Part 4: 50 Greatest Horror Movies (20-11)

Part 4: 50 Greatest Horror Movies (20-11)

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Gary Raymond and Gray Taylor present a list of the greatest horror movies you may not have heard of – the perfect list for all those who are looking for something a little different on Halloween. We count down every day this week, revealing the top 10 on Halloween itself.

(Banner Illustration by Dean Lewis)

[Warning: Some of the accompanying trailers in this article are not for the fainthearted]

20. Shivers (1975. Dir: David Cronenberg)

Back in the seventies David Cronenberg was a bit of a rabblerouser, equally a one-man Canadian film industry and a national embarrassment. He made a series of films early on that are now staples of the horror genre, and he made them for no money. Shivers is the best of these (up until he expanded his vision, his themes, and his budget and made films like Scanners and Videodrome) and Cronenberg exploits all of his restrictions to the max – the movie is repulsive, claustrophobic, exploitative and deeply depressing. The tale of a plagues of parasitic worms infesting an apartment block, Lyn Lowry makes for one of the seventies’ most iconic images in the communal swimming pool in the final frames, and Barbara Steel shares a parasitic lesbian kiss. The film will have you gagging and scratching and maybe just a little bit wary of taking a bath. GR

19. Under The Skin (2013. Dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Perhaps the hardest film to categorize on our whole list, Glazer’s art house science fiction horror film is a stunning achievement and a completely unique filmic experience. Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson roams Glasgow looking for men to seduce and absorb into a black void, presumably feeding on them in some way, either their physical or spiritual presence or both. The visual ability Glazer displayed in music videos for the likes of Massive Attack and Radiohead is here in abundance, and the lack of traditional narrative is similar to a music video’s narrative. Johansson is superb as the seductive alien, both cold and callous as well as welcoming and friendly, and it’s surreal seeing her in such a typically cold British film. In fact, Glazer’s visuals and tone are very reminiscent of a bygone age of British horror and the video nasties era, where it was clear the unpleasant tone of certain films were offending the sensibilities of the BBFC. Challenging, uncompromising, original, and immersive. Take the plunge into the void. GT

18. Vampyr (1932. Dir: Carl Theodore Dreyer)

If you like your horror movies to move around you like a mist, then this is the film for you. Dreyer was one of the earliest geniuses to really understand cinema as an expressive artform rather than just a fantastical circus-ring. A great innovator (his 1928 masterpiece, The Passion of Jean d’Arc invented much of cinema’s language), he uses many tricks in Vampyr to tell the haunting tale of an ancient curse on a family home. Packed with iconic images and the famous dream sequence shot from inside a coffin, Vampyr has lost none of its power to impress and disturb. GR

17. Dark Age (1987. Dir. Arch Nicholson)

Fed up of people telling you that Jaws is the scariest movie ever made? Well, check this out, this is the real deal. Obviously inspired by Speilberg’s classic, Dark Age goes where rubber sharks fear to tread…um swim. It’s the Australian outback and there’s a giant crocodile on the loose, taking apart anything that takes it’s fancy. Exciting and outrageous in the way that only ozploitation movies are, this is the most purely enjoyable ‘nature goes nuts’ horror film you could spend an evening with. Featuring a bevy of great Australian actors including David Gulpilil and John Jarratt, this is a fun popcorn horror of the highest order. GT

16. The Babadook (2014. Dir: Jennifer Kent)

Horror movies have the potential to be the most artful way to explore very real themes, and it can also give a director the opportunity to go to the psychological depths that a simple kitchen-sink drama could mine. Jennifer Kent’s Babadook is a mighty fine example of the use of the fantasia of horror fantasy to tackle very real social issues. Essie Davis should by rights be buried under awards for her portrayal of Amelia, a single mother being crushed under the weight of her own loneliness and depression. Noah Wiseman too gives a jagged performance as her difficult son, and as the walls begin to close in, so does The Babadook, a bogeyman-metaphor who steps out of the pages of a mysterious children’s book. The Babadook is without doubt a modern classic, a film to be admired for generations to come. GR

15. Brain Dead (1992. Dir. Peter Jackson)

Years before his massive success with The Lord Of The Rings movies, Peter Jackson made some truly mind blowing gore movies and this is the best of the bunch. After being bitten by a rabid Sumatran rat-monkey, Lionel’s mum starts to get sick and dies only to return as a flesh-hungry zombie monster. With wit to spare, outrageous gory effects, and some fever pitch performances, Brain Dead even finds time for a genuinely touching romance. And there’s a zombie baby! Jackson here revels in his clear love of horror and comedy and it makes you wonder if he made the right decision going to Hollywood… sort of. GT

14. Vampyres: The Daughters of Dracula (1974. Dir: José Ramón Larraz)

In many ways Vampyres is an odd little film, riddled with loose ends and seemingly superfluous characters and scenes; but it is a film that is tied together by its final moments and by the glut of potential interpretations the final few lines spins out. In this sense Vampyres can be a richly rewarding or deeply frustrating movie, depending on whether it clicks with you or not (it certainly clicked with me). But apart from that, Larraz’s movie is an extremely affecting dreamscape, eerily shot, and acted with a surprising amount of conviction. Marianne Morris fights her way amiably through some pretty terrible dialogue as the alpha female of the vampiric lesbian duo stalking the English countryside for victims, while Playboy centrefold Anulka is extremely good as the younger more feral creature of the night. It is quiet vicious, quite earthy, and has no light at the end of it, unless you decide eternal vampirism in a dilapidated mansion with the woman you love is a happy ending. GR

13. Freaks (1932. Dir. Tod Browning)

Browning had experienced unprecedented success for a horror film with his classic adaptation of Dracula (1931) and rather than take an obvious route through literary horror, he decided to make one of the most uncompromising horror films of all time. Thought to have been too shocking in it’s full ninety minute version, Freaks now only exists in a shortened sixty four minute version but still has the power to shock and unnerve. Browning took the controversial decision of casting real carnival sideshow performers but this is not mere exploitation, these are real characters and are performed brilliantly. Browning wants to open our minds to people who are different but nevertheless are people, and the story is actually quite touching. The finale is a master of terror at the peak of his powers. Don’t delay, join the gang, one of us, one of us. GT

12. The Beyond (1981. Dir: Lucio Fulci)

The second of Fulci’s ‘gateway to hell’ trilogy (after City of the Living Dead and before House by the Cemetery), The Beyond is the most haunting and nightmarish of the three. Not an awful lot of it makes much sense, which serves to add to the unsettling ambience of the film, but it is held together by a dependably great performance by Dave Warbeck, and another fine central performance from Fulci’s glutton for punishment Katherine MacColl, a splattering of wince-inducing gory moments, and a final sequence that has lost none of its power to hang with you long after the film has finished. Forgive the really annoying tendency that Fulci had during this period to try and pass off paintball bullets as gunshot wounds, and his achingly slow zombies; this has the famous ‘spider sequence’, a wonderfully urgent score from Fabio Frizzi, a foreboding sense of a downward spiral into deranged chaos, and remember Fulci made nightmares, not kitchen sink dramas. GR

11. Society (1989. Dir. Brian Yuzna)

A prolific producer of, among other cult items, Stuart Gordon’s classics Re-Animator and From Beyond, Yuzna made his directorial debut with this body horror classic. For the most part it deals with the horror of paranoia and the underlying unease of perfect suburban America in a similar way to David Lynch. The paranoia increases as the film progresses to the finale which is a joyous gooey orgy of violence and madness all made possible by special effects wizard Screaming Mad George. Often considered a minor entry in the body horror stakes, this writer for one believes it to be the best example of body horror working with a fascinating narrative. GT

Click Here for 30-21

Come back tomorrow for the top 10.