Geekly Essential means that something is so good that it deserves to be discussed long after it was released. It may be 10 years old, but it is still worth your time.
Welcome readers to this spooky edition of Geekly Essentials, where we set out to showcase the creme of the crop in every arena. Today Ben Daniels, Meagan Kilkelly, and Nika Howard (or the Horror Team, as we call ourselves), are taking you into the genre of horror films to give to you our top picks. Now you might be thinking, “But Nika, I have heard of most of these movies?” and while that is probably true, these are what the three of us have deemed as our favourite horror movies and the best to represent the genre. Not only that, we think that if you are someone wanting to break the cusp into horror films, you should start with watching these movies as a way to dip your toe into the Devil’s den. So let’s grab those kitchen knives, ready our vocal chords, and get ready for a screaming good time!
The Shining (1980)
- For me this is the “cannot miss, best of the best, mother of all horror movies” out of them all. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this movie (just in case you have been too afraid to watch it) takes place in the Overlook Hotel in Colorado during the winter months. It focuses on Jack Torrance, his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, who are looking over the property while it is closed. This is anything but a pleasant and relaxing stay though, as they would later find out. No spoilers here, but they quickly learn that there is more to the hotel than what they were led to believe and that the hotel seems to change people. This movie tops as my all-time favourite for several reasons; the first being the story itself. This is not only a great movie in general, but a true adaption of the book. Sure there are a few things that are different (if you want to see a more “spot-on” version of the book, there is a 4.5 hour miniseries you can watch), but overall the film hits on the main points and details, showcasing them very well. The story overall isn’t particularly complex, but still gives enough twists to keep the viewer engaged. Second, this is a film that was directed and produced by the brilliant Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick’s version of the film brings this amazing play with which he creates the scenes and is known for his stressful behaviour towards actors on set to get the emotion and shots needed. There is always a feeling of something sinister happening in his shots and you can truly feel the raw emotion being portrayed by the actors. Lastly, this movie is a part of horror history. There are several phrases and shooting techniques that were introduced in this film that we are still seeing throughout pop culture today, including the terrifying catchphrases “Here’s Johnny!” and “Redrum”. All of these aspects come together to create a movie that I can watch whenever and I feel will withstand the test of time to remain a horror classic.
Event Horizon (1997)
- Event Horizon is one of those amazing modern science fiction horrors that really take you out of your comfort zone in basically all aspects. This film was released in 1997 and features several big name actors of the day including Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne. The story follows a crew who is sent out into space to try and bring back/rescue the Event Horizon. What they find when they get there though is quite different from what they expected, resulting in a fight for their lives. I find this movie so appealing as it has a supernatural and grotesque factor that makes my skin crawl, but also persists that I continue watching. CGI was definitely still in its infancy when this movie was released but, even with the lack of seamless definition, the rendered scenes are still pretty spot on and are able to add to that jump and scare vibe. In addition, the film provided a way to edge viewers into a “space film” without introducing aliens in the mix. By keeping aliens out of the film, this movie is set apart from falling into being just another science fiction space film. This movie was one that when I first watched it, I didn’t want to look in mirrors or just be by myself…and ever since then, it’s been one of my favourites.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- When someone asks me to name my favorite horror film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre always tops the list. Director Tobe Hooper’s magnum opus, TCM helped to define the genre and move it into new, frightening places. Based loosely on the true life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, it recounts the story of five unlucky youngsters travelling to visit a gravesite in rural Texas who encounter a psychotic family. Everything about this movie is unnerving and designed to shock and challenge its audience. The majority of events take place in broad daylight, which is far more frightening than classic “bump in the night” horror because it removes the illusion of daytime being a safe place. It also took the idea of people as monsters to the utter extreme, and the unceremonious way it deals with characters being murdered is maybe the most frightening part of the entire experience. The classic “Grandpa” scene is difficult to sit through, but simultaneously hilarious in a really demented way (or maybe I’m just really demented?). The soundtrack, if it even qualifies, is what I imagine an orchestra being attacked by fire ants sounds like. While there is very little actual gore in the film, its overall presentation and events are disturbing on a visceral level. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still inspiring innumerable slasher films after its release in 1974.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
- Evil Dead 2 is one of the very rare cinematic instances where the sequel is better than the original. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the original Evil Dead, but the additional comedic elements along with more over-the-top action and special effects in the sequel really allowed director Sam Raimi and lead actor/icon Bruce Campbell to come into their own. Evil Dead 2 was kind of a “reboot” decades before that was actually a thing in Hollywood. Ash Williams and his girlfriend Linda return to the cabin in the woods where he first awakened the evil force within the forest after discovering the cursed book Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Not just a direct follow up, it recaps elements from the prior movie and enhances them. It also throws in a huge helping of slapstick comedy, proving that horror and humor can coexist if written properly. Just watching the bizarre physical comedy of Ash fighting with his demonically possessed hand is worth the price of admission. Far easier to watch than its predecessor in both content and delivery, there are also so many interesting camera tricks and nuances throughout the whole affair that you can re-watch it several times without catching all of them. Lots of horror movies are inherently ridiculous, but few of them embrace it with a level of smarts and adept self awareness like Evil Dead 2 did. It has spawned a huge cult following, and is one of the few movies that I still own on a physical disc to ensure that it always has a place during my annual Halloween horror movie marathon.
- Halloween is tied for me as the best horror movie of all time (with Texas Chainsaw Massacre). And this isn’t just my opinion. I feel fairly confident that every horror fan, including my fellow authors, would agree. Not only is it a classic slasher, it is most definitely the place where every horror novice should begin their journey. John Carpenter’s first foray into the genre was made simply and cheaply ($300,000!!) and was an immediate success, vaulting the slasher genre back into the horror mainstream. It also saw the debut of none other than a baby-faced Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, a role that would define her career. AND on top of all this, it helped to introduce the “scared teenagers fleeing from a serial killer” motif that has survived decades and is considered a staple of horror. The premise of the movie is simple: “On Halloween night of 1963, 6-year old Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death. After sitting in a mental hospital for 15 years, Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield to kill.” (IMDB.com). Its simplicity is its brilliance. It didn’t use crazy special effects (the mask worn by adult Myers was a William Shatner mask flipped inside out and spray painted), there is no gratuitous violence, and there are few characters. But this is why I love it! No movie did this better – before or since. Watch this movie on Halloween, with a huge bowl of popcorn, and you’ll see how wonderful it is (and how right I am). And do me a favor, don’t see the Rob Zombie remake first (or ever). Kay, thanks.
- Where to begin! Well for starters, this movie is definitely the cause of my coulrophobia (for those unaffected readers, coulrophobia is the fear of clowns). The possessed clown doll in Robbie Freeling’s bedroom still terrifies me to this day and, after you watch this movie, I’m sorry to say it will terrify you as well. This is another horror classic that has stood the test of time and for good reason. In the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the Freelings – a typical American family living in a cookie-cutter suburb. The Freelings are the proud inhabitants of a brand new house built by Mr. Freeling’s company. Before too long, strange things begin to happen in the house – moving chairs, whispering voices from the TV, cabinets being opened by unknown forces. All of this continues to escalate until one day when the youngest child, Carol Ann, disappears into the family’s TV with the whispering voices (yes, you read that correctly). From there, a team is brought in to help the family and bring back Carol Ann. It’s a spooky, unsettling storyline that becomes more so when Mr. Freeling discovers a terrible secret about the property. I don’t want to give anything else away, but it’s an awesome, entertaining movie, made by Steven Spielberg when he was at his best. A true must watch!
So there you have it readers, these are our top picks for the best horror movies out there. We will be releasing more of these soon with different topics to help ease you into this scary film world, so keep an eye out! Now get to watching and don’t blame us if you can’t sleep with the light off anymore.
Want to chat with us more on our picks or what you think should have made the list? You can find us over at Twitter @GeeklyInc or individually: @Nika_Howard (Nika), @westingreader (Meagan), and @aggrokragg (Ben).