While I may have grown out of trick-or-treating, I can still have fun on Halloween. And what better way to do it than by watching a good horror movie. And in case you’re looking for some recommendations, what better time to revisit my Phenomenal 5: The Horror Classics edition. The horror genre goes way back to the silent movie era and it has kept audiences fascinated ever since. While you won’t find any films that old on my list, these are still true horror classics that everyone should see (especially on Halloween night). Of course considering how broad of a subject, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But you can’t deny that these 5 horror movie classics are nothing short of phenomenal.
#5 – “Psycho”
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece “Psycho” sports what is arguably the most well-known scene in horror movie history. But there’s so much greatness beyond that memorable murder in the shower at the hands…err, knife of Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins is unforgettably creepy and you know something is off with Bates from the first moment you see him until that final unnerving grin. And of course there is his macabre relationship with his dear, dear mother. “Psycho” still holds up brilliantly and it’s the perfect mix of mystery and horror presented with the sharp style of a master filmmaker. Sure, today many consider it more of a thriller. But it terrified audiences during its release and I’ll always see it as a horror classic.
#4 – “Halloween”
Oh there are so many things I love about “Halloween”. The great John Carpenter gives us a host of special ingredients that has made this movie both influential and timeless. “Halloween” gives us the quintessential scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. It gives us the frightening Michael Myers. It gives us Donald Pleasence’s wonderfully goofy prophecies of doom. And how can you forget the simple yet haunting piano score by Carpenter himself. Working with an incredibly small budget, the movie still broke new ground and invented many of the genre tropes that are still imitated today. It’s a true horror movie classic and the king of the slasher sub-genre. It also still entertains me today just as much when I first saw it.
#3 – The Evil Dead”
In 1981 two young new filmmakers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made what would become one of the scariest horror movies of all time. “The Evil Dead” is another example of how to create a great horror film with the tiniest of budgets. It’s a highly influential picture that spawned two uniquely great sequels. It tells the story of five college kids who spend spring break in an isolated cabin in the woods. They accidentally release demonic spirits who begin possessing the friends one by one. “The Evil Dead” is a genuinely creepy experience and everything from its wicked concept to the unsettling makeup effects contribute to it. And of course it introduced us to Campbell’s wonderful character Ash. Nuff said. This is a true horror treasure that is very much a film of its time yet it has stood the test of time.
#2 – “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
For years I thought “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was based on a true story. That belief made the movie all the more frightening. Once I learned it was largely fictional I was surprised to find it￼ still had the same effect on me. Tobe Hooper directed, produced, and co-wrote this classic film, making it for under $300,000 and casting a group of unknowns. The story of five friends who encounter a cannibalistic family in rural Texas didn’t rely on a buckets of blood and gore for its frights. Instead Hooper creates a disturbing sense of unease with this material alone. Throw in Leatherface and pinches of dark comedy and I have no problem calling it one of the greatest horror movies of all-time.
#1 – “Night of the Living Dead”
I never have a hard time telling people what my favorite horror movie is. George Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” was the first horror movie that really affected me. Culturally speaking, this￼ is the film that put zombies on the map and inspired the insanely popular horror sub-genre. As with some others on this list, Romero uses a small budget and no-name actors yet develops a horror picture that truly broke new ground. Expertly crafted and wonderfully unsettling, “Night of the Living Dead” sets its creepy tone and sustains it through smart and crafty filmmaking. I love everything about Romero’s classic. Not only is it my favorite horror movie, it’s one of my favorite movies of all time, period.￼￼
So there you have them, five phenomenal horror movie classics to curl up with tonight. They’re also five films that prove if you’re creative and skilled you don’t need loads of money and a big backing to make a great horror picture. So what did I miss? What would you have included on your list? Please take time to let me know in the comments section below.