It’s no secret that we all love movies, but what is truly remarkable about the movie going experience is that when each of us clambers into the local move theatre we are each looking for something completely different; some of us are in search of action and adventure, a tantalizing romance story for others, or a gut wrenching comedy for those desperately in need of a good laugh. But if you’re like me, then the standard movie fare just isn’t going to do it for you: what you need is something that will have you glued to your seats, and give you a reasonable excuse to hold your partner a little bit tighter.
There has been some heart stopping films made over the years, and with the incredible advances in both motion capture technology and computer imaging, horror movies continue to depict increasingly horrific creatures and more realistic gore! But how do the horror movie classics stack up against the newer generation of these frightening films? We’ve scoured the horror movie archives and bought more movie tickets then we’re proud of, in order to bring you the top 10 scariest movies of all time. Viewer discretion is advised: these films are certainly not for the faintest of hearts.
#10 – The Descent (2005)
“The Descent” is a mixture of two terrifying things: monsters and tightly enclosed spaces; if you don’t suffer from claustrophobia then you certainly will after watching this film! “The Descent” was directed by Neil Marshal, a mostly unknown director that created horrifying magic with only a 3.5 million dollar budget. “The Descent” spawned a sequel that wasn’t nearly as good, but it’s certainly difficult to capture lightning in a bottle for the second time.
“The Descent” is a simple enough premise in itself: a team of six female explores navigating an unmapped cave are inadvertently trapped and stalked by cannibalistic monsters. The thing about creature features is that once you have seen a few of them then you have seen them all, but “The Descent” does things differently; they understood that the source of horror isn’t in the creature itself, but rather it’s found within the atmosphere that the film creates. “The Descent” is masterful in how it builds a sense of underlying dread, and makes you feel both lost and helpless throughout; the film’s true impact won’t be realized until hours after the credits finish rolling: this is a monster movie done right!
#9 – 28 Days Later (2002)
Everyone has their own personal favorite when it comes to zombie flicks, but everyone agrees that when it comes to facing off against the undead, the last place you want to be is inside the universe of “28 Days Later.” “28 Days Later” revolutionized the zombie genre by adapting the shambling George Romero zombie into a terrifying and violent creature. The first zombie films derived horror from the sense of isolation, and the fear that no matter where you went it would be crawling with a seemingly endless supply of the ever vigilant walking dead; it didn’t matter what you did, or how long you hid, eventually you would be overrun.
When “28 Days Later” came along the zombie industry changed forever: each individual zombie was a terrifying threat, and the sheer brutality they inflict is enough to make you squeamish. Danny Boyle has become a horror legend for his directorial work on the “28” series, and fans are eagerly awaiting the next installment; if you want to see the film that blew up his career in all its eye gouging glory, then you shouldn’t wait 28 days to get started.
#8 – Alien (1979)
The “Alien” series has certainly changed over the years, and looking back you have to constantly remind yourself that each of the films belong to the same franchise; later installments transitioned the series into something that was a balance of science fiction and action, and by the time it was crossed over with the “Predator” franchise, all semblance of horror had been lost. It’s true what they say that some things (especially with movies) that the original is usually best, and it’s certainly hard to top the mysterious chest bursting scares that were packed within the original “Alien” film offered.
Some might say that “Blade Runner” was Ridley Scott’s creative masterpiece, but I think horror lovers will agree that “Alien” will be the most prominent part of his movie making legacy. The plot of “Alien” centers on the crew of a space vessel that is systematically hunted by a mysterious extraterrestrial beast; the film is packed with surprises, deception, scares, and an overwhelming fear that death is looming around every corner waiting to strike out. We all have Ridley Scott to thank for “Alien,” especially Sigourney Weaver, whose career was practically formed on this film alone.
#7 – The Strangers (2008)
The great slasher classics have always kept us on the edge of our seat: “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” are just a few of the originals that reminded us how scary the “real world” could be; as sequels to these great movies continued to be churned out they seemed to lose focus on what truly made these pictures terrifying to begin with: they loved to focus on the slashing rather than on the slasher. “The Strangers” revitalizes that terrifying sensation that at any moment you could be a victim within the walls of your own home.
Bryan Bertino is a genius of cinematic framing, and within “The Strangers” he creates three unique and equally horrifying personas whose identity is as mysterious as their motives: a family is seemingly targeted at random by a trio of psychopaths, who aim to spook the inhabitants before taking their life. “The Strangers” is not a movie about swinging machetes and making the biggest blood puddles: it’s a film that returns to the roots of the slasher genre and immerses you within a realistic fight for survival which will have your heart pumping from start to finish.
#6 – The Shining (1980)
Identifying what makes “The Shining” so special is an incredibly difficult challenge in its own right: it’s a slasher, a ghost movie, a possession flick, a look into the human psyche, and an incredibly scary movie. Stephen King is the most prolific and meticulous writers of our generation, and even he was stunned when he saw the sheer genius of Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of his work; it adapts the core of the original novel, but drives it even farther with an incredible cast and a nightmarish collection of visuals that could aptly be described as haunting (Jack Nicholson’s performance alone was enough to carry the film).
Horror had been pretty well established as a film genre by the time “The Shining” was released in 1980, but rather than simply focus on being physically terrifying, “The Shining” set out to be psychologically disturbing; the result made critics and audiences so unsettled that Kubrick was nominated for both best and worst director, which highlights how jarring the visuals can be for the viewer. I won’t spoil the plot of “The Shining” for you if you haven’t already seen this gem, but I implore you to experience this masterpiece yourself, and follow along with its descent into madness.
#5 – The Exorcist (1973)
The supernatural was a common horror theme throughout the 70s and the 80s, preying on our innate fear of the unknown, but “The Exorcist” was the king of the supernatural genre, and showed us just how horrible the face of true evil really was. “The Exorcist” is a story about the demonic possession of a little girl named Regan, and the extreme efforts that a mother will go to in order to protect her child; when Linda Blair was first cast as Regan there was concern that she couldn’t handle the demanding nature of the role, but her face has now become as iconic in the horror industry as the film itself.
What makes “The Exorcist” so scary isn’t the jump scares or the visual effects, which have truthfully aged rather poorly when compared to more modern horror films, but rather it’s the extreme transformation that gradually occurs over the course of the film: seeing an innocent girl serve as the vessel of such a disgusting and crass entity leaves a sinking feeling in our stomach. There are a lot of horror movies out there that I would feel comfortable with my kids watching, but “The Exorcist” will stay on the shelf for some time.
#4 – The Thing (1982)
If I had to describe what “The Thing” was like then I would say that it resembles “Alien” set in the Antarctic, with the primary addition being that it’s a whole lot more intense: at least in “Alien” you’re aware what the primary danger is, but in “The Thing” you never truly know what’s going on and who you can trust. “The Thing” tells the story of a group of northern researchers who happen to cross paths with a shape shifting creature, which assimilates and imitates each of its victims; what follows is a thrilling murder mystery of a steadily dying crew, that aims to unravel the true indentify of this extraterrestrial “thing.”
Most of the best horror films have been an adaptation of a particularly chilling piece of literature, but with John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” it’s actually the exact opposite; while the film was loosely based on both a novella and vintage film, the captivating and original story spawned a novel adaptation, comic book, video game, and prequel film. “The Thing” didn’t do as well as expected at the box office, but since its initial release it has been critically regarded as not only one of the best horror films of all time, but as one of the best movies of all time period.
#3 – The Babadook (2014)
In the past five years or so the horror genre has become a bit stale to say the least (I don’t think I can handle another haunting or possession), but “The Babadook” is a very satisfying reminder that there will always be something inventive and terrifying that releases when you least expect it. “The Babadook” as a film is like a cinematic riddle, that is always teasing you with the idea that the plot is something more, while it continues to deliver a series of intense scares that will have you peeking through your finger tips.
The plot of “The Babadook” is about a single mother with a troubled and over energetic child, who discovers a disturbing popup book on his shelf; after reading it, the family begins to experience a tormenting presence that slowly begins to drain them of their sanity. What makes “The Babadook” so special is that it’s an incredibly complicated (almost art-house) film that just so happens to be incredibly scary. If you’re an avid movie watcher like me, then “The Babadook” will pleasantly surprise you on a critical level, and having your pants scared off of you is just an added bonus.
#2 – It Follows (2014)
The plot of “It Follows” is about a murderous curse that jumps from host to host through sexual intercourse. “It Follows” may be a thinly veiled metaphor for sexually transmitted disease, but this life ending “bug” renders you the target of a shape shifting entity that will track you down at a walking pace and murder you; you can temporarily transfer the curse, but you will never be fully rid of it: no matter what you do, or where you go… it follows.
As scary as movies can get, the horror itself usually subsides after the credits roll, but every now and again a monumental film will come along which you can’t seem to shake. “It Follows” is one of those rare cinematic experiences that will keep you feeling anxious, and looking over your shoulder for days; the ever-changing and appearance of this supernatural entity will burrow into your subconscious and force you to see the world through a lens of paranoia. Make no mistake, “It Follows” is an invigorating film that is beautifully shot, but don’t blame me when you start sleeping with one eye open.
#1 – Sauna/Filth/Evil Rising (2008)
“Sauna” is as equally unknown as it is bone-chilling. A lot of wonderful horror films have originated from everywhere across the globe, but Finland isn’t exactly known for being the horror capital of the world: and yet it produced arguably the scariest film of all time. To call “Sauna” a ghost movie would sincerely sell the movie short; it’s a film about the ghosts that are inside of us, and the eternal struggle we face to cleanse ourselves of our sins. “Sauna” is a film that will have your brain firing, your heart pumping, and your palms sweating: this movie is truly a fully body workout.
The plot of “Sauna” is incredibly unique: two brothers are tasked with marking the border of Russia and Finland, when they are haunted by a force from their past; when they come across a small village whose inhabitants claim they can cleanse them of their evil, the two are subjected to a series of trials that will test their sanity and faith. You’re going to need some subtitles if you decide to watch “Sauna,” but then again you may also want to bring yourself a change of pants instead.