The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The sequel to the classic Frankenstein, this one is everything the original was and more. Still has all the intricate make-up, sets and props. Still has the monster as the sympathetic antagonist. But this one has more effects, bigger stakes and more characters. Just like the blockbuster sequels of today except this one doesn’t feel bloated or abandon it’s original intentions.
The Blob (1958)
As I write this list, I discover that horror movies work best when they are either incredibly serious and frightening with intricate detail, or are just plain fun and campy. The Blob is probably the cheesiest of the bunch. It makes use of the simplest monster, a blob of pink goo from outer space that consumes everything while growing bigger with each devouring. Starring a young Steve McQueen and armed with a silly theme song by Burt Bacharach, the small town folk of Phoenixville doesn’t stand a chance against...THE BLOB!!!!
Just as Psycho kept people out of showers, Jaws certainly kept everyone away from the ocean. A movie, that almost never was, managed to come together to become the first ever summer blockbuster. Just like Psycho, today it isn’t that scary but is nevertheless one the most perfect films ever made. There is absolutely nothing to fault in this film. Even if you think the shark sometimes looks fake, you can’t deny threat it evokes.
This has often been called a ‘haunted-house-in-space-movie’ and therefore the setting and atmosphere is certainly the star of the show. The alien is barely seen and is definitely effective when on screen, but the best part of watching this film is immersing yourself in the dark world and forgetting about reality. I have been known to say I like the sequel Aliens better, but where that one is an action movie, this one is much closer to being a horror film.
The Thing (1982)
Of all the horror films I will mention, this is my favourite of the bunch (second only to The Shining). It is effective as a horror film because it is both scary and enjoyable. It’s tricky to watch scary movies over and over, but this film is having fun with its shocks. The key lies in the special effects. In the 80s, effects reached a point where they actually looked good, but weren’t digital and were therefore realistic and tangible. The visuals of the ‘thing’ are nightmarishly unforgettable yet so insanely creative that they are fun. The setting of Antarctica also gives the film a chillingly fresh look.
The Fly (1986)
Like The Thing, this film is another 80s remake that uses practical gross-out effects to be scary. But that is more focussed towards the end. Leading up to it, there is a wonderfully drawn out romance between a doomed scientist (Jeff Goldblum) and his girlfriend. This heart of the movie, makes it more than a horror. It turns it into a tragic beauty and the beast story. But instead of a beast becoming human, a human slowly and painfully transforms into a morbidly grotesque fly.
The Descent (2005)
I’ve written about this movie before, but it does deserve a place on this list. Simply because it is an effective chase in the dark. A group of girls go spelunking and get lost in a maze of darkness, and discover there are monsters in the dark. Lights, shadows and darkness are used as the main features to create claustrophobic terror. But as the creatures hunt them down one by one, a happy ending may seem lost in the dark.
The Mist (2007)
Speaking of dark endings, The Mist prides itself on being one of the most shocking, desolate, depressing endings ever. The ending will tear you apart. But the rest of the film is actually a really good time. A bunch of folk are trapped in a supermarket when they discover a mist has enveloped the town and within this mysterious cloud are hidden monsters of all kinds. For now they are safe in the store, but for how long, and are the people in the store just as dangerous as the monsters outside? There is an edition of the DVD that has a black and white version of the film which helps make it feel even more like a fun horror movie from the 50s.
Piranha 3D (2010)
There have been attempts to make truly cheesy horror movies recently (Snakes on a Plane, Grindhouse) but these films didn’t quite work. Piranha is truly loads of fun. It does not take itself seriously for one moment. Fantastic cameos (Christopher Lloyd as the crazy scientist and Richard Dreyfuss as his same role in Jaws), plenty of nudity and lots and lots and lots of piranha’s tearing people apart. With a serious tone, it would be difficult to stomach, but the comedic/self-mocking approach makes it work.