Recently, someone asked me if I would be willing to list, say, my top ten horror movies. I'm not normally the kind of guy who likes doing lists - they seem sort of glib to me, and what works for me might not for another person. also, there's something about ranking works of art that seems a little weird to me. Like, there's not necessarily one thing that makes one movie better than another, necessarily - they're both good, but in different ways. And making a list always opens you up to objections - why this movie and not that one, how can you have this movie but not this other one, how can you say this movie is good but this one isn't.
So, having gotten all of my caveats and yes-buts and general ass-covering out of the way, here are ten of my favorite horror films. These are the ones that I think have stood the test of time, or will stand the test of time, or continue to haunt my brain long after I've watched them. They are in no particular order, except maybe the ease with which they came to mind.
1. The Shining
2. Night Of The Living Dead
3. The Thing
I've already said my piece about this film, but it's totally memorable to me as one of the first monster movies to actually fill me with a sense of loathing or revulsion. The alien reallyis alien - it's not some dude in a rubber suit with some extra appendages or forehead ridges. It flat out does not make sense in terms of how we understand life on this planet. And as its biology is beyond our comprehension, so are its motives. We don't know what it wants. It cannot (or will not) communicate. It only assimilates and propagates. The overall sense of tension is helped by the fact that all of the characters are basically trapped in a hostile environment and they don't like each other very much to start, so the stakes are immediately ramped up (the outside is hostile) and there's little to no margin for error when everyone's damn near ready to shoot each other as it is and now they have another reason to hide things, to lie about things, to fly apart instead of working together.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
No amount of stupid sequels and reboots and sequels to reboots can dim the gonzo, utterly batshit power of the original. In the words of the immortal Joe Bob Briggs, "by the time you're done watching this movie, you'll think it was actually made by cannibals." It is raw, grainy, kinetic, and immediate. The whole thing hurtles along like a fever dream on amphetamines, with a gloriously hot, grimy visual palette and lunatic energy. It starts off weird and just stomps on the gas and hurtles forward from there. I remember being in middle school and some kid relating the plot of it to me, and it sounded so bizarre and ridiculous that I chalked it up to a playground bluff - he hadn't seen it but wanted to act like he had so he made up the most fucked-up thing he could think of to pass off as the actual movie. When I finally saw it, it was exactly what he had described. It's not especially gory - something I think a lot of modern pretenders forget - instead, it derives its power from its amateurishness, which makes it look like somebody's snuff-film home movie, combined with fast, tight action, extreme close-ups, and piercing feedback in lieu of conventional music in spots. You think you're seeing more than you actually are, and that makes it even worse. It's a screaming, squirming, utterly alive film.
5. The Ring