It is now time for the long-gestating post of our top 5 classic horror films. It is relevant to emphasize “classic”, as the films on this list could not have been produced after the turn of the century. It is also important to note that these are not necessarily the top 5 greatest films of all time. Who wants to see a repetitious list that inevitably ends with The Exorcist at number one? It is more-so a collaborative list of our favorite films. We both worked together on 4 of the 5 choices. We then each wrote out our reasons for those 4 choices. We then picked a single film of our own to round out the 5. So be prepared to agree with a couple, disagree with a couple, and perhaps find some level of enjoyment out of the experience.
Jaws (1975) - A deep-rooted fear of the ocean is true of so many generations, even after the 1970's. This movie plays into the fear of the unknown. Now don't get me wrong, I am not talking about asking a woman out and waiting to hear her answer. I am speaking of the horrors that lurk just out of our sight. A dark corner of a room that is mysteriously void of light. The contents of a box that was mysteriously left at your door. The things down below the water, just past that point where it gets too dark to see anything. This is why this movie terrifies me, not for the death and gore, but for the terror that lies in the unknown.
Alien (1979) - "In space no one can hear you scream." The implications of the tag line with respect to the type of fear this movie induces is perfect on multiple levels. The most topical level is that they are in space. A place where humans cannot survive without the use of advanced technological equipment. There is no nuance to this, simply that in space there is literally no way for sound to travel. You can scream as your lungs collapse and your body explodes from the inside out, but it doesn't matter. However, the second and more subtle level of horror here is the isolation in space. Okay, so you are in your conditioned atmospheric ship that allows you to sit in the great void of nothing that surrounds all the planets we inhabit, but you are vastly and utterly alone. You may have some crew mates, but you as a group are so far removed from any type of human contact. The final way this tagline is perfect requires you to have seen the movie before. What would cause someone to scream in space? In this movie's case they are being hunted by a super-predatory alien. HUNTED IN SPACE ON THE VERY SHIP WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SAFE FROM SPACE. If the idea that the thing that is supposed to be protecting you not being able to do a damn thing while something else is trying to kill you does not scare you, then you sir and/or madam are a bonafide bad ass. Congrats.
The Thing (1982) - This is by far my favorite film on this list for three distinct reasons. Firstly, this movie defines practical effects. It sets a bar that any individual attempting to utilize these effects (which is very few now-a-days) should try to get to, if not surpass. The only movie I have seen come remotely close in a long time is Cursed, for the awesome werewolf effects. A close runner up is Feast, The second reason I love this movie is that it followed closely in the footsteps of Alien in building the fear of isolation. This is another scenario where they are located in an inhospitable area; however, The Thing is better to me for the final reason. The isolation is made even more terrifying by the fear of the unknown! See how we bring things full circle here? On a more serious note, the unknown here is paranoia of a horrible alien creature that may be anyone around you trying to kill you. Many of the best scenes in this movie are built from the fact that no one trusts anyone. I am kind of a paranoid individual with trust issues, so this movie hit me right at home. I love it and it scares me every time.
Scream (1996) - Scream will forever be my favorite slasher movie. It took a long time to come to this slasher film for a few reasons. The first is that it is not all that old. '96 is only 19 years ago, but for the case of this movie it is a classic in regards to its influence on horror. This movie did a very good job of building my paranoia and playing on it throughout the movie. Who do you trust? Why do you trust them? Do you think they are capable of killing? Do you still trust them?
A second reason this movie was in contention for a classic slasher was because it is not the only slasher movie ever. I mean we are passing on movies like Friday the 13th, Psycho, and the like to put this movie on here. The reason is that those movies were not highly influential on the development of what is scary. They were around far before we started watching movies. Let us not forget that this movie is one of the first meta horror films. A film that uses horror tropes against horror fans to scare them even more and make them feel safe. How many times have you said to yourself, "I cannot believe that they would do that in that situation!" Well, Wes Craven listened, and decided to say "to Hell with you" and kill your smart ass anyway.
Personal Pick: Evil Dead II (1987) - My pick for the final movie on our top five is Evil Dead 2. It has some of the most awesome scenes I have ever seen. The scene where the whole house was laughing at him and then just stops. The scene were the mom tries to sing away the fears of her daughter. The scene where his dead girlfriend is dancing as a corpse. I also love this movie because it is a cult classic, so it literally has "classic" as a description. This movie is hilarious while still making me think twice about being in a cabin in the woods alone, with trees moving seemingly on their own, and winds whispering sweet lullabies only to make you feel safe and sound....