Countdown to the 100 Best Scary Movies of All-Time (65 to 61)


65.     

The Hunger (1983)

“Are you making a pass at me, Mrs. Blaylock?” Loosely based on the novel by Whitley Strieber, The Hunger is a stylish erotic thriller directed by the late Tony Scott (Unstoppable), in his feature film debut, and featuring Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion), David Bowie (The Prestige), Susan Sarandon (The Witches of Eastwick) and a very young Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire) in one of his first screen appearances. A doctor (Sarandon), who specializes in research involving the aging process, encounters a murderous vampire couple (Deneuve and Bowie) and soon falls under the seductive spell of Deneuve’s character. The Hunger is a visually stunning and atmospheric piece that is both dark and glamorous in a style reminiscent of the music videos of the 1980’s. There is a slow and smoothly seductive tone to the movie, which features one of the most erotic seduction scenes ever seen on the big screen (between Deneuve and Sarandon). The film’s other strengths include the beautiful cinematography, the atmospheric score (including the enthralling opening sequence with Bauhaus performing Bela Lugosi’s Dead) and the strong performances (in particular Susan Sarandon as Deneuve’s tormented new lover). The film was not well received by the critics when it was first released. Since then The Hunger though has become a cult classic. The movie even spawned a short-lived television series with the same name. The Hunger was nominated for two Saturn Awards for Best Costumes and Best Make-up.

64.     

Night of the Demon (1957)

” You could learn a lot from children. They believe in things in the dark…” Based on a short story by M.R. James, Night of the Demon (AKA Curse of the Demon in the United States) is a British horror movie directed by French director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People) and featuring  Dana Andrews (Laura) and Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy).  The film’s plot centers on an American psychologist (Andrews), who is a well-known debunker of paranormal phenomenon, and his investigation of a satanic cult and its charismatic leader, which may be responsible for sinister happenings including murder. There were numerous problems during the film’s production due to highly publicized fights between the producer Hal E. Chester and other members of the production company, including the director, screenwriter Charles Bennett and Dana Andrews. The producer even went over the head of the director (much to the dismay of the director, writer and star) and inserted images of the monster into the film, which the others felt took away from the scariness of the movie. Chester also had the movie edited down to 83 minutes to accelerate the pace of the movie and show it as a double bill in the United States. Despite these changes, The Night of the Demon still holds up as a horror classic—an understated supernatural tale where the director subtly uses shadows and atmosphere to chilling effect to build the suspense and terror. Modern critics are unanimous in their praise for the movie. Some fun trivia: Kate Bush’s song Hounds of Love includes dialogue from the film in the introduction: “It’s in the trees, it’s coming.” Night of the Demon is also one of the B-Horror movies cited in the song Science Fiction/Double Feature in the campy musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show: “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, and passing them used lots of skills.” Martin Scorsese included the movie on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all-time.

63.          

Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) & The Grudge (2004) 

In 2000, Ju-on was originally released as two low-budget straight-to-video Japanese television movies. Due to the surprise success of these videos, director Takashi Shimizu made a theatrical version Ju-on: The Grudge, released in 2002. The film’s story focuses on a haunted house with a horrific past, vengeful ghosts and a powerful curse. Anyone who enters the home and encounters the vengeful spirits is cursed and suffers horrible consequences. The movie’s plot is divided into six short interconnecting vignettes, which focus on characters that encounter the curse. The movie is an atmospheric and suspenseful series of ghost stories intricately woven together, which keeps the audience on their toes with each creepy ghostly encounter. The sequel entitled Ju-on 2 (Ju-on: The Grudge 2) was released in 2003. Equally scary is the American remake The Grudge released in 2004 and also directed by Takashi Shimizu. This version features Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as a social worker who comes to the house to care for an elderly woman. The cast also includes Jason Behr, Clea DuVall and Bill Pullman. Though based on Ju-on: The Grudge, the American version features scenes re-enacted from the other Ju-on movies. The movie was not well received by most critics when it was released, but it did very well at the box office, grossing over 180 million worldwide and making it the second highest grossing horror remake of the past 40 years behind The Ring. The Grudge also received a number of award nominations, including a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. Nominees that year included Dawn of the Dead and Saw with the award going to Shaun of the Dead. Don’t bother with The Grudge 2.

62.

I’m Not Scared (2003)

Based on a successful and acclaimed novel by Niccolo Ammaniti, this Italian thriller is directed by Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo) and is loosely based on a true story of a kidnapped boy from Milan during the anni di piombo (a time noted for terrorism and kidnappings in the 1970’s in Italy).  The movie takes place in 1978 during an exceptionally hot summer in a small Italian seaside village. While out playing, a nine-year old boy discovers another boy, lying shackled at the bottom of a hole, and uncovers an evil ransom scheme. The movie is a chilling tale about the loss of innocence. The director delivers a stunningly detailed period piece and effectively builds the suspense throughout the film right up until the exciting climax. The movie’s other strengths include the stunning cinematography and the strong performances by the large cast, especially Giuseppe Cristiano who plays the main character and had no previous acting experience. In fact, most of the actors in the movie were locals with no film experience. The movie was very well received when it debuted at the Berlin Film Festival. Within two days after the screening, thirty-two countries had purchased the rights to the film, including Miramax, which released the film to North American audiences and over a million at the box office. I’m Not Scared was also nominated or won many prestigious international film awards.

61.     

Videodrome (1983)

“Television is reality, and reality is less than television.” Set in Toronto in the early 1980’s, Videodrome is a Canadian horror movie written and directed by David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone) and featuring James Woods (Vampires), Sonja Smits (Street Legal) and Deborah Harry (Hairspray). A president of a cable televisions station (Woods), having grown dissatisfied with his station’s current programming, is looking for something new and revolutionary. He, however, gets more than he bargained for when he is introduced to a broadcast signal that features a show of unknown origin specializing in torture and murder. Soon, Woods’ character is drawn into a bizarre and twisted conspiracy where the line between reality and television blurs into mind control and strange organic hallucinations. The movie is a powerful and disturbing look at the early stages of reality television and its potential dangerous consequences if taken too far. When it was first released, the movie was not well received by audiences and received mixed reviews from the major critics. Videodrome has since received mostly positive reviews from modern critics for its visionary and techno-surreal depiction of a future dystopia. Videodrome was nominated for 8 Genie Awards (including Best Screenplay; Best Achievement in Art Direction, Cinematography and Film Editing; and Best Performances by Actors and an Actress in a Supporting Roles). Cronenberg won the Genie for Best Achievement in Direction in a tie with Bob Clark for A Christmas Story. Videodrome is ranked fourth on Bravo’s 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments. The Toronto International Film Festival ranked it 89th in the most essential movies in film history. 

Countdown to the 100 Best Scary Movies of All-Time (70 to 66)


70.     

Eraserhead (1977) 

Director David Lynch’s first feature length film, Eraserhead is a surreal, nightmarish, original horror story. Shot in black and white, the film is similar in style to the German Expressionist films of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Throughout the film, Henry Spencer (played by Jack Nance), who lives in a bleak and bizarre industrial city, experiences dream-like hallucinations while caring for a deformed child. The film was produced with the assistance of the American Film Institute where Lynch was studying. The film opened to small audiences, little attention and largely negative reviews. Eraserhead has since grown into a cult classic. Critics today view the film as a cinematic masterpiece and compare it to the work of Luis Buñuel. They praise the film for its unsettling and unnerving sound design, surreal imagery, twisted sexual undercurrents, black comedy and Spencer’s sense of fatalism in a post-apocalyptic world. The film’s influence can be seen in the work of other filmmakers, including David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, Darren Aronofsky and Stanley Kubrick’s The ShiningIn 2004, the film was preserved in the National Film Registry, which is maintained by the United States Library of Congress. 

69.     

Village of the Damned (1960)

Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village of the Damned is a disturbing tale directed by Wolf Rilla and featuring George Sanders (All About Eve) in the lead. After the inhabitants of a small English village mysteriously fall unconscious, a number of women discover they are pregnant. Soon after, they all, on the same day, deliver babies that eerily resemble each other—beautiful, blonde-haired children with strange eyes. To their horror, the townspeople later discover that the children all possess dangerous psychic abilities that they use to protect themselves and get what they want. The cold and calculating depiction of the children in juxtaposition with the idyllic and quaint quality of village life makes the film even more chilling. The clever story, strong performances (in particular from George Sanders who is always great to watch in films) and the well-executed mounting suspense (right up to the film’s thrilling climax) all make the film worth watching. The film is ranked #92 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. A sequel, Children of the Damned, followed in 1963.  Don’t bother with the 1995 remake with Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley.

68.          

The Fly (1986) & The Fly (1958)

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Directed and co-written by David Cronenberg, The Fly is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name and features Jeff Goldblum (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and Geena Davis (Thelma and Louise). When a teleportation experiment goes wrong, a scientist discovers he has accidentally combined his genetic material with that of a housefly and is becoming a hideous monster. The remake works on a number of levels. Not only is The Fly a superbly told and frightening suspense thriller, but it is also a tragic love story. Both Goldblum and Davis turn in powerful and heart wrenching performances and the movie delivers a highly charged emotional punch. The reviews for the film are highly positive and the movie was a hit at the box office, bringing in over 60 million. Some critics even saw the film as being a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. The Fly won an Academy Award for Best Makeup. The film was nominated for six Saturn Awards, including Best Actress (Davis), Best Director and Best Music. It won for Best Horror Movie, Best Actor (Goldblum) and Best Makeup.  In 2005, Tim Magazine included The Fly in their All-Time 100 Greatest Movies list and later the magazine named it one of the 25 best horror films. The film is also ranked #33 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The Chicago Film Critics Association named the movie 32nd scariest film ever made. Based on the short story by George Langelaan, the original 1958 version was directed by Kurt Neumann, featured David Hedison and Vincent Price and included the iconic line: “Help me! Help me!”.  Both fun and frightening, the 1958 movie version was also well received by critics and was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. There were two sequels: Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly.

67.     

The Mummy (1932)

The original film The Mummy is one of the great horror classics from the 1930’s. The movie is directed by Karl Freund and features horror screen legend Boris Karloff. Karloff plays an Egyptian priest who is brought back from the dead after a member of an archaeological expedition reads from an ancient scroll.  Under the guise of a modern day Egyptian, the “mummy” sets out on a quest to find the reincarnation of his lovera former Egyptian Princess. The film may appear dated from today’s standards; however, Karl Freund, who was the cinematographer on 1931’s Dracula, has created an eerie, atmospheric tale (using shadow and light in the German expressionistic style to enhance the mood) that is both campy and frightening. Karloff is brilliant, as usual. Today, the film is considered a masterpiece and Karloff’s image of the mummy, wrapped in bandages, has become iconic.

66.     

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Dressed to Kill is a suspenseful tale directed by Brian De Palma (Carrie) and featuring Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Rises), Angie Dickinson (Police Woman), Nancy Allen (Carrie), and Keith Gordon (Christine). A murder victim’s son (Gordon) and a call girl (Allen), who witnessed his mother’s murder, believe that one of the patients of a New York psychiatrist (Caine) may be a psychopathic killer. With a lack of support from the police, the pair must team up to prove their theory before the call girl becomes the next victim. A homage to Hitchcock (with elements from films like Psycho, Rear Window and Vertigo), Dressed to Kill is a highly stylized, sexually charged thriller. De Palma skillfully combines mystery and suspense, providing enough twists and turns in the plot to keep the audience on edge of their seats. There is a dream-like, nightmarish quality to the film, supported by a great score by Pino Donaggio. The film also has strong performances from the cast, in particular Angie Dickinson as the morally conflicted murder victim. The film received a great deal of controversy when it was released. Feminist groups accused De Palma of being misogynistic and the GLBT community was not happy in the way transgender people were portrayed. Cuts were made to the film to get an R rating from the American Censor Board that trimmed the film by 30 seconds to contain less frontal nudity, blood and dirty dialogue. The movie received mostly positive reviews from critics. The film was nominated for four Saturn Awards, including Best Horror Film, Best Director and Best Music. Angie Dickinson won for Best Actress. The movie also had the distinction of being nominated for three Razzie Awards that year: Worst Director, Worst Actor (Caine) and Worst Actress (Allen). Nancy Allen though was nominated for a Golden Globe as “New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Female” for her role in the film.

Countdown to the 100 Best Scary Movies of All-Time (75 to 71)


75.     

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The Legend of Hell House is a British film directed by John Hough (The Watcher in the Woods) and written by Richard Matheson, based on his novel. The movie features a talented cast including Pamela Franklin (The Innocents), Roddy McDowall (Fright Night), Clive Revill (Bunny Lake is Missing) and Gayle Hunnicutt (Eye of the Cat). A team of paranormal investigators is hired by a dying millionaire to investigate the notorious Belasco House and gather evidence of the existence of life after death. The house is reported to be one of the most haunted places on earth—a place where people experience violent deaths or are driven mad. This paranormal investigation takes on chilling consequences for the team, as the supernatural events escalate in intensity and their lives become at risk from the demonic forces. The filmmaker creates a suitably eerie and foreboding atmosphere while weaving a suspenseful tale that is highlighted by strong performances from the actors. The Legend of Hell House was nominated for a Golden Scroll Award for best horror film of 1973 along side other great scary movies (Don’t Look Now, Sisters, Theatre of Blood) with the award going to The Exorcist that year.

74.     

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Based on the bestselling novel by Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror is an American film directed by Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) and featuring James Brolin (Capricorn One), Margot Kidder (Superman) and Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night). The book and movie claim to be based on the real life experiences of the Lutz family who experienced frightening, paranormal events after moving into an older house with a violent history on Long Island, New York.  In the film version, the father seems to fall under the control of the malevolent spirits in the house. The movie is a well-executed supernatural thriller, as the director effectively builds the suspense and terror. The paranormal happenings are largely creepy and threatening, and the cast delivers convincing performances. The Amityville Horror received largely negative reviews from the critics when it was first released, but was a big success at the box office, bringing in more that 86 million. The movie’s score was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe. The Amityville Horror was also nominated for Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film and Best Actress (Kidder). Don’t bother with the 2005 remake featuring Ryan Reynolds.

 73.     

Altered States (1980)

Based on the novel and adapted for the screen by renowned screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (Network), Altered States is directed by Ken Russell (The Devils). The movie was notable as it marks the film debuts of both William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and a young Drew Barrymore (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). A scientist experiments on himself with mind altering drugs and sensory deprivation while in an isolation tank. As a result, he begins to experience disturbing physical and mental changes, as his body undergoes an evolutionary regression to a primitive-like monster. Ken Russell has created a flamboyantly, extravagant fright-fest with stellar performances from his cast. It is a film that is both weird and wonderful in typical Ken Russell fashion. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards—for Best Sound and Best Original Score. Altered States was also nominated for three Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director and Best Writing.

72.     

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is a silent film classic directed by Rupert Julian (The Cat Creeps) and featuring silent horror film legend Lon Chaney (The Hunchback of Notre Dame). A hideously deformed former composer lurks in the shadows of the Paris Opera House committing many atrocities including murder in an attempt to win the love of a young songstress and make her his star.  An impressive melodramatic tale of terror,  The Phantom of the Opera is considered a work of art today due to its highly stylized film imagery and Chaney’s fine performance. Lon Chaney worked laboriously on his own make-up for the role, which was kept a secret by the studio until the film’s opening. Universal released remakes of The Phantom of the Opera in 1943 and 1962. The musical version based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage hit was released in 2004. The Phantom of the Opera is rated #52 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

 71.     

The Dead Zone (1983)

Directed by Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, The Dead Zone is thriller based on novel by Stephen King and featuring a strong cast including, Christopher Walken (The Prophecy), Martin Sheen (The Believers), Tom Skerritt (Alien) and Brooke Adams (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). After being injured in a car accident, a local schoolteacher ends up in hospital in a coma.  Five years later, he awakens from the coma and tries to resume his life only to discover he has acquired psychic abilities. Walken’s character now has visions of past and future events triggered by touching items or people. The film is a subtle and effectively unsettling supernatural thriller featuring interesting characters and strong performances, in particular from Christopher Walken. The film received favorable reviews and won the Saturn award for best horror film of 1983. The Dead Zone was also adapted into a critically acclaimed television series featuring Anthony Michael Hall that ran for six seasons on the USA network.