The horror film. I get excited just thinking about it. As a kid growing up in the eighties I was spoiled. There were some really great films. It was the era of Freddy, and Jason, and of course Leatherface. The slasher film became iconic and it seemed as if everyone wanted to try and make one. Making a great horror film took skill and not everyone could pull it off. I have been a fan of horror for as long as I can remember. You look at the movies I collect and most of it consists of horror. I love cheesy horror just as much as I like the classic films like Dracula, and The Phantom of the Opera.
I thought hard about making this list. The problem is that these aren’t really all of my favorite horror films, just a few that really stand out. I don’t think any horror fan can pick ten films and be happy with what he or she picked. It’s like picking your favorite kid. You can’t do it. A lot of films that I regard as favorites you may not have heard of but my hope is that with Halloween coming up you’ll look them up on Netflix, Shudder, or any other streaming service. Before I ramble on any more, here’s my list. These are in no particular order.
The Strangers makes this list because it’s the only film that truly scared me. I saw this with my son at 4 in the morning, in the dark. I had no idea what I was in for, and I’m not going to lie. I screamed. I made noises that I didn’t know I was capable of making. This is one horror film that gets in your head and uses not just visuals, but sounds to mess with you. It’s the only film that I watch and still squirm because I know what’s coming. The line that really freaked me out was when the guy asks; “Why are you doing this?” The answer? “Because you were home.”
One of my biggest influences is The Last House On the Left. Wes Craven created a masterpiece of horror that you just don’t watch, you become absorbed in it. You almost feel uncomfortable watching it because it’s so damn brutal. There are those that simply can’t watch it and I can understand why. It’s a hard film to watch but truly one of the greatest films ever made.
When it comes to slashers you have the iconic ones, and then you have Pieces. This film is one of those that I can’t seem to find a decent copy of, but I will. It’s dated, it’s cheesy, but oh my God is it good. It’s one of those films that you just sit back and enjoy. It’s a guilty pleasure for sure and one of many. It had a hand in defining the genre and as a fan of slashers I had to place it on this list.
Years ago I made a trip to my local Dollar Tree and they had their usual Halloween films for a buck. You know the kind I’m talking about. The horrible cheesy ones that fell into the public domain. Films that are so bad they should be giving them away, but being a fan of the genre I scooped up about 10 dollars worth and settled down for a night of cheesy horror. One film really stuck out. Carnival of Souls. This was a classic and one that I had somehow missed out on as a kid.
It’s a film that truly tests your patience, but there’s so much to love about it. Sometimes the best horror films are less about gore and jump scares and more about atmosphere. It slowly builds and for some it’s a bit maddening but for me it works. This was a movie that you have to pay attention to. If you blink you’re going to be lost and then when the shock of it settles in you’re going to be a bit confused. I love films like these because they’re more about the story than the shock value.
Speaking of shock value let’s check out The Audition. This is another film that moves slow but the payoff is well worth it. I love foreign horror films and it seems as if some of the best are coming from Japan. The Audition is shocking because you don’t see it coming. It really throws you off and the pace of the film really begins to speed up. It’s the kind of film you watch with your hands in front of your face if you’re squeamish.
One of my other big influences is I Spit On Your Grave. Not the remake, this is the original that really shocked people due to its ten-minute rape scene. Yeah, it’s a little hard to watch but it also prepares you for what happens later on in the film. I have seen tons and tons and tons of horror films but Grave is a truly beautiful tale of revenge that should have never been remade, or even given a sequel. I even have an I Spit On Your Grave T-shirt! It’s the only film I can think of where the brutality is cheered.
I think I can end this with two films that are iconic for different reasons. The first film ushered in a new villain and a gritty style of filmmaking. While trying to be scary and shocking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was pretty damn funny at times and raised the horror bar a bit. The first time I watched I was in awe of what I was witnessing. It was my first taste of extreme horror and I was just blown away. No matter how many times I watch it I’m still cheering for Leatherface. How could you not?
Lastly we have House of 1000 Corpses. This was a brilliant brutal film that was clearly influenced by Chainsaw and proved that you could make a brutal film that is also well made. Rob Zombie’s debut was the kick in the ass that horror needed and let’s be honest and admit that he created some memorable villains. These were guys that you were supposed to hate, but ended up cheering for. It’s the kind of movie that will knock you on your ass and make you wish you’d never started it.
Michael Noe is a horror writer from Barberton Ohio. He is the author of Legacy, The Darkness Of The Soul, and the upcoming short story collection Insecure Delusions. When not writing he reviews books on his website Slaphappy Fun Time and collects vinyl records. You can find him at https://www.facebook.com/michaelnoeslegacy/ as well as http://slaphappyfuntime.blogspot.com/?zx=9dcec248a7c0b9ba