I believe it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who famously said “Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” I take umbrage with that ridiculous notion. There’s plenty of things to fear. The world is goddamn cornucopia of terror. Take for example a random clown walking around a forest at night. What the fuck is he doing there? Evil. That’s what. Or what about an abandoned mannequin factory? I guarantee some of those mannequins are sentient. And some might’ve even voted for Trump.
The world is a scary place but thankfully Hollywood has been there to capitalize on our fears for over 100 years. Their greed has helped generations confront and overcome their fears with the magic of cinema. Yay movies! Yay Capitalism! Boo Roosevelt! He was a cripple and had no idea the terror of a forest clown. Worst president ever.
Let’s celebrate Hollywood’s obsession with horror with a list of The Greatest Horror Films Of All Time. The ranking and selection of the films is based on my weird algorithm of influence, impact and plain ol’ spookability.
Enough of the rabble, on with the list.
100. Event Horizon
Space is fucking terrifying. It’s infinite, it’s deserted and it’s more silent than a grave. So naturally, It’s the perfect setting for a horror film. You know what else makes for a great cinematic “haunted house?” Hell. Hell is scary. Paul W. S. Anderson brilliantly decided to merge those elements to create the scariest of peanut butter cups. Event Horizon is essentially Hellraiser in space and that’s not knock against it’s derivativeness. It’s a well executed thriller that doesn’t skimp on the gore.
I am still sour that the original cut is missing because apparently, it’s even more graphic. Tis a pity.
99. Cannibal Holocaust
“The film that goes all the way.”
“The most controversial movie ever made.”
“Banned in over 50 countries.”
There’s not many movies that could live up to such hyperbolic statements but Cannibal Holocaust isn’t your typical movie. Besides including almost every taboo thing you can think of (that includes real life animal murder), it’s actual a very intelligent critique on our obsession with violence. It also inspired every single found footage film in existence. But again, there’s a ton of graphic animal murder so, you know, it ain’t for everyone.
98. The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari
The pinnacle of German Expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari is the grand daddy of surrealism. There is no David Lynch, or Darren Arronofsky and certainly no Tim Burton without this film. The film is literally dream logic, nothing makes sense and everything has an eerie quality to it. The sets are constructed to automatically put the viewer at unease. With sharp, jagged landscapes with shadows painted on the walls, the set design is a cross between Anton Furst meets Anton LaVey.
It might also be the first appearance of a twist ending, and besides jump scares, there’s nothing horror likes more than a good twist ending.
97. Final Destination
Sometimes all you need to be a successful franchise is a solid premise and boy howdy does Final Destination have a solid set up: a group of teenagers survive a catastrophic airplane crash because of a premonition and now death itself stalks the surviving teens in order in which they should’ve died originally.
Besides it’s amazing plot (which is oddly reminiscent of an earlier film called Sole Survivor) the real hook of the film is the Rube Goldberg-esque murder set pieces. Death doesn’t just kill the teens like a boring old slasher. No, no, no. The grim reaper is classy. He kills them in elaborate ways where each part of the equation could potentially lead to their deaths. The fun is trying to figure out how exactly it all plays out and how bloody the end result is.
Man, once the French found their niche in the horror world, they hit the ground running. What’s their niche, I hear you asking. Extreme violence. Extreme violence is the answer. They took a page from the Japanese handbook– which is written in blood and bound in skin–and decided that gore and visceral carnage was the way to go to stand out from the crowd.
At the head of the New French Extremity movement is unquestionably Martyrs. A film so violent, it almost gives Japanese cinema a run for its money. Almost. A new rating classification was made for this film and this film alone, if that doesn’t put your ass in a seat, nothing will.
Let’s switch gears completely and go from one end of Japanese cinema (I think I wrote the segue in advance because Martyrs isn’t Japanese. Just roll with it), which is all violence, to the other which is masterfully made art.
Kwaidan, which literally translates to, “ghost story”, is a four part anthology film where each segment deals with, you guessed it–werewolves. I mean ghosts. While it’s debatably the least scary film on the list, it’s nevertheless the most gorgeous. One of the few horror films to be nominated for best picture, Kwaidan is the closest we got to a Kurosawa horror film.
Gojira? You mean Godzilla? What the hell is this silly ass rubber dinosaur doing on this list!? Two reasons:
1. Replace Godzilla with a nuclear bomb (which is what he’s a response to) and there’s no question whether or not he belongs on this list.
2. Because I just mentioned Kurosawa and he said that this was one of his favorite films and Sailor has a weakness for segues.
Now, to be clear, this is the Japanese version of Godzilla. Not the American one. So no Raymond Burr but with the additional scenes of Godzilla’s destruction. It’s devastating. If you just isolate the people’s reactions, you would bet money that it was taken from an anti nuclear bomb propaganda film. He’s not the fun loving lizard that the Japanese people will eventually obsess over. No, he’s a monster who’s every step is death.
Aaaaand we’re right back into France, which means we’re right back into the extreme. So far, we’ve had a film with live animal mutilation, a film so graphic, the director had to cut the last ten minutes out of it, a film so intense, France almost created a new rating for it and then this one, which is about a woman who will do anything to steal another woman’s baby.
Fighting Godzilla ain’t looking too bad right about now.
If Martyrs is “the head of the New French Extremity movement”, and had also took a page from an non-existent Japanese murder book, which is presumably violent, then why is Inside higher? How about you stop asking questions and stop fucking quoting shit i said two minutes ago. It’s higher because it’s better. So shut it.
92. The Vanishing
Slow burn horror films are an acquired taste. A patient audience will ride with a film as long as they trust the ending will eventually be worth the wait. The Vanishing is text book slow burn. The inciting incident happens almost immediately and the rest of the film is trying to come to terms with what happened and what it meant. But that main character can’t move on. Curiosity gnaws at him till curiosity turns into obsession and that inevitably leads him into the darkest of places.
Sometimes we aren’t meant to question why terrible things happen because the answer is never satisfactory. People do evil things because they can. Oh and The Vanishing’s slow burn definitely pays off. It’s one of the greatest endings in cinema history.
91. The Others
One of the most important rules in horror is: no matter the story, ambiance well take you pretty fucking far. You could have the most cliched story with the most trite dialogue delivered by actors that seem to have been carved from wood but if your film looks good, audiences, for the most part, won’t care. *cough* 99% of Italian Giallo films *cough*
A beautifully constructed set, shot in a way that shows off said set, buys your ass at least 60% goodwill. Visually appealing films will always be remembered for the very least, looking gorgeous. Now what happens when you take gorgeous set design and beautifully constructed shots and added great acting and story? That’s The Others.
It lifted all the positives from Italian cinema but included all the strengths of Mexican cinema and created one of the most unsettling ghost stories of all time.