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My Top Ten Favorite Horror Films

This is a list of my favorite horror films. Maybe not the best, but my faves.

10. Session 9

This one was actually not in my first round of the Top Ten. When I came back to the list after letting it gestate a while, I was shocked I hadn’t included it and actually bumped the number one film on the list (Eraserhead) to make room for it. This film creeped me the fuck out. The warped audio. Where Simon lives. And the echoes of The Shining. And Brad Anderson’s awesomeness (The Machinist was thisclose to getting on the list, and I’m scouring the listings to find Transiberian).

9. Angel Heart

This was one of the few films we saw multiple times in the theatre, and the first unrated video I ever bought. This came at a time when I worshipped the pages of Fangoria and couldn’t wait to see the images from those pages brought to life on screen. And the images they didn’t show are some of the most amazing moments in film. The entire atmosphere, the acting, the music, that solemn sax and whisper. The fans, the elevator. The sex scene between Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet was imagination Viagra to me then, and still is. This film marked me.

8. The Blair Witch Project

You’d laugh at me if I told you for months, literally, after seeing this in the theatre, my wife and I had hallucinations. Go ahead and laugh. This is one of the few, very few, films, I had to continually remind myself – in the case of this one whenever it got dark – that it was only a movie. Combine that with a truly brilliant marketing campaign – the SciFi Channel bit, the “Missing” posters, the website – and I was sold before I ever got into the theatre. This has long-lingered at my #2 spot of all-time favorite films, slowly slipping.

7. The Shining

There’s a scene in this film, a scne you’d have to be really familiar with the film to know without watching it again to look for it, that still makes me shudder. When Danny goes up to get a toy under his mother’s caution not to disturb Jack, he walks in and there’s a shot where Jack slowly turns just his head to look over at his son. I swear, that’s worse than the twin girls echoing “Come pla with us, Danny” and blood-barfing elevators. I can’t imagine a more perfect descent into isolation hell than this slow-burning, haunting, visually visceral delight. I. Love. This. Film.

6. 切肤之爱 Audition

I still can’t watch the climactic torture scene of this film without cowering now and then into my clasped hands. But that’s not why it’s on the list. Gore isn’t scary. Hostel isn’t scary. What is terrifying about this film is how slowly the relationship builds between the sad widow and the (seemingly) innocent actress. It’s a perfect play on the secrets people have. There are shocks galore throughout this film, but the patheticness of Asami. It’s the characters here that engage and disturb. Something few films (or filmmakers) can grasp. Show me an eye getting gouged out, I’ll cringe and laugh. Make me care about someone for an hour and then hurt them, and I’ll never be the same.

5. Videodrome

This was another Fangoria favorite. Long before I actually saw the film, I was aware of all of Rick Baker’s awesomeness with the splitting body and intestine-spewing TV. I didn’t quite grasp the idea of th story the first (or third) time I saw it, just marvelled at the FX. I didn’t understand how disturbing the Videodrome broadcast was, with it’s sadomsochism and suggested snuff film, until a good friend (who was also, ironically, a Japanese exchange student) had to leave while we were watching it to collect herself. In fact, I never really appreciated this film until I realized how much it had permeated my stories and ideas.

4. Hellraiser

There seems to be a prevelance of sex mixed into the horror on this list. For that, I thank Clive Barker. His short stories were often lined with some element of sexuality, if not downright about sex. And the dark side of sex. Not the huggy, touchy-feely sex. The sex he wrote about hurt. And Hellraiser put it on the screen. As cheesy as it is at moments (the drunk-scratched opticals are horrid), I am reluctant to see this remade. It’s a classic, even with its badness, and the only film I saw two nights in a row at the theatre. Clive is a master, and this is a masterpiece.

3. うろつき童子 Urotsukidoji

I saw stills from this in some horror mag just before I left for college. Wouldn’t you know I ended up with two roommates who were exchange students from Japan. As much as they tried to appease my thirst to learn about and see (and understand) what I’d come to know as hentai, they did their best to steer me toward the lighter side of anime. Still, like losing your virginity, the first time watching this film is absolutely memorable, even without subtitles or dubbing. I watched it twice before I convinced one of my Japanese friends (not my roommates) to watch through the whole thing and translate it. And I was, if not before, hooked. Wow. A mixture of fantasy, horror and hardcore sex. So many moments in this film have become iconic to me that I can’t imagine daily life without referencing something from conciously or not. Wow. Just, wow.

2. Jacob’s Ladder

I saw Jacob’s Ladder three times in the theatre, once each with two friends and once with my girlfriend (now wife). The first time I saw it, I was literally pressed back into the seat, scared to move. The second time, I knew (mostly) what was going to happen, but still got chills at certain points (the reflection of Jezzie in the mirror and the running of her fingernails down Jake’s back still give me the willies). When I finally saw it with my wife, I was more into her reaction, to get me the high back, despite still loving it myself. And what’s not to love. Adrian Lyne’s take on the demons (which introduced me to my now-favorite photographer, Joel-Peter Witkin – who holds a special place for inspiring Scott – and painter, Francis Bacon, who is so awesome it hurts. Plus, the film was a huge inspiration for the Silent Hill games, which have also been a huge inspiration of mine… lots of inspiration here. Lots of awesome.

1. Texas Chain Saw Massacre

I saw this film for the first time when I was just really starting to get into horror. I thought horror meant blood and guts, and if something wasn’t gushing red, it couldn’t be scary. So I dismissed this film. No blood. Not scary. What sucks about a lot of horror films is that they have limited replay value. Maybe you watch it for the gore or the performances, but after the first few times, the scares don’t scare you. The jumps don’t make you jump. You become immune and comfortable with it. For me, quite the opposite happened with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Every time I watched it, I was more and more horrified, more disturbed, more emotionally devasted. I suddenly realised what sucked about remakes (after actually liking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). I started to understand that fear wasn’t only blood, that horror wasn’t just guts, and that I was only just scratching the surface of what a good horror film could be.

Again, agree or disagree, these are my choices. My favorites. But feel free to comment.

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