Top Ten Favorite Horror Films and Series
11/01/2022 (darn, too late for Halloween!)
Horror is my favorite genre for film, writing and video games. For the site’s first Halloween, I am going to list my ten favorite horror films and series. Please note that this is not necessarily the top ten best horror films- I haven’t seen enough of the classics to make a full conclusion regarding that. Even with what I have seen, some of the objectively best horror films are not my favorites. This list is going to have the sillier, exciting, fun and possibly absurd films that are always a blast to watch. There is definitely going to be a bias toward zombie films in this list as it is my favorite subgenre (and maybe in the near future, I will do a list of just zombie films.) I am not particularly fond of possession type films or anything with ghosts; science fiction elements, humor and gore are appealing to me, but may not be appealing to everybody. Technical prowess is also something that I lean favorable on, as I love seeing how special effects are made to be as realistic and convincing as possible.
9. Dead Alive (1992)
8. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Yes I know…it is a comedy, but I would argue that it has enough horror elements to make it qualify for this list. I mean come on- the special effects, makeup and violence make some legitimate horror films look lame in comparison. I saw it at the recommendation of my uncle way back in 2005 and never looked back- encouraging me to see Hot Fuzz in theaters during its limited US run. While it is marketed as a spoof of films like Dawn of the Dead, this movie really stands on its own and isn’t as derivative as some may think it is. England had been used as the location of zombie movies before (notably the 28 Days/Weeks Later series,) but this is the most prominent zombie film utilizing London as a central location. This creates a claustrophobic experience as Shaun and his friend Ed navigate the city retrieving their family and friends- holing up in “The Winchester” to wait out the zombie apocalypse. The special effects are the highlight of the film- almost as good as Day of the Dead, and even mimicking a famous gore scene from it. It is funny, charming and a thrilling adventure- it surprised me with how great of a job it does with balancing humor with horror.
7. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
This is a prime example of a super fun horror film. Just like the Romero zombie films, it is excessively gory and violent but has a comedic spin. Instead of slow lumbering zombies, they are now fast moving and shout “BRAINS!” before ripping into someone’s skull. The zombies are also intelligent- being able to access memories to manipulate humans, and utilizing radios to ask for more “treats.” This is likely the first example of fast zombies- becoming commonplace in the 2000’s with 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Invulnerable to almost all weaponry, it adds to the terror and excitement- making you wonder how they can possibly be killed. A key part of the film (and to some, the most famous part) is the stripping scene with Linnea Quigley; being watched by a group of punks going around the town causing trouble. The soundtrack is awesome- mainly punk tracks from bands like The Cramps and T.S.O.L., and the theme “Partytime” being a particularly strong banger. The movie as a whole is a roller coaster ride and not one to neglect watching.
6. Horror of Dracula (1958)
While not the most faithful adaptation of Dracula, this is the one that I find most appealing and entertaining. More influenced by the 1931 Universal film than the book, it follows a similar plot but is filmed in glorious Technicolor. For a 1950’s film, the gore took me completely by surprise and is accentuated with Technicolor- blood appearing in bright red. Christopher Lee’s performance as Dracula is my favorite of the “traditional” Dracula films- while I still think Klaus Kinski’s performance in Nosferatu is the most frightening, Lee exudes a masculine sexiness that modern interpretations strive for but rarely achieve (can we be honest and say that Bela Lugosi is not and never was “sexy”?) His baritone voice and striking features make him convincing in the role- he doesn’t speak much, but when he does he means business. The set design and special effects are top notch- while not as convincing as say Nosferatu, the castle is ornate and draped in expensive fabrics. It is simultaneously warm and inviting, while also holding in the pain and suffering of his victims. Red is utilized throughout the film- to show off the technical marvel of Technicolor and to shock audiences with oozing blood. There were several sequels made over the years with Christopher Lee of varying quality, but none match the original 1958 Horror of Dracula.
5. Nosferatu the Vampyre
Many consider the 1922 version of the film to be their favorite- I call nonsense, as the 1979 Werner Herzog film puts almost all horror films to shame with how insanely creepy and disturbing it is. Starring Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula, it is fairly faithful to the Bram Stoker novel “Dracula” but also borrowing elements from the aforementioned 1922 film. The atmosphere is dense with dread and fear- filmed at a real castle in Europe, enveloped in fog and dampness. Darkness permeates the castle- contrasting with the pale, pasty flesh of Dracula’s mortal body. He speaks very little verbally, but novels with his actions. Kinski moves throughout the castle like a snake- smoothly, rapidly and with almost no noise. He is perverse and grotesque without being absurd- contrasting with the popular view of what Dracula really is (at that point, a stereotype.) This is definitely not a movie for children to watch- while it is not excessively gory, the film will fill your soul with unease and dread. You feel like you are actually in Dracula’s castle- being hunted down like the prey you are, knowing you will spend your final moments being drained of blood against the cold, mossy floor. All the while having to stare at the horrid creature feasting on you- with sharp teeth, disgustingly long fingernails and sunken eyes. This film makes my skin crawl and may be the creepiest film on this list, tied with Hellraiser.
1. Halloween (1979)