Saturday, October 25, 2008

Top 10 Scariest Movies of All Time

Halloween is just around the corner and what better than some scary movies to get us in the mood. Horror is probably one of my all time favorite genres for a couple of reasons. First off, there is no other type of film that can create the same intensity in which a great horror film can provide. A truely great horror film will grab the viewers undivided attention from the get go and doesn't let go to the credits roll. Secondly, there is so many different levels to the horror genre. To name a few there is suspense horror, slasher/shock horror, supernatural/unexplained horror, traditional horror i.e vampires, werewolves, zombies and of course humor horror. All of these unquie types of horror films are all great and can provide hours on enjoyment when done right.

The Top 10 list that I have provided is strictly based on scare factor alone. Not how gruseome or shocking the film is or that it is considered a masterpiece in the horror genre. If I followed those guidelines, I would have a completely different list. This list is simply based on films that scared the color out of me, whether it was as a child or adult. These are films that should be seen by any fan of film, they are both horror masterpieces and some of the most scariest films you'll ever see!

Honorable mentions:
The Strangers (2008)
The Strangers was a perfect throwback and a refreshing horror flick in a time where shock/gore horror and remakes are so popular. Directed by Bryan Bertino, the film follows a couple who have returned to a isolated summerhome after a friends wedding and find some very odd figures sneaking around the house in the earliest hours of the morning. What makes Strangers so appealing, is it is a simple yet, very possible story. Bertino had said that the film is based off a news report he read about a couple being murdered in a isolated vacation home. The timing and pacing of The Strangers is flawless and provides some of the best jumps I have had since I was a kid. The Strangers doesn't have any gore to it really, but really sets a intense mood from the start that doesn't let go till the credits are rolling.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an amazing piece of horror cinema. This film is scary and had gore coming from every angle. It has moments that make you cringe and turn away and moments you can't take your eyes away. The film has such a hightened sense of terror all the way through, it really kept the viewer inticed. As I have grown older the film has become more of a fun film, like Evil Dead, where I only find humor and gore in it now. Regardless, Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a classic horror film that is always a great watch.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
The first film to feature Jason in real action, Friday the 13th Part 2 was extremely scary for me when I first saw it. Granted I was like 7 or 8, but Jason Vorhees scarred the shit out of me. This was a film that I saw with my older cousins, who said it wasn't scary, knowing full well I would be pissing my pants with fear. Jason in the second film hasn't found the iconic hockey mask yet, instead he roams around with a bag over his head, with only one eye exposed. The first person camera angle's always set a great tone to the film, especially with the breathing sounds and the unforgetable score. Seeing this film now, I always have a good laugh when Jason is unmasked near the end of the film. As a kid, that make-up was scary, now it is a great laugh.

Halloween II (1981)
Halloween II was one of the better sequels of any movie genre. Now, it's no Godfather II, but it really delivers! What made Halloween II so great was that it literally began with the last frame of Halloween. Written by Jon Carpenter, but directed by Rick Rosenthal, Halloween II keeps the same tone and intesity that was created in the first film. The only downside, the sequel did stray away from the first person camera-work, which made the first film. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role and comes right back with the same terror and anxiety she portrayed in the first film. Halloween and Halloween II are always a great back-to-back watch and keep you committed to the film still to this day.

Top 10 Scariest Movies of All Time

10. The Omen (1976)
The Omen is one of the eeriest films I have ever seen. The thought that you have given birth to the son of the devil, is definately a heavy burden. Harvey Stephens plays Damien and is one of the most creepiest and at the same time, an innocent looking child. Gregory Peck is amazing as Robert Thorn the father who is coming to realize his child may be the antichrist. One of the scariest things about the Omen was the mood that was set by its chilling score. The character of Mrs. Baylock, who watched over Damien was frightening. The looks she gave and the personna she created is absolutely perfect. The climax of The Omen is one of the best finale's I have ever seen being a father. How completely torn one would be at that moment. The original version of The Omen is the only version to watch. The 2006 remake was a sad attempt to re-create the same mood that was so masterfully done in the original.

9. Jacob's Ladder (1990)
In a film that switches back and forth between reality, flashbacks and delusions, Jacob's Ladder does not disappoint in fear factor. The delusions and hallucinations that Jacob faces throughout the film are very intense and really provide a gripping terror that grabs a hold of both the viewer and Jacob. Jacob's Ladder had an innovative effect that has been since mocked time and time again. Director Adrian Lyne uses a body horror technique in which an actor is recorded waving his head around at a low frame rate, resulting in horrific fast motion when played back. The image was haunting the first time around in this spiraling tale of a Vietnam Vet who was expiremented on. Jacob's Ladder is a film that usually goes sorely unnoticed, but deserves its spot on the list, if you haven't seen it rent it.

8. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The original Nightmare on Elm Street was hauntingly scary. It was the later films that began to over play the humor of Freddy. In the original a dark and eerie mood is set throughout, one that will have you trying to stay awake. The score and the childhood nursery rhyme was so phobia-inducing, they really added to the overall suspense of Elm St. Nancy Thompson is probably the second best female character in any horror series. Her determination to come to terms with Freddy Krueger takes her and the viewer to the edge of terror numerous times throughout the original Elm St. One thing that made the film work so well was the nightmare aspect and how well they used Freddy. In the first film, Freddy is heavily shadowed and remains a character who lurks in the darkness, rarely exposing his burned face in the light. This helped to keep the intensity and panic around the character of Freddy. The later films, became just too campy, and while they were fun, they were nothing compared to the original.

7. Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project is probably the most scared I have got in a movie in my adult life. I saw an test screening of the film, before the studio had revealed that the film was a hoax. One of the first films to utilize a viral marketing, I had read all of the news surronding the "false" phenomenon known as the Blair Witch. At the film they gave the audience information of the 3 indiviuals that we would see in the film and that they have never been heard from again. Only the footage remained, conveying that everything we would see it 100% real and authentic. Let's just say I completely bought into the hype. The next screening the studio brought out the actors to reveal that the film was a hoax, based on the absolute fear people had leaving the test screening. The second factor, is I have had my fair share of dealing with wiccan's and other people who practice witchcraft. My young adult life was spent following the likes of the Grateful Dead and Phish and witch craft is fairly standard with certain members of those crowds. So, when I saw the film, some of these spells or things the group would find, I had read about or been told about. For instance the scene when the group find the circle of rocks surrounding the tent. That is a standard binding spell, expalining why the group could never seem to find their way out of the woods. The nature of camping is scary at times. Complete isolation, and Blair Witch Project nailed that perfectly. The scenes when the group is woken by the crackling noise was haunting. Lastly the final scene in the film where we see Michael standing in the corner and the camera is knocked out of Heather's hand, was one of the most ingenious and startling scenes ever in horror. My wife and I discussed that film for at least two days reeling over the final scenes of the film.

6. The Exorcist (1973)
Easily one of the scariest films of all time, The Exorcist scared the hell out of me as a kid and burned a few images into my head that still to this day are with me. The Exorcist is timeless and still sets the mood perfectly putting the viewer into the movie just like the first time they saw it. The transformation of Regan from the sweet little girl to the demon she becomes is so terrifying and so dreadful it captures the viewer everytime. The various attempts at releasing the demon from Regan are absolutely some of the scariest and innovative scenes in horror for that time. The Exorcist cannot be mentioned without talking about its spine-tingling score. A few horror movies truely have just an amazing score that helps to add a eerie and uncanny mood and The Exorcist is a cut above the rest. The Exorcist is not just a great horror film, but a great piece of cinema all the way around. The cinematography that is utilized when Father Merrin arrives to the home of Regan is one of the most memorable scenes from cinema. It was highlighted on the cover work and poster for the film and instatntly sets the mood for the chilling exorcism. The Exorcist is a outstanding horror film that can be enjoyed time and time again.

5. Poltergeist (1982)
Poltergeist is a fantasticly perfect horror film. It was able to achieve what too many other horror films weren't with a PG rating. I saw Poltergeist at 8 years old and it gave me nightmares for a month. I use to have a similair tree outside my window and after seeing Poltergeist, I hated that tree. Despite my childhood fears, Poltergeist is never the less a chilling horror film. The Freeling family was authentic and all of the haunting that ensued throughout Poltergeist was equally pure. Like every other film on this list, Poltergeist sets a perfect mood that still to this day can tie the viewer in and provide some great scares. I don't think anyone can undo the memory the of the clown strangling little Robbie Freeling and Carol Anne saying, "they're here" as some of the most haunting lines/scenes in horror. Polergeist is truely a supernatural horror film that doesn't let down on scares and feels real throughout the entire film.

4. The Thing (1982)
Jon Carpenter's The Thing is a classic hair-rising film that utilizes the Antarctic as it's background. The isolation of the American research team in the Antarctic provides a frightful setting that instantly adds a level of terror. The Thing uses the fear of the unknown, which works very well creating a near impossible to replecate fright that has the viewer glued to the edge of their seat from beginning to end. The fear of being incapable of escaping matched with the absolute chill of the Antarctic really created a truely scary vibe to The Thing and goes to show that Jon Carpenter knows his horror. I originally saw The Thing around 6 or 7 years old and remember sleeping in my parents bed for the next couple nights. I still remember my mom scolding my dad for allowing me to see it. The Thing is timeless and still provides good scares and holds it's intense and intimidating mood throughout. The shape-shifting alien within The Thing is equally frightening and is damn cool for considering the special effect that were rendered, for the time, to create its various shapes of destruction. Like any other film on this list The Thing is a perfect horror movie a well worth a re-watch every year.

3. Alien (1979)
Alien is a scifi/horror masterpeice! Ridley Scott made one of the scariest films that has spawned a generation of space exploration and alien films that have tried to equal the magnitude of the original. The isolation and vastness of space alone sets a incredible mood on its own, but the story of Alien adds an unprecedented level of terror to the film that is hard to match. Alien has a tone that slowly builds throughout the film that keeps the viewer completely on edge from beginning to end. Just like the entire crew of Nostromo, the viewer is lead along a exploration of a new organic life that is intriguing and equally spooky, which quickly reveals itself to have a most deadly outcome. The development of the Alien in the film is extremely spooky and Ridley Scoot does a great job of never showing too much of the Alien. The fear of the unknown really adds a whole new level of fright to the film. Just like most of the films on the list, Alien is filled with memorable scenes, but the scene with John Hurt at the dinner table has to be one of the most daring and unearthly scenes in all of cinema. Alien also has a undeniable terrifying mood that stays no matter how many times you have watched it. The film continues to provide a dreadful plot that still scares to this day.

2. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick took Stephen King's novel The Shining and turn it into one of the most beautiful, creepy, and terrifying pieces of cinema in existence. Every angle to the film is insanely frightening. Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance is one of the most horrifying and intimidating developments of a character to have dawned the screen. Shelly Duvall plays perfectly the reserved wife who is watching her husband slowly turn insane inside of the haunting Overlook hotel they are caretakers in. Their son, Danny, who has the Shining and has one of the purest performances that is both intriguing and distressing throughout the film. The setting of the Shining plays a such a huge part of the development of the story and really helps to add the daunting and disquieting fear that builds in the film. The fact that the family is essentially trapped in this Hotel for the entire winter is alone fear inducing, but when you add the magnitude that the hotel is haunted and imposing its terror on the caretakers adds a whole other level of fright to the film. The are a few key scenes in The Shining that have never left my memory and are true staples of the horror genre. First and foremost the Grady Twins that Danny see's throughout the Overlook Hotel. These two girls are insanely scary for only standing there, but helps to show what an insanely intense mood Kubrick created in the movie. There is a scene in which we see a well dressed man sitting on a bed in one of the rooms, and a figure in a Bear costume is on his knees and has his head in the man's lap. This scene is one of the most awkward scenes in The Shining and has always haunted me. It is one of those wtf, scenes. The imagery used throughout the maze in the snow is also a haunting sequences that really helps add to the freaky climax of The Shining. The use of steady cam in The Shining is also a major component of the true terror in the film. The way the cam would follow Danny around the Hotel still to this day brings a level of phobia that is hard to match. The Shining is a horror classic and always invokes fright when watched.

1. Halloween (1978)
Halloween in the quint-essential staple of horror movies. This film just spews terror and fright. Jon Carpenter masterfully weaves a truely scary tale of a mad man who has escaped on Halloween and intends on finshing what he started some 20 years earlier, slaughtering his entire family. Michael Myers is the scariest figure in all of Halloween and horror films. The mask that Michael wears is so freaky and the irony is that it is a Willam Shattner mask from Star Trek painted white and with the hair teased out. The first person camera work that is done in Halloween is flawless and really sets a true tone of terror that has been mimicked all too many times, but has never been matched. Michael Myers is the perfect maniac, because he seems so real in the first film. We have read about all too many people that have been locked away becasue they are insane and could be detrimental if let loose in society. Michael Myers is the perfect embodiment of that fear. Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode is the pinnacle of dasmel in distress from the horror genre. Laurie Strode is undeniably haunted by Michael and leads the way for female characters in horror franchises. She perfectly plays a character who is unsure of why she is being tormented by Michael and msut fight for her life to survive. Halloween including having the scariest killer has some of the most fright inducing music ever put to film. The Halloween theme is so scary and so daunting in its score it took a film that already had everything in the scare department going for it and multiplied by ten. Halloween is my favorite horror film ever and has yet to be tarnished or taken off it's number one spot.

What's are some of your scariest movies? What would you have put on or taken off this list? Strikeback....