My 15 favorite horror/scary movies.

Happy Halloween! In honor of the holiday and taking inspiration from Jalissa Cruz’s tumblr I have decided to list my 15 favorite horror/scary movies.

According to wikipedia (obviously the best source around) a Horror film seeks to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres. Horrors also frequently overlap with the thriller genre. This definition is pretty broad, and I’m going to be kind of lenient with this list (side note at bottom of blog).

15. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2004):








This film is a love letter to the slasher genre. A man named Leslie Vernon heros are Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Kruger, etc. He asks a documentary crew to film his rise as a serial killer. The film is smart, hilarious, and scary. Director, Scott Glosserman, uses the mockumentary aspect to reveal horror film tropes and cliches, but is completely capable of flipping the switch and becoming a scary slasher film.

14. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984):

Nightmare was one of the first horror films I ever saw, and it scared the crap out of me. I believe dying in your dreams is a very universal fear. As more sequels were made Freddy kind of became a joke, but this film perfectly mixes the humor and the horror. Wes Craven came up with creative/practical special effects. For example, to do the famous blood bed scene he literally turned everything upside down. So simple. Of course the film was remade, and it’s ridiculously bad.

13. Funny Games (1997):

Michael Haneke is a brilliant filmmaker. I love when great filmmakers tackle genre films. I also love films and television that approach subjects in “meta” ways. The killers are fully aware they are in a movie. They play around with us, give us what we think we want and then take it away from us. Haneke eviscerates the home invasion/horror genre. He makes you never want to an on screen murder again.

12. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011):

Sean Durkin’s brilliant debut. I saw this film a couple months ago and got to take part in a Q and A with Durkin and Elisabeth Olsen (yes the younger sister of the Olsen twins). The film is coming out JUST in time for Halloween (depending on where you live). The film follows Martha as she tries to recover from her time with a cult. The film brilliantly blurs the line between reality, the past, and fantasy. We see everything through Martha’s eyes and we come as paranoid as her as the film slowly leads to it’s brilliant final shot.

11. Shaun of the Dead (2004): 

I wasn’t sure I should include Shaun of the Dead on this list. After all, it’s a comedy. But Shaun of the Dead is also a great zombie film with characters we care about (see it is possible! *cough* Walking Dead *cough*). Because we care about the characters we’re scared when shit gets reals. And like I said, the film is hilarious. I decided I love it too much not to include it on the list.

10. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1968): 

I think people forget how great the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is. Everyone assumes the film is wicked gory and isn’t scary. This is not true. The film actually doesn’t show most of the violence. Everyone remembers it being violent because you created that violence yourself. in my opinion, that reveals how powerful the film is. It gets into your mind.

9. [REC] (2007):

I’ve never seen Quarantine, and I never plan to, but I’ve heard it doesn’t compare. How could it? This film is terrifying. It flies at a break neck pace and never gives you a chance to breath.Is it a zombie film? Yes. No. Technically, I don’t think so (in the same way 28 Days Later isn’t technically a zombie film) but I don’t care. You need to see this tiny Spanish gem.

8. The Shining (1980):

The Shining is a classic, and Kubrick is a master. The film burrows into your mind and doesn’t leave. The mansion was designed to be physically impossible. There are doors that couldn’t possible lead to rooms, windows reveal the outside even though there should be a wall there, etc. Every aspect of the film is meticulously planned, and it pays off. Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness is terrifying.

7. Trick ‘r Treat  (2007?):

This film was wasting away on the studio shelves for year. I don’t understand why. The obvious thing to do with it is show it every Halloween.It should be required viewing on Halloween. It tells a few different stories that take place on Halloween. Some of them scary. I tried to get my girlfriend to watch it last Halloween and she couldn’t last 5 minutes (she is a wimpy wimp though). Some of the stories are pretty funny. But all comes together in the perfect Halloween film.

6. Attack the Block (2011):

You need to see this film. Attack the Block came out in the US this summer and it’s probably my favorite film of the year (I need to see it and Take Shelter again). Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead) produced the film by first time director Joe Cornish and it’s great. It’s the funniest film of the year, it’s scary as hell, the alien design is brilliant (old school, not overdone), and it’s socially aware. If you paid any attention to the London riots this year the main characters may look familiar, but you’ll see them in a way corporate media will never show, as human beings. It’s out on DVD. RENT IT FOR HALLOWEEN! WATCH IT IMMEDIATELY!

5. Se7en (1997):

Without Se7en, there is no Saw. People went to Saw to see people die in insane ways. Se7en makes you feel dirty about the way people die, and all it needs is a simple picture. That picture is far more powerful than all the Saw films put together. That interrogation scene is incredibly disturbing. And the end. Oh my god the end. I love Se7en. Also, that shot above, one of my favorite shots of all time.

4. Rosemary’s Baby (1968):

Rosemary’s Baby is a masterpiece. Polanski perfectly uses the art of film to reveal Rosemary’s paranoia. We spend the entire film trying to figure out what’s going on. It all leads to ending that shouldn’t work. Out of context the end is kind of cheesy and over the top, but in context is brilliant and absolutely terrifying. I had a hard time placing this and the 3rd film because they are similar, and without this film my 3rd film wouldn’t exist, but I love this next film so much.

3. Black Swan (2010):

Anyone who knows me well knows I love Darren Aronofsky. When I saw Requiem for a Dream in high school I realized films could be more than intellectually stimulating. They can be emotionally devastating, and that’s exactly what Black Swan is. When the lights went black on Black Swan twice in a 24 hour period my mind was mush. My first reaction was, “What the fuck did I just watch?” The film had grabbed my brain and thrown it against a wall. It’s my favorite psychological thriller of all time (maybe I’m just Aronofsky biased). The first 45 minutes are methodically paced, and the amazing sensory overload that is the dance club scene propels the film into insanity. Without those slow 45 minutes the final scene would not have it’s powerful, and oh my god, that ending. It’s perfect.

2. Halloween (1978):

When I was a kid I saw Halloween and it scared the crap out of me. Everyone once in a while it would pop up on TV and I’d watch the end and it would still scare me. Last year I saw the whole film for the first time in years in my Fiction Film Theory class. And you know what? Halloween is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s more than that. It’s a brilliant film. The opening is a 5 minutes POV shot done in a single take. We’re put in the mind of a serial killer and it feels like your heart is being clenched by Michael himself. It’s intelligent filmmaking being used to scare us and it’s perfect.

1. Let the Right One In (2008):

Here’s the only vampire film on the list. In my opinion, it’s best vampire film ever made. Finally, a film shows what it’d actually be like to be a vampire. A vampire would not live a glitz and glam lifestyle. Being a vampire is an incredibly selfish thing. You’d rather kill tons of people than die yourself. At least Eli has the decency to make sure her victims don’t have to live the life she does. Like Halloween, Let the Right One In is so much more than it’s genre. It is one of my all time favorite stories about love (yes that is the way I interpret Eli and Oskar’s relationship), a devastating story about school bullying, a story a bout a kid who could potentially become a killer, a husband who loses his wife, and an amazing coming of age story. The film slowly builds Eli and Oskar’s relationship until one of my favorite scenes of all time, an iconic scene for the ages.

Side note: The order of this list represents how I feel about these films as “scary movies.”  It doesn’t represent how I feel about them as films (the order would be different).


About Sean Temple

Filmmaker, Progressive, Feminist, Emerson MFA Student, Director of HUNT. I use film to critique our society and reveal the struggles real people deal with every day. View all posts by Sean Temple

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