A Halloween Revisit: 5 Phenomenal Horror Movie Classics

phenom-5

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”

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”

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”

EVIL

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”

TEXAS

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”

NIGHT

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.

28 thoughts on “A Halloween Revisit: 5 Phenomenal Horror Movie Classics

  1. I’ve seen 5, 3, and 1 before, the other 2 look too scary. Speaking of horror movies, I had forgotten what a horror movie Alien: Covenant was. I watched it last night. It’s pegged as a space movie and it is forced into that genre by the movies it’s based on, but it is straight up horror. I’ve watched and loved the predecessors (sp?) for years, but last night was the first time watching it again since it first came out. Memory was refreshed as to why. The other ones have the heart of the heroine to redeem it. This one didn’t. I still don’t understand why they didn’t use Noomi in it (other than as a prop, as they did.) Ridley Scott directs too, which makes it a double disappointment 😦

    • I’ve been meaning to rewatch Covenant for a long time but I never have. I remember liking it but not loving it. You point out some good reasons why.

      As for my list, Halloween is so much about tone. It’s kinda funny watching some of the characters today, but Carpenter really nails the tension and tone specifically in the final third. Texas Chainsaw isn’t super graphic and gory like the title may lead you to believe, but it gets REALLY unsettling and the atmosphere gets under your skin.

      • With Covenant, Fassbender may be guilty of being too convincing in it. The worst crime besides its heartlessness is that the crew made such terrible choices every step of the way.

        Carpenter knows how to scare people! Have you ever seen Ghosts of Mars? It scared the living daylights out of me! Good to know about TX Chainsaw…

    • It’s so funny you brought that up. I was literally speaking to my brother about this very thing earlier this morning. I do have a Blu-ray version but it’s an older one and it is really is a good transfer. And I was telling him he didn’t need to go with the 4K version. I can see people being irked by too much polish.

  2. Can’t go wrong with these picks! It’s an annual tradition for me to rewatch the original Halloween, and these days I love pairing it with the 2018 Halloween.

    Evil Dead was the one that made me terrified of horror movies as a kid. (Cheryl’s demonic face, man, ruined me for sleep.) Now I get a kick out of watching these movies– ESPECIALLY Raimi’s inventive use of the camera. But I’ll never forget being wary of the night as a kid and thinking something could be rushing toward me at any moment 😱

  3. I’ve seen all of these and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Some other classics for those looking for suggestions:

    The Exorcist
    The Shining
    Rosemary’s Baby
    Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein (both short enough to watch like it was one long movie)
    Jaws (I always count it as horror)

    • I’m not surprised that you’ve seen all of these my friend! 🙂 I like the choices you’ve added. There are some pretty good horror movies coming out these days but nothing like these classics.

    • 6/10 for Night of the Living Dead? Ouch. I think it’s a masterpiece (and that’s not a word I throw around often). I would be really interested to read what you think about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  4. Yeah, you can’t go wrong with any of those 5 films.

    My top 5 Halloween films changes every time so here’s five more that I would totally recommend:

    1. The Shining
    2. House
    3. Possession
    4. Crimson Peak
    5. Suspiria (both the Argento and Guadagnino versions)

  5. If I were making a top 5, ,Texas Chainsaw and Halloween would be on it too. Psycho would be close. I’d probably add The Exorcist and Suspiria for sure, and maybe The Omen or Friday the 13th. So hard to pick.

    • It really is hard to narrow an entire genre, especially horror, down to just five. But strangely these same five have been my favorites for a long time.

  6. Excellent list! Loved all of these. The most memorable for me is The Evil Dead, when a pack of friends and I snuck out of my buddy’s house during a sleepover and walked to the movie theater to see this at the midnight showing. Scared the hell out of us. I mean that literally. That Sunday at church we bumrushed the pastor during the invitation at the small church we all attended. It was the horror version of the Mississippi Squirrel Revival.

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