UPDATE: You can read Part 2 here.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The time when my favoritist hobby is celebrated rather than looked at with half lidded suspicious eyes.
Some explanations on this list. These films are not necessarily THE top movies, but a must see introduction to horror in general. I chose them based on a mixture of quality and accessibility. Some of these push the limits of the accessibility criteria I just mentioned but just a bit. For every great horror film there are fifty terrible direct to video ones, so I will take what I can get.
Originally known as ‘The Babysitter Murders’ Carpenter’s most famous film sets up the archetype that all slashers followed throughout the eighties. A woman of impeccable character, friends of dubious morality, a madman seeking revenge and a wise sage who knows the truth.
Evil Dead 2
Prior viewing of the original film is not necessary. ED2 is essentially a higher production version of the first film with some minor character changes. Shot with a style that is unique to Sam Raimi and despite the humor and over the top gore is genuinely terrifying.
The 1982 remake of The Thing from Another World (1951) sticks closer to the original source material novella ‘Who Goes There?’ and displays the talents of the practical effects master Rob Bottin. Unusual in that it is an all male cast in tight quarters with a pervasive dread and claustrophobia. As far as eighties horror goes, this is unmatched.
Its rare that I come across a quality film from the seventies that I didn’t know about but The Sentinel took me by surprise a few years ago. It fits in well with the themes of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby which we may discuss later. It is also one of the few films I know of that has severely physically disabled actors uncompromisingly confront the audience, the other being Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks for which he was blacklisted from Hollywood for.
Aside from being truly scary it has an amazing supporting cast with Chris Sarandon, John Carradine, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, Tom Berenger and Jeff Goldblum.
Phantasm is delightfully bizarre with zombie dwarves, finger hornets, floating chrome death spheres sporting cutlery and an imposing giant in a small suit. Phatasm’s oddness sticks with you. My love for it may be colored with a bit of nostalgia, but I can guarantee that it can never be unseen.