Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Top 22 Horror Films in 22 Years

Recently, there have been a great many horror lists published on various blogs as a rebuttal to Owen Gleiberman's list in Entertainment Weekly.

I cheated my list back 22 years so as to include In A Glass Cage, one of my favorite horror films of any time.

Good horror comedies such as Shaun of the Dead are missing because they're not real horror to me.

You won't find Blair Witch Project here because it is now and always has been utter shit.

I realize some films here such as Battle Royale may not meet everybody's definition of horror. For mine, the film's premise is horrific ) enough in my book -- kill all your friends and classmates or you die!

Utterly disturbing.

Extremely tense. Claustrophobic. Doesn't put a foot wrong.

The cheat ending still bothers me, and almost bumped it off the list, but everything that comes before it is true horror executed with love and gusto.

A masterpiece from the late Kinji Fukasaku, a god among directors.

Surreal, atmospheric horror.

One of the best Italian horror films ever made (and they've made some doozies). Grisly, surreal, erotic, disturbing, and beautiful.

Despite the lack of perfect versions of this, it is a rich, atmospheric horror film occasionally handicapped by wrong-headed comedy. Still, its necrophilic tone qualifies it for greatness.

I love Arturo Ripstein, and this phenomenal Mexican version of The Honeymoon Killers is sometimes unbearable to watch.

As I am not a fan of Audition (I find it quite boring), my Miike choice is the brilliant and twisted Ichii The Killer.

As the years pass, I like Silence of the Lambs less and Ridley Scott's Hannibal so much more.

Gary Oldman's 'Mason Verger' is a modern horror creation that Lon Chaney would have been proud of.

One of the most subversive horror films ever to be slipped through a studio gate.

Real horror with brutal catharsis.

Easily one of the most bizarre, troubling, and anxiety-inducing horror films. From director Fruit Chan.

I may be alone on this one, but John Dahl's riff on the Duel premise is a taut, unrelenting horror pic with a great, unseen villain ('Rusty Nail').

What can I say that hasn't already been said?

Powerful psychological horror that captures the terror of being a prisoner of your own delusions.

A nightmare captured on celluloid.

This '87 masterpiece of bloodsucking just slips through the 22-year gate.

One of the most bizarre, cruel, and horrific studies of child abuse ever burned to the screen, Midori is a worthy successor to Todd Browning's Freaks.

Based on Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show by Suehiro Maruo.

Supreme tension.

Masterful, understated horror fairytale.

Accomplished tale of alienation where the horror grows like cancer on sunburn.

David Mamet's only attempt at writing a horror picture is stark and frightening and unforgettable. Stuart Gordon's direction is flawless.


  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Finally someone who realised what genius Hannibal is. I've stated this since I first saw it on cinema, first bought the mega-big vhs-special edition box and when I bought the dvd.

    I consider it a masterpiece and it's of one the new movies that I revisit over and over again. I've always thought it was a pity that Ridley cut the storyline about The Monster of Florence, but I know I can't have everything in life.

  2. Fab list! I guess I am also among those who considers Joy Ride to be criminally overlooked.

    Wondering where you would place Frontiers, Martyrs, Eden Lake, and Mum & Dad?

  3. Ninja -- oh, yes, it's a brilliant film.

    The Monster of Florence subplot would have been great, but, as you said, you can't have everything. Feature films of novels are always pared down.

    I'd like an entire film about Verger. I'd love to make that one myself.


    d -- Yes, Joyride is consistent and tense. Unlike Jeepers Creepers, which starts out very well, but turns to shit.

    Frontiers, Martyrs, and Eden Lake were just outside the 22. So was Inside. Mum and Dad I haven't seen yet? I am a huge Fred and Rose fan, so I was a bit disappointed with Mum and Dad. Certainly a decent film, but a letdown. My brother, who also lives for Fred and Rose, wasn't too impressed, either.

  4. I can see why you might have been let down by Mum & Dad looking at it as a fan of the Wests. It's just too light in comparison. Still, I liked it and enjoyed the equally darkly comic, twisted domestic terror of Neighborhood Watch.

    I'm not part of either of the extreme camps in regards to Miike. I won't overpraise him or completely dismiss him. He has some real gems under his belt backed up by a fair amount of solid, offbeat material (and a good load of shit, too). I think my fave would be Fudoh. I found Audition to be an interminable bore, although the payoff ALMOST makes me want to like it.

  5. Id agree with some of the list. Near Dark is my favorite Vampire movie so kudos there. I didn't really like let the right one in at all, just kinda mundane and trying to pass off some existential point that didn't really matter. Battle Royale, High Tension, and the Descent are all legit too. Haven't seen a lot of the others. Thanks for the list though!

  6. d -- good points about 'Mum and Dad'.

    I'm up and down on Miike. I like 'Fudoh', 'Bird People of China', 'Ley Lines', 'Graveyard of Honor', 'Man in the White Unit', 'Visitor Q' and 'Ichii' most.


    The Man -- I didn't think 'Let The Right One In' was mundane at all. A very intelligent character study about alienation. But, like any film, an opinion is entirely subjective. Try to see some of the others. They're all solid.

  7. All good choices. All irritatingly easily available.

    I am startled by shall I say it...accessible choices. Especially given the fact that you have seen so many things so rare and obscure, even those that made them don't remember seeing them.

    These have all had some dough spent on them(I found 'Hannibal' in places a thing of Baroque beuaty, somewhat sullied by the crappy CGI of the exposed brain at the end- not horrific as much as silly- but prior to that, a surprising work of art, shunted up market a few notches with Giancarlo's appearance, locations, and the ever classy JM).

    I wonder sometimes if a nightmare (say, 'Lost Highway' or any of the others) shot well and clearly can be just as effective as a nightmare shot badly and grainy? (bearing in mind we are both Children of the Grain)

    Again, boils down to choice, really. I have to say I love 'Audition', but see why others pull back.

    And I thought I was alone in my love of 'Joyride', and the hours of fun with the many alternate endings and 'choose your own adventure' options on the DVD! Really taking full advantage of the format!

    Nice choices all, and affirms my suspicion that although I have not your depth and breadth, at least with my limited resources, have been stumbling upon some of the better more accessible offerings.

    Thank you for ignoring that irritating blip on the radar known as 'J-Horror', or as I like to call it, 'J-Hollow'. I swear, one more wet bint with long back hair over her face and a limp and I will elect myself president, call myself Truman, and drop a big one on Tokyo.

    You once showed me 'Martin' and 'Deathdream', and I took another look at 'Dead and Buried' last week, which I remember got it's own blog from you. Nothing else you have shown me, beside 'Cannibal Holocaust' has topped these so If I was to compile my own list, these all make it. And you introduced me to them. (not to mention 'Dead Kids'- also disarmingly close to classic status)

    Well done with the 'Orphanage'; 'Devil's Backbone' still my choice- a special mention for the incredible woman from 'Glass Cage'.

    One final thing- 'The Ruins' is a hit and miss afair, but if we speak of a film eliciting a physiological reaction, I have to say this film in places literally 'made my skin crawl'.

    And that, for me, has always been job number one for good horror.

  8. mandingo -- yes, the accessibility is strange. They used to be so difficult to locate.

    Interesting comment about capturing nightmares in grain or pristine. It is a choice. The extras added to them such as sound FX and music certainly go a long way in determining their imapact. And context, of course.

    That 'Joyride' DVD is a little revelation.

    Fine point about 'Ruins'. Yes, it has some problems, but I saw it at the cinema and really got into it. It's very anxiety-producing.