10. The Night of the Hunter (1955) stars Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters and is a cult classic. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a corrupt evangelist-turned serial killer, who attempts to charm widows.
9. Alien (1979) is the ultimate haunted house movie but in space. Alien was a new kind of horror film when it came out. It launched the career of Sigourney Weaver and has had five sequels.
8. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) made a star out of Boris Karloff and was a sequel to Frankenstein. This film provides one of the great climaxes in cinema history — when the bride is brought to life.
7. Repulsion (1965) builds on fears such as spending the night alone and hearing footsteps in the hallway. These fears lead Carol (Catherine Deneuve) into a downward spiral of hallucinations.
6. Nosferatu (1922) is one of the masterpieces of the silent films. Starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok, the film was the unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
5. King Kong (1933) set the stage for future monster movies. The idea of a giant monster being captured and brought back to a modern city and creating havoc is repeated in movies such as The Lost World.
4. Psycho (1960) was inspired by killer and body snatcher Ed Gein from Plainfield, Wisconsin. The film features Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who embezzles $40,000 and goes on the run with her boyfriend. The two get lost and stop for the night at the Bates Motel where they meet Norman (Anthony Perkins) and his mother.
3. A Quiet Place (2018) includes intense, deafening silence on the screen. The result is a movie experience unlike no other.
2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) is the first true horror film ever made. It’s a story of a traveling magician whose arrival coincides with some murders in town. It’s a silent film that leaves you vulnerable and wondering if anywhere is safe.
1. Get Out (2017) is a clever film that includes several surprises throughout the movie. It pushes the horror film industry into a new direction. The film is designed to play on the stereotypes and then turns them upside down.
Why do horror films scare us?
What makes a horror film successful is when it plays to our greatest fears and phobias. Elements that make scary movies work include:
Death (A must for any horror film)
The Dark (What are children afraid of?)
Creepy Things (Rats, spiders, snakes)
The Unknown/Scary Places (Graveyards, old homes, attics)
Suspense/Tension (Alfred Hitchcock was the master)
Spooky Music (Umm, Psycho)
Lightning and Thunder (A mainstay of the horror film)
When watching horror films look for these cues that something is going to happen:
- Camera angles that are askew or block your view of something.
- Music that builds up and then goes silent just before the scare.
- A unique evil/bad guy character.
What is your favorite horror film and what makes you jump when watching a scary movie?