With Myrtle Beach getting a horror film festival on Halloween night, we took to the streets and Facebook to find out what are your favorite scary movies? The answers ranged from slasher films to splatter films to serial killer thrillers to sci-fi horror. There are plenty of classics on this list, right beside newer flicks and some in between. So take a look at Surge’s Top 15 reader responses and compile your Halloween movie marathon list.
Coming in at the top of our unscientific Surge poll is director William Friedkin’s 1973 classic. The film both created and cursed Linda Blair’s career so fast it literally made her head spin. This is one of those rare horror flicks that wins Oscars and scares the shit out of you, while sending you into existential crisis about the meaning of faith all in the same scene. It became iconic and parodied, and was ultimately dealt the injustice of buckets full of vomit-inducing sequels and wannabes.
Michael Ivy of Myrtle Beach’s Shock-Shiver Film Festival went so far as to say, “This film almost converted me to Catholicism.”
Surprise, surprise a movie about Halloween comes in near the top of a scary movie poll. This 1978 film was considered an indie hit at the time of its release. John Carpenter practically did it all himself by writing, directing and performing the score. Now, it’s the origin of a franchise and seen as the movie that started the slasher phenomena as well as the last-girl-standing trope in horror. But the far more effective legacy of this classic may be the tall, dark and quiet killer – Michael Myers was terrifying because he was mysterious and menacing and didn’t say a word. He only responded with that scary-ass head tilt.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street”
Talk about being fundamentally different from the stark realism of “Halloween.” In 1984, Wes Craven was one of the hottest directors working in horror when he introduced us to Freddy Krueger – a child murderer who haunts the children of the mob that burned him to death. It was weird and dark and bloody, before it became a cartoonish franchise. Freddy was a wise ass, but a killer first. And let’s not forget, this film also gave us our first taste of a kid named Johnny Depp.
Even in 1981, it was low-budget. But when you are filming in a cabin in the woods, how much money do you need? This movie simultaneously rode the wave of 1980s “Friday the 13th” and played around with the idea of kids being alone in the woods with sinister shit. Writer/director Sam Raimi decided to take the sequels in a dark comedy/action direction, and they’re groundbreaking and great. They made lead actor Bruce Campbell an icon in the process. But this first film is built by atmospheric lighting and menacing sounds and unexpected turns.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
In at No. 5 along the Grand Strand, this film was the hidden zeitgeist of 1973. America was coming out of Vietnam. Hippies were disintegrating. It turns out our president was a crook. The country was split politically and culturally. No wonder this low-budget movie took hold about a family of cannibals who are eating the lost and disillusioned. There’s a pure grit, gore and brutality that hundreds of filmmakers have tried to capture since. Dwayne King, founder of the local horror studio Kluckin Films, counts this as one of his favorite horror films.
“Friday the 13th”
Coming on the heels on “Halloween” is this slasher flick. After its success in 1980, a franchise spurted forth that ran the gamut from respectable to ridiculous to just plain silly. But before Jason went to Manhattan and space, he got his start here at the bottom of Crystal Lake. It had tons of teenagers biting the big one at the end of sharp objects, but more than that, it had not one but two twist endings.
Here’s another Oscar-winning horror film. But what a lot of people do not realize about this 1976 eerie tale about Satan’s son is that it was directed by Richard Donner. He went on to direct other iconic movies in other genres including the first two “Superman” films, “The Goonies” and the “Lethal Weapon” franchise. He also directed half-a-dozen terrible movies, but this is where Donner cut his teeth. It was also a big contributor to the trend of creepy kids in horror.
“Dawn of the Dead”
In at No. 8 is the first zombie flick on the list, and of course it comes from the king of zombies, George A. Romero. This is actually our first sequel on the list. The 1978 film is the follow-up to Romero’s 1968 “Night of the Living Dead.” As in all his films, Romero uses his characters and settings to make a societal statement. The setting here is a shopping mall in the suburbs. The themes are consumerism and escape from suburban malaise. But all that comes secondary to blasting the shit out of zombies.
The oldest film on our list, dating back to 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s passion project is still a masterwork on loneliness and cross-dressing and how to build suspense. Anthony Perkins crafted a career from his performance. This is Janet Leigh’s most memorable screen moment, though she’s killed off early in the film. It shows empathy for the killer. And it terrified shower takers for years to come. It defied the way thrillers were made and really upped the ante on what a horror movie could be.
“Silence of the Lambs”
Considered a modern classic, this 1991 film is more of a thriller than a horror film, but there’s plenty here to scare you. Serial killers are scary, whether they hide their junk between their legs and want you to rub lotion on the skin, or they’re debonair and want to eat your kidney with “some fava beans and nice chianti.” There have been prequels and sequels and TV shows, but nothing matches the chemistry of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Director Jonathan Demme sets a killer pace, and Hopkins breathes life into the iconic anti-hero of Hannibal.
This 2013 ghost story borrows a little from “The Exorcist” and “Amityville Horror” and “Poltergeist.” For the last 10 years, director James Wan has been releasing game-changing horror. He helped create the resurgence of splatter films with “Saw” in 2004. Then, he went with a subtler touch with the ghost story in “Insidious.” But this throwback was able to harness all the gold of the ‘70s horror renaissance.
Yes, there are times in this 1977 gore-fest where you’ll most certainly be lost as to what is happening. But that’s not what’s important to Italian director Dario Argento. To him, it’s all about the look of the film. And this movie is as sleek as blood on glass. This film also began Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, which extended to 2007’s “Mother of Tears.” As confusing as it is at times, it’s still an important movie in the horror canon.
In 2002, a year before director Gore Verbinski went on to bring a Disneyworld ride to the big screen with “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he brought the horror world this little ditty about a cursed videotape. The filmmaking was both atmospheric and frantic. This movie also marks the beginning of the rampant remakes of Asian horror films. And for some reason, the majority of these Asian remakes centers around little girls with long unkempt hair in their faces.
“Cabin in the Woods”
Written and produced by Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”) and starring Thor (Chris Hemsworth), this 2012 flick both paid homage and skewered all those that came before. This postmodern satire has all the right victims - the virgin, the slut, the athletes, the geek and the stoner. It has all the right villains – knife-wielding slashers, zombies, demons, mutants and ancient evil. But above all else, the film is a snarky reaction to systematic evil, a byproduct of bureaucratic storytelling.
Ridley Scott’s 1979 Oscar-winner not only spurred a resurrection of sci-fi horror movies, it took horror movies set in space out of the B-movie realm and into the arena of big-time franchises. Scott set the bar high on claustrophobia and suspense by putting his characters in a closed-in spaceship with evolutionary-advanced killing cockroachs. The simply named, “alien,” changed movie monsters forever by being a work of art in motion every time it exploded from someone’s chest or bled acid or extended its second set of choppers. It also made Sigourney Weaver’s role of Ripley iconic in film history and important to feminist theorists everywhere.
Tied for the fifteenth spot is this creature feature from 2001. What is The Creeper? Where did he come from? Why is he killing people? All these questions surround this action-packed horror flick. It has all the essentials – kids on spring break, the eerie soundtrack, the rural terrain with locals keeping a secret, the seemingly unstoppable killer. It takes modern myths like the Jersey Devil and the Lizard Man to new levels. But most horrific of all, it leaves you hanging.
- Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge