My Top 5 Favorite Horror Movies
With Possession bringing in the money at the box office and the fourth Paranormal Activity film on its way this fall, I thought I would talk about some of my favorite horror movies. I should start out by saying that there are certain films that some would consider horror films that I would not. Alien may be scary but I consider it more a science fiction movie than a horror film. The entire first half of the film deals with the wonder of the unknown and not until the baby alien bursts from John Hurt’s chest is the movie played for scares. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill fall under the category of psychological thrillers because they are stories of suspense and mystery and not all out horror. They are more about the build up to the scare than the scare itself.
1. The Exorcist (Dir. William Friedkin/1973)
When you take William Peter Blatty’s brilliant bestselling novel of the demonic possession of 12 year old girl (Linda Blair) and it is brought the screen by the man recently awarded the best director honor for the crime classic, The French Connection, you know you are going to get a great film. However, every time I watch The Exorcist I am continuously amazed by how great this film truly is. From the screenplay (written by Blatty himself), to Friedkin’s artistic and almost documentary style direction to an excellent cast, this film remains a brilliant achievement in filmmaking.
2. JAWS (Dir. Steven Spielberg/1975)
A young Steven Spielberg, who’s only film credit was the well made The Sugarland Express (Spielberg had directed episodes of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and Columbo as well as Duel, one of the finest made for television movies ever produced), took an awful book by Peter Benchley and turned it into a movie classic. Spielberg had a great cast consisting of Roy Schieder, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, as three men who set out to hunt down a shark that has been terrorizing Amity Island. A life size shark (called Bruce) was built for the film but almost never worked, resulting in Spielberg having to get creative by having the shark around but without seeing it Like having the barrels attached to the shark. You don’t see the shark but you do see the barrels, so you know the shark is there. Spielberg’s creativity in the face of sudden disaster and the chemistry between the three lead actors makes this film one of the all time greats.
3. The Shining (Dir. Stanley Kubrick/1980)
The first epic horror movie. Despite being based on Stephen’s King’s 1977 best seller, this story about a family trapped in a haunted hotel as the father (Jack Nicholson) slowly goes mad is pure Kubrick. Many of the film’s scariest moments, such as the ghost of the two dead girls that Danny (Danny Lloyd) continues to see and when Wendy (Shelly Duvall) discovers that her husband’s book is something like 200 hundred pages of one sentence written over and over again (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”), are not even in the novel. To film the scenes where Danny is riding his big wheel around the Overlook hotel and is later running from his father in the giant maze made of bushes, Kubrick employed a new camera called a stedcam. Like all Kubrick movies, fans continue to ponder what certain images in the film mean. Especially a picture handing on a wall of Jack amongst a crowd taken at a ball in 1926.
4. Carrie (Dir. Brian De Palma/1976)
Gaining a cult following with the low budget films Sisters (1973) and The Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Brian De Palma had his first box office hit with this film that earned Oscar nominations for Sissy Spacek, as the tormented teen with mysterious powers, and Piper Laurie, as her abusive, religious fanatic mother. Both nominations were well deserved as both actresses give great performances. The audience cares for Carrie in the movie in a way that Stephen King was never able to achieve in his 1974 novel. The famous bloodbath at the senior prom is classic De Palma, with the director brilliantly using such cinematic techniques as slow motion, cross cutting and split screen.
5. Poltergeist (Dir. Steven Spielberg ; Tobe Hooper/1982)
Like Spielberg’s other 1982 hit E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, this film revolves around a suburban family (three children with the youngest being a little blonde girl) who are visited by something unexpected. In the case of E.T. it’s a friendly alien and in the case of this film it’s the undead. Spielberg looked at both films as being the flip side of the same coin, E.T. being about what he loves and Poltergeist about what scares him. Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot) is credited as the director with Spielberg as producer and co-writer but many, including stars JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson, later came forwarded to claim that Spielberg did much of the directing himself. Like E.T., Poltergeist’s young cast of Heather O’ Rourke (“They’re Here!), Dominique Dunne (“What’s happening!”) and Oliver Robins, steal the movie from the adults. Dunne was murdered by an ex-boyfriend only a few months after this film was released and six years later O’ Rourke died on the operating table after being misdiagnosed with a rare disease.
Clip from The Shining:
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