Donovan’s Favorite Horror Films

I went through the 500 highest-rated horror movies on the Internet Movie Database and picked out my favorites. I tried to keep this to a Top Ten list—but here’s fifteen (in chronological order and with links to trailers):

  • Nosferatu (1922): F.W. Murnau’s unauthorized rip-off of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is better than any Dracula film ever made, due in great part to Max Schreck’s amazing portrayal of Count Orlok.
  • Curse of the Demon (1957; aka Night of the Demon): Based on M.R. James’ classic story, “Casting the Runes”, this film features a demon that’s simultaneously hokey and awesome.
  • Psycho (1960): Direction by Alfred Hitchcock, music by Bernard Herrmann, and starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. Wow... It doesn’t hurt that it begins in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Quatermass and the Pit (1967): One of the best “Lovecraftian” films that wasn’t even inspired by Lovecraft. The writer, Nigel Kneale, was responsible for a number of very eerie British productions including The Stone Tape and several other Dr. Bernard Quatermass TV series and films.
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971): One of my guilty pleasures, this is hands-down my favorite Vincent Price film. It’s campy fun where you get to root for the bad guy! And I love the groovy Art Deco sets.
  • The Exorcist (1973): The combination of low-brow and high-brow horror elements combine to create a film with incredibly wide appeal. The direction by William Friedkin (The French Connection and Sorcerer) contributed greatly.
  • Alien (1979): A fantastic haunted-house-in-space film. Ridley Scott’s film direction and H.R. Giger’s art direction made for a pretty creepy combination.
  • The Shining (1980): I enjoy this primarily because it’s by Stanley Kubrick, not because it’s by Stephen King (who says he hated the film). Jack Nicholson’s acting and the cacophonous soundtrack really amp this movie up a notch.
  • The Thing (1982): The special effects ruin the mood in a couple of spots and heighten it in others, but it’s the paranoia between the men that make this a great film.
  • The Fly (1986): The transformation at the end is too rapid and mars the conclusion, but the mental states that Seth Brundle goes through prior to that are great to watch. I especially like Brundle’s interactions with his computer and the creepiness of the simple response it gives at one point: “Secondary element is not-Brundle.”
  • Angel Heart (1987): This is my favorite horror film of all time, based on William Hjortsberg’s incredible book, Falling Angel, which reads like it was co-written by Raymond Chandler and William Peter Blatty. Mickey Rourke is at his finest here and the thick fabric of the film’s timeline rewards repeated viewings. Definitely not for the faint of heart...
  • Near Dark (1987): I’m not much into vampires, but the way this film turned the genre on its head was remarkable. Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton are a real joy to watch.
  • Jacob’s Ladder (1990): Though I’m not a Tim Robbins fan, I love the way this film makes the viewer every bit as confused as Robbins’ character.
  • The Resurrected (1992): One of the best Lovecraft films out there, this is based on my favorite Lovecraft story, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
  • The Ring (2002): I’ve yet to see Ringu, the Japanese film it’s based on, but I doubt I’d like its setting better than the rainy and atmospheric Pacific Northwest that dominates this creepy film.

Happy movie watching—and Happy Halloween!