Sing with us now!
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
With the kids trick or treating
And everyone bleating
“I’m filled with fear!”
It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaar!!!”
Yes, it’s Halloween time and you know what that means: lists of horror movies you absolutely have to watch. But those generic “Top Ten” lists, they’re all alike. This time we’re doing something different, and giving you ten films in ten different horror subgenres to seek out this hallowed holiday season, with five runners-up a piece just so you have options. Here are The Best Horror Flicks for Halloween 2011!
Best Alien Movie: ALIEN
Sometimes the best movie in a genre is just the best movie in a genre. There are plenty of great horror movies about aliens (see our runners-up below), but Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic trumps them all with its haunted house-in-space atmosphere, disturbing creature design by H.R. Giger and steadily ratcheted tension that explodes in the final act with a timeless confrontation between one last survivor and the monster who has come to redefine her. Horror movies just don’t get much better than this.
Runners-Up: Aliens, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978), John Carpenter’s The Thing, Night of the Creeps
Best Kids Movie: THE GATE
Kids like horror movies too, you know, but most of them are too young for Texas Chain Saw Massacre. And some of them are too old for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Luckily, every once in a while Hollywood churn out a genuinely creepy tale just for junior high schoolers, and one of the best – and weirdest – is The Gate, starring a young Stephen Dorff as a kid with a gate to hell in his backyard. Naturally it opens and wreaks havoc on the neighborhood, but director Tibor Takács goes utterly nuts with the pre-CGI special effects, crafting armies of little monsters and one sequence after another of reality crashing down on our young heroes in scary, but probably not life-scarring ways. It takes a while to get going, but once it does your kid brother will be glued to his chair, and unwilling to open his eyes.
Runners-Up: Army of Darkness, The Frighteners, Monster Squad, Poltergeist, Tremors
Best Monster Movie: NIGHTBREED
The difference, in our eyes, between a “Monster Movie” and a “Movie With Monsters In It” is that in a monster movie, the monsters are tragic heroes. Maybe they’re anti-heroes, or maybe they’re only heroes in their own eyes, but there’s a big difference between the Universal Horror movies and, say, Alien. One of the best, underrated monster movies is Nightbreed, written and directed by Clive Barker and based on his novel Cabal. In the film, Craig Sheffer plays Boone, an emotionally disturbed young man whose own psychiatrist is a serial killer framing Boone for his murders, and even convincing Boone that he’s really to blame. Boone runs away to the lost city of Midian, the last place on Earth where genuine bump-in-the-night monsters are safe from the judgments of man, but inadvertently brings his shrink with him. Acclaimed horror director David Cronenberg plays the homicidal head shrinker and he’s evil personified, but it’s the pure imagination at work with the seemingly countless creature designs that makes Nightbreed so magical, even if the version of the film lacks at least half an hour of footage that supposedly fix the film’s awkward plotting.
Runners-Up: The Fly (1986), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Frankenstein (1931), Mimic: The Director’s Cut, Trollhunter
Best Slasher Movie: CHERRY FALLS
There are so many Slasher movies out there, good and bad, that picking just one seems like an exercise in futility. That’s why we’re going with an off-the-wall choice here. You already know you have to see Halloween and Scream, but what about Cherry Falls? Have you ever even heard of Cherry Falls? We thought not. The last great Slasher film of the post-Scream renaissance starred the late Brittany Murphy as a young virgin in a town with a serial killer… who only kills virgins. The neat twist on the standard Slasher morality play infuses the already tightly wound story with a creepy, sometimes sexy, and usually very funny subtext. Everyone in the movie seems to want to have sex with each other, making Murphy’s scenes with her father, played by Terminator’s Michael Biehn, the very definition of awkward. Oh, and naturally it all ends at an orgy the teenagers throw together to save their own lives. Cherry Falls may not be as good a timeless classic, but it’s a fantastically entertaining flick.
Runners-Up: Friday the 13th Part 2, Halloween (1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Scream, Sleepaway Camp
Best “So Bad It’s Good” Movie: THE HAPPENING
When M. Night Shyamalan made a creepy masterpiece in 1999 with The Sixth Sense, leading everyone in Hollywood to think he was the next big thing. What followed were a handful of mostly good movies, Unbreakable and Signs, and a string of crapfests we’d rather not talk about. Except for The Happening. You see, The Happening is special. The movie is about a contagious string of suicides caused by homicidal plants. It’s not just bad (although a few of the early horror sequences are strikingly well done), it’s legendarily bad. Spectacularly, entertainingly bad. Watch the bizarrely over-dramatized scene where Zooey Deschanel debates whether to answer her phone, or the wacky but sincere apology Mark Wahlberg gives to a plastic plant and you’ll see what we mean. It’s so delightfully strange that we almost think Shyamalan did it on purpose. Almost.
Runners-Up: Birdemic: Shock and Terror, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Things, Troll 2, The Wicker Man (2006)
Best Supernatural Movie: MIRRORS 2 ON BLU-RAY
Wait. Just… Hold on, okay? We're not saying you should actually watch Mirrors 2, or even necessarily the first Mirrors. We're saying you should get the Blu-Ray edition of Mirrors 2. Go ahead and do that now. Are you ready? Okay, now open the case and take out the Blu-Ray of Mirrors 2 and, I dunno, use it as a coaster or something. Now, look on the other side of the case. See that DVD? Watch that DVD. That’s Into the Mirror, the superlative Korean horror film on which both of the American Mirrors movies were based. It’s a textbook example of a great supernatural horror movie, filled with scary set pieces, likable protagonists, a plot that actually makes sense and a whopper of a finale. You won’t regret picking up this disc. It’s a pity it’s not in high definition, but it’s just awesome that it’s available at all. Best. Special Feature. Ever.
Runners-Up: The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, The Haunting (1963), Ju-On: The Grudge, The Shining
Best Vampire Movie: WE ARE THE NIGHT
Are you sick of Twilight? Sure, we all are! But that doesn’t mean that vampire movies for chicks all suck. We Are The Night tells the story of a group of hot female vamps who troll German night clubs for sex and blood, and take in a new member when their leader, Nina Hoss, falls in love with her. Karoline Herfurth plays the young vamp who at first relishes her new life of excess, but soon tires of her companions’ immaturity and backstabbing. It’s like Mean Girls meets The Lost Boys, and it ends in a no holds barred vamp fight that totally rules. There are other, more established vampire classics out there, but we think We Are The Night belongs among them.
Runners-Up: The Horror of Dracula, Innocent Blood, Let the Right One In, The Lost Boys, Near Dark
Best Werewolf Movie: GINGER SNAPS
It’s weird, but there just aren’t as many great werewolf movies as there are vampire movies, zombie movies, or hell, even Frankenstein movies. We’re not sure what Hollywood’s problem is (maybe the makeup’s just too expensive), but the most recent classic in the underrepresented subgenre is easily Ginger Snaps, starring Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle as sisters who balk at the popular kids in school until Isabelle is bitten by a werewolf. Suddenly she’s turning on her old friends, making out with all the boys and wouldn’t you know it, there’s hair growing where there wasn’t before. You can say it’s not a clever metaphor, but it’s never been done better. Perkins and Isabelle are excellent in the lead roles, and the scares are potent without ever turning ridiculous. Ginger Snaps was followed by a merely decent sequel called Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, and a nearly great prequel set in colonial Canada called Ginger Snaps Back.
Runners-Up: The Company of Wolves, Dog Soldiers, The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man
Best “WTF” Movie: Hausu, aka "House"
There’s a difference, before we get started, between “So Bad It’s Good” and “WTF.” These movies aren’t bad, they’re just weird as hell. And they don’t get any weirder than the 1977 Japanese horror… thing called Hausu, or House. The film is about a group of teenaged girls who travel to an old lady’s house for a vacation, and are beset on all sides by supernatural horror. Are you with us so far? Okay, the film also includes scenes of girls getting eaten by pianos, bears cooking noodles, guys turning into a pile of bananas, and someone getting the top half of their body sucked into another dimension while their bottom half severs and keeps kicking demon ass. Hausu is more a lot like The Matrix (the actual Matrix, not the movie): it cannot be explained. You have to see it for yourself.
(Note: Not to be confused with the American horror movie House, although that's actually a pretty good movie too.)
Runners-Up: Cemetary Man, The Human Centipede, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Phantasm, Suspiria
Best Zombie Movie: 28 DAYS LATER
It’s easy to forget just how important 28 Days Later really was when it came out in 2002. Zombie movies had been popularized and then pushed back out of the mainstream. Believe it or not, we thought we’d seen everything the subgenre had to offer us. We were wrong. 28 Days Later dared to take George Romero’s creation seriously even if director Danny Boyle, who received a massive career boost thanks to this film’s success, insists that they’re not technically zombies. If the shoe fits, Danny. 28 Days Later takes all of Romero’s familiar tropes and plays them straight, adding only a little gimmick: that the bastards can run. This film’s popularity helped pave the way for a whole slew of new zombie movies, reinvigorating the subgenre to this day, when… Wouldn’t you know it? They seem to be losing their edge again. Rewatch this classic again to remember just how scary hordes of infected humans can be.
Runners-Up: Dawn of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead
Full Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Fox Home Entertainment.