Here’s a quick little exercise. Without thinking about it too much, write down the first fifteen colors you can think of. Quickly. Don’t overthink it. Just fifteen colors, the first that pop into your head that will stick with you.
C’mon. This text isn’t going anywhere.
Just do the damn exercise.
… Alright, hurry it up, I haven’t got all day.
By this point I’ll assume that you’re either skipping over this crap to see where I’m going with this, or you’ve gotten to the point of this exercise: most likely you’re finished (or close enough) and starting to second-guess your choices. Maybe your list is lacking those primary colors you use in everyday life. Maybe your list doesn’t have all those cool niche colors, shades and tones that pop up in your interior decor, desktop wallpaper, and so on.
(Protip: You are me if your list of colors would be equally fitting on classic muscle cars as for Space Marine chapterhouses, and includes the complete absence of color.)
The point of this long and tortured metaphor is that there are only around either 64 or 96 main colors to choose from (unless you were one of the cool kids with parents who could spring for a 120-color Crayola box). If you include b-movies, and who doesn’t, I could easily come up with over a hundred horror movies, which means that choosing fifteen “best” horror movies is damn hard.
Obviously, I was bound to leave something out, so here are the top films I forgot, left off, or otherwise am second-guessing with.
Army of Darkness: Is it bad of me to consider Shaun of the Dead a horror film and this one the humor film? Ah well. One of the greatest and most quotable nerd movies not made by Monty Python.
The Others: I’d honestly forgotten about this gem until I saw it in the new arrivals on Netflix. A great ghost story in the fine British ghost story tradition, with a number of sharp twists, some amazing characters, and a few solid scares. I can see why it doesn’t rate as high, though: it’s one of those movies where knowing the twists and tricks makes any subsequent viewings less entertaining. That or because watching it streamed to my TV is nothing like seeing it in a huge darkened theater.
The Blair Witch Project: Again, maybe this is nostalgia talking, but I thought this was a pretty slick film for a low-budget horror entry. I saw it late in its run, sometime after the actors were appearing on late night talk shows, which deflated all the wonderful hype: the Sci-Fi and History channel fake documentaries, the promotional blitz, the “found footage” angle… I soaked all the crap up. It had some seriously tense moments, even if the overall experience was something of a letdown.
The People Under the Stairs: This was about the 16th film that popped up every time, even though I’m not sure calling it horror is accurate. It’s Wes Craven, yes, but it’s his attempt to combine his horror expertise with an urban fantasy fairy-tale angle which tries to straddle that line between Magic Negro cliche and prostitute older sister gritty and inbred mutant offspring weird. It’s not a bad movie, not a good movie, and I think I’ve seen it far more than any sane person should.
Signs: I love this film for its suspense and tension. Plenty of eerie occurances drove me to the edge of my seat; what brought it all home was the scene of Joaquin Phoenix watching the South American Birthday Party alien footage. Unlike The Sixth Sense, this one was actually scary, though I liked the first one more. But you do have to turn your brain off, because the plot is ludicrous aliens too retarded to rrealize this planet is made up of stuff what kills them is about as inane as aliens invading just to harvest our gold. It’s around the point M. Night Shyamalan stopped being Hitchcock 2.0 and jumped the shark—yes, I liked Unbreakable too, sue me—but at least the tension was well done.
The Crazies (remake): One of the few instances where the remake is better than the original. Combine the post-9/11 mindset with anti-Gubbment, flouride-in-the-water, chemtrails-level paranoia. Far from a perfect movie, though it’s got a lot going for it, and does all the basic horror tricks right.
The Walking Dead: It’s not a movie, otherwise it’d be up there. Not just because of its graphic novel roots, but because it does the zombie genre right: looking at the survivors, an introspection of humanity, rather than taking the cheap scares and obligatory zombie film cliches.
Grindhouse: This was the previous horror movie I saw in theaters before Cloverfield; Deathproof was a Tarantino-style snorefest—seeing it at three in the morning after a hard day of finals and moving my boss in didn’t help the long, dull conversations from people we’d just met, and had less invested in than the people what died—but Planet Terror was a spectacular exercise in zombie-action theatrics. Oh, and the trailers were pretty badass.
This list is also incomplete; I’m still catching up on the films I missed while I was in college. Somebody tell Netflix to get off their ass and put The Descent and 28 Days Later on streaming.
The full list (and meme) are as follows:
The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen HORROR films you’ve seen that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
- The Thing (1982)
- The Birds (1964)
- Alien (1979)
- Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
- Shaun of the Dead (2004)
- Pitch Black (2000)
- Night of the Living Dead (1968)
- Them! (1954)
- Se7en (1995)
- Jaws (1975)
- In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
- Halloween (1978)
- Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- Tremors (1990)
- Cloverfield (2008)