10. DAWN OF THE DEAD – 2004. Zach Snyder’s re-imagining of George Romero’s classic zombie epic uses the same premise, although the characters and much of the overall story are very different. Like Romero’s version, much of the action takes place at a shopping mall, although director Synder doesn’t use the setting as an extra character the way George did in the original. Instead he ratchets up the tension with fast moving zombies and exciting action set pieces. The film benefits greatly from a terrific cast which includes Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, Ving Rhames and Miki Pheiffer. It’s very well done, and it’s quickly become one of my all time favorites!
9. THE MIST – 2007. Frank Darabont’s (Shawshank Redemption) film version of the Stephen King novella plays like a two hour episode of the Twilight Zone. The story about a small town engulfed by a mysterious mist is a great metaphor about human nature. Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones and Marcia Gay Harden (terrific playing a religious fanatic) make for a solid cast. Its ending has gotten a mixed response, but it is one the viewer can’t forget! Personally, I admire director Darabont for having the guts to go with it! In time, The Mist will become a Classic!
8. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – 1974. One might assume by its premise that this film would be a total blood bath, but it’s actually not. It’s a frightening experience about a group of five Texas friends who, unfortunately, wander into the house of one of the great horror characters of all time in LEATHERFACE (Gunnar Hansen), plus his family of cannibals. The atmosphere in this film is intense to say the least, and most of the horror is perceived rather than actual! The story is loosely based on the murderer, Ed Gein, who also served as inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. Amazingly the film was shot on a budget of $140,000 and grossed $30,859,000. It made a name for its director, Tobe Hooper. People never looked at a chainsaw the same way after this film came out!
7. EVIL DEAD 2 – 1981. Director Sam Raimi and CULT icon Bruce Campbell team up for this horror/comedy sequel that is a highly inventive piece of filmmaking. The movie features a great physical performance by Campbell, playing the character of Ash Williams, as he fights off zombies, evil spirits and even his own possessed hand! I got a chance to meet Campbell at a horror convention in NYC around 15 years ago and he actually did a backflip on a hard wooden floor for the audience that was there – a really nice guy!
6. FRIGHT NIGHT – 1985. This film makes my list because I think actor Chris Sarandon (Jerry Dandridge) plays as good a vampire as anyone in the history of movies. William Ragsdale does a great job as the lead character, Charlie Brewster, a young guy who discovers he lives next door to a vampire. Roddy McDowell co-stars in a memorable performance as washed up late night TV horror host, Peter Vincent, who goes along with Charlie on a fact finding mission for the money, only to be surprised that he’s actually telling the truth. I remember seeing Roddy McDowell at a horror convention as well and had him sign a still photo of his character in the film. He was a class act indeed and a real gentleman! Actor Stephen Geoffreys, who plays Ragsdale’s best friend Ed (Evil), is terrific in this film. This is a highly entertaining movie!
5. THE THING -1982. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell team up for the second time (the first being Escape from NY) for this remake of the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, and make an even better movie. The story about a group of scientists in the Antarctic who come under siege by an alien organism has great atmosphere, and a feeling of bleakness that make this film a MUST watch for fans of this genre! The special effects pre-CGI by Stan Winston are astonishing!
The blood testing sequence is classic!
4. HALLOWEEN – 1978. John Carpenter made a name for himself with this critically acclaimed film shot on a mere $325,000 budget.The film went on to pull in $47,000,000 at the box-office, making it one of the biggest independent films ever produced! Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the character of Laurie Stode, was a solid lead and veteran actor, Donald Pleasence, added much class as child psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis, a part he would play five times in the series. The musical score, composed by Carpenter himself, is classic! In an interesting footnote: Carpenter bought a William Shatner mask in a store, painted it white, and used it for the famous look of his villain Michael Myers, also known as the Shape! Nick Castle, who directed the film The Last Starfighter, played the role of Myers. The film’s sequel, HALLOWEEN 2, is a direct continuation that was criticized for its more graphic approach. Despite that criticism, I like the film a lot, and watch both films every Halloween!
3. NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST – 1984. Wes Craven reportedly came up with the concept for the film when he read a newspaper article about young man who claimed that someone was trying to kill him in his dreams and started to do whatever he could to stay awake. Unlike most of the sequels, which lighten up the Freddy Krueger character, this original film took him and its concept very seriously. Craven scored big time when he cast little known actor, ROBERT ENGLUND, in the role of the former child molester Freddy, who has come back to get revenge on the children of Elm St in their dreams. The movie was filmed for just $1,800,000 and grossed $25,000,000 at the U.S box-office. Countless sequels were produced, making the character of Freddy Krueger part of America’s pop culture. As far as horror goes this is one of the very best concepts ever in the genre.
2. DAWN OF THE DEAD – 1978, George Romero’s second Zombie outing is truly the Gone with the Wind of the genre as it works on so many levels. It’s part horror, part end of the world story, part social commentary and all GREATNESS! Besides The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dawn of the Dead is the most popular midnight movie of all time.
1, THE EXORCIST-1973, I put this at number ONE because from an emotional standpoint, of all the horror films, I think this one had the biggest impact over any other in film history. I guess you can’t have a better match up than God versus the Devil and audiences were floored by this film version of the bestselling William Peter Blatty novel. A reported 30 young actress auditioned for the part of Reagan, the little girl who gets possessed in the story. The part went to Linda Blair, a role she will be known for until the end of time! Actor Jason Miller, in his first feature film, is terrific playing the role of the conflicted father Karris. The pea soup scene is one of the genres most memorable sequences! The film was nominated for Ten Oscars including best picture. It lost out to The Sting. As horror films go, there’s none better!