As manly as I appear (let me think it, people), I have a number of irrational fears. I can thank horror films for developing my coulrophobia, thalassophobia, ornithophobia (look them up) and fear of supernatural entities. Here’s a list of films that scared the hell out of me (and continue to do so).
15. Event Horizon (1997)
Panned by critics when released, Event Horizon has developed somewhat of a cult following since then. Borrowing some psychological, eerie drama from Solaris while mimicking the horror of Alien, Event Horizon is easily the most underrated and under appreciated horror film on this list. Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne star in a film about a team responding to a distress signal coming from a ship that had gone missing seven years prior. The lost starship, called the Event Horizon, tested an experimental gravity drive that generated artificial black holes to bridge two points in space time, which reduced traveling time through space. As the team investigates the disappearance and sudden reappearance of the starship, they discover the horror the original crew faced. It’s gruesome and disturbingly awesome. You may never see the famous Dr. Grant the same way again.
14. The Birds (1963)
Leave it up to the master of suspense to develop a fear of the least scary thing on the planet. I can never walk down the street comfortably without wondering what the birds in the trees are up to. The 1963 classic is more suspenseful than scary. It’s practically Jaws on land, building tension so well between bird attacks that it you will make sure all the windows around you are closed and secured. Thanks a lot, Alfred Hitchcock, for making me think every bird has some sort of murderous agenda.
13. Poltergeist (1982)
After what the Freelings went through in this film, I will forever check the history of the future homes I rent or own. Poltergeist is considered a classic in the genre by using horror elements in a film about an all-caring family over going above and beyond for each other’s love to persevere against demonic entities. While there are plenty of scary scenes in the movie, none is creepier than the toy clown sitting next to Robbie’s bed. Seriously, who keeps a large clown doll next to their bed? What the hell were you thinking, Robbie?
12. Suspiria (1977)
No horror list is complete without Dario Argento. The influential Italian director has produced many great movies, but his supernatural horror classic, Suspiria, is one that stands out. Argento was a master of colors, and created such a unique environment that it’s difficult not to appreciate the beauty of the film behind the blood and gore.
11. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Considered to be James Whale’s masterpiece, The Bride of Frankenstein is another prime example of a sequel superior to the original. This horror classic is as grotesque as it is beautiful and should not be missed.
10. Halloween (1978)
It’s been more than 30 years since John Carpenter’s classic, and it’s still the best slasher film ever made. It paved the way for future slasher hits (such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and My Bloody Valentine) and borrowed many elements from the film that started it all (which will be mentioned later in the list). Carpenter’s sharp camera angles and lack of blood and gore left much to the imagination, and the simple music is enough to send a chill down your spine and make you look out for a tall guy wearing a mask and a blue jumpsuit.
9. The Thing (1982)
Watching The Thing as a child was not the smartest thing to do. The repulsive, nauseating visuals is sure to make you regret eating something before watching the film. John Carpenter abandoned the gore-less, dark visuals and opted for an outlandish, shocking horror mess, but what a beautiful mess it is.
8. The Evil Dead (1981)
Before showing us a tearful Peter Parker, Sam Raimi made his name with the horror classic, The Evil Dead. It’s a simple premise: five college students spend Spring Break into a creepy, isolated cabin. The students found and played a tape recorder that played demonic incantations, which unleashed evil demons. And it gave us one of the best cult heroes in the history of film: Ash Williams (played by Bruce Campbell).
7. Psycho (1960)
Psycho is the hipster of slasher films. It was a cool before slashers were popular in the late 70s and 80s. Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece may not have aged well in the horror genre, but it’s hailed as a classic. While it lacks in the scares department, it is just as disturbing as any other film on this list thanks to Hitchcock’s direction and Anthony Perkins’ remarkable performance.
6. The Shining (1980)
Though Stephen King was not a fan of the film adaptation of his novel, just about everyone else was. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is hauntingly gorgeous, with memorable visuals and performances from all the actors. The slow pace allows tension to build in the film as well as within the audience. Every time it’s on television, I want to change the channel but I can’t. The Shining has enough scares and gore to make someone turn off the television, but so much intrigue and drama to keep anti-horror viewers from changing the channel.
5. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s science fiction horror is one of the best films ever made. It’s slow pace and claustrophobic, dark environment full is downright creepy. Scott rarely showed the alien’s full body, leaving much of it in your head. And don’t even get me started on the chestburster.
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
I will never forget the first time I saw an 11-year-old child zombie feasting on a man. George A. Romero’s classic is as gruesome as it is intelligent. The film truly captures an American society fearful of the Cold War, as well as the people’s frustration with their government. Romero reinvented the zombie, as well as horror film-making.
3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
A haunting, psychological thriller that will literally make you go as crazy as Rosemary (an amazing performance by Mia Farrow). Roman Polanski creates an eerie, harrowing setting without any gore. The direction is brilliant, but it was the performances from the actors that make the film’s premise turn from laughable to believable.
2. Jaws (1975)
Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster was one of the first films I remember watching, and it still haunts me to this day. The most disturbing scenes are those in which the shark is not visible, which is a testament to Spielberg’s talent (or luck, considering the fact that the shark rarely worked). Only he could create a an adventure film layered with just enough horror to make people afraid of the water.
1. The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist will seriously scare the hell out of you (no pun intended). William Friedkin’s story of a young girl possessed by a demon is one of the most chilling of all time. It is one of those movies in which everything is perfect; the direction, casting and music create a disturbing demonic spell that will loom over you for months, making it difficult to sleep.