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Just Keep Telling Yourself It's Only a Thread: Talking Time's Top 50 Horror Movies!

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Oh, and I still find it hilarious that Kenner made an action figure line based on this strongly R-rated film in the 1990s. Those are some of the best toys ever, by the way.

This is only half-true! They made an action figure line based on a cartoon that was based on a hard R film. It never got past a pilot, but Kenner made the toys, anyways. Supposedly, the pilot is lost, but I would absolutely LOVE if someone dug it up and included it as a special feature on a future blu-ray.

The VVitch didn't make my list but its a fantastic piece of unnerving art horror. Its very much a slow burn movie so I'm sure it disappointed a lot of a certain kind of horror fan who heard about the "best horror movie of the year".

I feel like that might be me, except I usually love slow-burns? (House of the Devil is a personal favorite, and almost every time I mention it, someone is bound to tell me how boring it is.) The performances in The Witch are fantastic, but the plot was just... kind of a snooze? I liked Midsommar a lot more, but I'll save my thoughts on that.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
I have a lot of gripes with Aliens; I think it assassinates a lot of the mystique of the first movie by turning Xenomorphs into "basically termites" and showing how easily they can be killed en masse; plus it's got that classic "white people playing POC" element that was in bad taste at the time and has only gotten worse with age.

On the other hand, Shockwave cameo.

 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
It's not that Aliens doesn't have horror elements. But if it wasn't a sequel to Alien, would you put it on this list?
 

Dracula

Video Nasty
(He/His)


No. 30 Night of the Comet (1984)
Points: 91 | Lists: Dracula (#8); Falselogic (#17); Kishi (#11); Torzelbaum (#21)
“You may as well face the facts, Samantha. The whole burden of civilization has fallen upon us.”


Night of the Comet is a 1984 American science fiction comedy horror film written and directed by Thom Eberhardt. It stars Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, and Kelli Maroney as survivors of a comet that has turned most people into either dust or zombies.

Drac’s Notes: Y’all, I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we managed to get this little movie on the big list. I first saw this one night while I was combing through horror B-flicks on Netflix, and I’ve enjoyed frequent rewatches of it in the years since. It’s a simple concept: like Ultrapedia says, everyone in the world gets vaporized or zombified overnight. Two women in LA then have to pick through the ruins of civilization and figure out their place. Having two women as dynamic leads in a non-slasher is super rare for the time period, and I adore Stewart and Maroney in their roles. Stewart plays a straightforward badass who opens the film trying to break a high score on Tempest; Maroney is her airheaded cheerleader sister. In a lesser movie, Maroney would be written out in the first ten minutes, killed to make way for the more “valuable” characters. But instead, we get to see her grow into a badass survivor and in a way that’s totally distinct from her sister.

There’s lots of good stuff in this movie. One of my favorite little factoids was that they needed to film a number of exterior shots in Los Angeles, but this was a B-movie, so they didn’t have a budget to clear the streets. So what they did was film on Christmas morning. Now that’s creativity!

So...is that all for today?

Today's is not a double feature, correct.


Would you like another?




No. 29 Ring (1998)
Points: 93 | Lists: Sabrecat (#6); Zef (#6); Teg (#6)
“Four people died from watching this videotape!”


Ring (リング, Ringu) is a 1998 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata, based on the 1991 novel by Kôji Suzuki. The film stars Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rikiya Ōtaka, and follows a reporter who is racing to investigate the mystery behind a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it.

Drac’s Notes: Consider this a “save this space,” because I haven’t seen the Japanese version of this film, but I’d very much like to. It’s next on my watchlist. Tell me what you like about this movie! But don't tell me what you like about the American version. This is only for the Japanese one.
 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
My records tell me it's been nearly six years since I've watched Night of the Comet. I must rectify this. It's truly a hidden gem.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
It's not that Aliens doesn't have horror elements. But if it wasn't a sequel to Alien, would you put it on this list?

Yep. I feel like it occupies the same horror/sci-fi/action overlap as Predator and Terminator, which also made my list. The whole premise is suspenseful, and as soon as the question of what state the colony is in is answered, it's shortly replaced by the suspense of "who's laying the eggs?" And on top of these macro-level horror elements, each individual encounter has innate horror elements. Each one has some combination of a suspenseful buildup, horrific imagery ("kill me"), ambushes, and/or the protagonists' advantages being compromised. In fact, from the perspective of someone who has only recently seen any of the Alien movies, I feel kind of the opposite of what you're suggesting: Aliens is largely considered "action, not horror" in contrast to Alien, and if it was a standalone movie, it would much more readily be considered a hybrid of genres.

I certainly understand the position of not including it on this list. It contains elements of several genres, and it's such a muddy, subjective, personal distinction as to when "movie with horror elements" becomes "horror movie." I cast no judgment on anyone who left it off.

I'm a weirdo who's only seen the Japanese Ring. Until college, I pretty much avoided any "real" horror movies like the plague, but this was shown in a dialogue class I was taking. I thought it was very effectively unsettling and creepy while avoiding the excessive gore and jump scares that turned me off to the genre. It also builds to its climactic moment extremely well. It just barely missed my list, and probably should have made it in hindsight. Oh well, it wouldn't be a top 50 without repeated bouts of lister's remorse!
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
It looks like Night of the Comet isn't streaming anywhere? Not even Amazon Prime has it!
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
Ring is terrific, and manages to be this perfect little window into the time and place it was made. I really love the element of ritual and following certain rules that goes into it too; it really feels like it could be a real urban legend. The only thing I don't love is the extremely hokey scare chords that accompany big reveals.

Really glad to see Night of the Comet too; I don't have as much to say about it but it's great fun.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Unpopular opinion: the American version of The Ring is better than the Japanese version.

Also, Night of the Comet is very fun, but I'm shaken to my core that as a group we've decided it's better than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
On the other hand, Shockwave cameo.

Holy carp! How did I not know this delightful bit of nerd ephemera?


Meanwhile, I haven't seen the JP original Ring, but I did vote for another JP original of the same era which probably won't make the list at this point, but who knows.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Unpopular opinion: the American version of The Ring is better than the Japanese version.
Possibly if I watched the two back to back, I'd end up agreeing with you! I was working from dim memory, and seemed to recall that the American version was more explain-y? Focused on the backstory of the tape and how it all works, that sort of thing--which I often find American horror loves to do, to the detriment of the actual creepiness. But maybe that was in the original too and my brain lost it.
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
I love both versions of [The] Ring, but today is Hideo Nakata's version that gets to shine.

Like so many others, Ring was my introduction to J-horror, and, appropriately enough, I first watched it on a VHS bootlegged from the UK release because there was no US equivalent (I've since collected at least three different official disc versions, including the one that came out this year, so hey.) Nakata's direction was already dark and moody, then there's the Japanese style of filmmaking in the late 90s, then there was the graininess of the VHS to add further grit to the supernatural goings on, so there was no way I couldn't completely fall for it.

I'm both intrigued by, and wary of, the change from Kazuyuki Asakawa, male protagonist and distant husband/father in the original novel, to Reiko Asakawa, divorced mother. Wary, because filmmakers (especially horror ones) often deliberately try to make their female characters "vulnerable" or "weaker" than a male counterpart in order to elicit sympathy--particularly evident here, where Asakawa's ex-husband, Ryuji, is in constant competition with her to take over the lead role--but also intrigued because Reiko is so much more likeable, and more of an actual protagonist, than Kazuyuki ever achieves. She's a deeper, better-developed character with a stronger connection to her son (the family in the novel are basically just plot devices) and she has a more human response to the situation than Ryuji does.

And speaking of more likeable characters, Ryuji himself (played by the legendary Hiroyuki Sanada) is just... such a welcome change from the novel version, who's just an asshole to play opposite Kazuyiki's featureless mannequin. You can tell he views the curse not just as something to save his family from, but as a personal challenge he's eager to solve. I'm really not sure why Nakata decided to add a further supernatural angle to him (film Ryuji is basically an ESPer, a trait inherited by his son and expanded upon in the sequel) since it makes Sadako a little less unique, and allows Nakata to push some curse-solving exposition through him without having him do the same kind of research or investigation Asakawa does. But considering this is a universe where people can project their thoughts into visual media and ghosts can impart their memories on you by grabbing you, I suppose having more psychics around doesn't break disbelief too much.

Sadako is... well... yeah. Even though she's a fairly generic onryō loosely inspired by Okiku-san of the Plate Mansion, she's had monumental impact on horror in general. I don't think there's any modern white-garbed, long-haired ghost in Japanese media that isn't directly descended from her. Neither the book nor the original film delve too much into her character, just the circumstances of her death (putting the meaty, cartoony thwack! from the film aside) nor do they ever stop to study the themes surrounding her, but there's whole essays to be written about the misogyny and transphobia that turned Sadako into the unstoppable, viral force of vengeance she is. Here, again, Nakata muddles the issue further by hinting at a demonic, intrinsically evil origin, in a "she was always bad" kind of way, which I think was just his way to sidestep the deeper social issues surrounding her tragedy.

I'm also deeply amused that Kenji Kawai, whom I know best for his whimsical Ranma and anime scores, was in charge of this film's soundtrack. The American version may have more memorable themes, but Kawai's atmospheric sounds are way creepier.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Batting .500 today.

The truly most horrifying occurrence in this film is implied rather than shown but this film is still frightening enough just by showing the smaller scale horrors that occur in the aftermath.

Maybe the real horror was the friends we made along the way.

...

Wait. That doesn't sound right.

I have a lot of gripes with Aliens; I think it assassinates a lot of the mystique of the first movie by turning Xenomorphs into "basically termites" and showing how easily they can be killed en masse; plus it's got that classic "white people playing POC" element that was in bad taste at the time and has only gotten worse with age.
In case you don't know what Tegan is talking about - Private Vasquez in Aliens was portrayed by an actress named Jenette Goldstein. If you don't want to make assumptions based on her name just check out this picture of her potraying John Connor's adoptive mother in Terminator 2 to see how white she is.
 
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Dracula

Video Nasty
(He/His)


No. 28 Night of the Living Dead (1967)
Points: 94 | Lists: YangusKhan (#24); Kishi (#14); Patrick (#7); Shakewell (#9)
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”

Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent horror film written, directed, photographed and edited by George A. Romero, co-written by John Russo, and starring Duane Jones and Judith O'Dea. The story follows seven people who are trapped in a rural farmhouse in western Pennsylvania, which is under assault by an enlarging group of cannibalistic, undead corpses.

Drac’s Notes: We owe a lot to George Romero. In this, we have the first real zombie film, at least as zombies are understood nowadays, leading to dozens or hundreds of movies, TV shows, video games, and other media that feature hordes of lurching, leering, groaning undead with a hunger for human flesh. Sometimes, the groundbreaking entries are notable mostly for breaking ground. But in the case of this film, it’s a legitimate horror classic, doing a hell of a lot with not much and still managing to be disturbing even 53 years after its debut.

Aw c'mon, what happens next? Why did it end like that? How does humanity overcome the zombie plague?

"Next?" There's no overcoming it. Humanity is doomed.

Well, I wanna see them try, anyway!

You'll just have to imagine it. We have no idea what movie is coming next.

Actually...



No. 27 Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Points: 100 | Lists: YangusKhan (#10); Falselogic (#21); Patrick (#4); Johnny Unusual (#13)
“Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Voodoo. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, ‘When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.’”

Dawn of the Dead is a 1978 independent horror film directed and edited by George A. Romero. It is the second film in Romero's Night of the Living Dead series of zombie films, and though it contains no characters or settings from the preceding film Night of the Living Dead (1968), it shows in a larger scale the effects of a zombie apocalypse on society. In the film, a phenomenon of unidentified origin has caused the reanimation of the dead, who prey on human flesh.

Drac’s Notes: If Night of the Living Dead was gold, then Dawn of the Dead is certified platinum. It’s royalty in zombie movies. The simple concept of “survive a zombie invasion in a shopping mall” has spawned more imitators than I can count. If you’re going to see just one zombie movie, this is definitely the one (though my personal favorite did not end up on the big list). It’s interesting to revisit now, after so many decades of derivative zombies, to see just how understated the zombie makeup was in these days. Modern zombies tend to be as gross as possible, with rotting flesh, mutilated limbs, and dragging entrails. The zombies in this film are basically just normal-looking people in dark, bluish makeup. And it really works!

Okay, but then what?

Well, there are more films, but spoiler alert, humanity never fixes the problem.

Do we at least get to watch them? Video Knight???


This list is cancelled!!!
 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
I watched Night of the Living Dead for the first time a couple of Halloweens ago. It's amazing how much of modern zombie lore is all right here (even the "not wanting to kill a child who has turned" twist), and it's a compelling story unto itself. It also infamously slipped into the public domain, so it couldn't be more accessible; the whole thing's on YouTube in multiple places (below is just a choice clip).


 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
It is in the public domain, but I would still recommend the Criterion blu-ray. It's full of great stuff and the transfer is a million times better than, well... most others.
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
Augh, I can't believe I forgot to include Night of the Living Dead in my list :( It transcends its genre as a classic of film as a medium.

I do still need to see Dawn, though. I've only seen Snyder's execrable remake and... yikes.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
The unfortunate situation with Dawn of the Dead is that it's tied up in licensing hell because the license holder is some kind of egomaniac, so there hasn't been a reprinting of the movie since like 2007 and that was only in Italy. You can't stream it anywhere either.
 

Dracula

Video Nasty
(He/His)
The unfortunate situation with Dawn of the Dead is that it's tied up in licensing hell because the license holder is some kind of egomaniac, so there hasn't been a reprinting of the movie since like 2007 and that was only in Italy. You can't stream it anywhere either.
Seriously??? I had no idea about this. It's funny by way of comparison with Night, which thanks to the public domain thing Kishi mentioned has been abundantly available everywhere for ages.
 

Vaeran

yeah yeah yeah yeah
(he/him)
It's been alluded to a few times already so maybe the story is pretty well known, but the reason for Night of the Living Dead being in the public domain is pretty funny. The film was originally going to be called "Night of the Flesh Eaters," but had its title changed prior to release. Unfortunately when the distributor put in the new title card, they forgot to also add the copyright notice back in, so it became public domain immediately upon release. Whoops. This is part of the reason the 1990 remake was made.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
The unfortunate situation with Dawn of the Dead is that it's tied up in licensing hell because the license holder is some kind of egomaniac, so there hasn't been a reprinting of the movie since like 2007 and that was only in Italy. You can't stream it anywhere either.

Yeah, so glad I have my 2004-ish DVD (with the extended Italian cut included).

It's been alluded to a few times already so maybe the story is pretty well known, but the reason for Night of the Living Dead being in the public domain is pretty funny. The film was originally going to be called "Night of the Flesh Eaters," but had its title changed prior to release. Unfortunately when the distributor put in the new title card, they forgot to also add the copyright notice back in, so it became public domain immediately upon release. Whoops. This is part of the reason the 1990 remake was made.

Yeah, it's nuts but until the mid-'70s if you didn't put the © and the year on the film, you didn't get copyright protections! But, like It's a Wonderful Life, one wonders to what extent being in the public domain helped the film become so well-known.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Two genres that are hard to make "epics" for are ones that often aim to create involuntary reactions in the viewer: comedy and horror. But Dawn of the Dead feels close in tone to an epic in that it follows characters over a long period of time as they try to survive a world where the monsters more or less won. If you can call it a victory. But it is really George Romero's examination of the spectre of capitalism in a post-paying for anything world. Consumerism is so comfortable that the dead head to the malls. As important as Night of the Living Dead is, this one MADE (as in cemented rather than originated) the "zombie" genre and despite many knock offs, few were as intelligent as Romero's films.
 

Dracula

Video Nasty
(He/His)


No. 26 TIE

Scream (1996)

Points: 101 | Lists Neo Skimbleshanks (#1); Patrick (#25); Issun (#6); Beta Metroid (#15)
“There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie.”


Scream is a 1996 American slasher film directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. The film stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore. Released on December 20, it follows the character of Sidney Prescott (Campbell), a high school student in the fictional town of Woodsboro, California, who becomes the target of a mysterious killer in a Halloween costume known as Ghostface. The film combines black comedy and "whodunit" mystery with the violence of the slasher genre to satirize the clichés of the horror movie genre.

Drac’s Notes: Perhaps the most decade-characteristic horror movie of the 90s, Scream seeks to disassemble the tropes present in slasher films from the 70s and 80s. Like many of the sneering parodies of the 90s, it picks at the surface-level qualities of slashers, but doesn’t quite cut all the way to the heart. However, Scream isn’t quite a parody - it’s funny, at times, sure, but in practice it’s itself a legitimately frightening film, and I think this part of it is the part that ages well and keeps it firmly in the pantheon of great horror films. Tarantino once said you can’t really subvert the slasher genre, because it has to be rote or else it ceases to be a slasher. Scream takes it about as far from the genre roots as it can go.

Oh, and we should talk about ghostface. It’s easy to forget that, before Scream, the ghostface mask was actually a common Halloween accoutrement (apparently designed by the Fun World costume company). Nowadays, when you see it, it’s almost always Scream-branded. But the masked killer was popular enough to spawn a series of sequels and spin-offs which I’ve never seen and don’t much care to. Hey, if you’re a Scream franchise superfan, let’s hear about it!


Predator (1987)
Points: 101 | Lists: Sabrecat (#12); Kishi (#15); Beta Metroid (#12); Shakewell (#8)
“If it bleeds...we can kill it.”


Predator is a 1987 American science fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and written by brothers Jim and John Thomas. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of an elite paramilitary rescue team on a mission to save hostages in guerrilla-held territory in Central America, who encounter the deadly Predator (Kevin Peter Hall), a technologically-advanced alien who stalks and hunts them down.

Drac’s Notes: Speaking of iconic, franchise-building costumes, here we have another entry that may end up being a bit contentious. Is Predator a horror film? Oh, I dunno. It certainly feels like one in some ways - here we have a group of people being stalked through the woods by an unknowable, monstrous killer with nigh-on supernatural powers. The difference is, instead of screaming, horny, teenage victims, we follow a group of roided-up yelling totally straight manly men with machine guns. I’m not sure what I think.

Well, I think I want to see more of that big muscly guy. I liked him. He made me feel safe.

Oh, did he? Perhaps you'd like to see another movie.

I mean...okay...but now I'm worried...



No. 25 The Terminator (1984)
Points: 103 | Lists: Kishi (#16); Beta Metroid (#9); Shakewell (#7); Jbear (#13)
“It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are dead!”


The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction film directed by James Cameron. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose son will one day become a savior against machines in a post-apocalyptic future.

Drac’s Notes: Y’all decided, not me, to put two high-octane Schwarzenegger films on a list of horror movies. Before the Terminator franchise was about ever-more-convoluted time travel shenanigans and armies of skeleton robots, it was a fairly simple film about a woman fleeing a robotic murder-machine. Schwarzenegger is possibly better remembered as the reformed, heroic murder machine from Terminator 2, but in the first film, he is nothing more than a silent killer, walking slowly through crowded bars and killing whoever he wants with total calm. Actually, I have no problem deeming this film as horror. I’ve had literal nightmares where I’m being pursued by a terminator. The idea of an unkillable monster who slowly follows you until you die is fucking horrifying, and Cameron’s movie does a fantastic job expressing this horror. So what separates this from the similar Predator? Well, the main thing is, the characters in Predator have more autonomy. They’re better equipped to deal with the threat. Sarah Connor becomes an action hero later, but in the first film, she’s just a waitress, and Kyle Reese, the soldier sent from the future to help her, is no match for the might of a single killer robot. Ultimately Sarah has only herself to depend on, and it’s really easy to feel that fear as she flees. Great film. Maybe the best Terminator movie. Oops!

GREAT, now I'm gonna have nightmares about the big muscly guy. Thanks, Video Knight!

A pleasure to be of service.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I didn’t vote for Scream because, frankly, didn’t care much for it, or Predator for the expected reasons of not being able to really consider it horror...

But Terminator was a plain oversight on my part and consider the fact that it doesn’t have another couple dozen points is my own fault
 
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