It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies. Whether it’s ghosts and goblins, devils and demons, or slashers and…I don’t know, crashers?, the genre isn’t my jam. But it IS the jam of many a’Mad About Movies listener and since it’s October, and Happy Scare Time is upon us, I thought it prudent to lean into that Halloween feeling. Over the course of this month, we’ll be publishing several entries from both MAM hosts and MAM contributors discussing their personal five favorite horror movies. At the end of the month, we’ll also have a bonus episode available on our VIP feed talking to each blog contributor about a few of the films on their respective lists. Thanks for reading. -Brian
I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like how I feel when I am watching them and I worry about people who do. About ten years ago, some new friends invited me over to “watch a scary movie.” Not wanting to be lame, but also not wanting to cry in their presence, I texted back like “Cool, cool, but I don’t really love scary movies, so nothing too scary, okay?” And they were like “Cool, cool, we’ll just hit up the Red Box and get something chill like 28 Days Later.” It was then that I knew my metric was different from other people’s. I had seen that movie and had slept zero minutes that night. I had to leave the theater when I saw The Ring and I slept with my parents the night I watched The Exorcist (like actual 10th grade). You get the idea. All that being said, I have made it through some horror movies (but not many), and some that I really loved.
5. Us (2019)
A fair argument here is that this has yet to withstand the test of time, but I really loved watching this in the theater. I had watched the trailer on repeat leading up to it (odd, given my general distaste for the genre) but something about the combo of the music and the aesthetic made me super intrigued. Writer/director Jordan Peele has said he’d long had the fear of seeing his doppelgänger out in public with a knowing, menacing look, for example, across the subway tracks from himself. Seeing his childhood fear play out on the big screen was horrifying and, thanks to some great performances, super entertaining.
4. Get Out (2017)
And the reason I was so amped for Us, of course, is because Get Out is sooo good. I wouldn’t go see it in the theater because I don’t see scary movies (ish), but eventually the hype wore me down, and I watched it at home. This was my introduction to both Allison Williams and Daniel Kaaluya, both of whom make an already compelling screenplay really come alive. And (spoiler:) the scene where the two leads walk up the stairs at, what we come to understand is, an auction and everybody stops talking and looks up at them was a jaw-dropper and so unsettling I had to pause the movie for a second.
3. The Shining (1980)
I mean, this is the best movie in the genre, right? The reason it’s not my personal number one is because it’s just so upsetting to watch. How can it maintain such binding tension, even after so many viewings? How are twin girls, nicely and brightly dressed, so horrifying? Why the guy in the bear costume? And Jack Nicholson. But yeah, I need to be in the proper place to get excited to watch this one.
2. Annihilation (2018)
In contrast to The Shining, I can be in any place to watch Annihilation. IMDb lists this as “Adventure, Drama, Horror” so I’m counting it as fair game. I read this book in about two days and was super bummed when there were distribution issues with it, AKA Paramount selling it to Netflix after it missed with test audiences (which would also prove to be the case with many regular audiences…). But then I saw it and was very happy again, despite the fact the movie had almost nothing to do with the book besides the premise that some women go to a place and things happen to them (seriously). During the last 20 minutes of this movie in the theater, I thought I was having a cardiac event but couldn’t get enough of it.
1. Alien (1979)
Alien holds a weird place in my heart because it is so scary but doesn’t stick with me in a way that makes me hate all my life choices while trying and failing to fall asleep at night. I love the mystery of the original giant alien hosts that they find and would have been super fine leaving their origin up to the imagination (thanks, Prometheus/Alien: Covenant). What creature design is better than the Xenomorphs? And yay for an actually great, coherent sequel that I can’t help but feel actually enhances my experience of the original.