I don't pretend to be a movie guru, nor am I strong at sympathizing with tastes opposite my own. For this reason, my Top 10 list of horror movies will not cater to those of you who need 500 gallons of fake blood to illicit a scream. If that's what you're into, I suggest reading another article, because those types of slasher movies do nothing more than leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach and embarrassing evidence of fecal incontinence.
It's hard to pin down which modern movies are the scariest, since there is an entire spectrum of horror movie sub-genres to choose from psychological thrillers, suspenseful horrors and the aforementioned gory slashers.
Everyone knows that The Ring is terrifying, that Saw made several men on this campus weep openly and that House of 1,000 Corpses may haunt you for weeks to come. But for those and other modern horror flicks, word of mouth from friends and advertising can probably point you in the right direction.
My goal, then, is to tap into a category of scary movies you may not have seen or heard of yet. They are less overtly scary not necessarily the secret weapon to pull out if you want your lady love to leap into your lap for protection but many of them are the movies that characterized and traumatized our parents' childhoods.
My mom, being particularly twisted, felt that my sisters and I deserved a thorough education in the ways of horrifying movie experiences. Calling upon this and my appreciation for all things that have weathered the ages, I give you, in chronological order, the Top 10 classic horror films you should see.
10. The Bad Seed (1956) Although it isnt outright terrifying, this movie is definitely chilling. The Bad Seed follows the activities of a sickeningly sweet young blonde girl named Rhoda. In the movie, Rhodas mother begins to suspect that her child is behind several mysterious murders, and concludes that behind the veneer of this darling daughter brews the genetics of a murderess. As someone who watched this growing up, I fully appreciate how creepy it is when my mother playfully asks, What would you give me for a basket of kisses? If you take the time to track down this classic, you will know what I mean!
9. House on Haunted Hill (1959) If you saw the modern make of this movie and were disappointed, fear not! Although the cinematography and special effects are obviously a little, well, old, the '59 version of this flick has something the modern version does not: Vincent Price in the prime of his creepiness. If you don't know who Vincent Price is, you don't even deserve to watch any horror movies beyond Scream. A movie about a twisted playboy offering $10,000 to whichever of five friends survive a night in his haunted mansion, House on Haunted Hill has plenty of surprises and some cheesy scream scenes that will make it worth your while.
8. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) This is another movie that is just outright creepy. The set-up is simple: Two adult sisters, both former movie stars, live together in a home. The older sister is wheelchair-bound and previously enjoyed great success, whereas Jane, the younger sister, is a deranged alcoholic who never followed up on her child stardom. Jane holds her invalid sister hostage and abuses and terrorizes her. Thanks to Joan Crawford and Bette Davis' bizarre and wonderful roles, Baby Jane is a nail-biter through and through.
7. Night of the Living Dead (1968) This film is the quintessential zombie movie. It helped to establish the modern-day mythology of the "flesh-eating zombie, and if you are at all entertained or interested in modern zombie movies, you should learn to appreciate the granddaddy of them all. These zombies are selfish, flesh-eating monsters of hell and destruction that can only be defeated by flame or a hard knock on the head (which makes for some good people-on-zombie combat). Night takes place in a quiet Pennsylvania town, but it could be any town. Maybe even ... Northfield?
6. Frenzy (1972) The first Hitchcock movie to receive an R rating, this film has dark humor, graphic and violent sex and the occasional indecipherable line delivered in a mumbled British accent. The movie is about a serial killer who strangles his victims with a necktie, and the ineffectual attempt of London police to apprehend him. A word of advice: Don't read the jacket cover; it will give away which character is innocent and which character is guilty before you have a chance to enjoy the ambiguous suspense Hitchcock builds up.
5. The Shining (1980) If you aren't convinced that Jack Nicholson can be thoroughly creepy, rent this movie. His deranged laughter, the straight acting of the other two members of his twisted family unit and the very creepy, very bizarre story by Stephen King make for an effective, time-tested horror movie, bound to make you want to mutter redrum into the ear of whoever is in front of you in the caf line the next day.
4. The Evil Dead (1984) A B-list movie, The Evil Dead has what every 80's horror movie should have: gratuitous gore, haunted and sexually deviant tree branches and a young woman running for her life.
3. It (1990) The one movie that can account for why so many people are afraid of clowns, this film is a fantastic, terrifying trademark of many of our childhoods. If you somehow escaped your youth without seeing this creepy look at the psychology of fear, hurry up and rent it before you miss out on the scarring that has shaped our generation!
2. Misery (1990) Just barely old enough to be a classic, this adaptation of the Stephen King novel still gets me every time. One climactic scene involves a sledgehammer and the re-breaking of legs, but that's just one of the many suspenseful moments in this film. Kathy Bates plays a perhaps too devoted fan of a stranded author, and Bates, desperate to keep him and manipulate his work, establishes a bizarre relationship of deception and violence with the man.
1. Silence of the Lambs (1991) What's that you say? You've seen it? Well, too bad, see it again. Hundreds of parodies have been made of Hannibal's character because he is such an effectively seductive and sinister character, and this movie is one of the few on the list that may actually make you jump or shout out an expletive during one of the dark pursuit scenes.
Of course, you can always rent The Blair Witch Project and be terrified by someone's proximity to the camera, but why not treat yourself this Halloween? Find a friend, scan the list, and choose one you haven't seen. You may not need to hold someone's hand, but you may find yourself clapping when you're through.