Most people confuse horror and horrifying. Believe me, I’m a fan of the classics: Nightmare on Elm Street
, Evil Dead
, Dawn of the Dead
, and so on. I enjoy my share of zombies, gore, masked villains and horny teenagers who never seem to learn that getting some means certain death.
However, the horror films that interest me the most are the ones that I can’t watch again or can’t watch very often. When something is truly horrifying, it should screw with you psychologically and make your skin crawl. Here are my "Top 10 Most Horrifying Films."
10. 28 Days Later (2002)
“Plans are pointless. Staying alive is as good as it gets.”
Whoever came up with the idea to make zombies awesomely fast was on to something. An incurable virus spreads and infects a good piece of the UK. We suddenly have a very simple class structure: the infected and the uninfected. Try really, really hard to not become infected. It has something to do with feasting on the flesh of the ones you love and turning against your fellow man. Not cool.
I watched this film when it first arrived on DVD. A friend of mine who had just returned from Amsterdam explained a particular scene. Cilian Murphy
wakes up and finds himself in familiar, yet unfamiliar territory. He walks along uninhabited streets. Everything is lifeless and silent.
Since I live in Los Angeles, he explained it to me this way: Imagine you are walking around downtown LA at noon, and you are the only one around when there should be a massive amount of people doing their thing. Something like this isn’t too far fetched, which makes it a very scary reality. Let’s face it, we’re a pretty panicky species.
9. American Psycho (2000)
“Something horrible is happening inside of me, and I don't know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”
I was 15 when I first saw this flick. Slightly young for this film, perhaps? Let’s just say I was very, very confused, yet intrigued. I’m an 80’s child and was not yet aware of the business boom that had occurred. Apparently, even the successful elite still have very primitive urges, and I do mean primitive.
Put Christian Bale
in a method role and he can’t help but shine (check out The Machinist
; now that’s dedication to a role!). He’s Patrick Bateman, an 80’s New York business man. As he masks his alter ego from his friends and fiancée, he loses himself within his bloody, late-night urges.
A recent example of this concept is Hostel
. When nothing satisfies you anymore, you turn to more extreme alternatives. He is aware of what he’s doing. He’s intelligent, educated and cultured. Is there something wrong with this picture?
8. High Tension (2003)
“I won't let anyone come between us anymore”
Man, love is a bitch, isn’t it? The tagline for this film is “Hearts will bleed.” That’s pretty hardcore. Two friends find themselves in the same path of a mysterious killer. What type of killer are we dealing with? He uses a decapitated head to “gratify” himself. What the heck did I sign up for?
It’s very intense. The twist turns everything upside down, and the viewer can’t help but to feel helpless. It is very true that love can drive us to do very crazy things. This is beyond that. This is an obsession.
7. Audition (1999)
“Words create lies. Pain can be trusted.”
Imagine a piece of string gradually being pulled tighter and tighter until, finally, it breaks. A man loses his wife and is left to take care of his young son. Several years down the line, he wants to remarry and holds a fake audition to find a new wife.
The whole thing sneaks up on you. It’s a slow, steady pace, and then it pays off in the last 15 minutes. So few movies do that anymore even though it’s a very effective way to get the point across. He was such a nice guy, and she seemed like such a sweet, harmless girl. Yet, somehow, a foot is missing. By now, I should really know better.
6. Oldboy (2003)
“Your gravest mistake wasn't failing to find the answer. You can't find the right answer if you ask the wrong questions.”
This is one of the movies that I cannot watch for a while. Just some advice: do not watch this movie alone. Have someone there to keep you from throwing something at your flat screen. I nearly darted out my own apartment. I was just that angry with myself.
A man is held captive for a number of years. After he is released, he goes out searching for answers. That’s all I’m giving you for this one. The buzz created around this flick was enough to spark my curiosity. Go find it, rent it, or buy it. But be aware, you have been warned. (Oldboy Trailer)
5. The Bad Seed (1956)
“Children can be nasty, don't you think?”
She has everything: a beautiful home, a handsome, loving husband, and a picture-perfect daughter complete with pigtails and frilly skirts. But somewhere between a school field trip and tea time things start to go array. A mother is now suspicious of her own flesh and blood.
This should be a part of your library. A true classic, it’s all about the story. Adapted from a play, and starring the original cast, it’s all very simple visuals with a very complex idea. But she’s perfect. She has an enchanting smile. What has she done? Don’t let the pigtails fool you.
4. Jacob’s Ladder
“If you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth.”
I’m not sure if I watched a movie or just experienced some kind of drug trip. A Vietnam War Veteran starts having these crazy dreams. Big surprise there, huh?
Is it real? Is he imagining it? Horned monsters? People coming back from the dead? Just like our own dreams, anything is fair game and everything seems possible. There are no clichés here. Just hold on for the wild ride and take some advice from the Last House on the Left
: “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”
3. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
“You mean all this time we could have been friends?”
Put Joan Crawford
and Bette Davis
in a film together, and I’m first in line. An old Hollywood rumor has it that these two legends couldn’t stand each other, and someone got the idea to put them opposite each other in a horror flick. Brilliant!
Two sisters are forced into retirement and live in nearly total isolation in a rotting mansion. Some parts are hilarious, some are cruel, and others are just genuinely sad. Holding on to the past and living in total isolation can only mean one fate: a delusional reality and holding on to youth (Sunset Boulevard
ring a bell?) Face it guys, we’re not getting any younger.
2. Rosemary’s Baby
“We're your friends, Rosemary. There's nothing to be scared about. Honest and truly there isn't!”
Being raped by the devil in the middle of the night is rough. But being betrayed by those you thought you could trust is unforgivable. A young couple moves into an apartment next to some peculiar neighbors. It’s no time before there is a bun in the oven, and it suddenly becomes the concern of a lot of people.
When Roman Polanski
is behind something, get your thinking caps on and keep the lights on. I was genuinely frightened. Among many other things, this young woman is outnumbered. There is a much bigger picture than everyone around her is painting. When everyone knows something you don’t, that’s creepy and very unsettling. If you don’t have the DVD, shame on you; it’s a must-have for the horror collection.
1. The Shining
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
is God in my book. His body of work is smart, innovative, and it challenges the viewer. Now combine Kubrick, Stephen King
and Jack Nicholson
. I’m in heaven, and I’m shaking in my boots.
The man of the house takes on a gig being the caretaker of a hotel during the winter months and will live in total isolation. Of course, previous to their arrival, another man murdered his entire family in the same hotel. Evil spirits take over and drive the caretaker into insanity.
I was able to watch this movie twice. The first time, I was way too young. I couldn’t sleep with the lights off or with doors closed for a long, long time. In a recent viewing, because I understood it more, it frightened me on a deeper level. Nothing seems right, safe or familiar. Simply put, the movie did its job and did it well. "The Shining" is one of those complex gems that will always find a fresh, new generation to creep out. If you haven’t seen it, put it on your Netflix queue and enjoy.
Story by Destiny Lopez
Starpulse.com contributing writer