I’ve always been one for a good scare. Therefore, Halloween is probably my favorite holiday. While I love to dress up, decorate pumpkins and watch horror movies this time of year, I’m a hardcore horror movie fan all year round (bet you never guessed that). Slasher films are okay, but most of my favorite horror movies have terrifying concepts behind them, which in my opinion, is what really makes them scary. Anyone can make a gory slasher film and call it horror, but it takes a true artist to put a terrifying concept on film and do it well. That being said, here are 13 of my favorites:
13. House of 1000 Corpses: When I was a sophomore in college, kids in my creative writing class told me that I should see this movie because I laugh just like the character Baby. After my good friend from class leant it to me, I watched it one night while studying and found just how disturbingly similar Baby’s laugh was to mine. This movie is not for the occasional horror movie watcher. Being a Rob Zombie film, it’s pretty hardcore. But, if you’re a fan of Rob Zombie’s unique film style and can handle some grotesque scenes, this is one of his best.
12: The Skeleton Key: This movie explores the inner workings of hoodoo in the south leading you down a dark path of southern tradition and deception. It tells the story of a young nurse who takes a job caring for an elderly couple in their old creepy mansion. While you learn that hoodoo can’t hurt you unless you believe in it, nothing will prepare you for the twist ending.
11: Wolf Creek: While Wolf Creek does have some qualities of a typical slasher film, it’s so much more than that. In typical slasher films, the protagonists tend to make bad decisions that are so stupidly unbelievable that they take away from the movie’s credibility. This is quite the opposite. When a group of American tourists are stranded in a remote part of the Australian outback, they make the same decisions you would have made when they’re offered a ride from a seemingly friendly local.
10: The Craft: The Craft is the definition of a cult classic. It’s also an excellent coming of age story. I must admit that the four high school witches summoning the powers of the watchtowers of the north, east, south and west, totally take me back to my childhood days when I too played ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ at sleepovers. The goth fashions of the 90s against oppressing Catholic school uniforms also takes me back to my childhood making The Craft one of my favorite Halloween traditions.
9. Funny Games: This home invasion thriller will either leave you on the edge of your seat or cause you to leave the room. I can best describe Funny Games as A Clockwork Orange on Cape Cod. Shortly after arriving at their lakefront vacation home, a family of three is terrorized by two psychotic prepsters in white. The movie toys just as much with the audience as the killers do with their victims giving it a terrifyingly unique quality.
8: The Brotherhood: Though this film has all the elements of being a corny scary movie, I absolutely love the concept. Besides, it’s important to have a few movies on this list to watch with friends who can’t stomach a Rob Zombie film. The Brotherhood tells the story of a group of frat brother vampires (yes, you read that correctly) who use their vampirism to stay in college forever. Why didn’t I think of that?
7: The Wicker Man: I’ve always been fascinated by cults and their strange rituals. The Wicker Man is one of the best depictions of their obscure nature. When a patrolman receives a letter from his former fiance, Willow, telling him that their daughter is missing, he goes to look for her on a private island where Willow lives as part of an odd matriarchal community that operates similar to a beehive. Get ready for a great twist at the end.
6: The Ring: Once you watch this movie about a creepy dead girl with a murderous videotape, you’ll cringe every time your phone rings or someone turns on the TV. The Ring does an excellent job of taking everyday objects and making them frightening. Not only is the video itself super scary, but the backstory about the evil girl behind it will stick with you for years to come.
5: The Strangers: If you love a good home invasion film, this is one of the best. When a young couple is stranded in a remote cabin, they are terrorized by three masked strangers. What makes this movie unique is that the killers have little to no lines and wear masks for pretty much the whole movie making them even more mysterious and menacing.
4: Hocus Pocus: Though this movie scared the hell out of me when I was seven, it’s not what any adult would consider a horror movie. However, it’s undisputedly a Halloween classic that I watch over and over again throughout the month of October.
3. The Moth Diaries: The Moth Diaries is one of the most original vampire movies I’ve ever seen in that it tells the story of a vampire that doesn’t live off blood, but off of human suffering. After her father’s suicide, Rebecca’s mother enrolls her in an all girls boarding school where she becomes happy again with the help of her best friend Lucie. When a newcomer arrives on campus and comes between her and Lucie, Rebecca becomes suspicious that there might be something evil about her.
2. American Mary: Unlike most horror movies that focus on killers or vampires, American Mary takes you deep into the taboo world of body modification. Mary is a broke medical student studying to be a surgeon. Against her better judgement, she starts performing freakish body modification surgeries on people looking to do some insane transformations. I’m so excited to see what the Soska sisters of Twisted Twins Productions come out with next.
1. Carrie: I’ve been watching Carrie on Halloween since I was a kid. Back in the days of Blockbuster Video, my Mom would always rent it for me around Halloween and we would watch it together. Though I liked last year’s remake a lot, you just can’t beat the original. No one will ever be able to top the terrifying performance of the mother in the 1976 version. I read an interview with Stephen King where he revealed that Carrie was based on a girl he went to school with. Her mother was a fanatical gambling addict. As a result of her mother’s crazy gambling habit, she only had one dress to wear to school and was horribly bullied for it. When she wore a new dress to school for the first time, the kids made fun of her even more. She later killed herself, but lives on forever as Carrie.