The horror genre has a very wide selection of sub-genres that all seek to arouse fear in its viewers such as; Psychological, Torture, Possession, Zombie, Vampires, Supernatural & Slashers. I could go on, but with so many big budget low quality movies and low budget high quality films. It makes determining what’s great, and what’s a waste of time a very difficult task.
So the conditions for this list will consist of a selection of horror films that didn’t necessarily create their sub-genre but helped define it by bringing something new to it, starting with
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven's extremely original and creative horror, 1984s A Nightmare on Elm Street’s tormentor Freddy Krueger, by appearance alone, is enough to give most people nightmares. But in addition to the idea of a supernatural murderer attempting to take your life. He only tries to kill you in your dreams, which when you think about it, is pretty terrifying thought. And I think that is what really makes this horror movie stand out from so many others, is the genius of its premises simplicity - if you fall asleep, you will die.
The Evil Dead
Short on story but immeasurably long on excessive gore, Sam Raimi’s low budget cult classic horror film combines, just the right amount of black comedy and carnage to give The Evil Dead a balanced amount of scares and laughs.
Apart from the over the top blood - what really makes this horror movie stick out from its competition is it’s innovative camerawork, especially it’s famous POV shots.
Horrifying, fascinating and utterly engaging, John Carpenter's The Thing is an extremely tense sci-fi
horror that's crammed with first rate movie paranoia and some remarkably creative practical effects for its time. Darker and more terrifying than the 1950s original, this is one of those rare remakes that remains faithful to its origins but ups the ante in so many ways thus making it stand out as one of the greatest and most suspenseful horrors to date.
Dawn of the dead
The self-aware Zombie Masterpiece about the American Dream turned into a nightmare. George A
Romero's blend of black comedy, carnage and social commentary on consumer culture, leads you to the ultimates gore-fest with great acting and some glorious horror moments. One of the most entertaining zombie movies ever, Dawn of the Dead is a solid horror and a true classic.
Fans of body horror will have much to love in this gruesomely tense heartbreaker. David Cronenberg combines his trademark rapport for gore with a strongly developed cast, intelligent premise and funny one liners. This remake takes a simple story and develops in a way you don’t expect leaving you with a truly horrifying and intensely atmospheric tragic romance, that makes a lasting impression on your mind and heart.
The Low budget independent horror with a fantastic film score written & performed by the horror
master himself John Carpenter. Considered by many as the holy grail of slasher movies Halloween is not reliant on cheap jump scares or over the top gore, instead it uses an intense atmosphere and an equally intense antagonist, to provoke fear within is audience making it an unforgettable classic.
The unofficial prequel to Halloween, this underappreciated horror pretty much kick started the slasher genre by establishing most of the genres cliches for the first time. Bob Clarks choice in sound design perfectly integrates with this movies incredibly creepy and well set-up
pov shots. That and the unconventional idea (at the time) of making this film been set around christmas with an identity-less killer, hiding, in a sorority house.
I Saw the Devil
The story about an secret agent after a serial killer, I Saw the Devil is unique in the fact that it doesn’t follow the conventional antagonist/protagonist archetype.Instead it goes in a different direction to the standard good guy bad guy revenge movie (and doesn’t pull its punches), leaving you questioning the morality of revenge and wondering if the avengers efforts were really worth the cost in the end?
A fantastic ghost movie, that’s brilliantly shot, with the terrifying notion of having your dream home
being built on top of a cemetery. Hooper and Spielberg’s Poltergeist is a modern horror classic that’s easily one of the most distinctive and memorable films of the 80’s. I think what helps this movie rank highly among others is its ability to use great foreshadowing and visuals to tell a very spooky story.
A very weird movie, but in a good way - Cronenberg's Videodrome perfects unsettling its audience by using macabre practical effects, that leave you asking the question WTF am I watching?
It’s my belief that this confusion is what makes this movie so great, that it achieves what it sets out to
do. Tell a story about mind control via the media, with a hint of insanity for good measure.
Wes Craven's mystery homage to teen slashers, Scream serves as one of the best examples of how to revive an almost dead genre. Each horror has its own cliche tropes, especially when it comes to slashers, so when Scream verbally calls them out, while paying homage to them at the same time. It’s a feat not many movies could get way with, without becoming just another spoof.
A witch-run dance academy is definitely one of the better setups for a film, but it’s not the premise that makes Dario Argento's italian horror a classic. It’s arguably the wonderful use of unconventional colour and music that makes it so haunting and weird. I think it’s quite safe to say there’s no other horror movie out there quite like Suspiria. It’s awesome, creative and a must see film for horror fans.
A modern horror movie, that relies more on traditional tension and psychological scares rather than
blood and gore. The Orphanage is a very atmospheric, sad, incredibly tense and beautifully made film, where it perfectly recreates that familiar haunted feeling you get, when your alone at night in a dark room. I always find a movie to be far more frightening when you have to await for something, rather than to experience it straight away. And this is one feature the Orphanage excels at.
A story of an innocent girl possessed by evil, William Friedkin’s The exorcist is easily one of the scariest films of all time- with it’s excellent cast, well constructed surprises and fairly realistic point of view when it comes to supernatural events. This true classic excels at delving into the terror of its characters, while they’re in the presence of this menacing evil spirit. So much so it made it’s audiences walked out of theatres on its release and broke all box office records for the horror genre.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The horror that gives remakes a good name, Kaufman's interpretation has a gripping story and equally eerie atmosphere. That has this intense sense of paranoia right from the very start that never quite goes away. However for me, it’s the camerawork and use of sound that really makes this movie stand out, furthermore lets not forget about that creepy ass dog thing near the end of the movie.
The master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, not only made one of the most memorable iconic scenes in the history of cinema but also created modern horror. Well known for its controversial shower scene, Psycho offers brilliantly constructed characters such as the quiet and sweetly innocent Motel owner Norman Bates, who of course has a rather dark and disturbing side to him.
An American Werewolf in London
A delicate balance between horror and comedy which I might add succeeded at perfectly, John Landis' horror has remarkable makeup & practical effects that look as horrifying now as they did back in the 80s. One of the few horror movies that explores the psychological effects of someone who’s victim to a nasty curse, it’s not only that but the unique fashion in which this film archives this is incredibly well done.
Another Alfred Hitchcock classic that proves build-up is the key to suspense and horror. Hitchcock
somehow successfully turns everyday birds into frightening monsters, by having them attack and kill
people for no clear reason. The near flawless combination of psychological & physical horror, makes this an unforgettable film, with a most unsettling and unexplained last act. “The Birds” in my opinion is the perfect suspense movie, with 1st rate tension building and an incredibly original premise.
Considered as one of the best horrors ever made, this slow paced science fiction masterpiece is filled with scary scenes and has a creepily original set design. But what really makes this film so special is the genius behind the design, purpose and horror of the aliens. Impregnating people and having something nasty growing inside you is a fantastically terrifying concept that’s just plain disturbing. A unique piece of storytelling & filmmaking, Alien is a timeless and true classic.
Stanley Kubrick's excellent adaptation of Stephen King's novel is a chilling adventure into the growing insanity of caretaker Jack Torrance. After watching it several times this is one of those movies that can still build a ton of tension, even when you know what’s going to happen next. That and the scarily realistic and unforgettable chemistry between Duvall's n’ Nicholsons characters.
While I’m sure fans of the novel might not fully enjoy Kubrick's changes to the plot, the hauntingly
unique visuals alone, should be enough to at least sway most of them into admitting this is easily one of the best made horror movies of all time.