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
Listeners of the show know that I very much do not enjoy the horror genre. I do not like to be scared. This is, I think, a big aspect in the enjoyment of the genre: the thrill of being afraid in a manufactured, safe kind of way. For me, it is less “thrill” and more “welp, now I can’t sleep for a week, coolcoolcool.” Even bad horror movies have a way of sticking in my brain which, on the one hand, is a great credit to the filmmaker but on the other, PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE AND LET ME GET SOME REST. Regardless, while I don’t partake in the horror genre at large and stay away from witches, demons, and torture stuff wholesale, there are a few horror movies (though perhaps much of my list could be classified more as “scary movies” than “horror” which I’m cool with) that have made their way into my line of sight for which I have great admiration, appreciation, and possibly even (in a case or two) love.
5. 28 Days Later (2002)
The movie that gets the credit or perhaps the blame for revitalizing the zombie industry, 28 Days Later has one of the best opens in horror movie history and carries that promise through its runtime. I’m always hit-or-miss on Danny Boyle and while he likely has better movies in his filmography, I think this is the one where his sensibilities work the best. Plus, while the fast zombie bit has become tired over the last decade or so, it was horrifyingly fresh in 2002.
4. 30 Days of Night (2007)
I don’t like to rely on the terms “overrated” and “underrated” too much because it presumes that the opinions of only the people I know and talk to can be extrapolated out to the entire world. But, 30 Days of Night is super underrated, and I feel good about saying that in this case because most people reading this list are thinking “What is 30 Days of Night?” or “The…Josh Hartnett vampire movie?” Yeah, that’s right, the Josh Harnett vampire movie. This movie has one of the best horror movie concepts I can remember and Danny Huston’s performance as the vampire boss is outstanding. (But also I never want to watch this movie again, thank you.)
3. The Thing (1982)
An absolute classic. Like 30 Days of Night, the concept and setting for The Thing are so effectively creepy that you could almost have no meaningful action and the movie would still leave you on edge. Halloween is great but for me, this is John Carpenter’s finest hour. And, like I always say, no movie has ever been made worse by the inclusion of American Treasure Kurt Russell. The 2011 remake was fine, for what it’s worth, but it was distinctly lacking in the Kurt Russell department.
2. A Quiet Place (2018)
Some will say A Quiet Place, like the next film on my list, isn’t a horror movie but rather a work or suspense or science fiction or some other categorization. For me, however, this is a PERFECT horror movie: extremely tense and nerve-racking but without the sleepless nights and crying in a corner that accompanies many horror flicks that are more viscerally disturbing for big babies like me. A Quiet Place has a great concept and story structure to pair with excellent performances. I saw this movie in a theater with an absurd surround sound speaker setup and seats that shook during the various jump scares and it was an exhilarating if terrifying experience.
1. JAWS (1975)
Another film that you can remove from the horror genre if you so choose but if a horror movie can be judged by its societal effects, there are few that can contend with JAWS, a movie that is responsible for a multi-generational fear of the water. JAWS is a perfect film and Spielberg’s decision (forced upon him by mechanical issues though it may have been) to hold back the reveal of the monster until the final act is the stuff of movie legends. It’s a movie that terrifies me still to this day and yet, every time I watch it, I am unable to look away from the screen.