My Top 5 Horror Movies: Happy Halloween!

What would Halloween be without a good scary movie session? I love a good horror movie, and by good I mean one that scares the pants off of me. I’m not a horror snob, but I don’t really like the torture style horror movies that became popular in the last decade (your Hostels, Saws, etc.). I’m not gore averse, I will quite happily watch Evil Dead, but there is a line where it becomes….yucky in my tummy!

I have many fond memories of scary movie sessions with friends growing up, I still remember seeing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in the cinema (my friend’s Dad got us in somehow despite the R rating) and being freaking terrified. And few teen sleepovers were complete without a scary movie session. At any rate, challenging myself to pick my personal top 5 favourites is a tricky task indeed. I know that some of my choices aren’t seen as genre greats, but they are my favourites, so here we go, in no particular order!:

Poltergeist: What 80's child wasn’t traumatized by this spooky classic from an early age? The family was just so real, Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are unusually high quality actors for a horror movie (esp. at the time). It tapped into virtually every fear a young mind could have – from the killer clown (I still can’t watch this without my eyes half covered!), to the tree coming to life in a thunder storm (as a kid with a tree outside her bedroom window let’s just say this caused some….issues!).

When Carol Ann gets sucked into a ghostly netherworld by her t.v., who could not relate to late nights in front of the t.v., when the public emergency broadcast service would come on and make you lose your sh*t? We always knew the t.v. possessed some mysterious inner evil! Oh, just me? Ok...And to top it all off, the only psychic in town who can save them talks like a raspy doll come to life (the awesome Zelda Rubinstein)! Gah….I think this film holds up, completely, and the upcoming remake will no doubt be a pale imitation (though I see it is a Sam Raimi production so I am curious!)

Candy Man: Ok so I fully appreciate that Candy Man is not seen in any way as a horror classic. But hear me out. It has a super scary baddie, the Candy Man, played with creepy conviction by Tony Todd (that voice!), and a likable heroine in Helen, played by actually great actress Virginia Madsen. Its origin story about the antebellum south and star crossed lovers make it weirdly compelling. And most importantly, a very bad man who comes to life anytime you dare chant his name five times in front of a mirror (another 80’s kid past time, before this film, was a similar game we played with various bogeyman). 

It taps into the primal fear section of your brain very quickly and adeptly, and I think it is seriously underrated/forgotten about, the sequels (aside from 2! ;-) were tosh, but  if you haven’t watched it thinking it was just another dumb slasher flick, give it a chance.

The Descent (British version, I think there was a bad American remake – get the British one!): One of Neil Marshall’s earliest (and in my opinion finest: his previous film to this one Dog Soldiers is also a fun low budget Werewolf movie if you haven’t seen it.) The premise of The Descent is simple: six friends (all women) decide to go caving on an outdoor holiday in Scotland. They have a lovely cabin in the woods, so quite why they want to go down a deep dark hole is a mystery to me!

They descend what looks like millions of feet into the earth quite happily, these adventurous type women. Me? I would never, and so I would be safe, and a cabin in the woods...ok maybe not then!

Anyway, from then on in it is a cat and mouse claustrophobic’s nightmare of sheer terror. Slimy pre-historic versions of us are still living down there, basically, and they are hungry. And fast, and brutal. But also kind of human so you get lots of really creepy moments.

The women are badasses and they rise to fight for their lives, bonding together but also personal tensions arising to complicate matters.You genuinely root for them despite the odds. It’s gory almost to the point of Evil Dead gore at times where it’s so disgusting it comes back round to humour, if you have that sort of mind! Marshall does have a wickedly humorous streak which shows itself enough to keep you from chewing your fingernails off! I do love that this is a horror film that doesn't merely victimize women, but mostly I love that it's a good old fashioned jump out of your seat fest!

The Exorcist: We all know the story of the Exorcist by now? Little girl, called Regan, gets possessed by very nasty demon, much to the dismay of her family and local priest. The reason I am including it is simple: of all of the dozens of possessed girl movies The Exorcist spawned, I still don’t think any of them have topped it.

The special effects might seem less dazzling to modern viewers than they were at the time, but it is still super creepy and bone chilling. No many how many other more jazzy possessions on film I have seen, this one still gets me. Is it the music? The classic score, including Tubular Bells is still beyond chilling.

I also like that its set in a posh suburban neighborhood,  it makes it a bit different - I mean let's be honest, possessions of country farmgirl religious types feel trite yet they still keep making them. Reagan’s possession strikes without warning (I think there may have been a Ouija board involved?) but the origin of the thing isn’t milked/overplayed, it’s very simple. Father Karras’s struggle to find his faith against impossible circumstance is played so well by Jason Miller, and you somehow root for and are terrified of Regan at the same time. Masterful.

Carrie (original, of course!): One of the few versions of a Stephen King book that actually did it justice. Sissy Spacek is perfection as shy Carrie, whose religious zealot mother and secret telekinesis give her unique teenage struggles to deal with.

It’s a classic teen bullying/revenge story, you kind of can’t help but root for Carrie even though she goes a bit over the top in the end (ummm and what teen wouldn’t if their one perfect night in their whole lives and 70’s nightgown prom dress and perfectly curled hair was ruined?!). Brian De Palma did a great job with this, building it slowly, not over egging it, so much so that the recent remake sank without a trace. Don’t mess with perfection!

How about you, are you a horror buff? What are your top choices for getting your scaredy cat pants on? Hope everyone has a fun Halloween!


  1. Even tho I don't really like horror movies, I guess I watched all of these. I guess one of the first horror movies that I watched was Nightmare on Elm Street and I wasn't able to go to bed alone afterwards! One time I went to a night session of Omen and when I left the cinema there was a black dog wandering around (there was a scary black dog in the film too, what a coincidence...) and it was just following us... it was creepy :)

    1. Omen almost made my list, definitely a classic!

  2. I also loved weird romance Candyman. My favourites are the Hammer vampire films. I remember being very scared by Pet Cemetary and It when I was younger!

    1. The Sundance Channel was playing Stephen King films here all week, I had to change the channel when Pet Sematary came on though! 😮

  3. Nice choices! I have not seen the British version of The Descent, but I did see the American version and you are right - it was basically crap.
    Candyman is really underrated, I think. I mean, it's not exactly "brain food," but I don't think it gets enough credit. Like you, I found the origin story quite interesting and really makes you kinda side with The Candyman for his behavior. And they are actually quite clever with the element of insanity and what's real and what's not here. Plus - bees. And of course, the 80's sleepover boogeymen games we all played. :)
    I think the movies that scared me the absolute most on first-time around viewings are Event Horizon, Child's Play (I have a special nostalgia in my heart for that movie) and of course, The Ring.
    Great post.

    1. Definitely check out The Descent if you get a chance! Child's Play or any other 80's movie with little monsters (the one with the green things in the toilet!) Definitely freaked me out in my younger years (and probably still would! ;-))

  4. I have only seen on movie on this list, but I'm not sure if I saw the american or british version of descent. I'm really not into horror movies that much, I prefer dark comedies. My husband loves horror though, and has tried to introduce me to some.