Ten horror favorites

It’s officially horror movie season, which means that the Internet is overrun with lists of Scariest Movie Moments, Best Horror Villains, and Worst Slasher Sequels.  As a lifelong horror movie devotee, I figured I’d throw myself into the fray with my own modest list of ten favorites.

10. Freaks (1932)

A true cult classic, this curiosity features a cast of shall we say differently-abled circus performers who take revenge on a cruel trapeze artist.  Most of it is touching and gently funny; the rainstorm finale is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

9. Theatre of Blood (1973)

Horror and comedy are perfect companions, Theatre of Blood being a prime example—a campy, witty satire of British theatre, starring Vincent Price in probably his best role as a disrespected Shakespearean ham who fakes his death, then starts killing off his harshest critics in the style of the Bard.  Sheer genius.

8. Suspiria (1977)

I’ll confess: I don’t find this movie so much scary as eerily beautiful.  Dario Argento frames a rickety plot about a coven of witches in a German dance academy with some of the most surreally gorgeous imagery outside of a David Lynch film.

7. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

A delicate, moody, low-key ghost story set in rural Connecticut, where a mentally unstable woman (an excellent Zohra Lampert) finds herself preyed upon by a beautiful stranger. 

6. Creepshow (1982)

The Living Dead films may be George Romero’s masterpieces, but this clever, gory collection of five Stephen King yarns—told in the style of 1950s horror comics—is even more fun.  

5. The Brood (1979)

Pitilessly dark, quease-inducing family romance in which a divorced father tries to protect his daughter from his violent ex-wife, who has been undergoing strange experiments at the hands of a radical psychotherapist.  Still one of “bio-horror” master David Cronenberg’s most unsettling films.

4. The Company of Wolves (1984)

The great Angela Carter helmed this richly textured re-working of the Little Red Riding Hood story set in the Gothic fairy tale world populated by predatory werewolves.  This film is proof that horror movies can be scary, intelligent, funny, politically minded, and poetic all at the same time.  (Pictured above)   

3. The Shining (1980)

A horror movie as only Stanley Kubrick could render it: deliberately paced, hypnotic, visually stunning, heavily ironic.  The images alone are nightmare-inducing, but it’s Kubrick’s masterful use of music and sound that really send The Shining into the realm of the terrifying. 

2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Roman Polanski’s masterpiece is both a nerve-jangling paranoid thriller (a pregnant woman believes that everyone is out to harm her baby) and a sublimely twisted horror story (she’s actually carrying the Antichrist).  It’s also probably the best film ever made about the anxieties of renting a Manhattan apartment. (Pictured, top)

1. Carrie (1976)   

I re-watched this recently and was reminded of just how devastating, how beautifully designed, and how terrifying it is—“Cinderella” crossed with “The Masque of the Red Death.”  Carrie is as close to perfect as movies—horror or otherwise—get.  (Pictured below)



  1. I'm going to be all theatre-nerdy and mention that "Carrie" spawned a musical that's known as Broadway's biggest flop of all time (there's even a book about flops of the Great White Way entitled "Not Since 'Carrie'..."). And for added nerd-dom trivia; Betty Buckley (who plays the sympathetic Ms. Collins in the film) was recast as Carrie's twisted mother for the show.

    That said: Thanks for the post! Several movies to see!

  2. Thanks, Eleni, for bringing up Carrie: The Musical. I too have heard the (horror?) stories about its disastrous premiere. Incidentally, there is a whole documentary about the musical on the DVD for the film, in which Betty Buckley herself talks about what a mess it was. It's pretty entertaining. I was happy to see the she and other people involved have sense of humor enough to talk candidly about how terrible it was.