A list of what I would recommend as anywhere from good to great horror movies, by year.
Tracking 80 favorite movies from 53 different years.
- 🤷 means I don't have much confidence in my memory of the movie.
- 👀 means it's a movie I want to watch or possibly re-watch.
Knock at the Cabin. 2023, M. Night Shymalan. 🐞🏠🏇🏇🏇🏇🌊🤒🛩️😀👏 I really liked this movie, but I can’t quite decide if I loved it or not. It’s definitely the best M. Night movie I’ve seen in a while. I mentioned this with Old. So much of these kinds of fantastical horror movies depend on selling the audience on the impossible scenario, and this one does a good job of it, by drawing you into the characters immediately. Characters are so, so important in horror. (Amazon Prime.)
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1. 2023, Christopher McQuarrie. 🌊🔑🛩️💣🚗🕺🏃♂️🤜🤺🔪🚆🛤️🪂🔑 Woo new Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movies have become one of the most exciting action movie events in modern cinema. I don’t know who is doing the music for this one but they sound like they’re trying for a note-for-note reproduction of the Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Overall, the AI stuff was silly, of course, but it was still a fun movie full of fun action sequences. (Amazon Video.)
The Menu. 2022. 🍽️🌮🍔😮😀👏 Not what you think. Creepy. Psychological. Sarcastic. Riveting. Aimee Carrero outside of Critical Role. The limitless human capacity for self-delusion. Good stuff. (Max.)
Nope. 2022, Jordan Peele. 🐴🛩️👽🌥️🎈😯🤩😍👏 Turned out it wasn’t really a horror movie, it’s more of a science ficion movie. But wow, this is a fantastic movie. Jordan Peele is an amazing filmmaker. Just let him make all the movies, please. Tear down the Marvel Industrial Complex once and for all. (Amazon Prime.)
Last Night in Soho. 2021, Edgar Wright. 👩🏙️👗🛌💃🍸🎶🔪😯😍👏 A fantastic movie in every department. The music, sound design, and cinematography was amazing. Some hand-wavy dream logic at times, but otherwise a real gem. Somehow, I’d never heard of it before. I blame the Marvel Industrial Complex. Those blockbusters made from fake-looking video game CGI suck the oxygen out of everything else. Admittedly I’m not very plugged into the latest movie releases anymore. (Amazon Prime.)
Alone. 2020, John Hyams. 🚗🛻🏠🌲🏃♀️🌲🏃♀️🌲🏃♀️😀 Not to be confused with the zombie movie of the same name in the same year. A character smoking on camera again! 2020 is apparently the year where everyone smokes in movies again. Blue Ridge Mountains? Suitably creepy antagonist. Suitably creepy driving alone at night situation. Taps into the modern cultural fear of the vaguely rural white man who acts like the serial killer in every true crime docudrama. The key to this kind of survival story working is for the victim to survive using their own ingenuity, and they mostly did. Lots of tension. I liked it. (Hulu.)
Saint Maud. 2019, Rose Glass. ✝️👩⚕️💃👞👿🦋🕯️😀👏 Ambient horror soundscapes cut-and-paste from Royalty-Free Horror Soundscapes Volume 47. But other than that, I genuinely don’t know how to describe this movie. Misery vibes. The Exorcist vibes. Serial killer vibes. Discomforting psychosis vibes. Strong character drama. Lots to discuss. I was mesmorized from beginning to end and had no idea where it was going. (Amazon Prime.)
Annihilation. 2018. 👍👍 Great book, too. Great movie. No idea why the studio lost confidence in it and dumped it on Netflix.
The Haunting of Hill House. 2018. 👍👍 It’s a miniseries, not a movie, but worth remembering.
Hereditary. 2018, Ari Aster. 🪦👻🚗👧💈🪦🥛👻🧙♀️🤔 Another “elevated” horror movie referenced in Scream (2022). Never seen a movie begin with an obituary title card before. Cool camera trickery at the start. Another movie where “elevated” means quiet and slow with an ambient score. It’s not really about anything, except family grief, until a solid 1 hour and 15 minutes into the movie, which is a long time to wait for a story hook. But it’s pretty creepy if you can stand to wait that long. Then it takes a pretty hard left turn and it feels like two different movies smooshed together. Ended on a somewhat confusing note, but worth seeing. (Max.)
Bird Box. 2018. 👍🤷 Eh maybe not deserving to be on this list, but it wasn’t terrible.
Get Out. 2017, Jordan Peele. 🏠👨👩👧👦😵💫📺🚔😂😀👏 Finally got around to watching it. It is, in fact, really good. I found it more funny than scary. Just watch it. (Amazon Prime.)
Gerald's Game. 2017. 👍👍 One of the best Stephen King adaptations.
The Wailing. 2016, Korean. 👮♂️🤷👨👧👻😢😀👏 The first half hour is a subtitled fever dream. Was it Keystone Kops investigating a ghost? A comedy? Koreans’ open contempt for the Japanese? Not sure. But it didn’t start very scary. Or coherent. But! Somewhere around the halfway point, it turned into a very compelling horror movie with stakes. After that, there’s a lot of screaming and, well, wailing, and it’s hard to look away. A good find. (Amazon Prime.)
10 Cloverfield Lane. 2016. 👍👍
Train to Busan. 2016, Korean. 👨👧🚆🧟♀️🏃🏃♀️🏃♂️🎵🙂 It’s okay, but I got a bit bored in the middle of it. I never really liked the zombie craze. Zombies are gross and I don’t like gross horror. But I kept hearing this one is a fresh take on zombies … except it’s not, really, is it? Besides it’s on a train in a different language? Everything felt contrived, the zombies looked performative, and the number of times the plot depended on characters and situations being cartoonishly non-believable extended well beyond credible limits, so it was difficult to form any attachment to it. But it wasn’t bad. I just never got emotionally invested in it, which is clearly what needed to happen for the bits at the end to land right. (Amazon Prime.)
Bone Tomahawk. 2015, S. Craig Zahler. 🤠🌵🏇🚶😀 Star power. I like a good western, and there aren’t many, but this is one of them. It’s a minimalist character-driven period western that only veers into survival horror in the final act. A posse of eclectic characters on the trail of (as far as I know, entirely fictional) mute, cannabalistic, cave-dwelling kidnappers, who kill with ghost-like savagery, like proto-Predators, so it’s okay for the audience to view them as straight-up soulless video game monsters (or at least, that’s certainly the hope). Somewhat clumsily distances itself from the problematic tropes of older westerns, but doesn’t go as far as re-writing history. Another horror director who wants to do his own music. Luckily there isn’t much, except the oddly out-of-place operatic end title music. Character performances drive most of this movie. The lack of Hollywood-style over-the-top sound effects and music during the scary bits somehow makes it even scarier. Can’t decide if I liked it or loved it. It’s an indescribably odd duck. (PlutoTV.)
The VVitch. 2015, Roger Eggers. 👶🐇🏆💋🐐🧙♀️🙂 Nice supernatural period drama but pretty slow-paced. I recognized the references from historical Salem Witch trial documents (at one point I thought they were building to an actual trial). I thought it got a bit too trippy at the end though, like a Stanley Kubrick movie, and I’m not entirely sure I fully understood the character arc. (Max.)
It Follows. 2014, David Robert Mitchell. 👩💋👀🚶♀️👀🚶👀🚶♂️🙂 It was on my watch list for 2014 horror movies, and it was mentioned in Scream (2022) as an “elevated” horror film, so I had to watch it. Talk about yer STDs, amirite? Elevated, btw, means brooding with long, slow camera pans, pushes, and pulls. Creepy, but there’s a bit of dream logic. The story rules don’t quite make sense and there’s no resolution which I guess makes it extra artful? Anyway it’s not bad. It has a very 70s unglamorous look with a very 80s Stranger Things soundtrack. (Netflix.)
The World's End. 2013, Edgar Wright. 🍺🍺🚗💧🤖😂😀 Figured I’d finally watch the other two movies in that Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright trilogy thing. It takes a long while to get to the hook, but luckily it’s engaging until then. How do these losers know kung fu and shiz. But anyway, it’s good stuff. A return to what made Shuan of the Dead great… comedy without parody. (Amazon Video.)
World War Z. 2013. 👍
Byzantium. 2012, Neil Jordan. 🧛♀️🧛♀️👩👧🩸🦇😍😀👏👏 Searching for a 2012 horror movie. Somewhat expository dialog at times. Classically broody goth atmosphere. Coventry carol is best carol. Strong character drama. Mystery. Moral ambiguity. The curse of the vampire. Gothic romance. Riveting. Then more riveting. Then an extra helping of riveting piled on top of the previous mountain of riveting. One of the best vampire movies. Maybe ever? Just maybe. Assuming you like gothic vampire mythos in the vein of Interview With The Vampire, but better. (Turns out, it’s the same director.) (PlutoTV.)
Cabin in the Woods. 2011. 👍👍🤷 I feel like my memory of this might be suspect. I remember loving it, but was it really that good? Need to rewatch.
The Thing. 2011. 👍🤷 I distantly remember liking it.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil. 2010, Eli Craig. 🧢🧢🛻🌲🪚🐝🪵🩸🐕🔥🙂 Almost positive I started watching this once, but don’t remember finishing it. Ha their “fixer upper” looks like an exact replica of a dilapidated house on my family’s West Virginia property when I was a kid. Surely I’m not the only one rooting for all these college kids to die? Mixing comedy and horror is a tricky business. It makes sense for a horror to have comedy in it, but a comedy with horror in it usually turns out to be more of a parody. This one’s pretty funny though. Classic mistaken identity humor. Also surprisingly touching at times. (Amazon Prime.)
Triangle. 2009, Christopher Smith. 👩⛵️⛈️🛳️🔫🏃♀️😯🤩👏 Started a bit slow, but has some very compelling plot developments. At first I thought it would end up similar to Dead Calm (1989), but it went a completely different way. There are some logical inconsistencies, and too much shaky-cam, but it’s a fantastic horror story. Never even heard of it before, but it’s a great find. One of the best ones I’ve seen recently. (Tubi.)
Let The Right One In. 2008, Swedish, Tomas Alfredson. 👦👧🩸💕😀 The search for more 2008 horror movies than just Cloverfield. Drenched in slow, depressing, nihilistic Swedish film drama. A sad but engrossing story about a kid befriending a vampire kid. Nobody ever listens to the cats. Some occasional “how did they film this without breaking any labor laws” vibes. Lots of visual storytelling. Good flick. Good music. There’s an English remake. (Amazon Prime.)
Cloverfield. 2008. 👍
Diary of the Dead. 2007, George A. Romero. 🎬🎥🚌🏥🎥🧟🧟🎥🏠🧟🧟♀️🧟♂️🙂 The fifth in the George A. Romero Living Dead series. I don’t like found footage or handheld camera work in general so I was sure this was going to be terrible. What I will say, though, is that this is a found footage film created by professionals who know how to hire actors and write scripts and block scenes for long takes. So in that sense it’s automatically better than most. And, dammit, it’s actually not bad. Limited motion sickness. Good characters. Decent story. Accurately bleak view of humanity. And it’s another keen George A. Romero observation of society’s faults (this time, in the area of media obsession and media trust and the rise of Internet journalism and populism). It pains me to say I kind of liked it. As with all the ones before, it’s no masterpiece, but it’s worth watching. (Tubi.)
The Mist. 2007. 👍🤷 I think there were two different versions, one of them was good, don’t remember which.
I Am Legend. 2007. 👍 I think this movie is popularly derided for its ending, but I remember liking it before I read that I wasn’t supposed to like it.
The Host. 2006, Korean, English, Bong Joon-ho. 🥼🐟🐙🏃🏃🏹👧😀 A monster movie with an absurd sense of humor, but I liked it. Good cast and story. More than just running around screaming. But still, lots of overacting. And a blatantly anti-American message for some reason (well, a reason explained on Wikipedia). No idea why it’s called “The Host” though. (Paramount+.)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose. 2005. 👧😈🏛️👩⚖️😀👏 I remember this as one of the spookiest horror movies I’ve ever seen, so when I saw Jaedia’s review giving it only three stars (and describing it more as a courtroom drama, which I didn’t remember at all) I had to rewatch it to see if I misremembered. I both did and didn’t. What I remembered were the flashbacks, which I still think are pretty spooky and memorable. In re-watching, what I love is the juxtaposition of the skeptical and the spiritual. Personally I thought this was a better movie than The Exorcist. Good score, too. (Hulu.)
Land of the Dead (Unrated). 2005, George A. Romero. 🏙️🧟🧟♀️🧟♂️🚛🔫🧨🔫🔥🔫🙂 The next in the “Living Dead” movies, following twenty years after Day of the Dead from 1985, capitalizing on the peak zombie media years. I genuinely didn’t know George A. Romero had directed so many of these canonical Dead movies. Here we can definitely see how much the George A. Romero and The Walking Dead universes are creatively intertwined, in the sense that they both highlight life after the zombie apocalypse. DC and Marvel, so to speak. The same, but legally distinct. Wikipedia tells me the first The Walking Dead comic came out a year before this movie. Anyway on to the movie. Nice prologue. It’s a bleak vision of humanity. You can tell by the desaturation. It’s Mad Max Thunderdome with zombies. More action movie than ever before. It’s the continuing theme of humans being humans (“humans being”), this time featuring class warfare. Also smarter zombies. Somebody did a fairly impressive imitation of a Wilhelm Scream that wasn’t an actual Wilhelm Scream at 1:14:23. This installment wasn’t fantastic (none of them are, so far), but it was a decent cast of characters and a sufficiently acerbic metaphor for humanity so it was good enough. (Amazon Video.)
Shaun of the Dead. 2004, Edgar Wright. 🥱🧟🧟♀️🧟♂️🍺🎮😂😀 A rewatch because I’m tired of trying to find decent new horror movies. Specifically I wanted to see just how much this influenced Tucker & Dale, and how it handled the mixing of comedy and horror. It’s a more expertly crafted movie, and it genuinely manages to be a comedy with horror elements, instead of the other way around, without turning into parody. I can’t think of any other movies that pull that off. Didn’t like all the skaky cam though. (Hulu.)
Saw. 2004, James Wan. 👍🤷 I don’t like gruesome horror but I don’t remember it being that gruesome actually. Mostly a lot of talking and psychological horror.
Underworld. 2003. 👍🤷 More of an action movie I think.
The Ring. 2002, Gore Verbinski. 🏆🕵️♀️📼📺⚫️📞🪜🐎💀📼🙂 Halloween Night Scares. I remember this as one of the scariest horror movies I’ve ever seen, but after finding the original Japanese version a bit meh, I wondered if that was a false memory, so I had to check. It’s got the green The Matrix look. Seems more grounded in reality, which makes it feel scarier than the Japanese version, which was a bit more fantastical (both the characters were psychics or something). Definitely creepier imagery. Somewhat better characters, although the ex-husband is kind of a jerk. There’s a lot of detective work and not very much action. And I’m still not sure I get how the videotape ended up being cursed. Overall it’s not as good as I remember. I almost fell asleep near the end. I must have been in a highly suggestible mood when I first watched it. I can’t remember where I read this, but perhaps it was memorable simply because it was so different from the two decades of horror slashers that preceded it, and ushered in a period of more psychological than monster-based horror. I’ve marked it as canonical for being the first movie to introduce Japanense horror to the West. Also, I swear I remember a scene at the end where they put the tape in a video rental store, but it was missing in this version and ended ambiguously. Maybe that’s just how I wanted it to end. (I’m pretty sure DVDs had replaced VHS by the time this movie came out and Netflix had replaced video rental stores. I’m almost positive I first watched this on a Netflix DVD rental.) Also, Samara clearly inspired the video game FEAR. (Paramount+.)
28 Days Later. 2002. 👍🤷 Was this the first one where the zombies learned how to run?
Resident Evil. 2002. 👍🤷 More of an action movie I think.
What Lies Beneath. 2000. 👍👍
Final Destination. 2000. 👍 I was a big fan of James Wong’s work on early seasons of The X-Files and on Space Above and Beyond.
eXistenZ. 1999, David Cronenberg. 🎮🔫🔌🫀🩸🦠🙂 The search for a 1999 horror alternative to Blair Witch. A virtual reality gaming cautionary tale I never heard of, from back when virtual reality scared people. Star power. Cronenberg prioritizes the absurdly weird and grotesque more than a grounded story or characters. Has a 1950s black-and-white Martian science fiction feel. The surreal dialog is oddly compelling. The gross squicky organic creature gags are utterly irrelevant. But the warning about getting too immersed in games is still a valid message, regardless of the clumsiness (real life death threats against game developers are extremely common now). I didn’t want to like this, but I kind of did. (PlutoTV.)
The Blair Witch Project. 1999, Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez. 🏆🎥🌲🥾⛺️🥱⏩⏩🥱 Brian the Dog said, “Nothing’s happening, nothing’s happening… something about a map.” I gave up after 41 minutes. Little plot and the characters were annoying to be around. The next day I felt bad for abandoning it in the middle (after all, supposedly it’s included in 1,001 movies to watch before you die), so I watched the rest, and I wish I hadn’t. I can see what they were trying to do, but it didn’t work for me. The amount of plot and character development in this could have been shown in 10 minutes. The rest of the time it’s just squinting at a grainy picture trying to see anything that might be scary while trying not to get physically ill from motion sickness. (Paramount+.)
Apt Pupil. 1998. 👍🤷
Ring. 1998, Japanese, Hideo Nakata. 🏆🕵️♀️📼📺⚫️👁️📞🌋💀📼🧐 Halloween Night Scares. I thought I’d watch the original Japanese version, with the expectation that it would be scarier than the English version, which I remember as one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen, if not the scariest. I remember a lot of creeeeeepy imagery, and I just assumed the original Japanese horror (which I think of as creepier than English horror) would go even further. But as it turns out there’s very little creepiness in the original, and it’s a slightly different story, I think. It’s got weirdly silent interior ambiences, like older movies relying on foley work. I guess this is where the popularity of the industrial ambient horror score originated from. I have to admit I’m finding it somewhat hard to follow, and my attention keeps wandering. Like, it’s not clear how any of this is related to a videotape. Not sure they addressed that in the English version either, actually. I have a sinking feeling that if I re-watch the English remake, I won’t like it anymore. Cool end title music though. I’ve marked this as canonical for being the mainstream introduction of Japanese horror to the world. (Amazon Video.)
Event Horizon. 1997. 👍🤷
Scream. 1996, Wes Craven. 🏆👩🔪💀👨🔪👩🔪😂😀 It’s possible I first saw some or all of this in the 2000s. I don’t remember. I have the controversial opinion that even self-aware teen slashers are still teen slashers, but I have to grudgingly admit there’s some story and mystery and likable characters in this one (and, importantly for a movie, decent acting). I noted that, much like the demon voice in The Exorcist, the voice of the killer on the phone sounds more comical than scary. And thus a generation of horror movie parodies were born. (Max.)
Species. 1995. 👍🤷
Interview with the Vampire. 1994. 👍
The Dark Half. 1993. 👍👍 Haven’t seen it since the 90s but I remember this as one of the best Stephen King adaptations.
Bram Stoker's Dracula. 1992. 👍👍
Cape Fear. 1991. 👍🤷
Silence of the Lambs. 1991. 👍🤷 Genuinely not sure if I’ve seen the entire movie because I can’t remember much of the plot.
Flatliners. 1990. 👍👍
Misery. 1990. 👍👍
Dead Calm. 1989. 👍👍
The Seventh Sign. 1988. 👍🤷
Predator. 1987. 👍 Sometimes listed as horror instead of an action movie, in any case it definitely has a survival horror flavor and is essentially the exact same plot as Friday the 13th.
Aliens. 1986, James Cameron. 👍👍 Not technically a horror movie, but it was super scary to me as a teenager. It’s the only R-rated movie I ever “snuck in” to see in a theater.
Day of the Dead. 1985, George A. Romero. 👩🔬🧟🪖🥼🩸🫀🩸🫁🩸🙂 Zombies with a Magnum P.I. soundtrack. The Walking Dead with an 80s aesthetic. Standard “people are worse than zombies” and “military versus scientists” themes. Pretty much the origin of every zombie story concept we know of, as far as I can tell. Excessive amounts of unnecessary and self-indulgent zombie gore toward the end. (Hulu.)
Firestarter. 1984. 👍
A Nightmare on Elm Street. 1984, Wes Craven. 🏆💤👹🔪🥱 Not once since I first heard about this movie in the 80s has it ever occurred to me that I’d ever want to watch this movie. Now I know why. There’s a reason Freddy Krueger is the only thing anyone remembers from this franchise. Formulaic, boring, studio cash cow. Characters deliberately acting thick for the plot. A weirdly Home Alone vibe at the end. Johnny Depp’s first movie. (Max.)
The Thing. 1982, John Carpenter. 🏆❄️🚁🐕🛸👹😨🌨️⚡️🩸🔥😀👏 Halloween Night Scares. Rewatching one of the scariest horror movies I can ever recall seeing. The classic survival horror isolation story, often imitated, here done just about as well as it can be done. I’m reminded that there was an early episode of The X-Files that borrowed heavily from this movie. A rare John Carpenter film where someone else is credited for the music, and it sets a creepier tone than usual (there is still plenty of the signature monotonic John Carpenter synth sound though). That classic 80s anamorphic look. Classic red and blue lighting. Isolation, distrust, claustrophobia, and tension. Still great, though maybe a little dated now. (Amazon Video.)
Poltergeist. 1982, Tobe Hooper. 👍👍 Man this movie scared me as a kid. Haven’t seen it in a long time.
The Shining. 1980, Stanley Kubrick. 🏆👍 Or, Stanley Kubrick’s vivid imagination.
Friday the 13th. 1980, Sean S. Cunningham. 🏆🌲👫🔪👩🔪👨🔪⛈️👩🪓😑 Just checking the box. I believe this is the origin of the unexpected explosion in popularity of the low budget “group of teens dying one by one” genre that makes studio executives salivate. Never wanted to see it. Never expected to like it. Turns out, I didn’t like it. Nice to confirm the confirmation bias. I don’t like teen movies even when they aren’t getting murdered. Anyway on to the movie. Wobbly handheld POV shots from the killer. Low budget. Cheesy music. Cheesy 70s acting and dialog. Cheesy Kevin Bacon. It occurs to me the teen slasher is a survival horror at its core, which I like, but it seems to be filtered to remove any stakes, which makes them boring. For example, the plot of Friday the 13th is essentially the same as the plot of Predator and Alien, and while those movies keep me engaged and on the edge my seat, Friday the 13th doesn’t. I have a lot of time to think these thoughts and write them down, because the movie’s pacing is quite slow. On the plus side, I didn’t see any obvious instances of characters acting dumb to advance the plot (not counting the killer, who conveniently forgot how to kill a few times). I also enjoyed how the killer just blurted out their backstory and rationale at the end even though nobody asked them. Finally, I did actually jump at the Carrie-style jump scare at the end, because I was editing this text instead of watching the screen, when the sudden blast of noise from the speaker made me jump. (Max.)
Alien. 1979, Ridley Scott. 🏆👍👍 I heard my older brothers talking about this and read the Alan Dean Foster book adaptation before I ever saw it, so this movie scared me to death for many many years before I ever actually saw it sometime in the 90s.
Dawn of the Dead. 1978, George A. Romero. 📺🎥👮♂️🚨🚁⛽️🛍️🧟🧟♀️🧟♂️🚁🙂 After watching Night of the Living Dead, I found the next one in the mythos, Dawn of the Dead, on an obscure channel called ReDiscover Television after a Roku search on my television. Inexplicably, Rediscover is apparently a family-friendly channel. Anyway, the zombies look more like circus clowns with all that face makeup amirite. Funny how gas pump nozzles haven’t changed since 1978. Seems to lack much of a plot. The characters are just kind of drifting through the movie’s runtime, attempting to survive through means that don’t entirely make much logical sense. Nodded off a bit in the second half during the big tractor trailer endeavor. I didn’t understand what they were doing or why the helicopter needed to be hovering overhead wasting fuel the whole time. I previously thought that Day of the Dead was the origin of all the The Walking Dead tropes but you can see it starting here; that is, the basic throughline of humans versus zombies turning into humans versus humans, and the ultimate end directly tied to human folly. Wait what they had blood pressure monitor kiosks in 1978? (ReDiscover Television.)
Halloween. 1978, John Carpenter. 🏆🎃👩🔪👩🔪👩🔪🏃♀️🥱😐 Never realized this was a John Carpenter movie. Does what it says on the tin … a teen slasher. The genre-defining ones aren’t any different from the glut of new ones every year. Little character development or story. Poor sound mix. Repetitive John Carpenter music gets old fast. Jamie Lee Curtis’s face and voice apparently haven’t changed since 1978, which makes it look like her face was digitally superimposed onto a tiny body in this movie. (Plex.)
Carrie. 1976. 🏆👍 But not as good as the book, obviously.
Jaws. 1975, Stephen Spielberg. 🏆👍🤷 Sometimes listed as a horror movie and sometimes as a thriller. I was way too scared to see this movie as a kid, because, in my head, based on what I’d heard everyone say, this was a non-stop gruesome blood bath.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 40th Anniversary Edition. 1974, Tobe Hooper. 🏆🚗🚶♂️🧑🦽👫🏠🔨🪚😱🏃♀️😱🏃♀️😱🏃♀️😑 I didn’t expect so much of this movie to be slow and boring. It wasn’t very gory either, contrary to the expectations built up for most of my life. Still, there’s something about the characters and the grainy handheld footage that makes everything feel gross. Interesting that it had a found-footage feel to it, in the sense that all the actors seemed to be improvising their lines. I could see some innovative quick-cut editing that’s unusual for the time. Otherwise the non-stop screaming for the last half hour really got on my nerves, and not in the fun way it was supposed to. (Amazon Prime.)
The Exorcist. 1973. 🏆🐪🎬👩👧🤒🩺😈✝️🛌🧐 Well I finally watched it. I guess I’m obligated to say it was as good as everyone says it is? Although I imagine it was probably a lot more impactful in 1973. In 2023, the pacing is slow and everything looks and sounds fake. The demon’s voice sounded like a literal cartoon voice actor, the least scary demon voice I’ve ever heard, bees or no bees. This is the drawback to watching older classics through modern jaded eyes–I’ve seen the tropes in The Exorcist done better a hundred times. Also, I don’t think I’m supposed to think this, but I found the mom character fairly insufferable. I didn’t think the priest’s internal struggle with faith was shown very well. Max von Sydow wasn’t in the movie enough (also, speaking of demons, he somehow looked exactly the same in this as he did in The Force Awakens). (Max.)
Night of the Living Dead. 1968, George A. Romero. 🏆🪦🧟♂️🏃♀️🏠🔨🛻🔥🧟♂️🧟♂️🧟♂️🧐🙂 After seeing Shaun of the Dead, I wanted to see the other George A. Romero zombie mythos-defining movies. I was going to work backwards from Day of the Dead, which I’d seen a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t find Dawn of the Dead anywhere, so it was Night of the Living Dead then. I think I’ve seen this movie before, but I don’t remember it. I believe Max’s version of this film is the Criterion/MoMA remastered 4K version. It occurs to me that these older horror movies could be considerably improved for a modern audience if they simply remixed the sound. Leave the dialog, augment the badly-recorded, sparse foley sound effects, but most importantly rescore the music. It’s mainly the old-fashioned midrange-heavy music score blaring frantically over the long and slow action scenes that make old horror movies so cheesy. Also the foley work from before they made flesh hits sound like Hollywood rather than reality. Judith O’Dea looks a little like Kim Raver from 24. A surprisingly large portion of the runtime is hammering things on doors and windows. Wait it took him an hour to look upstairs? These two dudes just appeared from the basement? The balding father dude looks like Rob Corddry. Showing this television report must have been a technical challenge–I don’t think you could just film a television screen in 1968? (I’m not sure you can today, either, actually.) I imagine they either had to composite it and/or put some kind of cut-out facade of a television panel in front of a projection screen. Feels like this movie is about six hours long. The rifle sounds like a pellet gun. Overall, surprisingly watchable with some surprising twists. But others have done this story better. (Including George A. Romero.) I wish it didn’t feel like it takes six hours to tell a 20-minute story though. (Max.)
The Birds. 1963, Alfred Hitchcock. 🏆🦜🚗🛥️🦅🩸🏠🥳🦅🏃⛽️🔥🦅🏠🦅🦅🚗 Now consulting the AFI 100 Thrills list to find early horror films. I have a vague memory of being scared by this movie on a weekend re-run seen on the tiny black-and-white kitchen television as a kid. My aunt was terrified of birds, and I find them slightly discomforting to this day. Anyway. Ms. Daniels is quite the obsessive stalker, you see. Why does this dude in California have a New England accent. Seriously what is this lady’s deal? A tetanus shot for bird claws? Read a book, 1960s people! OMG she’s a pathological liar, you see. Jessica Tandy. I’m finding all the verbal chess pretty unexpected and amusing. A surprising amount of the movie is a light entertainment afternoon soap opera. Little Veronica Cartwright, who later plays Lambert in Alien. Impressive composite work to overlay all the birds into these scenes (using “yellowscreen” techniques, apparently). There’s no music. The birds sound synthetic, because they were created on a synthesizer. The children’s song goes, “Ristle-tee, rostle-tee, Hey donnie-dostle-tee knickety-knackety, Rustical quality, Now, now, now.” There must have been at least 50 cigarettes lit and smoked in this movie. I noticed quite early on there’s a lot of actors stepping on each others’ lines, but I think it’s intentional to keep it snappy, so there’s never any verbal pauses. (Some mid-Atlantic accents, too.) Tipi Hedren’s face is always slightly out of focus in closeups. Impressive overhead shot of the town and the burning gas station. Yeesh these loud synthesized bird sounds are creepy and unsettling. It’s such a long movie for 1963! And these old movies just STOP when they’re done, don’t they? Anyway, it’s pretty good. Surprisingly suspenseful, without any music or jump scares, and a surprisingly engaging, if quaint, story. (Make sure to check out the trailer on the Wikipedia page, too. Funny stuff.) (Amazon Video.)
Psycho. 1960, Alfred Hitchcock. 🏆💋👩💵🚗👮♂️B🎱🏨🛀🔪🚗🌊🕵️♂️🔪👨👩🪑💀🧐 Number one on the AFI 100 Thrills list. First time I’ve ever watched it all the way through. “It’s hot as fresh milk.” She’s a thief! Frantic music. Are we meant to think she’s imagining these voices while she drives or are these actual events happening elsewhere? Huh, The Iconic Scene is less than halfway into the movie, wasn’t expecting that. Such an unusual structure to this movie. Starts one way then completely changes to something else. The field of psychiatry always seems to play a prominent role in these older movies. This actor at the end who has to deliver all this dry expositional dialog to explain everything has a tough role. Hard to decide how to rate this. I wasn’t particularly affected by it. I examined it like one of the stuffed birds that Norman Bates made in the movie. I’m not entirely sure why the AFI ranked it higher than The Birds. I guess just because it had never been done before. (Amazon Video.)
The Fly. 1958, Kurt Neumann. 🏆🩸👩🪰🕵️🔬🐈🍾🐹🪰🕸️🙂 Vincent Price in a supporting role (I believe this movie essentially launched his career). Odd structure to the movie, starting with a murder and working backwards. Interesting subtext about the speed of scientific discovery and whether it’s too fast. Luckily they didn’t know about the Internet back then. The laboratory set looked like it must have blown the entire special effects budget of the time. Anyway, it’s actually a decent movie. Surprisingly good performance from Patricia Owens. I daresay she carried the whole movie. (Incidentally I’ve never seen the entire Jeff Goldblum version because it’s gross.) (Max.)
Cat People. 1942, Jacques Tourneur. 🏆👩👨🐈💕👰♀️🦜🚍🏊♀️🐈⬛🧐 Trying to wash the bizarre taste of Cronos out of my mouth, I saw Cat People from 1942 in the Max recommended movie list, and didn’t realize there was a version that preceded the Nastassja Kinski/Malcom McDowell version, so I watched it. Nobody ever listens to the cats. I imagine this was a scandalous movie for a variety of reasons in 1942, but that might just be my media-distorted view of past generations. Otherwise it’s surprisingly watchable, though it isn’t very scary, except for the lack of assurances that no animals were harmed in the making of the movie. But wait, there’s a genuine jump scare at 44:15! The first one in movie history? It is!! It’s no wonder generations of people feared psychology after movies like this. Nice touch that Irena’s costuming changes from light to dark over the course of the movie. (Max.)
Dracula. 1931. 🏆🏰🧛♂️🛳️🏴🦇👧🩸⚰️🥩🫀🧐 Not something I meant to watch, but it just happened to be on the front page of Amazon Prime one day. Surprisingly watchable for an old movie without much of a score. Like watching a play (it’s also a play). Way more Renfield than I was expecting. Sort of a weird ending, though. It just stopped, almost mid-sentence. Apparently there was an epilogue that was cut when “the code” upturned Hollywood debauchery in the 30s, and it wasn’t in Amazon’s version. (Amazon Prime.)