Horror Page Image Free to Modify

Horror Face-Offs

Introduction to the Horror Movie Face-Off: 

The horror genre is certainly, from a visceral point of view, the most powerful movie genre of them all. A well-made horror film doesn’t just have the ability to raise the hairs on your neck, increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, magnify emotions, give you cold chills, make you squirm in your seat, or make you jump. It has the ability to crawl inside your head, resonate with dark reaches of your psyche, and stay with you for days, even weeks after you’ve seen it so that its images and concepts manifest in every dim corner and every sound in the night.

Despite its frequent pigeon holing as nothing more than a popcorn genre, the horror movie can be more sophisticated in craft and art than most. The best make-up and visual effects artists will gladly ply their trade in the horror industry, professions that require high levels of skill and creativity. Though a different set of skills are required by the writers and directors, they need to be equally, if not more creative because moviegoers habituate to scare techniques. New scare tactics, mythologies, and novel concepts are, therefore, a prerequisite for the continued effectiveness of the genre and it’s on the shoulders of the writers and directors this responsibility largely rests. Moreover, whether it’s the sound mixer, composer, effects crew, writer, or even the actors, practically everyone on the set of a horror movie needs to execute their skills with a nuanced understanding of human psychology to achieve maximum impact in the scares department. On top of all that, the horror movie is also perhaps the most unforgiving genre movie. Relying so heavily on atmosphere, it’s a cumulative and delicately balanced process that must maintain an even keel throughout. Even one slip up such as a piece of bad acting or clunky dialogue can disturb that balance, damage the mystique, and remind the viewer that it’s all just a movie.

The different effects that horror films have on us are found in different types of horror techniques. Some films like the Saw series predominantly rely on the gore factor to disturb their audience and, while requiring a large amount of talent in the visual effects field, they typically don’t require as much directorial craft as the establishment of an unsettling atmosphere. Of course, other films like John Carpenter’s The Thing strike a near perfect balance between the two and demonstrate how the latter can raise the impact of the former considerably. Then there are horror movies that work primarily on a psychological level – films like Jaws and even The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (remember – no blood!) that insert an idea into our minds and let it germinate so that we are left to imagine the terrifying force more so than being shown it. This of course, is the most potent tool of the horror movie, the implicit power of the human imagination where a few choice words or the stirring of waters or bushes can conjure the outline of an image or notion that becomes, in our minds, more frightening than anything the film-makers can create. Films like Jaws accidentally stumbled upon such a device when their mechanical shark “Bruce” continued to break down in the early stages of the shoot (though given that Spielberg did the same thing in his previous feature Duel, it’s likely he would’ve gone that route anyway) while films like Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (perhaps the most underrated horror film of all time!) mastered it to a fine point to create an implicit force of fear that dominated the entire film from the first scene to the last (and therein begging the question – “why ever show the evil?”). The most overused horror staple is of course the shock tactic where, for example, a character opening a closet is a precursor to the inevitable attack. In the year 2013, many a horror fan will quickly tire of a simple straight-laced use of that device. However, when used cleverly, like when the director throws in a few feints before the ultimate attack or turns the convention on its head, it can still ramp up the audiences’ internal pressure thereby compounding the shock release when it does arrive.

Although technique plays a critical role in generating scares and thrills, one cannot overlook the importance of those narratives and themes which tap the hidden reaches of our psyche, primal fears pertaining to those ideals we hold most scared, our mortality, our identity, our humanity, our soul, and indeed our primacy amongst all the world’s creatures. It’s no coincidence that the most popular horror sub-genres centre on myths that prey on those very insecurities: vampires who suck the life and soul from their victims leaving a cold but conscious shell in its place; zombies (the vampire of the scientific age) who attack our biological ability to self-determine by either devouring the very organ responsible for it or by infecting it and leaving the body in a state of automation/living death; werewolves who devour their victims leaving the victim, once rejuvenated, to exist in a torturous duality; the crazed killer whose complete lack of compassion sends waves of cold chills down the spine with the realisation that he is not to be bargained with; the monster who reflects the cruelty of nature (where it is a natural phenomenon) or of man (where it is the result of man’s interference with nature); the ghost who more than any other fiction reflects our deep psychological fear of the greatest unknown not to mention being an echo of a protagonist’s misdeeds (usually a fairly angry echo!).

It is with these types of stories and others like them that horror masters gain a head start on the audience because the latter walk into the theatres with those fears and insecurities already in place. The great directors and writers then simply proceed to subtly play on them with a carefully selected array of the techniques described earlier. Of course, all of this means that there is no simple answer to the question “what makes for the perfect horror?”. Depending on your audience, the landscape of their psyches, and their unique preferences for more or less, the question becomes one of personal taste. But what the above breakdown of the genre does afford us is a means to determining what belongs in a list of the greatest ever horror genre movies and what does not. For example, for years, reviewers have performed all sorts of concept acrobatics in an effort to label Jaws as anything but a “horror movie”. Whether this has been down to either a reluctance to attribute one of the greatest films ever made to a genre that has been (wrongly) viewed as “low brow” or whether it’s down to a flawed understanding of what a horror movie is isn’t clear but what is clear is that Jaws is the archetypal horror movie! From technique and structure to the subject matter which plumbs all sorts of deep and primal anxieties, there’s never been a better example of horror on film. In fact, considering that no other movie has had such an overt act on the extracurricular behaviour of its audience (and continuing to do so for generations after its release), there’s probably never been a better horror movie either.

The List:

Once again, I need to explain how and why certain films feature or don’t feature in the Top 25 Face-Off of greatest ever horror movies. In previous genre face-offs, I was excluding movies outside of mainstream cinema because I felt not enough people would have seen them to make a comparison viable. However, the horror genre is slightly different. Given the unique resonance that such movies have on us, great horror movies tend to develop a cult following more easily than movies from other genres and as such there is often little difference in popularity between mainstream box-office smashes like The Sixth Sense and cult sensations such as Black Christmas. However, there are of course some movies that belong on such a list that have not transcended beyond the hardcore horror faithful such as Tod Browning’s Dracula and Freaks, James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride or Frankenstein, Polanski’s Repulsion, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and perhaps the best of all ghost stories, The Innocents. Due to their lack of broad popularity, they and others like them have been omitted from this list and face-off. Also, given that these face-off’s are attempting to discern the most enjoyable horror films, movies like Tremors and An American Werewolf in London are valued as much as the more out and out terrifying films because they manage to do justice to the themes and especially the tropes of the horror genre in both clever and ridiculously entertaining fashion. Lastly, since the beginning of the face-offs, I’ve attempted to restrict films to just one genre face-off and so even though John Carpenter’s The Thing and Alien would seem to walk both sides of the sci-fi/horror fence very evenly, I have restricted them to the sci-fi face-off alone.

The Exorcist vs John Carpenter’s Halloween

               

The Exorcist vs John Carpenter's Halloween

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Sixth Sense vs Suspiria

                    

The Sixth Sense vs Suspiria

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Psycho vs The Wicker Man

                   

Psycho vs The Wicker Man

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

John Carpenter’s Halloween vs Rosemary’s Baby

               

Halloween vs Rosemary's Baby

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

John Carpenter’s The Fog vs Poltergeist

               

John Carpenter’s The Fog vs Poltergeist

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

An American Werewolf in London vs The Wicker Man

               

An American Werewolf in London vs The Wicker Man

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Birds vs Jaws

            

The Birds vs Jaws

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Carrie vs Suspiria

                 

Carrie vs Suspiria

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Birds vs The Howling

              

The Birds vs The Howling

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

John Carpenter’s The Fog vs The Shining

             

John Carpenter’s The Fog vs The Shining

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Dawn of the Dead (1978) vs The Lost Boys

             

Dawn of the Dead vs The Lost Boys

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Black Christmas vs John Carpenter’s Halloween

                

Black Christmas vs John Carpenter's Halloween

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Bride of Frankenstein vs Rosemary’s Baby

             

The Bride of Frankenstein vs Rosemary's Baby

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Evil Dead II vs The Sixth Sense

               

Evil Dead II vs The Sixth Sense

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Psycho vs Salem’s Lot

                 

Psycho vs Salem's Lot

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

A Nightmare on Elm Street vs Night of the Living Dead

               

A Nightmare on Elm Street vs Night of the Living Dead

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Carrie (1976) vs The Evil Dead (1981)

              

Carrie vs The Evil Dead

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Tremors vs Poltergeist

                

Tremors vs Poltergeist

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Howling vs The Omen

                

The Howling vs The Omen

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Wicker Man vs Fright Night

                  

The Wicker Man vs Fright Night

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

John Carpenter’s The Fog vs The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

              

The Fog vs The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Birds vs Suspiria

              

The Birds vs Suspiria

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Exorcist vs Jaws

         

The Exorcist vs Jaws

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

An American Werewolf in London vs The Shining

            

An American Werewolf in London vs The Shining

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

John Carpenter’s Halloween vs The Lost Boys

               

John Carpenter's Halloween vs The Lost Boys

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Black Christmas vs Dawn of the Dead (1978)

             

Black Christmas vs Dawn of the Dead (1978)

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Bride of Frankenstein vs Evil Dead II

           

Bride of Frankenstein vs Evil Dead II

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Rosemary’s Baby vs The Sixth Sense

                

Rosemary's Baby vs The Sixth Sense

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Night of the Living Dead vs Psycho

                

Night of the Living Dead vs Psycho

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

A Nightmare on Elm Street vs Salem’s Lot

                

A Nightmare on Elm Street vs Salem's Lot

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Carrie vs Jaws

              

Carrie vs Jaws

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Evil Dead vs The Exorcist

          

The Evil Dead vs The Exorcist

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Howling vs Tremors

                 

The Howling vs Tremors

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Omen vs Poltergeist

     

The Omen vs Poltergeist

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre vs The Wicker Man

                

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre vs The Wicker Man

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

John Carpenter’s The Fog vs Fright Night

                

The Fog vs Fright Night

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

An American Werewolf in London vs The Birds

            

An American Werewolf in London vs The Birds

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Shining vs Suspiria

             

 

The Shining vs Suspiria

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Genre Set (Horror)

An American Werewolf in London

The Birds

Black Christmas

The Bride of Frankenstein

Carrie

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead II

The Exorcist

John Carpenter’s The Fog

Fright Night (1985)

John Carpenter’s Halloween

The Howling

Jaws

The Lost Boys

Nightmare on Elm Street

Night of the Living Dead

The Omen

Poltergeist

Psycho

Rosemary’s Baby

Salem’s Lot

The Shining

The Sixth Sense

Suspiria

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Tremors

The Wicker Man (1973)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013

Leave a Reply

One of Ireland's Largest Movie Review Sites: Analysing Films from all Eras and all Genres.