120 Essential Horror Films (part 1)

With Halloween only a few days away, the US is gearing up for all things frightening. Personally I find any day a good day for a scare, but that's just me. For some time now I've been toying with the idea of compiling a book The Essentials of Horror Cinema, a massive collection of horror cinema's best and sometimes worst. But as most stuff in which I am currently involved, it is a constant work in progress. However, I have decided to write out a small part of the concept out for those of you who care to read in a much abridged form. After going through my huge pile of notes and trimming down the list, I came up with a list of 120 movies (because 100 is boring). Some of the films on the list you may argue are not horror films, but I go by the philosophy that horror is a strong emotion. One feels horror One experiences horror. A horror movie is not always a creature, ghost, or a slasher roaming about the screen that seems to be the common niche these days.

And now here's the first part.

The beginning of films to 1960: Our first selection of films covers a lot of ground. After the creation of this new art form and early directors were trying new techniques. Then sound came along and blew everyone away. Unfortunately other than There German Expressionism, Lon Chaney Sr., and Universal Studio's creature features, then a not much happening in the horror genre. Plus not many movies were being made back then. Anyways, here we go.

1. Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)

One of my favorite flicks from the German Expressionism era. The lighting, angles, and shapes are memorizing, which adds to the eerie element. This movie must have had people running from the theater when it was released.
RELATED FILM: Der Golem (1915)

2. Haxan (1922)
This strange Swedish movie is part a documentary on witchcraft and part a vignettes on the same subject. It's a wild one. Watch the 2001 Criterion Collection DVD release which includes the re-cut film in its entirety.

3. Nosferatu (1922)

FW Murnau's vampire tale still packs a bunch today. Count Orlock is one of the most frightening creatures to every make the screen. A true classic.
RELATED FILM: Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

4. Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Lon Chaney Sr. has an impressive resume of work, this one is my personal favorite. The master of facial expression and body contortion, Chaney makes the phantom character is a startling figure.

5. Metropolis (1927)
Probably more of a science fiction movie than a horror movies, there are still some moments in this which can put you on edge. It's a great concept with a master filmmaker Fritz Lang at the helm.

6. Dracula (1931)

One of the first of the classic horror flicks from Universal Studios. No one does Drac like Bela Lugosi. One of Tod Browning's best.
RELATED FILMS: Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Horror of Dracula (1958)

7. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931)
My favorite version of this classic tale. I think it packs a slightly better punch than the later version with Spencer Tracey.
RELATED FILM: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1941)

8. Frankenstein (1931)

An all time favorite of mine. For me, the monster is a very endearing character and I find myself wanting him to destroy the villagers at the end.

9.M (1931)

Peter Lorre as a child murderer with Fritz Lang behind the camera, how could this movie fail. It cant. This is a great piece of cinema.

10.Vampyr (1932)
A fantastically shot masterpiece where you cant really tell where the lines between dreams and reality are hard to tell for the audience. A classic vampire tale.

11. Freaks (1932)
Never before or since has a movie like this been made. A strange love story turned back with actual carnival performers. Unique and a must see.

12. The Mummy (1932)
There were a lot of movies made with Boris Karloff during this time as he was one of the big three horror actors for Universal. This is the classic tale of Im Ho-Tep, who comes back to life to find his reincarnated lover.
RELATED FILM: Bubba Ho-Tep(2002)

13. King King (1933)
The original version of King Kong is very enjoyable flick of a gigantic beast's love for a women. Love it when he fights the snake!
RELATED FILM: King Kong(2005)

14. Island of Lost Souls (1933)
A great take on the classic H.G. Wells tale of a mad scientist altering human genes. The creatures are great as is Charles Laughton's performance.

15. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

In some ways, this sequel is better than the original. Much of the same as the original, except this time around Dr. Frank is also a sympathetic character. And what a magnificent harido.

16. The Wolf Man (1942)

Lon Chaney Jr. was one of the big horror actors of his generation. This movie has my favorite performance by him. Watch out when the wolfsbayne blooms!

17. The Cat People (1942)
Jacques Tourneur was a master at suspense. All his films are full of great imagery and leaving what is in the shadows stay there. He lets your imagination take over. Producer Val Lewton also has a big hand in this as well as RKO studios put out awesome movies during the time. This is one of their best combined works. Is she a cat or is she person? I dont's up to you to decide.
RELATED FILMS: {by Tourner} I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Curse of the Demon (1957)

18. The Uninvited (1944)
A fantastic haunted house tale with a nice mystery.

19. The Spiral Staircase (1946)
A movie about a serial killer taking prey on disabled women. Very suspenseful.

20. House of Wax (1953)
A list would be incomplete without the awesome Vincent Price. This is my personal choice for his best effort.

21. Godzilla (1954)

Go straight for the recently released, uncut Japanese version. It is a very dark and bleak movie which gives off a totally different tone than the US cut of the film. Listen to the Blue Oyster Cult before hand and get really pumped up!

22. Les Diaboliques (1955)
Talk about on the edge of your seat suspense. This intense French movie is it! The wife and mistress of a Boarding School's headmaster come up with a plan to murder him, but after the deed is done the body disappears. Then the fun really begins.

23. Night of the Hunter(1955)

Robert Mitchum had many noteworthy performances in his strong career, but this one may be his best. He is sadistic, menacing, and pure evil. Do yourself a favor and see this movie today.
RELATED FILM: Cape Fear (1962)

24. The Bad Seed (1956)
A mother suspects her daughter may be a killer. Trust me, this is one spooky kid.
RELATED FILMS: The Innocents (1961), Village of the Damned (1960)

25. Eyes without a Face (1959)
Another strong outing from France, this tale of surgeon kidnaps women and grafts their faces onto his horribly disfigured daughter.
REALTED FILMS: Faust (1926), (Open Your Eyes (1997)

1 comment:

Joe said...

Did you see that they are re-making The Wolf Man? It's set to be release in the spring of 2009!