This Halloween, scare yourself silly by following Jess Sweetman’s guide to the 10 best horror movies of all time.
10. “Cube,” 1997, Vincenzo Natali, Canada:
With a budget scraped together from behind the sofa, a cast populated with the alumnae of Robocop the Series, and wince-inducing splatter effects, “Cube” is the cool Canadian cousin of those rubbish “Saw” movies. If you only see one extremely low budget, 90s Canadian, splatterfest this year, make it “Cube.” (If you see two then double bill it with Pin.)
9. “Audition,” 1999, Takashi Miike, Japan:
If you think that the Japanese original of “The Ring” is the horror equivalent of a German korma, then “Audition” is the perfect film for you. For some reason, no other movie begins with the gentle premise of a Japanese widower seeking a wife and ends with someone feeding vomit to a thing in a bag, because all other movies are wimps and “Audition” will cut them.
8. “The Invitation,” 2015, Karyn Kusama, U.S.A.
From minute one, “The Invitation” is a movie designed to turn you into a human woodlouse, curling deep inside yourself on the sofa by tantalizing you with exactly the perfect drip, drip, drip of crazy. For an added bonus, “The Invitation” is one of the only good horror movies on Netflix right now, so assume the position!
7. “Wolf Creek,” 2005, Greg McLean, Australia
I am never going to Australia, ever, ever, ever, ever. Not for the bush, not for “Neighbours,” not if Queen Kylie Minogue herself handed me a personal invitation carved into a cute koala. Why? Because I’ve seen “Wolf Creek,” and I will never un-see it. This movie shows you what a great script can do for a horror movie, building characters before the action kicks in to the point where I genuinely wanted the characters to just continue having a lovely holiday (spoiler alert – they didn’t.)
6. “The Exorcist,” 1973, William Friedkin, U.S.A.
Yes I know it’s low on the list, but I deducted points for the director causing long-term damage to cast members while filming, as well as the unnecessary and slightly xenophobic opening sequence. Possibly wasted on an audience who were raised on cheap thrills, “The Exorcist” drags you on an emotional journey into the depths of hell.
5. “Get Out,” 2017, Jordan Peele, U.S.A.
If Langston Hughes wrote a horror movie…“Get Out” Is the perfect horror for our times and a beautiful analogy of race relations in America. I also like to secretly believe that it’s the real ending of HBO’s “Girls.”
4. “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” 1984, Wes Craven, U.S.A.
I’m cheating, don’t tell anyone, but I’m sneaking one through five of the franchise within this one entry. Why? Because they rebuilt the slasher genre, because Wes Craven was raised in a weird religion and wasn’t allowed to watch movies as a child, because Heather Langenkamp exists! Because they turned Johnny Depp into tomato juice in the first and added a delightful gay subtext in the second. Because the third one was oddly high budget and had Patricia Arquette in it while the fourth one involved someone being turned into a cockroach and squished. Because the fifth one featured a cast with hair so enormous it took my breath away. All of these movies continue to make me feel like the coolest nine-year-old on the planet. Besides, this is my list. Make your own list!
3. “Don’t Look Now,” 1973, Nicolas Roeg, U.K.
My favorite anecdote about director Nicolas Roeg is his being fired from his role as co-director on “Lawrence of Arabia” because director David Lean didn’t get his jokes. I bet David Lean didn’t get this movie either. “Don’t Look Now” is a moving exploration of grief and loss that also happens to scare the willies out of you.
2. “The Descent,” 2005, Neil Marshall, U.K.
Why would anyone go potholing? Why why why why why WHY? “The Descent” is, I’m pretty sure, an exact illustration of what happens to everyone who goes potholing. As a dead-inside horror fan who became desensitized to all kinds of disgusting and scary stuff far too early, this film made me scream in my living room. “The Descent” is perfect, and gets extra points for featuring a cast of kickass women, even if they are misguided enough to go potholing.
1. “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” 1986, John McNaughton, U.S.A.
From the opening few moments of “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” you know it’s going to be rough ride. Everything about this film is designed to make you feel like you forgot to wash and you’re somehow covered in congealing blood and holding a human foot…from the haunting soundtrack, to the flashes of victims, the sounds of screaming, the VHS playback. Michael Rooker, who outdid himself in this breakout role, is also Instagram gold.
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