot of fun films to talk about, so let’s jump right in.
They’re good, but are they horror?
The quintessential defining question of horror has to be “is it scary?” These movies are all billed as horror and often found on “best of” lists. They’re movies I love and watch any time I have the chance. I’d even call them favorites! But I just don’t think they’re scary.
Here’s the thing: I live in Colorado. The nearest ocean is more than a thousand miles away. Besides, I already think the ocean is the scariest fucking thing in the world, and not because of sharks. Is this one of the greatest movies ever? Absolutely! Can I quote every line? That’s some bad hat, Harry. But is it scary? Not for this land-locked movie-goer. Besides, all you need is a bigger boat.
Just like I’m too far away from the ocean to be scared of sharks, I’m too far away from space to worry about xenomorph. (Although in Alien Vs Predator: Requiem, they come to Colorado, so maybe it’s time to reassess.)
Ripley is the ultimate Final Girl — absolutely badass and smarter than everybody around her. And for the record, I love Aliens even more than the original, but that’s a full-on genre jump from horror to action/adventure. Either way: not scary.
The Thing (1982)
This movie is basically Snake Plissken in the Arctic and let’s face it, Kurt Russel is the fucking bomb.
But no matter how hot Snake/MacReady may be, the supercheese-tastic special effects of the ‘80s make it a bit too goofy to be truly scary. (And for what it’s worth, I fully enjoyed the 2011 adaptation. As viewers, we didn’t know whether to expect a reboot or a sequel. The last scene in the movie proves it’s neither, and I’m 100% on board.)
Super 8 (2011)
Does this count as horror? I just found it on a “best of horror” list, so I guess maybe? I don’t consider it scary, but I do think it’s one of the most subtly brilliant movies I’ve seen in ages. It’s like Stand By Me meets It in an authentic-feeling period piece about the ‘80s, long before Stranger Things made the decade cool again.
So now that I’ve talked all about movies I didn’t like (in part 1), and movies I liked but I don’t consider “horror,” maybe it’s time for me to get serious and tell you about some of my true favorite horror movies.
I hesitate to call these “favorites” (largely because in many cases, I haven’t watched them a second time), and yet they’re so darn clever that I can’t not mention them.
The Changeling (1980)
Nobody has seen this movie, and what a shame that is. I haven’t seen it in years either. It’s never on TV, and it’s impossible to find in the sale bins at Target or 2nd & Charles. This is the penultimate haunted house flick, and I dare you to watch it alone after dark. It’s scary AF without a bit of gore, and unlike a lot of horror, it doesn’t end on a down-note.
One of the complaints often lodged against horror (usually by people who don’t actually watch it) is that the characters are all stupid and make bad choices. This may be true in a lot of bad horror films. But I would argue that the best and scariest horror movies have exactly the opposite – intelligent characters who, despite making all the best choices, still find themselves in mortal peril. Hush is a perfect example. The main character is plenty smart, but she’s trapped alone inside her house with a killer right outside. She’s also deaf, which gives the movie a whole new level of scariness.
Hush is the best kind of tense, psychological horror. It’s a Netflix exclusive, and like most of Mike Flanagan‘s work, it’s definitely worth watching.
Train to Busan (2016)
Don’t be scared away by the subtitles. This Korean film is not your typical zombie movie, largely because it has heart. You will truly care about these characters by the end. Probably the one and only horror movie that nearly made me cry.
I hear they’re making an American adaptation. (They’ll probably ruin it, but I’ll hope for the best.) There’s also a Korean sequel which I haven’t seen yet, but it looks quite different from the original.
The Babysitter (2017)
Like Hush, this is a Netflix exclusive. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but holy crap, what a ride! This movie is over-the-top gory and super funny. If nothing else, watch it for Samara Weaving and Robbie Amell, who are both smokin’ hot. But don’t be surprised when you’re laughing out loud over geysers of blood.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Cloverfield (2008)
I’m listing these two together because these movies both changed the horror industry. To some extent, they changed the entire way movies are marketed. Those who are too young might not realize how insane the idea of “found footage” was when Blair Witch first came out. When the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, its promotional marketing campaign listed the actors as either “missing” or “deceased”. Missing person fliers were printed. Rumors dropped in internet chat rooms and a website that looked all too real made it impossible to know what was fact and what was fiction. Were we really watching the final moments of these kids’ lives? We honestly didn’t know! It was my generation’s version of War of the Worlds.
In hindsight, the entire thing was absolutely brilliant. Some say it was the greatest marketing scheme ever. Ten years later, the makers of the Cloverfield franchise took it to a whole new level with their Alternate Reality Game. They’ve raised the bar for anybody in the horror genre.
And yeah, the movies were fun too.
That’s it for today! Be sure you check back for part 3 of my Favorite Horror Movies series. And in the meantime, tell me what you think of my picks.