Prepare to be scared: The Spectrum’s Top 5 Horror Films

Another spooky period goes by and one of my favorite genres of film has some overlooked classics in the form of subgenres. As a result, I have compiled my favorite horror films. These films are ranked in no particular order. All are supposed to represent the cream of the crop in their respective sub genre of horror.

Starting out my list is the slasher, a genre filled with the violent killing of willful protagonists and unwilling cannon-fodder-expendables. Think Jason from Friday the 13th (1980), Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), or my personal pick, Michael Myers and the slasher masterpiece Halloween (1978). Boasting an incredible build of tension, distinct and creative kills, and a comprehensive, flowing atmospheric score accompanying iconic shot work and cinematography, Halloween is a thrilling, brutal, and tasteful film, the prime cut for what constitutes a great slasher.

While good horror often blends small bits of psychological-suspense and thrill-galvanization, psychological horror/thriller flicks focus almost exclusively on peaking these elements. Good specimens involve The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Sixth Sense (2000), and even Psycho (1960). My choice, The Shining (1980), boasts a mentally terrifying experience on a grander scale, creating truly thrilling and heady horror. Examining the psyche of the insane and the isolated, plus creating a superb sense of dread and misfortune, the film is profusely gobstopping. Not to mention the unnerving and striking performance by Jack Nicholson, accompanied by the marvelous directorial talents of Stanley Kubrick makes this a must see. Not to mention my soft spot for a film that can create an antagonist who can be both likeable and demonstrably entertaining, yet petrifying and intrinsically intriguing. A true masterwork of thought-provoking proportions.

Next up is the dedicated thriller. Alien (1979) is the crowning achievement of the subgenre. With runners-up such as the gripping Jaws (1975), the satirical American Psycho (2000), and the more recent, perspicacious Get Out (2017), Alien seems to be the most grounded, due to its profound mix of science fiction’s creative liberties and thrilling monster-movie tropes. Its innate ability to create such exciting, suspenseful conflict between a cast of completely likable characters and the intimidating, ruthless, yet majestic Xenomorph, is exhilarating. (That design of the alien is attributed to the late-great H.R. Giger’s work). The atmosphere is perfectly bleak, desolate, and stoic on the main ship the characters harbored the alien onto, the Nostromo. The sound design is also quite sublime, all aiding in the creation of ambience and great pathos and melancholy, all of which is significantly played off the outstanding and compelling role Sigourney Weaver adds as Ripley. If you are looking to be utterly discomfited, worried, and angstily thrilled, this movie is the ex-officio of the subgenre.

Body horror, is quite literally, one of the most horrific and visceral of the bunch. A subgenre that regularly lambastes and ditches subtlety for great bodily harm and in-your-face gritty violence. Of this style, the most rudimentary examples that come to mind include The Fly (1986), Raw (2016), even From Beyond (1986) and Eraserhead (1977) There’s no clearer pick for me than the marvel that is The Thing (1982). The Thing is particularly notorious for its impressive special effects, the bodily disgust that the characters take on in practical-effect and puppet-morphism, sure. But the general aura of despair, tight performances, and decent directing is truly underappreciated. This film is a staple in horror, making its obscurity even more of a gruesome tragedy.

Finally, for a proper blend of what we’ve seen thus far. The Evil Dead (1987) is horror like none other. Sure, I can compare it to that of splatter, fantasy, or gore horror-flicks, but that’d be considerably undermining and distasteful. The Evil Dead is in a definite league of its own, pairing excellent acting, stunt work, cinematography, scares, violence, and “You Really Feel It” kind of action, thanks to the likes of Sam Raimi. If you haven’t checked out the immensely entertaining and well-aged Evil Dead Trilogy, this horror outlier is a grand place to start. Plus, it brings Bruce Campbell to the table, one of my personal favorite actors, due to his manly bravado, charisma, and impervious comedic edge. His profound and quite amicable ability to give every performance as if it was his last, is also of high note. With a motion-picture series this inventive, charming, and resourceful, what’s not to love?