This low-budget but well-made screamer from the disturbed mind
of John Carpenter (Escape From New York) is arguably the most
influential horror film of all time but probably for the wrong
reasons as it spawned a whole new genre – the stalking
slasher. He (inevitably it was a male) came in many guises though
the favourites were the well-manicured Freddy Krueger in the A
Nightmare on Elm Street series, the masked Jason Voorhees in the
interminable Friday the Thirteenth saga (all nine of them) and
ol' Mike Myers himself in all six Halloween flicks.
Much has been written and argued about this classic from
director Alfred Hitchcock. From using chocolate sauce as blood in
the shower scene to arguments about whether the rotund British
master of suspense actually directed the infamous segment, the
most shocking angle has to be Hitch's sheer audacity and
brilliance in knocking off the leading lady in the first 20
minutes of the movie unsettling the audience totally for what was
Hardly seen for may years, this interesting and inspirational
piece had many studio chiefs running away in fear because
director Tod Browning (Dracula with Bela Lugosi) had the cheek to
use real circus freaks – a living torso, Siamese twins, the
bearded lady, etc. But this is more a touching tale of humanity
and bravery than anything else.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Shot in stark black and white, this heralded film has one of
the best opening sequences in any film ever made, as
"born-again" zombies just rise from the dead and go on
a frenzied rampage. Why? There's no reason given and that's what
makes this landmark feature one of the most unsettling and
disturbing ever made. It puts you right there: what would you do
in such a maddening and irrational situation?
Les Yeux sans Visage (1959)
A little known but highly reverential French flick which
sparked a rash of pictures about mad doctors who want to save
their daughter/fiancee/secret admirer by giving them a new
outlook on life by surgically restoring their beauty.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
When American giant Universal re-released its classic black
and white horror films of the 1930s – Dracula, Frankenstein,
The Mummy, etc – in the late 1950s, English minnow Hammer
Studios thought it would be a great idea to update these gothic
gems, except with one difference – blood-curdling colour
– which were so vivid and real it caused the audience and
censors much distress.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Low-budget king Roger Corman and scream giant Vincent Price
had already done several succesful movies based on Edgar Allan
Poe's work, but this is a beautiful, sweeping and poetic piece
which was totally unheard of in horror films.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)
The Grand Guignol of movies which sparked a whole series about
psychotic old ladies who feel the need - the need to wield a little
willow, that is. Revered by many, it is driven along by two
outstanding performances from Hollywood veterans Bette Davis and
Joan Crawford (who hated each other in real life as much as they
did in the film).
The Exorcist (1973)
This Hollywood blockbuster, which made demon possession
respectable, was the first film of its type to get a Best Picture
nomination. Whatever you do, lock the doors, unplug the phone and
don't watch this alone.