“What an excellent day for an exorcism.”
It’s that time of the year again when every online writer feels the necessity to share their favourite horror movies and guess what, I’m no different. Well actually I am a little different. Rather than make a list I’m only naming the three horror movies that still scare the bejeezus out of me every time I watch them.
Horror isn’t particularly one of my favourite genres to watch anymore but some of my earliest movie memories are from when I used to stay at my older sister’s house and we would rent horror movies from the local video store. Most of these were shitty straight to video horrors that made me laugh out loud rather than give me nightmares but it still helped sway me towards the genre. It took years for me to fully appreciate horror as a true bonafide genre of filmmaking and the following three movies are exactly why.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
It was made on a fairly small budget and is probably one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It’s brutal, rustic, visceral and most importantly it feels so horrifically real. A group of teenagers come across an isolated house which just happens to be owned by a family of slaughter men. For no apparent reason at all, all the kids get picked off one by one. What’s even more grotesque is the nonchalantness of the family in the aftermath of their horrific crimes. They don’t offer any excuses or motives and neither does the movie itself. This house and this family could be any house and any family, just waiting on a bunch of kids to stumble across their yard. The movie doesn’t hide behind clever camerawork or strategically timed music. It doesn’t really follow the three act rule of thumb were we meet our protagonist and root for their safe return home. It is what it is. I will never, ever forget our first sighting of Leatherface and the thud of the mallet across that poor kid’s head.
Based on Stephen King’s masterpiece and directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is a horror movie that in many ways transcends the genre. The inclusion of Jack Nicholson – in one of his most iconic roles – helped give The Shining a depth of credibility that other horror movies lacked around this time. Kubrick’s infamously hypnotic visuals throughout the movie and Nicholson’s terrifying downward spiral from a seemingly ordinary husband and father to a psychopath lost in his own mind and the past of the hotel, are what make The Shining stand out from the crowd. There’s many scenes that still stain my mind. The twin girls, the blood elevator, the old lady in the bathroom of Room 237. The list goes on and on. Unlike many modern horror movies that try to shock with lightning quick scare tactics, The Shining excels in bringing an agonisingly slow tension to most of the scarier scenes.
The quintessential horror movie. Probably the most infamous of them all. Shrouded in controversy since it’s release – and even during it’s filming due to all the ‘unexplained’ deaths and setbacks – The Exorcist has been copied and pasted more times than any other horror movie ever made. Nowadays the thought of a young girl being possessed by the devil doesn’t seem that shocking but back when I watched it as a kid – 20 years after the movie was released – it was the fucking scariest thing I had ever witnessed. Horror that taps into religion has always terrified me more than any slasher movie will and I guess being brought up in a Catholic household believing and fearing the idea of God and Satan battling it out for my soul is what helped The Exorcist strike such a chord with me. Compared to some of what happens in today’s horror movies, The Exorcist could be deemed as being laughable at times. Silly dialogue and gross special effects may on the outside seem like the movie has not aged well. But underneath it still remains way ahead of anything else. Profound and eternally terrifying.
Honourable mentions to Ringu and Alien. What horror movies still give you the shits?
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter