Final Six: Halloween Edition Part 1—Horror Movies
Chris Krovatin is the author of three young adult novels, Heavy Metal & You, Venomous, and Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones. He is currently working on multiple new writing projects, as well as new material with his local New York metal band Flaming Tusk. He is a contributing writer for Revolver and generally comes off as a good-natured pain in everyone’s collective ass. This column represents his opinions–and probably only his opinions.
My original plan for this Final Six—my first in a series of Halloween-themed posts, honoring my favorite day of the year—was to do a list of the Six Best Classic and Modern Horror Movies of All Time. The classic list would be all horror movies made pre-1970, while my modern list would feature films made after the year 2000. In that way, I was hoping to juxtapose the genre’s grainy black-and-white history with its modern psychologically-troubling and overproduced incarnations. A cool comparison, right?
But here’s the thing—the horror films of the era between those two periods (really the ’70s and ’80s, though, I mean, come on, the ’90s were as good for horror films as they were for Iron Maiden) are the greatest horror films ever. Period. That chunk of time produced what I believe to be the most fascinating, well-produced, and above all horrifying films of the genre. I’d rather watch them than any other. So leaving them behind was just unfair—to me, to you, to the genre.
So in honor of Halloween and all things dark and ghoulish, here’s my first-ever triple six, featuring the Six Best Classic Horror Movies, the Six Best Modern Horror Movies, and the Six Best Horror Movies of All Time. Turn down the lights, lock the door.
The Six Best Classic Horror Films (pre-1970)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1925) This silent masterpiece sees thousand-faced man Lon Chaney playing the misanthropic skull-faced phantom. Though melodramatic and bizarre, the film drips with gothic atmosphere and frightening brilliance that would be imitated for years to come.
- Dracula (1931) Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi permanently coins the Count’s ominous cloaked appearance in this gorgeous vampire story, its crumbling castles, frightened villagers, and leering lunatics (everybody do the Dwight Frye—HNGH HNGH HNNNNNGH) still shiver-worthy to this day.
- King Kong (1933) The original giant monster movie, this classic film might look dated with its stop-motion effects and giant fake hand, but its classic imagery and the genuine awesomeness of Kong devouring sailors and fighting dinosaurs stands the test of time to this day.
- The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) While not as iconic as the original James Whale-directed Frankenstein, Bride… brings much stronger chills, mostly arising from the Monster’s emergence from the pit and his hunger for a mate. And then, there’s Elsa Lanchester with that hair. Va-va-voom.
- Psycho (1960) From fractured minds with butchers’ knives to foreboding houses on steep hills, Psycho has it all. And while it is the father of the modern slasher film, this Hitchcock masterpiece goes beyond simple stabbings, and acts more as a nightmarish assault on the human mind itself.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) What else can be said? This brittle, paranoid fantasy of a world overrun by the ravenous dead first introduced film audiences to the flesh-eating corpse later known as the zombie, a monster who would stumble through the ages and into genre infamy.
The Six Best Modern Horror Movies (post-2000)
- American Psycho (2000) Set in the brittle cocaine-caked nostril of New York in the late ’80s, Mary Harron’s and Christian Bale’s depiction of Patrick Bateman, one yuppie Wall Streeter turned sociopathic woman-hating madman, is a perfect modern distillation of the horror experience. Do you like Huey Lewis?
- 28 Days Later (2002) In a stark revision of the zombie genre, Danny Boyle paints a landscape of an evacuated London populated mainly by the bloody rage-fueled monsters known as the Infected. While many hate on this film’s “fast zombies,” its sense of impending menace cannot be understated.
- The Ring (2002) This brooding adaptation of a classic Japanese horror film uses technology as the conduit for a malevolent and terrifying spirit. The result is disturbing to say the least—let’s be honest, nothing’s worse than that girl in the closet.
- The House of 1000 Corpses (2003) Rob Zombie’s tribute to the classic gorefests of his youth sees a family of backwoods maniacs tormenting a wayward quartet of 20-somethings on a disturbing Halloween night. The boogeyman’s real—and you’ve found him.
- Saw (2004) While its countless sequels have made this franchise a complete joke, the original Saw has an innate creepiness to it lacking in the horror climate of the time. Before now, circuitous death traps were for kiddies and grandfathers…
- Let The Right One In (2008) A quiet, upsetting Swedish film, Let The Right One In focuses on the sad and lonely lives of a young boy and a perpetually-12-year-old vampire. Using the stark whiteness of the Scandinavian landscape, this movie is as much a work of art as a chilling tale of terror.
The Six Greatest Horror Movies of All Time
- The Exorcist (1973) Forget horns, hooves, and pitchforks—William Friedkin’s twisted tale of demonic possession shows that the Devil is truly a being of contortionism, vomit, and blasphemy. This movie caused nationwide panic, and remains as scary today as it was at the time of, oh, screw it, JESUS FUCK ME!
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Bloated with disturbing imagery and sweaty, paralyzing terror, this low-budget explosion of madness forever changed the face of the genre. Forget vampires, ghosts, werewolves—nothing is scarier than family.
- Dawn of the Dead (1978) NOTLD may have been the original, but Dawn is better. More zombies, more gore, more social commentary, more fear. The slow, grey-faced undead menace never felt so familiar. They’re us, that’s all.
- Halloween (1978) Maybe there were some who did it gorier or bigger or with more creative means, but in the genre of horror, one thing is certain—no slasher is as cool as Michael Myers, the unstoppable force of insanity from the past coming home for one final visit. Cinematic perfection.
- Alien (1979) Space may be the scariest place in the universe, its cold and endless vacuum as deep and dark as the human soul. And if you’re a crew member of the Nostromo, you get to see what kind of organism that ocean of silence can cough up. Creepy? You have no idea.
- The Shining (1980) Stanley Kubrick’s mind-blowing rendition of Stephen King’s classic haunted house story remains a testament to the artistic merit of horror. Jack Nicholson would be playing this role for the rest of his career.