(I hold these films in high esteem for many reasons. Don’t assume the first I mention is the most frightening I have ever seen. Today that honor goes to the original Halloween, but tomorrow it may be the original Psycho, and the next day it might be the original The Haunting. … Note the inclusion of “the original,” which tells us something about the ubiquity of crappy remakes out here.) And as the viewer can clearly see above, there has never been a monster as scary as Lon Chaney's Phantom!
-- Doug Gibson
Frankenstein, 1931: Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the monster produced sympathy from audiences. After he left the series, the monster turned into a stumbling, grunting animal.
Dracula, 1931: Bela Lugosi’s portrayal forever defines how a vampire should behave. Dark, aristocratic courtesy, slow, deliberate movements and speech, befit a creature who has existed for almost an eternity.
Phantom of the Opera, 1925: Lon Chaney created the most repulsive, horrifying monster ever.
Night of the Living Dead, 1968: George A. Romero’s decision to turn the dead into flesh-eating zombies created a thriving horror genre that has yet to reach its peak.
5 The Haunting, 1963: The best of the haunted house horror films. This Robert Wise film scares the hell out of viewers with atmosphere, imagination and a few knocks on a door.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974: This film merits inclusion because it spawned a genre that has yet to abate – the “slasher” genre of nihilistic, giggling, drooling maniacs. Watching this film is akin to screaming for an entire day.
Psycho, 1960: A classic of suspense, and one of the first films to provide a shock ending most audiences won’t see coming.
Halloween, 1978: John Carpenter’s masterpiece is perhaps the scariest film ever. He takes the time to develop characters the audience cares about, and then has them dispatched in suspenseful scenes involving the now-stereotypical soulless killer. Carpenter also heightens the terror with skillful use of foreground shots.
The Blair Witch Project, 1999: This film launched the genre of horror films that are comprised of found video or experienced in a secondary medium. The Paranormal series is an example. “Blair Witch…” is also very scary, claustrophobic, and unsettling with its jerky cinematography.
The Sadist, 1963: This film represents the ignored low-budget film that is so good that it slowly merits attention and gains acclaim. Arch W. Hall Jr. is frightening as a merciless teen psychopath, accompanied by a moronic girlfriend, who terrifies some teachers at an abandoned roadside inn just outside Los Angeles. The chatter of the Dodger pre-game show on the car radio as the horror ensues is unsettling.
Honorable mention: Them, 1954: The post-World War II and Cold War era moved viewers from traditional monsters to new, nuclear-initiated monsters and mutations at home and in outer space. My favorite is this tale of mutant ants that need to be stopped before they realize they can take over the world.
My Top 10 horror films, By Steve D. Stones
1) Dawn of the Dead (1978 version)
2) Nosferatu (1921 version)
3) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919 silent)
4) Hellraiser (1987)
5) Night of the Living Dead (1968 version)
6) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 version, not that crappy 2003 version)
7) Black Sunday (1960 Mario Bava film, not the 1970s football movie)
8) Carnival of Souls (1962 version)
9) The Evil Dead (1983)
10) Shock Waves (1976)
So here are our Plan 9 Crunch favorite horror films, courtesy of Doug and Steve. Most, if not all, are reviewed on this site. Read the reviews, watch all 19 mentioned. We’ve seen them all, more than once.