Monday, October 31, 2011

Post #100: My Top 5 Horror Films

Watching one of the most praised horror films ever, Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING, for the first time, I started wondering why some people, including me, just can't get enough of this genre. As a die-hard fan of the filmic horror genre, I've eventually come to see some of the trashiest films on earth, and also some of the better ones - mostly the latter though, which leads me to believe that making a good horror film is a hard thing to do.
Most directors and actors have had something to do with comedies at least once in their career, and they will very often tell you (in those propaganda-esque, short making of features that you often see on TV) that making people laugh is "like the hardest thing in film business" and "so much harder than making people cry" bla, bla. Professional writers tend to come up with something similar in interviews.
However, in my opinion, it is so much harder to scare an audience in a way that is actually physically exhausting, to make them shed tears of fear, not joy or amusement. If you don't believe me, you should try and watch SPLINTER. Hilarious - but not in the slightest scary.

If I watch a bunch of "comedies" - the term doesn't always prove to be fitting - years of practical research tell me that I will like at least 50% of them; most comedies get a rating around 6.0 from me, and a rating above 5.5 means I at least like parts of a film. Now, if I watch a bunch of "horror films" - producers are not being very canny with this term either - I reckon I'll like, say 20% of them, and maybe another 9% of them I will consider to be decent comedies.
So what makes me - and I believe I'm not the only one - sit through these hours of boredom?

It's hope. The undying hope for an adrenaline nirvana. We don't know if anyone has ever underwent it, nor do we know what waits at the end of that experience. Eternal invincibleness, infinite wisdom... or maybe just a never-ending paranoia. Chances are small one of us will ever live to see.
But: we can come close to it, sense its divine being, if only we sacrifice a tiny portion of our time on
this earth.

Take me as an example: I'm only 16 years old, still I've had the [horror] time of my life just recently, trembling and cringing on the sofa, scrunching a bunch of pillows and the hand of my guest mom. Which reminds me of another thing: unless you're completely out-of-your-mind/ insane/ extremely hard-boiled, you should never watch a horror film on your own. Not even if it's rather un-scary - trust me, I watched RAGINI MMS alone without a single light on. Another tip: Indian horror films are, generally speaking, bad. I haven't seen a very good one yet, neither have my sources, however there is one film I just have to watch, namely BHOOT BUNGLA from 1965. You won't believe it, but they say there's a song in it with skeletons dancing. Must-watch.

All of this being said, you might be asking yourself whether there really is no way of narrowing down your search for the perfect horror film, a question I have often found myself brooding over. You'll easily get a few lists of cult-classic horror films from the internet or (the fortunate ones) from your fellow film-loving friends. There will also always be over-hyped newer releases like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and similar, you won't be able to miss those. As for insider tips and unknown pearls... I'm not the best one to ask. Watch TV at night once a month or something, that's something I can recommend. You might stumble upon a really nice horror gem between the late-night pornos. Of course, you can also try and find other bloggers and/ or friends that are in to horror films and can recommend you some films.
This, for instance, is a great site for horror film addicts:

Last but not least, I'd like to tell you that even though I call myself a die-hard fan of horror films, they only represent a tiny percentage of all the films I watch, mainly due to my rule #1 about not watching a horror film all by myself. Sadly, most of my friends and family are scaredy-cats. This is probably not important to you, but I want to be honest with myself - and you, so... don't think I'm a horror film expert or anything.

Finally, my Top 5 Horror Films.
NB: Sweeney Todd, one of my favorite films, wasn't included because I don't consider it a horror film.

5. Scream (1996) Wes Craven
Very close to the comedy/horror boundary, but as far as I remember, it was scary enough to scare me. And hilarious at the same time. I've seen the first three in a row when I was 13, but I'm not sure if I want to watch the latest one, even though it's supposed to be all right.

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978) George A. Romero
The idea/ question of what happens to a bunch of more or less random people who are forced to be together in a certain area for a long time, has always fascinated me. Which is why I enjoyed THE KILLING ROOM, for example. But even those who are not as much a philosopher as I am, will surely enjoy this feast of blood fountains and creepy zombies.

3. Poltergeist (1982) Tobe Hooper
The good ol' ghost living in the closet - invented by Germans by the way (as you can hear). Scared the hell out of me as a kid.

2. The Shining (1980) Stanley Kubrick
After watching OF MICE AND MEN, in which Jack Nicholson plays a retarded, in school, I thought I'd never be able to take him seriously again. That proved to be true, until I watched THE SHINING. Like all my choices, this is a good film even beneath the horror-surface, and there's much more to it than some blood and some thrills. I also know now, where Peter Jackson got his inspiration for the character of Gollum/Smeagol - Shelley Duvall?

1. The Exorcist (1973) William Friedkin
The horror film above them all. Once you've seen it, it will never leave you. And your expectations for a horror film will sky-dive. But it's definitely worth it.

Happy Halloween and...


  1. Happy Halloween. We have four entries in common, and our number one is the same for the reasons you wrote. I haven't seen Dawn of the Dead, and was watching the remake yesterday because I figured it will be less scary. I couldn't go through it though, so the original will take time to get to.

    Oh Bollywood-wise, this film called Raaz had come out when I was a kid, and that was super-scary. And technically not a horror film, but this film called Sangharsh, which was inspired by Silence of the Lambs and Ashutosh Rana in it was the epitome of terrifying.

  2. It is fascinating reading your post about horror having just written something similar. I can't abide gore so although I'm a fan of horror, I'm not a fan of gory horror. Nor am I fan of the trashier, low budget films so many "true" horror buffs love. That probably informs my opinion of the genre, that what I love is a film that can creep under the skin quite subtly.

    The reason The Exorcist is the greatest of them all is that it does without any gore at all. Okay, the pea soup is a bit messy, but things like the Tubular Bells theme tune is truly unsettling to me. Regan's voice, her mother's helplessness, Karras' moral dilemma and emotional struggle, the recorded tape, the help me writing on Regan's stomach, her facial is all fascinating and yet deeply frightening.

    Likewise, I love Poltergeist but my least favourite scene is the one you pictured - the gory bit.

    Great article!

  3. Nikhat - I've heard that Raaz is an exception, even the sequel, so it's on my watch-list.

    Dan - I know, I thought the same thing reading your article. Hm, I don't know if I'm a fan of gore... it's entertaining, that is. Sometimes, between all the serious films I watch, I like that. But the more subtle a horror film is, the better, we can agree about that.

  4. Great post Mette. I totally agree with your point about hope. I've seen so many horror films that I'm immune to all the usual tricks. But every so often a film comes along that does something completely unique and truly terrifies you. That makes all those hours of hoping worth it.

    BTW, I also enjoyed THE KILLING ROOM.

  5. Bonjour Tristesse - The Killing Room has quite low rating on IMDB and RT (at least the last time I checked), which surprised me. I found it intriguing.

  6. I agree with Dan, I’m not mad about gore either. Love The Shining, The Exorcist. Poltergeist fromyour top 5. The transformation of the girl in the exorcist is remarkable- the make up and acting, I can hardly look at her ( :
    Those 3 films are on my 10 favourite horror films list, that I posted this week, you should check it out ( :

  7. Chris - I'll make sure to do that.

  8. I've only seen 2 of these, Scream and The Shining, and liked both of them a lot.

    My favourite Horror films are probably The Shining, Psycho, Halloween, Nosferatu (1979) and maybe Jaws.
    But I'm really not a Horror buff at all, in fact I'm really easy to scare, so I tend to avoid the scariest stuff, like the Exorcist.

  9. Jack L - Interesting, I didn't know that ;). It seems like everyone has seen Psycho, so as a horror fan I know that I have to see it... Actually, I just re-watched Scream 3 yesterday and realized how bad it is. I think the first one really is the best.


Let the discussion begin!