When I started this project, I asked around for advice on what people would like to see me cover over this month. Some of the topics I’ve been able to get to, some are getting filed away for next, and some are victims of good intentions and lack of execution. However, recently a very fine lady suggested that I put together a list of essential horror movies. Not necessarily the best or most critically acclaimed, but ones I feel personally influenced my love of the genre.
What follows is not a complete overview of the entire breadth of horror films. I have certain blind spots – I’m not particularly conversant in Asian horror for instance, where a lot of narrative innovations have been coming from – and love for movies that aren’t “good” in any objective sense. If you’re interested in a bigger list of movies or ones that are critically acclaimed, check out the lists here and here.
Audition ““ Ok, I haven’t seen a lot of J-Horror, but the buzz on this movie was so big I sought it out. I have a really high tolerance for gore and body horror, but this film squicked me out. That almost never happens. So here you go, a movie that made me cringe.
Black Sunday ““ Mario Brava is one of the grandfathers of modern horror, even though you probably never heard of him. This Italian movie, about a reincarnated witch, is gloomy, atmospheric, and creepy-crawly. Seek it out.
Bride of Frankenstein ““ All of the Frankenstein movies are high quality and have stood firm against the test of time. I think Bride is my favorite of the trilogy and it’s not just because the Bride is so horrifically beautiful.
Candyman ““ Horror is not a genre that is kind to minorities. Candyman is one of the few films that features a POC in a major role and not as a sidekick that gets offed early. Tony Todd is downright frightening as the titular Candyman, and his deep voice is like moth eaten velvet. Leave the light on when you go to the bathroom.
Creep Show 2 ““ Creep Show is a collection of short films. “The Raft,” one of the entries, gave me nightmares for weeks and still, to this day, scares me enough that I won’t go swimming in any reservoirs.
Freaks ““ Todd Browning, who would go on to direct Dracula, filmed this movie set in a circus sideshow using actual sideshow performers. It’s creepy, dark, and vicious. A must see. Gobble, gobble! One of us!
Hellraiser ““ The very first movie I ever snuck into. We lasted less than 10 minutes as one of the characters was ripped to pieces within seconds and the girl I was with couldn’t stop screaming.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer ““ Deeply messed up. I love this film and probably shouldn’t tell people I do.
Lost Boys ““ Young Keifer Sutherland. The Coreys. Vampires with really great gutter punk clothes. Rock n roll soundtrack. It’s like someone scanned my brain and spit out a movie hand crafted for me.
Nightbreed ““ I love Clive Barker. Movie adaptations of his books are hit or mess, but this story about a monster finding an underground community full of other monsters, is a keeper.
Nightmare on Elm Street ““ Until they joke-ified him, Freddy Krueger was a genuinely disturbing movie villain, slipping into your dreams and killing you at your most vulnerable. Nancy is one of the finest Final Girls ever written.
Satan’s Cheerleaders ““ One of the Satanic Panic movies of the ’70s, I have a soft spot for this cheesy exploitation flick about cheerleaders who take over a Satanic Cult.
Scream–The granddaddy of the self-aware horror film. It was a movie made for people who love horror films. Like Cabin in the Woods for slasher fans.
Slumber Party Massacre ““ This movie was written by Rita Mae Brown. Really.
Street Trash ““ Cheap alcohol turns people into zombies and melts them from the inside out. A sheer gross out film.
Suicide Club ““ Another J-horror entry. The film doesn’t made a lick of sense, but the individual set pieces are seriously disturbing.
Suspiria ““ Hands down, my favorite horror film ever. Its like walking into a book of Grimm’s Brothers tales, but with more razor wire.
The Company of Wolves ““ Another fairy tale influenced film, this one is directed by Neil Jordan and based on the writing of Angela Carter. All the short stories are about werewolves, but they’re not always the bad guys.
The Shining ““ There’s a reason everyone and their mother loves this film. It’s just plain brilliant.