100 Greatest Horror Movies
Special Mention: Night Of The Hunter
This American Gothic, Biblical tale of greed, innocence, seduction, and murder is based on the popular, best-selling 1953 Depression-era novel of the same name by the first-time writer Davis Grubb – and adapted for the screen by famed writer-author James Agee. Actor-turned-director Charles Laughton unfortunately never made another film, even though he demonstrated such promise and skill for a filmmaker. With Night of the Hunter, Laughton took many risks – the film was shot in only 36 days – in black and white when color was the new craze – and in standard ratio when theaters were beginning to show Cinemascope. The film did poorly at the box office and critics were extremely harsh in their reviews. Nevertheless, the film has found a wider audience over the years, and Robert Mitchum’s performance, in particular, has been praised and cited as one of cinema’s greatest villains. Mitchum stars as Harry Powell, a pedophile, self-appointed preacher-turned-serial killer, who carries a switchblade and has “HATE” and “LOVE” tattooed on the knuckles of either fist. Mitchum’s portrayal of the obsessive sexually repressed misogynous maniac is often compared to Joseph Cotton’s performance in Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt. Both men are sleek monsters, but Mitchum’s Powell has a slight edge delivering one of the most chilling vocal performances ever put on film: his terrifying religious anthem “Leaning on the Everlasting Arm” will make the hairs on your neck stand up. The Night of the Hunter is truly a compelling and haunting masterpiece and one of the greatest American films of all time; Experimental, sophisticated, avant-garde, dream-like, expressive and truly, one of a kind.
100. The Changeling
This creepy tale of horror stars George C. Scott as John Russell, a recently widowed music professor, who has moved to Seattle in the hope of forgetting his personal tragedy. Unfortunately for him, his new residence (an old home owned by the local historical society) is haunted. Although many critics consider this one of the best in the haunted house sub-genre, the film was criminally underseen when released in 1980, a time when slasher films starring young good looking teens were in vogue. It’s a shame because this good old-fashioned ghost story is a skillfully-made thriller, one that unfolds slowly, choosing to take its time in setting up the characters before any real horror begins. This is a textbook example of how to do horror right without relying on any digital effects.
99. Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway Camp is just one of the many entries from the classic heyday of slasher films released in the early ’80s and recycles much of the same formula of Friday the 13th. The plot is fairly simple and follows a bunch of teens at a summer camp who are slaughtered one by one in what amounts to a whodunnit complete with Freudian trauma and gender-role confusion. There are about 11 murders in the movie, but writer/director Robert Hiltzik chooses to suggest the worst ones through shadow or by obscuring part of the action. For the gorehounds, there are a few definite gross-out jobs makeup-wise, but overall Sleepaway Camp has significantly less gore than most of the movies featured on this list. That said, it is one of the most entertaining slasher films from the ’80s and boy is it ever a memorable one due to its unexpected twist ending, which burns in your memory long after the credits roll. For those of you who have seen the movie and know the ending, I recommend reading up on “The Ricky Theory“.
Blood and Black Lace may be light on story, but it’s rich in style and is one of Bava’s most accomplished works. The film is a beautiful piece of workmanship executed with dazzling, unparalleled use of bright colours and deep shadows and choreographed with cruel precision, with an always mobile camera (mounted on a child’s wagon due to a lack of budget). Some argue this started the Giallo genre; others credit Bay Of Blood, but I argue The Girl Who Knew Too Much is the first true Giallo. Regardless, all three are incredible films and good examples as to why Bava is the true master of horror.
Tenebrae was a return to the classic Giallo formula for Dario Argento, who had previously directed two films with supernatural themes back to back (Suspiria and Inferno). The film is filled with the director’s trademarks and the over-the-top stylish motifs you’d expect from Giallo: homicidal maniacs, black leather gloves, a killer’s point of view, convoluted plot twists, pulse-pounding music, colorful cinematography with garish, bright reds, greens, and yellows and even a twist ending. It is said to be Argento’s most personal film (Tenebrae was reportedly inspired after Argento was stalked by a fan) – but more importantly, Tenebrae is his most self-reflexive work and sees Argento responding to the numerous critics who found the violence in his film to be problematic. Unfortunately, as with many of his movies, it seems Argento wrote Tenebrae keeping each set-piece in mind and wasn’t too concerned with whether or not the plot made any logical sense. Regardless, the set pieces are incredible, specifically, the long crane shot which reportedly took three days to film. (Fans of Argento’s work might be interested to know that Tenebrae was shot by Luciano Tovoli who was also the director of photography on Suspiria).
Lucio Fulci’s stylish, modern-day murder mystery about a child killer on a rampage in a remote southern Italian village is a clever and complex social commentary on the effects of mob mentality on vigilante justice, pedophilia, traditional values, and the ignorance of modern thinking. Not only does Fulci toss around themes of Catholic guilt, sexual repression, psychological trauma, small-town narrow-mindedness, and hypocrisy, but Don’t Torture a Duckling also features some of the best directed scenes in the filmmaker’s canon (which is saying a lot). The most powerful scene follows the local townsmen who stalk Maciara, a local woman who is rumored to be a witch and just released from police custody after having been deemed innocent and harmless. When the men catch up to her, they each take turns beating her viciously with chains and whatever else is within their reach. Don’t Torture A Duckling is unforgiving at times as a few scenes are crude, bloody and extremely unsettling. Nevertheless, it acts as a powerful social commentary and might just be Fulci’s best, and most underrated film.
Upon its initial release, Hardware was dismissed by most as a rip-off of The Terminator, but in fact, the film was actually inspired by a 2000 AD comic called SHOK! Walter’s Robo-Tale. Richard Stanley’s bizarre post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller has rightfully earned a cult following through the years and for sci-fi fans growing up in the 90s, Hardware was a hidden gem that found an audience on VHS. The low-budget indie horror has its roots in earlier films featuring killer robots but adds components of spaghetti westerns, 80?s slashers, and even ’70s exploitation cinema – and the bag of influences results in a film which is, in many ways, very original. Stanley stretches his shoestring budget to impressive lengths, creating a despairing, barren future under blood-red skies, radiation clouds, and desert wastelands. Despite being restricted by financial realities, Hardware still remains one of the most stylized science fiction film films of all time. Stanley’s retro-futuristic set design takes some visual and thematic cues from the films of James Cameron and Ridley Scott, but incorporates color schemes that mirror Giallo films of the 1970s. Composer Simon Boswell does an admirable job providing a churlish mood with his synth guitar solos, and the soundtrack became a personal favorite amongst the industrial and metal music scene, with music by Iggy Pop, Motörhead, Ministry and Public Image Limited. Also, worth noting is the guest appearances by Lemmy (of Motörhead) as a taxi driver, Carl McCoy (of Fields of the Nephilim) as a zone tripper, and Iggy Pop as Angry Bob, a radio personality. Hardware sees a society under Big Brother surveillance and population control and amidst the violence and chaos, it features some social and biblical commentary. This is a movie about man and machine in a time where it’s difficult to tell the two apart. Fans of sci-fi action will admire Stanley’s cyberpunk thriller. He delivers an action-packed, thought-provoking and quite disturbing thrill ride with the American flag painted on its killer android and a hero sporting a duster, a robotic hand, and a sawed-off shotgun.
Considered one of Spain’s hottest directors in the late 1990s, Alex de la Iglesia hasn’t slowed down one bit over time. He’s continuously directed genre-bending, imaginative films, laced with black humour and often sharp satire for over two decades. His tongue-in-cheek sci-fi thriller The Day of the Beast won no fewer than six of the Oscar equivalent, the Goyas. Best described as a comic precursor to End of Days, The Day of the Beast follows a Catholic priest and professor of theology (Alex Angulo) who tries to thwart the coming of Satan on Christmas Eve. In a rather slapdash manner, he befriends a metalhead record store clerk (Santiago Segura) and the host of a paranormal-themed TV talk show (Armando DeRazza) to help him on his quest. Convinced that Satan’s spawn will be born somewhere in Madrid, Father Angel sets out into the streets, conducting acts of evil, to earn his way into the Devil’s inner circle, and to destroy Satan himself. This ambitious horror film has garnered a sizeable cult following over the years, and with good reason. Comprised of equal parts high-concept horror and scathing social satire, The Day of the Beast remains the director’s finest work to date – and the best holiday horror film ever made. It was a box office smash in Spain and earned de la Iglesia the gig to direct the sequel to Wild At Heart, titled Perdita Durango. Much like the director’s peer and former collaborator Pedro Almodovar, de la Iglesia throws in a tidal wave of black comedy. While the film is rife with violence and profanity, Day is fuelled by de la Iglesia’s fast-paced slapstick sensibilities – and brought to life by the incredible performances from his cast. De la Iglesia borrows from Russ Meyer, The Exorcist, Network, H.P. Lovecraft, Larry Cohen, and Sam Raimi, to name a few, but his style isn’t all homage; the genre of Biblical prophecies concerning themselves with The Book of Revelations, the Anti-Christ, The Rapture and the Number of the Beast, has never looked so fresh. The Day of the Beast is one of the most original horror films made in the past 30 years and after 104 minutes of de la Iglesia’s mayhem, you’ll be wishing for more. Day moves at a fast pace, and every frame is used to maximum effect – every character, gag, line of dialogue, prop, and location serves to move the plot forward. And boy does de la Iglesia push forward, despite the limited budget. Delirious, demented and diabolically funny, The Day of the Beast is essential viewing.
93. The Beyond
Sometimes labeled “Fulci’s masterpiece,” The Beyond is loaded with more than enough graphic gore to please the most jaded genre enthusiast. There are acid face-lifts, killer tarantulas and a scene reminiscent of Suspiria, where a blind girl has her ear ripped off when attacked by her seeing-eye dog. The Beyond is littered with Fulci’s iconic imagery, alternating between genuine frightening moments of gore and shocks and unintentionally funny and awkward interactions between the cast of odd characters, that despite its discernible lines of logic, one can’t help but be entertained. The gore here is splattered about in high style and the Italian prog-rock soundtrack is one of the best of all the Italian horror films. You’ll love the excellent camera work by Gand Fulci, the Gothic locales, the terrific sets, and the well-executed jump-scares.
92. Black Sunday
Mario Bava’s directorial debut Black Sunday is a densely atmospheric black-and-white horror film that clearly took its inspiration from the classic Universal horror movies, but it still stands as one of the most influential and important genre films ever made. Although taken from the 1835 classic Russian ghost story The Vij by Nikolai Gogol, Bava tweaked the narrative to deliver a fine mixture of folklore, traditional superstition, and genre convention. Technically speaking, the film is a work of art, with superb sound design and striking camerawork. Already an established cinematographer, Bava, along with co-cinematographer Ubaldo, shot the entire film with a dolly. The result achieves a dream-like quality and despite the budget limitations, Black Sunday is one of the best-looking Italian horror films of the 60s, with its Gothic landscapes, shadowy black-and-white imagery, castles, crypts, and long passageways. The film also introduced the world to Barbara Steele, who has dual roles as the evil witch and princess. Her Gothic black hair and saucer-like dark eyes made her famous, but unfortunately, it was a role she would forever be typecast in. The film was ignored by the critics when released, but soon gained a cult following and opened the door for many Italian Gothic horror films to come. It was also a box office hit and forecast Bava’s career-long central theme of uncertainty.
91. Dressed To Kill
Brian De Palma’s films, like Tarantino’s, are a cinematic mash-up of influences from the past, and in De Palma’s case, he borrows heavily from Alfred Hitchcock. Obsession is De Palma’s Vertigo, Blow Out his Rear Window, and with Dressed to Kill the director set his sights on Psycho. Dressed To Kill is more thriller than horror, but what a stylish and twisted thriller it is! The highlight here is an amazing ten-minute chase sequence set in an art gallery and conducted entirely without dialogue. There are a number of other well-sustained set pieces, including a race in the subway system and even, yes, a gratuitous shower murder sequence. Dressed To Kill features an excellent cast (Michael Caine, Nancy Allen, Angie Dickinson), a superb score (courtesy of Pino Donaggio) and a shocking finale — but the reason to see this film is for the fabulous camera work by Ralf Bode and De Palma’s direction.
Special Mention: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
For the unfamiliar, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the film adaptation of a popular musical stage production composed and written by Richard O’Brien, a struggling actor at the time who was best known for his performances in such musicals as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. For O’Brien, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was an homage to drive-in double features and science fiction B-movies of the fifties, and ironically, the film itself went on to become the ultimate midnight movie. Rocky Horror is a slice of unadulterated fun – but it’s also a groundbreaking and important film when taking into account its sexual themes and the relentless array of gay iconography. It’s a musical spin on Frankenstein about two clean-cut squares who never stepped outside their comfort zone until one day they happen to cross paths with Dr. Frank N. Furter and his strange circle of friends. The Rocky Horror Picture Show helped to open the conversation on issues of sexuality and gender, demonstrating that gender roles and stereotypes are socially constructed and that everyone would be happier if conformity was no longer the norm. But more than that, some would argue that the movie also addresses female empowerment. This gaudy pastiche of B-movie science fiction and horror is like no other. Everything from eccentric shooting angles, vibrant colors, cheap sets, cheap props, flamboyant costumes, and bright lighting fits perfectly with the overall tone of the film. Nearly every frame, every angle, every cut works despite the film’s many technical flaws. The set pieces are cheap, the props childish, the choreography is wonderfully out of sync — the film dialogue is clumsy and the acting is suspect, but the magic of Rocky Horror is emphasized by the fact that its creative team, writer/composer Richard O’Brien and director Jim Sharman were working on a low-budget with limited resources. They did what they could with what they had and the result is something truly special. Rocky Horror is a prime example of the right people working together at the right time and working out ways to create something without ever giving up. There had never been — and, since its release — never has been — a movie like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It isn’t something you can recreate, remake or try to imitate, although many have tried. The outrageous rock musical has become a staple of the pop culture scene and a one of a kind cult masterpiece. To this day, screenings held on and around its anniversary as well as on Halloween sell out. It has never been pulled by 20th Century Fox from its original 1975 release, and it continues to play in cinemas four decades after its premiere, making it the longest-running theatrical release in film history.
In 1971, Mario Bava unleashed Bay Of Blood, a film that pushed beyond the levels of gore that had yet been seen in a murder mystery thriller. Blood Zhas a body count of 13, spread across multiple killers – which is more dead bodies than the total of victims in the first Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th movies combined. In place of a single psycho, Bay Of Blood hosts a cast of characters, all related (and all insane), and all after the property of a deceased Countess and her lofty inheritance. It was by far Bava’s goriest film, soaked in top-of-the-line practical effects, dripping in blood and featuring the most innovative kill sequences for its time. Bava was a cinematographer-turned-director, and Bay of Blood was the first film since 1962’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much for which he took credit in both capacities. Released as Twitch of the Death Nerve, the film would become a predecessor to the slasher sub-genre, and said to have heavily influenced Friday the 13th. Frederico Fellini once commented that he worked on writing a horror film for an acquaintance who gave him a script with numerous depictions of murders, but not one thread of story connecting them. Many believe it was Bava he was referring to, specifically this movie. Dario Argento loved the film so much, he had a friend (a projectionist) steal him a print of the film during its first run in Italy. One last piece of IMDb trivia: Roberto Rossellini (whom Bava had previously worked for) shot a day’s worth of second unit footage for Bava. While he was uncredited, most of the footage appeared in the final cut.
Exploitation maverick Jack Hill, who went on to make some classic cult films like Switchblade Sisters, The Mack, and Foxy Brown, made his solo directorial debut with Spider Baby. Spider Baby is somewhat unclassifiable as it is quite unique. The premise concerns a strange family cursed with a regressive gene that causes them to become more and more like monsters as they age. As with Todd Browning’s Freaks, the viewer ends up siding with characters who would normally be the villains in most horror films. Shot in 1964, Spider Baby collected dust on the shelf until 1968, when it was briefly released as the second half of a horror double-bill. But it wasn’t until the early 80s when it was finally released on home video that it began to develop a cult following. Now it is regarded as one of the best films of swinging Sixties horror. The eerie black-and-white cinematography, freaky performances, and Lon Chaney’s bizarre song about cannibal orgies are just a few reasons why cinephiles should seek this out. As a brief aside, Spider Baby features one of Lon Chaney Jr.’s last performances, and although he was battling with alcoholism at the time, his screen presence is still quite charming.
88. The Brood
David Cronenberg’s 1979 effort The Brood might provide the biggest genre-movie highlight reel of his entire body of work, with killings perpetrated by bizarre down-syndrome-mutant, pig-faced dwarves. The last scene in this movie, in which a mother bites through her psycho-plasmic placenta to lick the birth fluids from her angry spawn, is worth the price of admission alone. The Brood is visceral, highly disturbing, and downright disgusting. It was Cronenberg’s first major success and a highly personal one as well. It is also the director’s most bitter, uncompromising statement about gender politics, children, and sexuality. Often described as Cronenberg’s Kramer Vs. Kramer, The Brood is a definitive metaphor for the harsh realities of an acrimonious divorce. The premise is simple – a crazy woman’s psychoses creates these evil murderous creatures. The husband is left to clean up the mess. Do yourself a favour and rent it if you haven’t yet seen it.
Much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I Spit On Your Grave, Last House on the Left is a prime example of the unfair censorship in independent horror films. The film developed such a bad reputation that it was banned in several countries due to scenes of sadism and violence, and in 1982 was put on the “video nasties” list by the Department of Public Prosecutions. But thanks to critics such as Mark Kermode and Roger Ebert, who praised the film as an important piece of work, it eventually picked up a rabid cult following and is still ranked by many as one of Craven’s best. Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, the exploitation flick follows two teenage girls (on route to scoring some weed before a rock concert), who cross paths with a makeshift family of rootless criminals. They abduct, torture, rape and brutally murder the girls. The twist comes in the second half of the when the criminals try to find shelter and wind up at the house of the family of one of two victims. In classic “backwoods” horror style, the parents quickly clue in that they’re in the presence of the perpetrators, and take justice into their own hands, only their revenge is even more barbaric than the crimes committed against their daughter. The final half achieves its unshakable effect through a combination of things including oral sex, disembowelment, and death by chainsaw, but critics who protested about the level of violence were misunderstanding Craven’s intentions. Last House is extremely graphic, but the violence is never played for thrills. The violence, after all, is the central theme. The film emerged a few years after the Manson Family massacre and in the wake of the Vietnam war, and Craven intended it to be an evaluation of the decay of American Culture, onscreen violence, class divides and the naivete of the free-love-hippie era. Last House is a cutthroat, bleak cautionary tale, presented in an honest, albeit provocative, way.
Horror auteur Wes Craven’s blood-and-bone thriller about an all-American family at the mercy of cannibal mutants in the middle of the Nevada desert is unrelenting, gritty, dark and downright disturbing at times. Much like Sam Peckinpah’s classic, Straw Dogs, it becomes increasingly difficult to watch the nice family being terrorized. Not for the squeamish, the 1977 shocker’s most horrifying segment is without a doubt, the trailer raiding scene, where the young Brenda Carter (Suze Lanier-Bramlett) is defiled by the feral savage Pluto (Michael Berryman) as another one of the savages breaks into the trailer and tortures the women of the family, all while trying to kidnap their baby. Craven’s willingness to prolong the sequence of torture caused the MPAA to award this film with their dreaded “X” rating. But what makes Hills so effective is how Craven manages to create an all-encompassing atmosphere of dread long before he unleashes the true terror. The late director’s sophomore effort is a demented morality fable with a heady mix of allegory and nail-biting tension and in my opinion his second-best film.
Belgium’s premier horror filmmaker Harry Kümel directs this lesbian-themed vintage vampire flick starring Delphine Seyrig. Having appeared in a number of art-house hits, including Alain Resnais’ masterpiece Last Year At Marienbad, Seyrig stars as the Countess, a character-based, in part, on Elizabeth Báthory, labeled the most prolific female serial killer in history, who bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth. If anything, her performance is reason enough to see this movie. Seyrig evokes a sense of twisted, evil aristocracy that projects instant credibility, and her presence leaves a lasting impression. Best described as a European art-house film that sways far away from the traditional vampire movie (the word “vampire” is never once mentioned), the film boasts bold strokes of atmosphere and psycho-sexuality. Cinematographer Eduard van der Enden, who shot Jacques Tati’s Trafic, infuses the film’s imagery with a pervading sense of the modern gothic. Daughters of Darkness is lit with a gorgeous color palette and even the setting, which takes place in a deserted out-of-season Belgian resort, predates The Shining. Daughter of Darkness is, unlike other lesbian vampire films, subdued rather than exploitative. Unlike most entries in the genre, Daughters of Darkness is not only worth watching but worth revisiting.
84. Day of the Dead
Santa Sangre somehow manages to make Jodorowsky’s 1970 cult hit El Topo look mainstream. Sangre is a bitter allegory of self-discovery and a satire on church hypocrisy and colonial predation. It is also a twisted thriller about the unhealthy bond between mother and son. The film follows Fenix, a young man raised in the circus. His dad Orgo is the owner of the carnival and his mother is a semi-famous trapeze artist. After Concha discovers Orgo is having an affair, she takes revenge by throwing acid on his crotch. He immediately responds by cutting off her arms. Years later, Fenix is sent to a mental hospital in hopes that the doctors can rehabilitate him from his childhood trauma, only he quickly escapes and rejoins his handicapped mother. Against his will, he “becomes her arms” and the two undertake a terrifying campaign of murder and revenge. The plot then gets even weirder. As it turns out, Santa Sangre features a far more coherent narrative than any of Jodorowsky’s previous films, but it’s no less a total mindfuck. And even the brief plot synopsis doesn’t do it justice. Supposedly, it is inspired by a Mexican serial killer who wanted Jodorowsky to make a movie about his life, but Jodorowsky also brings his personal background into the film, since one of his first jobs was working as a clown for a circus in Chile, where he learned the arts of trapeze and miming. Unlike Jodorowsky’s previous efforts El Topo and The Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre can easily be placed in the category of horror. There are obvious influences such as Robert Weine’s The Hands of Orloc, James Whale’s The Invisible Man, and Todd Browning’s Freaks, but thematically and stylistically the film is best described as a cross between Federico Fellini’s carnival-style and Luis Bunuel’s knack for surrealism. This isn’t an easy film to stomach, however; there is a fair amount of graphic horror, tormented sexuality, and bodily mutilation. Jodorowsky has never been known for his subtlety and there are times here when he pushes boundaries like never before. But there are also several moments of genuine tenderness found throughout the film. One of the film’s most riveting sequences features a funeral for a dying elephant where it is then torn apart by starving villagers. There is also a sequence involving children with Downs Syndrome snorting cocaine and then taken to see an overweight prostitute. And there’s also a scene where a man tears off his own ear and tries to force-feed it to a deaf-mute. Finally, in another memorable setpiece, one character wraps himself in bandages in hopes of becoming invisible. Daniele Nanuzzi’s color cinematography is as astonishing and as beautiful as anything Jodorowsky has ever done. Simon Boswell also deserves praise for his atmospheric score and Tolita Figueroa’s lavish costumes and Alejandro Luna’s sets only enhance the surrealism of it all. Bold, audacious, and pushing past the boundaries of good taste, Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre is an Oedipal nightmare, filtered through a hallucinatory lens.
83. The Howling
Based on the best-selling novel by Gary Brandner, Joe Dante’s The Howling makes effective use of the classic werewolf tale but more importantly, The Howling deserves respect simply for being the first to actually show the lycanthrope transformation process in slow, painstaking detail through a combination of clever edits and animatronics by Rob Bottin. The Howling may not be as polished or effective as John Landis’ 1981 An American Werewolf in London, but the film delivers on action, gore, and true scares. What makes The Howling so bloody entertaining is how it manages to balance humor into the proceedings without detracting from the scare factor. The script comes from John Sayles, who also wrote Joe Dante’s Piranha, and does a fine job in including dozens of sight gags and inside jokes that only the most dedicated horror aficionados will notice. Made for $1 million, The Howling grossed $18 million and led to seven schlock sequels, none of which were any good (although the third is awfully fun).
John Carpenter’s ten-year run writing, directing and producing such films as Halloween in 1978 all the way up to They Live in 1988 is easily the most impressive of any American genre filmmaker. But the director still had one great movie left in him and that was his 1995 sleeper In the Mouth of Madness. Written on spec by New Line Cinema exec Michael De Luca, In The Mouth of Madness was basically Carpenter’s attempt to make an H.P. Lovecraft film, only it is better described as a distant cousin to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. In Nightmare, the dream world provided the doorway into Freddy’s world. In Hellraiser, it was a puzzle box guarded by Pinhead that opened up another dimension. In Mouth, the entryway comes by way of novels written by hugely popular pulp horror author Sutter Cane, whose work takes on the power to alter reality. Sam Neil plays insurance investigator John Trent, who believes the writings of the popular novelist are the source of the chaos, and as the mystery unravels, it becomes apparent that Cain’s writing is indeed somehow responsible. It’s a very high-concept storyline, and Carpenter fills the screen with equal amounts of unsettling atmosphere and requisite cheap shocks, while at the same time successfully walking the tightrope that veers away from camp. Of course, it’s not perfect, but the film’s faults are easily overshadowed by its many strengths including Neill’s performance, Carpenter’s direction, and the practical effects by Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger, who should be applauded for their work. All in all, In the Mouth of Madness, is a fun, clever horror picture with one hell of a bleak ending that any true fan of the filmmaker will enjoy.
81. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
David Lynch’s prequel to his cult television series Twin Peaks is every bit as strange and twisted as the popular TV show. The story concerns the last horrific seven days in the life of Laura Palmer.
Perhaps more than any other Lynch film, Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me contains a great deal of nightmarish imagery and every frame leaves a clue to the mysteries behind both the film and the television series. This is a seriously underrated work and one of Lynch’s finest films.