Top 10 Horror Movies

Yes, Halloween is upon us and what better to celebrate than to release my favorite horror movies – countdown style.

I didn’t do this last year because I was in my self-important writer phase and blogging about such lists would’ve been ludicrous. Times have changed and I want to weigh in on what’s a good scare.

(Click on the links to learn more about each movie)

10. The Descent: A nice horror movie that gets it right as far as what’s scary. It’s not over the top gory, campy, or ridiculous. What it is, is well-acted, solid plot, and characters you can invest in. I believe it was released as an independent movie and grew at a grass roots level. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and that’s hard for me to get worked up like that these days (the scariest thing to me is looking at my check book)!

Quick hit: A group of chicks go spelunking in rural Tennessee only to get lost in a cavern and wind up defending themselves against bunch of albino half human monsters.

9. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things: This is a solid zombie movie complete with creepy settings, strange music, and an old cemetery. It was made in 1972 on a shoestring budget, but that’s what adds to the scare factor. The acting is OK, but the movie as a whole delivers.

Quick hit: A small film crew (I think they’re actually hippies but whatever) lands on a deserted island to film a movie and raise the dead (spoiler: this does not end well for them).

 8. My Bloody Valentine: It’s not the best horror movie ever. It’s actually your standard slasher flick, but does have some redeeming qualities. The antagonist was a miner and uses a pick ax to kill his victims…righteous! This is on the list because my best friend and I used to watch this movie on a TV with poor UHF reception. We were probably too young to watch a movie like this but the title just draws you to the movie.

Quick hit: A horrible mining accident some years ago stops a town from celebrating V-day. A bunch of horny high school kids decide to celebrate after 20 years and guess what happens…

7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: I might be in the minority on this movie, but it’s not that scary. It’s disturbing and unsettling. It’s chaotic, loud, and manic. I think there’s a scene in the movie where there’s no dialogue just screaming and the sound of chainsaws. Actually, the protagonist is a real scream queen, and you actually feel that she’s genuinely scared.

Quick hit: A bunch of kids (sound familiar?) are driving in somewhere Texas when their van breaks down (oh no). They’re soon terrorized by a chainsaw wielding cannibal and his family.

6. Zombieland: This isn’t just a zombie film – it’s a smart zombie film (possibly an oxymoron). For maybe the first time in history of zombie films, the characters are not idiots. They live by rules of survival and don’t leave much to a chance of danger. So why is it a good movie? Because it’s fun! Woody Harrelson is awesome and so is the rest of the cast. I enjoyed this movie for its take on zombies and for the humor.

Quick hit: The after shock of a zombie apocalypse leaves four survivalists in search of a safe haven that happens to be a rollercoaster-theme park.

5. Sleepy Hollow: Doesn’t follow the short story by Washington Irving, but nonetheless entertaining. Tim Burton is at his best with this movie as he crafts mystery and horror. I love watching this film because of the imagery. Most of the movie is gray so when anything of color comes into the screen it really pops. Also, I’m a sucker for 18th century American time pieces; making it a horror themed one is a bonus.

Quick hit: Headless horseman is in search of…heads! Ichabod Crane is sent to investigate but finds the horseman is more than just evil.

4. The Shining: This movie might be known more as a Jack Nicholson movie than a Stephen King novel. I’ve never read the novel, but the movie alone spooked me pretty good the first time I saw it. It’s the kind of movie that haunts you well after it’s over.

Quick hit: A family of three occupies a ski lodge for the winter, but it’s haunted and all hell pretty much breaks loose.

3. 28 Days Later: This movie created a lot of controversy because the zombies were super charged and ran like hell after their prey. I didn’t mind it actually added to the tension. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), 28 Days Later has a fresh take on the zombie genre. The first half of this movie is breath-taking; both for the tension and for the world that is left behind. However, the second half is predictable and could have been handled differently. Still a solid horror flick either way. The sequel is pretty good too (28 Weeks Later).

Quick Hit: A man wakes up from a coma and tries to survive the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse (second time I’ve used the phrase).

2. Halloween: No it’s not the Rob Zombie (puh-lease!). This is the John Carpenter original and still stands the test of time. Halloween is the gold standard for slasher flicks and for horror movies. The movie is straightforward and doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. The characters are dealing with the pure evil that is Michael Myers. Today’s horror movies have lost that approach, they want you to understand why the antagonist is evil. Come on! Don’t waste your time on the remake – stick with the original.

Quick hit: Psychopath has unfinished business with his sister and needs to kill her…on Halloween!

1. Night of the Living Dead: This is probably a number one on a lot of lists and it should be. It’s ground breaking and introduced a genre that’s still going strong some 40 years later. The scares aren’t much by today’s standard, but you can enjoy it for the storytelling. Or if you want to go deeper, analyse it for the social commentary. I have watched this movie countless times and still enjoy it. If that house still exists outside of Pittsburgh, I’m adding it to my bucket list of places to visit.

Quick hit: A group of people are trapped in a farm-house by zombies. They find out what is more terrifying – fighting zombies or each other.

Just a couple of honorable mentions: Shaun of the Dead, From Dusk till Dawn, and  Evil Dead.

There you have it, my top ten horror movies. I welcome comments and arguments. Or better yet send me your top ten and we’ll debate!

Happy Halloween!


Wolverine: X-Men Origins

When I should have been writing or crafting a query, I instead watched Wolverine (X-Men Origins). Comic book movies can be hit or miss. Wolverine was just OK. It wasn’t Iron Man, but it wasn’t Dare Devil either. Acting was pretty good but the story line was a little loose. However, I’m digressing. The movie got me thinking about the character Wolverine. He’s been in countless comic books and a few movies. He embodies the perfect anti-hero. He’s not a good guy or by any stretch a bad guy. He’s just making his way in the world; he’s not out looking to do good deeds or rob a bank.

To put this in a writer’s perspective, the anti-hero provides a number of opportunities. Good, bad or indifferent the character can move seamlessly through a novel (just as long as the writer’s consistent). Personally, I’ve never liked my characters too good or too bad. I like them imperfect which is closer to reality. Are we all anti-heroes? No. Most of the time I believe we’re all doing something good in the world. Especially, if one is connected to society then a character like Wolverine really doesn’t exist nor do his adamantium claws.

I believe anti-heroes work best in science fiction. They’re typically found in dystopias or post-apocalyptic landscapes where the character can only take care of themself. Maybe that’s why I’m seeing this character pop up more often. I state that as a fan and actively look for this type of fiction.