The following movies--in no specific order--are my favorite horror flicks. I'm an big horror fan, so to reduce the list to only 5 was really a difficult task for me. To make this daunting task a little easier, I narrowed it down by answering the following questions:
- What movies had a lasting impact?
- Such as KEEPING ME UP ALL NIGHT, and for HOW LONG
- Couldn't help but talk about the movie with friends
- Made me think or, more precisely, made me try NOT to think about the movie.
- Were there some good OMG and WTF moments?
- Was the Creep-Me-Out-Factor high enough?
- Was the publicity and hype about the movie just hype, or were the hype and reviews spot on?
The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist, bar none, had to be the scariest movie that I can remember seeing. I was 13 years old when it came out in theaters and I remember the hype surrounding the movie. Everyone was talking about it. Some loved it. Some hated it. Some swore they would never see it. It seemed like someone had some opinion about the Exorcist. I finally got to see it later that year by bugging my parents enough to them finally agreeing to go see it with me (I needed adults to accompany me to get in--thank God my parents are horror buffs too).
From the above criteria that I used to put this list together, The Exorcist meets them all in spades. Creep factor--There's more OMG and WTF's in that movie than I can count. The hype was tremendous. Did it have a lasting impact--well, let's see--Did I lose sleep? You Bet. The night we saw The Exorcist, we had just moved from Vancouver to Ottawa and were staying in an older hotel in the down-town area. The room we had was beside the elevator--not the modern automatic, but the wrought-iron-bird-cage-heavier-than-hell-rattling-deathtraps. And it shook everything when it stopped. I didn't realize how much it shook and rattled until I was ready for bed that night. I think you get the idea--I slept on the floor just to be safe!
One of my best friends in High school told me about his Aunt that went to go see The Exorcist. Apparently, she really enjoyed the movie until she got home. She was greeted at the door by her daughter who was the same age and the spitting image of Linda Blair as Reagan. The Aunt fainted!
The Omen (1976)
The Omen is another of my all-time favourite horror flicks. I saw it when it first came out in 1976. I knew nothing about The Omen before going to see it. I went to the first show at 1pm and just stayed right through to the last show of the day.
As much as I loved the movie, there was one thing that I did not take into consideration at the time. By staying for all showings that day, it was now past 11:30 pm. I didn't even think that the buses wouldn't be running in order to get home. Now I had to walk 40 or so blocks--in the dark--in the city--at night--and I was only 16 at the time. So, yes, still a little impressionable. It was a walk home that I'll never forget.
In Ottawa in the summertime, it's not unusual to get sudden thunderstorms brew up in the late evening. The calm followed by a blustering wind are the normal first signs that one is coming. And one was. To top it all off, I had to walk past St. Patrick's Cathedral--a beautiful church with it's gardens, gargoyles, and towers topped with SPIRES. It was just as I was approaching St. Pat's, that the blustering winds and first flashes of the coming thunderstorm started. With the scene with the lightning-struck-spire-impaling-a-Priest-on-church-grounds very fresh in my memory, needless to say, the last fifteen blocks home were ran in record time.
So, for creep factor--The Omen was very high. Not only for the above playing havoc on my nerves, but the kid (Harvey Spencer Stevens) who played Damien Thorn couldn't have played the part any creepier.
Carrie was just a hoot for me. It still had it's creep factor, and shock-scares, but being 16 when I saw it in the theatre, I could relate to the movie from a student level. There were your bullies, inside cliques, outsiders, you name it, it was school. So much so was it school that I forgot it was a horror movie, until the movie would pull you back into its horror roots one creep factor at a time.
We were on holidays when we saw Carrie in the theatre. We were in Peterborough, Ontario touring around Southern Ontario when we saw Carrie. I can't remember the name of the theatre, but it was one of the most unique theatres that I've been in. The theatre was very wide, but very shallow. There was only about 12 rows of seats that were in wide curved rows. The screen was also on a tilt instead of vertical, which gave the appearance that the rows were all uphill toward the screen. Because the rows were so close to the screen, the backs of the seats reclined and the seat slid forward much like a La-Z-Boy chair would, but without the leg rest. It was quite comfortable to sit in this theatre. But I'm sure you remember the final hand-grab-from-the-grave-dream-scene, well, watching Carrie in this theatre led to the funniest things I've ever seen in a theatre. Everyone was nicely nestled in their mock La-Z-Boys when Carrie White's hand poked out of the grave and...and...and...then someone in the front row screamed. Then the whole front row screamed and the row jumped from the seat. The seats made a unified LOUD bang as they slid back to position, which made the second row scream and jump and seats banging, then the third and so on. It was such a slow motion delayed reaction as each row screamed and jumped out of their chairs, that as this WAVE of terror ended by the last row, everyone in the theatre just burst out laughing, with a few 'HOLY-SHITS' thrown about.
Morale of the story--avoid theatres with too comfortable of seating for it may scare the crap out of you.
Of all the Carrie revamps after the original 1976 version, I'd have to say that Sissy Spacek is the true Queen of the Prom. Her creep factor along with Piper Laurie, as her fanatical mother, was just too good of a pairing. I will say that the recent version with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore was quite good as well.
The Thing (1982)
I love old sci-fi classics, so when The Thing came out I couldn't wait to see what they would do with an old classic. I had seen the classic "The Thing from Another World" in a drive-in double feature (just like you're supposed to) and loved it. I naively thought that I would 'know' what was coming with John Carpenters version. And boy was I horrified pleasantly surprised with his version.
Creep factor for The Thing was way up there, as was gross out factor and shock-scares. It was a good roller-coaster ride that never stopped until the credits rolled.
My first viewing of The Thing was not in a theatre. A group of us used to go to a local hotel and watch movies. The hotel had a cosy lounge downstairs that had a large screen TV and good sound system. The owner was a friend of ours and let us do this when good movies would come out on video. One area of the bar was set up like a theatre. There was 10 of us that would get together to watch horror movies or good sci-fi. This hotel was great for horror movie watching, because if you knew the hotel and its history, you would have known that the hotel was reported to be haunted. It was even investigated by the Alberta Paranormal Ivestigation Society (TAPIS) in 2010 just before the hotel was demolished. Even if you didn't believe the ghost stories or didn't believe in hauntings, watching horror movies in such a setting really added to the AMBIENCE!
Did you hear that?
Village of the Damned (1960)
I was younger when I watched this move than I was for any other movie on this list. My Dad was a horror fan too, and I can remember him talking about this movie. When we talked about horror movies, he would always mention The Village of the Damned as a good horror. I was only a year old when it came out, so I never got to see it in a theatre. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my Dad noticed it listed in the TV guide and we made an evening out of watching it.
Creep factor--OMG, those kids were as creepy as hell. The tension in this movie was thick, and without any gore or gross scenes it could still grab you. I've watched it recently and it still holds up. If I ever run into a young flaxen haired child with a British accent, if his eyes start glowing, I'm outta here. This Village of the Damned is far creepier than the 1995 remake even if I did like the remake.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
I know this list was supposed to be only 5 movies, but as I worked through it, there was no way I was going to leave The Village of the Damned out or The Amityville Horror. I saw this when it first came out, and it was the first horror movie I watched with my wife as newly weds. At least now, if there was a chance of losing sleep by over-thinking a movie either one of us wasn't going to bed alone. This was one movie that I'm glad I wasn't going to bed alone.
I really wouldn't care whether this movie was based on a true story. It was very creepy even if it wasn't based on the 'true' Lutz's story of living in the house. It had the right balance of tension and scare tactics. One of the motifs that the movie used to accelerate the plot was the flip-number alarm clock where when it reached 3:15 am, something was going to change or happen. Ever since seeing this movie, if I get the urge to look at the clock I guarantee it will show 3:15 (am or pm). The remake uses 3:17 am, but 3:15 or just the number 315 shows up everywhere for me. As a matter of fact, all the default sizes for the YouTube videos were set at 'height = 315', so I changed their size just to be safe!
The Amityville Horror came out two years before my friends and I formed the movie group at the hotel. It's too bad, because to watch a 'true-life' horror movie about a haunted house in a real-life haunted hotel would have just been awesome. We did watch The Shining at the hotel, and yes that was a trip.
Hope you enjoyed me list of favourite horror flicks. I know there are a lot of movies I could have added or changed up. What were your all-time favourite horror movies? I'd like to hear why.
Thanks for reading,
Frank Sirianni aka Foxxfyrre