Archive for November, 2010


Horror: A List

November 4, 2010

I’m not very fond of horror movies. Not because they largely fail to scare or even to disturb me, a relatively unfair criteria on which to judge them despite it being the genre’s primary purpose, but because their aims are mostly base and uninteresting. At least to someone who, admittedly, does not comprehend fear, violence, and trauma as palpable experiences in his everyday life, or his past. Though one so removed from such things should still be able to respond to a number of elements of these films: an astuteness and creativity of form, and most interestingly to myself, use of monsters, aliens, and supernatural forces as allegorical/metaphorical devices. And I do. Albeit rarely. Other horrors are more abstract, and perhaps some of the films chosen here barely pass as horror, but a case could be made for each.

Horror is certainly more difficult to define than the western and musical genres. For instance, producing a rapid heartbeat and unrelenting suspense does not itself denote horror, otherwise the most effective in my experience, Children of Men, would be horror. That film does attempt to generate incredible amounts of tension, but it’s a war movie or action movie tension. The antagonistic forces go far in more accurately defining a horror movie. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is shot rather similarly to the Cuarón picture, producing suspense from handheld long takes, but in its alien attackers joins Alien and The Thing as horrors of man faced with a threatening species. And there we cross paths with science fiction, but each film features sequences of the terror involved, generally threatening the physical bodies of our human protagonists.

Other brands of horror present in the list include a more psychological, non-supernatural horror. Much harder to define. I considered including Todd Haynes’ excellent Safe in this regard, but it’s ultimately too objective in realising the horror, despite how unnerving it is throughout, and how shattering the end. Thus explains La vie nouvelle and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me being placed; the horror externalised in disturbing cinematic insanity. Edit: Fuck it, Safe is horror. As for order, hah. Calling it rough is an understatement, calling it fixed is ludicrous.

A top 60:

  1. Safe (1995, Haynes)
  2. Psycho (1960, Hitchcock)
  3. The Shining (1980, Kubrick)
  4. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, Lynch)
  5. Dead Ringers (1988, Cronenberg)
  6. The Night of the Hunter (1955, Laughton)
  7. Day of Wrath (1943, Dreyer)
  8. The Cremator (1969, Herz)
  9. Possession (1981, Zulawski)
  10. The Thing From Another World (1951, Nyby/Hawks)
  11. La vie nouvelle (2002, Grandrieux)
  12. White Dog (1982, Fuller)
  13. The Host (2006, Bong)
  14. Wake in Fright (1971, Kotcheff)
  15. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Wiene)
  16. Cat People (1942, Tourneur)
  17. The Birds (1963, Hitchcock)
  18. Bedevil (1993, Moffatt)
  19. Alien (1979, Scott)
  20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, Cuarón)
  21. Suspiria (1977, Argento)
  22. War of the Worlds (2005, Spielberg)
  23. Amer (2009, Cattet and Fozani)
  24. Opera (1987, Argento)
  25. The Territory (1981, Ruiz)
  26. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, Weir)
  27. The Thing (1982, Carpenter)
  28. Halloween (1978, Carpenter)
  29. The Innkeepers (2011, West)
  30. Diabel (1972, Zulawski)
  31. Sisters (1973, De Palma)
  32. The Shout (1978, Skolimowski)
  33. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979, Herzog)
  34. Trouble Every Day (2001, Denis)
  35. The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover (1989, Greenaway)
  36. Witchfinder General (1968, Reeves)
  37. Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Polanski)
  38. Martin (1977, Romero)
  39. The Fly (1986, Cronenberg)
  40. Road Games (1981, Franklin)
  41. Lost Highway (1997, Lynch)
  42. Poison (1991, Haynes)
  43. The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, Epstein)
  44. The Addiction (1995, Ferrara)
  45. The Seventh Victim (1943, Robson)
  46. Let Me In (2010, Reeves)
  47. The Old Dark House (1932, Whale)
  48. Black Sunday (1960, Bava)
  49. Nosferatu (1922, Murnau)
  50. Day of the Dead (1985, Romero)
  51. I Walked With a Zombie (1943, Tourneur)
  52. Peeping Tom (1960, Powell)
  53. A Page of Madness (1926, Kinugasa)
  54. Raising Cain (1992, De Palma)
  55. Eyes Without a Face (1960, Franju)
  56. Kinatay (aka The Execution of P, 2009, Mendoza)
  57. A Bay of Blood (1971, Bava)
  58. Celia (1989, Turner)
  59. What Have You Done to Solange? (1972, Dallamano)
  60. Baghead (2008, Duplass/Duplass)