"When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, 'No, I went to films.'"
- Quentin Tarantino
Greg, a fan of this site, once asked me, "What are your favorite Horror Movies? That
is, the Scariest?"
So here we
go, the top 10 SCARIEST movies and each one annotated.
Why the explanations? Because everyone ALWAYS questions the reason
behind the picks on a top ten list.
*Denotes those movies that had, at one time, been banned or remain so.
One more caveat: There are so many movies that I love that did not make the list.
From Lucio Fulci to Peter Jackson. But the question here was not only
the best Horror movie, but specifically the SCARIEST movies.
Horror has its own Top Ten.
1. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) *
When Christine (played by Mary Philbin) pulled Erik's (played by Lon Chaney) mask off and his hideous face beneath was revealed, audiences (men and women) screamed and passed out. Some bolted from the theater!
You wouldn't be frightened today, as nearly a century of innumerable magazines and photographs have been on display everywhere depicting "The Face".
In the days of videotape, they even had a photo of him without the mask right on the box cover.
Such marketing - so very poor.
But the mask coming off proved to be a popular device for scaring folks. The same thing
happened with . . . ^
(Lots of good Horror movies in the 1930s. Some true classics! But no scary movies in the 1930s and 40s.)
| 2. HOUSE OF WAX (1953)
This was a remake of the Fay
Wray movie, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM. When audiences saw that
movie however, they were expecting Fay Wray to scream, waited for
it, and were amused when she did (it was her
reputation from her role in KING KONG. Fay Wray was the first Scream Queen). The surprise of HOUSE OF WAX (Besides the fact that it was shot in 3D!!!) is that it was played for droll laughs right up until the time that Vincent Price grabs his victim. She beats against his face, causing his wax visage to break and fall away, revealing the grotesque features beneath. Suddenly all the fun is gone and things are getting damn scary and tense FOR REAL! IN 3D! (the movie was black and white for 3D but originally shot in color). Laughter followed by Fright was a staple of Vincent Price movies. This moment, a call back to PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, so terrified audiences that it has become a standard of horror movies. Vincent Price did it again with his THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. It was repeated in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. Remember the face-falling-apart scene
in David Cronenberg's remake of THE FLY?
As a side note, I also like the way Warner Bros. enticed you with the
magic of 3D. On this poster at the top left, the bold yellow words
read, "Beauty and Terror meet in your seat..."
3. PSYCHO (1960)*
There's no getting around
it, even in today's audience savvy world, when you find someone
who has never seen Alfred Hitchcock's classic, there is that moment
with "Mother" that makes them leap out of their skin. A movie that,
like nearly all horror movies, unnerves the audience with a suggestive
"It could happen to YOU" undercurrent. Robert
Bloch's first masterpiece in movies.
Read James Futch's
brilliant personal account of the PSYCHO movies.
|4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)*
Some movies build up to the shocks, some movies throw in unexpected shocks, but NIGHT was the first movie I ever saw where the tension
begins in the first 5 minutes and Never - Lets - Up.
No explanation for why the dead are coming back to life; no exposition at all. It is happening and we have to deal with it. Romero's classic dances on your nerves right to the very last second of film.
5. ASYLUM (1972)*
Animated killer dolls
with human organs inside them; body parts stuffed in bags and still
moving; this Peter Cushing classic so pushed the edge of Horror that
it was banned in many countries (it remains
banned in Finland). Some scenes which were considered Over-The-Top
for their time, are still able to deliver the shocks. Robert Bloch's second book-to-movie masterpiece.
Robert Block, Vincent Price, and Peter Cushing all died within a year of
Continued on Page 2
This review copyright 2008 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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Read Susan Kay's remarkably powerful book PHANTOM.
It's a must for all who love the original Gaston Leroux novel.
10 years later and I still can't get it out of my mind!
a little thing, a kiss . . . "
I've lived half a century without knowing what it is to be kissed
. . . "
"My mind has touched the farthest horizons of mortal imagination
and reaches ever outward to embrace infinity. There is no knowledge
beyond my comprehension, no art or skill upon this entire planet
that lies beyond the mastery of my hand. And yet . . .
For as long as I live, no woman will ever look on me in love."