It’s that time of year folks; the time where scores of children don the latest and greatest in costumes and arrive to bother you routinely, panhandling for spare sweets to be generously doled into their pillow cases, trash bags, or whatever other impromptu candy carrier they’ve stumbled on. The time of year where spoiled teenagers claim to be much younger than they actually are to accomplish the same goals, with mixed results. The time of year where even older people, both men and women alike, go to great lengths to show as much of their bodies as possible, with a thin scrap of cloth constituting a “costume.” The time of year where pumpkins are savagely stabbed repeatedly to create unique designs for our amusement. The time of year for Halloween.
Seriously though, we at Trove, like the majority of the masses, love us some Halloween. In particular, we love us some horror movies. Some are, clearly, better than others, as, unfortunately, if you’re of the frame of mind that “Troll 2,” “The Gingerdead Man,” or the Nic Cage version of “The Wicker Man” are horror classics, you’ll experience what it’s like to be really and truly alone (Please, for god’s sake, watch those links.) That’s why this week, in honor of the beloved holiday, the minds at Trove Studio have assembled THE end-all, be-all, indisputable list of the greatest horror films of all time. (Having said that, we’re all talk and welcome various opinions.) So, without further ado, here we go with Trove Studio’s top ten horror movies!
10. “Funny Games” 2007
Written and directed by Michael Haneke, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth
We found ourselves with a pretty unexpected pick at ten with the little seen “Funny Games,” Austrian director Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 film. However, we concluded that without a doubt it’s easily one of the most disturbing and uncomfortable viewing experiences one can have. The story of two insane young men who hold a family hostage and force them to play some truly sadistic, decidedly unfunny games, “Funny Games” almost seems pointless initially, but that pointlessness is actually the point. Haneke is trying to comment on how easily viewers can tolerate onscreen violence and, by doing so, the violence actually becomes intolerable.
9. “The Cabin in the Woods” 2012
Directed by Drew Goddard, written by Joss Whedon and Goddard, starring Kristen Connolly and Chris Hemsworth
Now this is probably a pick that a lot of you may know, and for good reason. “Cabin” is meta, self-aware filmmaking cranked up to a freaking twelve, a smarmy, sarcastic, hilarious, but nevertheless thrilling and occasionally legitimately scary ride. It starts with your run of the mill, cabin horror movie set-up with a bunch of cliche punk kids going off to do amoral things in the woods and, of course, encountering some supernatural shenanigans. But while the the plot is initially so familiar, it’s done on purpose; the whole movie is a monster homage and satire of horror movie cliches, tearing through them at a breakneck speed with a plot that is so wildly unpredictable it’s like (to use a cliche) a proverbial roller coaster.
8. “The Evil Dead” 1981
Written and directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell
Speaking of cabin horror movies, this is THE cabin horror movie. Made on a shoestring budget by the now famous Sam Raimi (the original “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Drag Me to Hell,”) it also spawned two sequels, and the trilogy has spawned a serious cult following, of which Trove is a happy member. The premise is simple; a group of teens go out to a cabin, summon a demon by reading from the dreaded Book of the Dead, and the demon takes turns possessing them and, of course, killing in them in ways that are both brutal and creative. What really stands out about “The Evil Dead” is its nifty camera work, legendary use of practical effects (i.e. the infamous tree scene and just...so much gore), and unexpected occasional jet-black humor.
7. “The Thing” 1982
Directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, starring Kurt Russell
If we’re talking about practical effects, while “The Evil Dead” may be regarded as the king (hail to the king, baby), “The Thing” has to be the prince. Carpenter’s classic was critically trashed on its release, but has since grown to classic status thanks to those aforementioned effects (the poor dogs…), incredible tension, and some slick political allegory. Based on the novella “Who Goes There?,” “The Thing” follows a group of men in a remote research facility in Antarctica who find themselves infiltrated by the titular “thing” that can take the form of any living creature (or several) it comes into contact with. What better way to comment on Cold War and Communism paranoia than to tell a story where it’s impossible to tell who the real enemy is?
6. “It Follows” 2015
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, starring Maika Monroe and Keir Gilchrist
Horror has made a bit of a comeback the last few years, with films like “The Babadook” and “The Witch” proving to be new horror classics. But Mitchell’s “It Follows” might be the best of the bunch. It takes the familiar trope of the slow moving, unstoppable villain (i.e. zombies, Michael Myers, etc.) and cranks it to an eleven, as “it” takes many forms, and stalks our protagonists at a steady, calm walk that is truly unnerving. But what makes “It Follows” so unique is that the entity of the title is actually passed along through sex. Sleep with someone, and it stops following you and follows them instead. It’s a fascinating concept ripe with symbolism; you could write a paper on the possible interpretations after watching the film. While also being terrified of anyone that may be walking behind you…
5. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 1974
Directed by Tobe Hooper, written by Hooper and Kim Henkel, starring Marilyn Burns and Allen Danziger
This is one for the books here folks, possibly the most disturbing film you’ll ever watch. Hooper’s masterpiece plays almost like the most horrifying documentary of all time thanks to a gritty cinema verite style, a group of unknown actors, and the now famous gimmick “based on a true story” lending the film a truly frightening realism. Following a group of teens (surprise!) being hunted by a family of cannibals and their legendary muscle, Leatherface, the film achieves a level of violence that was not just radical for its time, but for all time. And it’s not just mindless, snuff violence; the film portrays a disillusioned and distrustful Vietnam and Watergate-era America where, as Hooper puts it as he refers to society, “Man is the real monster here, just wearing a different face.” So, he put a leather one on him.
4. “Psycho” 1960
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Joseph Stefano, starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh
Talk about movies that pushed the envelope for their time; Hitchcock’s classic (one of many) pushed the envelope, picked it up, shredded it, and pushed it back on the floor. One of the most groundbreaking movies of all time, “Psycho” was shocking and taboo to audiences for so many reasons at the time, doing things on screen that had never been done before in American cinema. Graphic violence? Check, the shower scene. Sex? And, worse yet, adulterous sex? Check, the first freaking scene of the movie. Showing the contents of a toilet pre-flushing? Check, for the first time ever (not even kidding). Add to that some legitimate psychoanalysis never before seen in film, and you’ve got yourself a watershed horror film.
3. “Alien” 1979
Directed by Ridley Scott, written by Dave O’Bannon, starring Sigourney Weaver and Ian Holm (Bilbo!)
The chest-bursting scene. What else do I need to say?
Alright, I’ll elaborate. With “Alien,” director Ridley Scott took the slasher film to new heights--specifically, into space, as your slasher became a seemingly indestructible alien and its victims a gang of astronauts, led by one of the greatest heroines in cinema, Ellen Ripley, played by Weaver. To be cliche, you can cut the tension with a knife, as the atmosphere of “Alien” (or lack thereof, zing!) is extremely intense. But, as we’re coming to find out, the best horror films have both style and substance, and, while one may not notice on first glance, “Alien” actually has tons to say about rape, sexuality, and misogyny, by both literally and figuratively sticking it to the man.
2. “The Exorcist” 1973
Directed by William Friedkin, written by William Peter Blatty, starring Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn
We realize our number one and two picks may not be very surprising, but it’s difficult to argue against them as being the best of genre. How does a movie where a young girl doing a possessed spider walk down the stairs not make this list? This is the rare horror film where the story comes first, and the horror comes as a result. The performances, script, music, direction--it’s all top-notch here to balance poignancy with very real fear. A powerful and legitimately emotional portrayal of faith and motherhood, “The Exorcist” is also an indisputably terrifying viewing experience.
1. “The Shining” 1980
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Kubrick and Diane Johnson, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall
Here’ssssss number one! As great as the movies on this list are, Kubrick’s horror opus, reviled on its release (it actually got nominated for Razzies) is the best of the bunch. While other films might be scarier overall, “The Shining” is not without moments that are immortal in the genre, whether it’s the scariest twins in film history, a wall of blood falling from an elevator, or REDRUM! On top of that, Kubrick tormented the cast to mine some authentic performances, whether it’s Jack Nicholson seeming to actually lose his mind or Shelley Duvall seeming to experience major fear (she was so stressed on set she lost hair). But what sets “The Shining” above the rest is the endless mystery behind what it all means. Interpretations abound, and none have been proven false or true. Is it about the genocide of Native Americans? The Holocaust? Domestic violence? Masculinity? It could be all of these and none of these. But that fact we don’t know, and the dizzying layers of depth behind the film, is what makes it our number one.
What do we think? Did we miss any? Doth we deserve praise, or scolding? Let us know what you think, and thanks for reading! You kids have a safe Halloween, and while you’re scarfing down candy in the next few days check out the rest of our blogs on our website!