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 know, I know. As a well-documented scaredy-cat, I’m just as surprised to see my name on this list as you are. But of course: there are a number of horror films that are so good, even I can embrace the terror and enjoy the ride. Here they are, my top five horror films of all time.
5. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
Arguably Carpenter and Russell’s best work, this movie captures so well the sheer terror of not being able to trust anyone you thought you could. Skip the original from 1951, and the garbage remake in 2011, then enjoy this film made in an era without CGI. Incredible production design and Rob Botin’s masterful creature effects make this film a bona fide classic. MacReady’s response to the “thing” roaring during the climax of the film (which Is too vulgar to re-print here) is still one of the greatest comebacks of all time.
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
This movie is filmmaking at its purest. It’s proof positive that you do not need stars or a huge budget to make a film that is deeply affecting and truly exceptional. This movie so expertly builds dread through repetition that by the time the climax arrives, it explodes off screen. More than any other movie on my list, this film gave me nightmares for days.
3. Troll 2 (1990)
Usually, when a movie is “bad,” you can point to one or two aspects of the filmmaking process that aren’t working: the directing, the acting, the writing, etc. Troll 2 so successfully fumbles on every conceivable aspect of movie making at the same time that it inexplicably turns right back around to become one of the most enjoyable pieces of trash cinema has ever seen. If you have never seen this film, do yourself a favor and watch it with the largest group of friends possible. You will not be disappointed. (Bonus recommend: Watch Troll 2 as a double feature with Best Worst Movie, a documentary made by the film’s (then) child star about Troll 2’s current day cult status.)
2. JAWS (1975)
Although it ended up inventing what we now know as the “summer blockbuster,” Steven Spielberg’s JAWS was created as a horror film. Spielberg once said that he didn’t know if the movie was going to work until the opening day, when he attended a screening in a local theater and witnessed a man run out into the hall, throw up in a trash can, then sprint back inside the theater. In the last 40+ years, the film has become so iconic it is the still the reason thousands of beach goers (myself included) are scared to venture too far out into the water…
1. The Shining (1980)
What can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said by people far smarter than me? It’s a masterwork of cinema and deserves all the praise it gets and more (with apologies to Stephen King)! One of Kubrick’s finest and a truly timeless tale of horror that still gives me goosebumps. (A quick note for all of the MAMFam home video enthusiasts: At the time of publishing, The Shining was just released on 4K UHD Dolby Vision disc, and the transfer was supervised by Steven Spielberg himself. The film has never looked or sounded better.)