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What are some essential horror films for a movie marathon?
October 28, 2009 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I am putting together a list of horror films for a Halloween Movie Marathon with my friends/family. What are the absolute essentials I need on this list?

My horror film knowledge is pretty lacking, so please help me out. There will be about 8-12 movies, so include any films that are essential, plus any films you think you are worth making a top 10 list.
posted by Taft to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Blair Witch Project
Halloween (the original)
Nightmare on Elm Street
The Exorcist
Friday the 13th
Dawn of the Dead (the original)

I also would recommend using Shaun of the Dead as a sorbet, to cleanse the palate with laughter in between scares.
posted by joelhunt at 7:45 AM on October 28, 2009


The Shining
posted by Windigo at 7:51 AM on October 28, 2009


Ju On (The Grudge). The Japanese version, not the American. Conversely:
The Ring, the American version, not the Japanese version.
posted by electroboy at 7:51 AM on October 28, 2009


I am rather partial to Fright Night (1985). It has excellent special effects, it bounces off of some very old tropes, is quite funny in some parts and reasonably scary in others. The soundtrack is charmingly dated, but still listenable. I usually dust it off around Halloween.
posted by adipocere at 7:51 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


+1 for Halloween (the original, accept no others!)
+1 for The Exorcist
+1 for Nightmare on Elm Street

I'd add:
- The Howling

I'd also throw in a few Universal black and white classics:
- Frankenstein
- Dracula
- The Wolf Man

Have a great time!
posted by willmize at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2009


Are you looking for the 'best' films, as evaluated by critics, or the most influential ones, or the lost classics or the cult favorites or what? Ten movies isn't very many to represent an entire genre.

All that said, here's IMDB's top horror movies. That list is a joke, though--Suspiria isn't even in the top fifty.
posted by box at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2009


+1 for The Howling, The Exorcist and Fright Night!
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers
(A classic, and it scared the hell out of me when I was a kid). None of the subsequent remakes stand up.
posted by misha at 8:02 AM on October 28, 2009


Oh, and I was going to say Alien and Aliens, but I wasn't sure they fit the genre. I see IMDB includes them.
posted by misha at 8:03 AM on October 28, 2009


IMDB's list really is problematical, though. King Kong is NOT a horror film, ffs!

I've always seen it as a tragedy.
posted by misha at 8:06 AM on October 28, 2009


The Invisible Man
The Thing (from another planet)
THEM!
posted by Gungho at 8:18 AM on October 28, 2009


Just watched "Candyman" last night for the first time. I'd put that on your list.
Of course:
+1 for Halloween
+1 for Nightmare on Elm Street
+1 Friday the 13th

Oh...Oh...

Event Horizon!
posted by theButterFly at 8:19 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Evil Dead! Trick r Treat. Audition.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 8:31 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing all the great classics.

I can't believe I'm recommending this, because I normally wouldn't recommend something of the sort, but I really, really like the Exorcism of Emily Rose, for what it's worth.

Also Poltergeist.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:38 AM on October 28, 2009


The Shining and The Exorcist for sure. Maybe The Omen or Psycho.

For a lighthearted change of pace, how about Scream and Scary Movie (might be fun to watch those after all the “real” horror movies)
posted by yawper at 8:38 AM on October 28, 2009


The Ring, the American version, not the Japanese version

Seriously? Why?
The cinematography in the Japanese version is so much more effective than the US version. I'd say go for the Japanese version for sure. Ju On I found ...meh. YMMV.

+1 for the Exorcist

Not sure if it strictly fits the horror genre, but +1 for The Audition also.
posted by CardinalRichelieuHandPuppet at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2009


Night of the Living Dead, I have found, starts things off nicely, because (for folks who haven't seen it) it begins seeming like it's going to be an hour and a half of campy low-budget cheese, and so you lower your defenses and expect to have a good time, and by the end you're horrified and keep. thinking. of that little. girl.

Makes the rest of the night just the right kind of uneasy.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:45 AM on October 28, 2009


Horror comedy doesn't get any funnier - or bloodier - than Peter Jackson's Braindead. (Released in the US as Dead Alive.) If you can't get the unrated version, don't bother.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:48 AM on October 28, 2009


OMG Young Frankenstein. Absolutely. One of my very favourites since I was a little kid.
posted by Ouisch at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2009


Does 28 Days Later count as horror? I love that movie. The original Dawn of the Dead seconded.
posted by beccaj at 9:04 AM on October 28, 2009


And, for them that likes 'em, subtitled movies:

The Devil's Backbone
The Orphanage

Both genuinely creepy, both with the same director ... go figure.

And a couple of ghost stories just for the hell of it:

The Others
Below

And finally, a ghost story that's creepy but watchable for the whole family (save the really little guys):

The Lady in White
posted by Allee Katze at 9:05 AM on October 28, 2009


Drag Me To Hell is great.
posted by muta at 9:05 AM on October 28, 2009


I agree exactly with electroboy on which versions to watch, and both are worth watching.
+N to halloween

I'd also throw in some more modern films as horror movies can easily get dated and all it takes is one person not into it and then they're dull (halloween is amazing, but watch it with someone who isn't a fan and it isn't fun). The descent, Ils, High Tension, The orphanage popped to the top of my head but there are a lot of others. Hellraiser is great because it's so fuckin weird.

beware- the shining is really long, it will eat up a huge chunk of your night.

Anyone who recommends scream or scary movie you probably shouldn't listen to.

If you're looking for some lighthearted relief you should hunt out some trash horror from LA in the mid 80's to early 90s. My favorites are Blood Diner and Sorority House Massacre 2 (not the first one!). Both are amazing.
posted by Large Marge at 9:08 AM on October 28, 2009


The Changeling (No, not the Clint Eastwood film from a couple years ago.)
posted by usonian at 9:11 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rosemary's Baby
posted by orme at 9:13 AM on October 28, 2009


+1 for The Lady In White - a classic in our family.
posted by pghjezebel at 9:13 AM on October 28, 2009


I think rather than showing the classics, I would probably aim for trying to hit as many sub-genres as possible. Some ideas:

Popular/Classic:
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Shining
Hellraiser

Slasher:
Halloween
Friday the 13th
Scream
Session 9
High Tension
Cry Wolf

Sci-Fi:
Event Horizon
Sunshine
Cube

Religious/Haunted House:
The Exorcist
The Omen
The Amityville Horror
Poltergeist

Comedy:
Shaun of the Dead
Braindead/Dead Alive
Planet Terror
Club Dread
Gremlins

Cheesy:
Equinox
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Dracula 3000
The Blob (80s remake)
Q: The Winged Serpent
Puppet Master

Atmospheric:
The Ring
The Grudge
R-Point
Silent Hill

Monsters:
The Thing
Alien
The Host
The Descent
Night of the Living Dead
Dawn of the Dead

Animals:
The Birds
Jaws
Arachnophobia

Psychological/Disturbing:
Calvaire
Misery
Funny Games
Audition

Modern Gore-fests:
Hostel
The Devils Rejects
Saw
The Hills Have Eyes (remake)
House of 1000 Corpses

Other Foreign Language:
Battle Royal
Pan's Labyrinth
Let the Right One In
Karaoke Terror
Suicide Club

Weird/Not Really Horror:
Jacob's Ladder
Lost Highway
Eraserhead
Videodrome
posted by burnmp3s at 9:15 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok I'll throw in Ginger Snaps (awesome werewolf film even if the monster is lame looking). It's sort of Heathers meets The Howling. And Lon Chaney Jr.'s "The Wolfman' is the greatest werewolf movie ever made. We'll see how the new remake stands up.

But I'll submit that these are 'monster movies', not really horror films (semantic distinction I know). For the stuff that really scares you, I'll nth 'The Ring' (either version), and for a twist, 'Seven', which in its relentless suspense and horrific display of depravity, scared the crap out of me.
posted by elendil71 at 9:20 AM on October 28, 2009


Seriously? Why?
The cinematography in the Japanese version is so much more effective than the US version.


I really can't say without spoiling the movie.
posted by electroboy at 9:36 AM on October 28, 2009


Blair Witch isn't that good. It was more of a pop culture moment. I would suggest "The Descent" and "Gingersnaps" for some unique feminist horror.

Don't confuse "The Descent" with "Descent" which is neither horror nor good.

"An American Werewolf in London" is actually pretty great.

If you can, hunt down "Graveyard Alive", an amazing Canadian zombie nurse film.

Exorcist 3 was actually very good. Some scenes still haunt me.

Alien and The Thing (remake) are both horror though I'm sure everyone has seen them.
posted by chairface at 9:58 AM on October 28, 2009


Exorcist 3 was actually very good. Some scenes still haunt me.

Oh yeah, agreed. Several very scary scenes in that movie. Don't bother with Exorcist II though.
posted by electroboy at 10:13 AM on October 28, 2009


Evil Dead 2. Not the original.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2009


Thanks for the input everyone. I'm assembling my list right now. :)
posted by Taft at 10:26 AM on October 28, 2009


There are a zillion good recommendations here, so I will give the program that I, personally, would show in order to cast my vote:

Halloween - because duh, and it's scary without being so completely intense you burn out
Hostel - to keep the lame-os who don't like the older movies interested
Nightmare on Elm Street- Bridge the gap between slasher and upcoming fantasy
Original Blob - for campiness
Poultergeist
Night of the Living Dead
The Exorcist - AKA a trilogy of creepy little girls
The American Ring - refresh the new movie people. The Japanese version is gorgeous but it's hard to get a large group to watch subtitles. It's good in it's own way
The Shining - long but the creepiest movie
The Birds - Classic Hitchcockian wonder must be involved in any scary movie fest
Amityville - so no one can sleep at night

I actually think Scream could be a good Blob replacement if you don't want campiness. If you replace Hostel with Friday the 13th and then show Scream, the similarity yet mocking of the slasher genre will be appreciated. It's not that bad of a pick! Plus, people of a certain age probably went to go see this in high school when their sensibilities were newer, and part of watching old horror movies is nostalgia.

Then again, you could go with our tradition of watching all the Halloweens (minus three and ressurection, which should have never been made more than any other) and then the Rob Zombie Halloween, which isn't that bad to be honest. It is, after all, Halloween.
posted by itsonreserve at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2009


+1,000 for "Let The Right One In".
In my original answer I stayed away from subtitles as this is family and friends and it might not go over that well.

This movie is, in my opinion, one of the most creative and inventive takes on the vampire story that I have ever seen. I loved it. I originally saw it with the crappy subtitles, and still loved it. Just purchased the version with the original theatrical subtitles and it really makes a great difference.

Now I'm reading the book on which the movie is based, and well, let's just say that there's a LOT more going on. Wow.

My top vampire movie, definitely in my top 20 movies of all time.

/hyperventilating hyperbole, OFF
posted by willmize at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2009


I wanted to answer again. There have been great suggestions in this thread so far. Especially burnmp3s list. As a general suggestion, I've learned a few lessons about movie selection for "marathon" viewing sessions through a little film fest me and my friends host. A good general rule of thumb in terms of selection (especially if your event is taking place in an informal setting such as your living room) is to avoid movies that may be awesome but require the viewers to pay very close attention to them. (A Scanner Darkly was a fail at our first fest for this reason.) Luckily the horror genre lends itself well to movies that don't require total attention. However, for this reason I would caution against foreign language or subtitled films.
posted by theButterFly at 10:31 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shaun of the Dead.

Very scary, hilarious, and satiric, sometimes all at once. I love this movie, and it'd be great for a party.
posted by elder18 at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009


Many excellent ideas already -- I also recommend "The Fly" -- Jeff Goldblum version -- which is both heartbreaking and scary.
posted by bearwife at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2009


Essential:
The Exorcist
Nosferatu (the original Murnau)
Halloween
Evil Dead 2 (gore with a sense of humor)
The Shining
Suspiria

Optional:
Nosferatu (the 70s Herzog remake)
The Descent
Let the Right One In
28 Days Later
Last Man on Earth
Serpent and the Rainbow
Don't Look Now
The Innocents
Repulsion
Hellraiser
or the fun Nightbreed

exploitationy but great:
Alucarda
Santa Sangre
Tombs of the Blind Dead

for the kids (but still scary):
Something Wicked this Way Comes
Lady in White
I also have a soft spot for Exorcist 3--the good bits are very good.

And finally I have to mention the movie that scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid, Don't be Afraid of the Dark. Apparently it has just been released on DVD for the first time in many, many years here. I'm scared!
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:41 AM on October 28, 2009


Maybe instead of the top ten of all time you should go with an exemplar of a bunch of horror genres? i.e. zombie, slasher, haunted house, j-horror, sci-fi, etc.

One movie that I enjoyed, but was hard to categorize was At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, the first in the Coffin Joe trilogy. Very low budget, fairly ridiculous, but a fun movie.

Another movie I wouldn't call "good", but weird, fun and oddly popular was The Pit, which is about a kid whose psychic teddy bear convinces him to kill people who have wronged him by feeding them to a pit full of monsters he found in the woods.
posted by electroboy at 10:46 AM on October 28, 2009


Quite a challenge, reducing it to that many films :)

I'm going to cheat by giving you 13, each with either/or options but help you by ordering them in some kind of vague chronological tradition.


1. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari or Nosferatu

Can't go wrong with either here. Both influenced the look and themes of pretty much everything that follows on this list :)

2. Frankenstien or The Bride of Frankenstien

Classic monster movies. Dracula also works. Could try King Kong at a stretch.

3. The Haunting or Night of the Hunter

Night of the Hunter is the better film but The Haunting is classic haunted house horror.

4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958) or The Thing (1981) or Alien (1979)

Pick your paranoia of choice. If choosing the 80s ones, put after Suspiria

5. The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby

People can argue forever about which is better, the former is more important.

6. The Shining or Don't Look Now

The Shining is the one with more influence but I have a lot of time for the latter as a mysterious supernatural drama.

7. The Night of the Living Dead

No alternative here. It's important imo :)

8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween

I prefer the former but I suspect people tend to prefer the latter.

9. Suspiria

Had to include something from the Italians and this is probably the most obvious and important example.

10. An American Werewolf in London (1981) or Ginger Snaps

Both smart, both witty, both great. The former is more formative, the latter brings things more up to modern horror.

11. Shaun of the Dead or Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetary Man)

Comedy and horror in equal loving amounts, you cant go wrong here.

12. Ring or The Ring

I prefer the original Japanese movie, though the remake is a fine film. However, I think the point is to represent J-horror and its legacy.

13. Martyrs or Let the Right One In

The pulse of horror today. You can either assault everyone with Martyrs (a brutal comment on torture porn and one of the most grim films I've seen) or have a more thoughtful and enchanting end with Let the Right One In.
posted by AbsoluteDestiny at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you watch Shaun of the Dead, perhaps watch the referenced (horror) films first? They are: Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, the Evil Dead trilogy, Lucio Fulci films (Zombi 2 is a good gory one), and An American Werewolf in London.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2009


A L'Interieur (unrated version)
Re-Animator
Dead Alive
The Fly (Cronenberg remake)
possibly - a torrent of new Von Trier movie, Antichrist (I haven't seen it yet, but it's gotten incredible buzz and controversy. Reports of faintings, etc.)
posted by naju at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2009


Farther off the beaten path ... I'd be pretty happy with that marathon! Don't Look Now, Re-Animator, and Island of Lost Souls are very different movies, but all likely in my top 10 horror films of all time list.
posted by Joey Bagels at 11:12 AM on October 28, 2009


Also on preview: definitely would not recommend Antichrist, yikes, for viewing with "friends and family." YMMV.
posted by Joey Bagels at 11:13 AM on October 28, 2009


Suspiria inevitably gets cited on the Top Howevermany Horror Movies, but honestly I was unimpressed. Seemed kind of schlocky and low-budget and not particularly scary. The soundtrack also gets a little intrusive at times.
posted by electroboy at 11:18 AM on October 28, 2009


Ooh, yeah, missed the family part. Forget I mentioned Antichrist. Something tells me it's not much of a fun-times movie anyway.
posted by naju at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2009


Taft, it would be awesome if you posted your final list once you're done.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:30 AM on October 28, 2009


The Haunting of Hill House
posted by bluesky43 at 12:04 PM on October 28, 2009


I'm seconding naju's recommendation of "A L'Interieur", or "Inside" as its called in America. Very very scary. Great French slasher flick and perhaps the scariest film I saw that year. I can't ever look at a pair of scissors the same way again.
posted by cazoo at 12:11 PM on October 28, 2009


Allee Katze:
The Devil's Backbone
The Orphanage

Both genuinely creepy, both with the same director ... go figure.


Sorry to nitpick, but Guillermo del Toro only produced The Orphanage, he didn't direct it. That credit belongs to Juan Antonio Bayona.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on October 28, 2009


Awesome recommendations!

I think the most difficult thing will be putting them in order.

I would recommend:

The Fly (Cronenberg)
Ring (Japanese version just for the sake of variety: I'm sure either version is a good film)
Saw or Hostel (to represent the gore faction)
Nightmare on Elm Street
The Exorcist
Alien
28 Days Later (Zombies done with class, but not classic zombies)
Ginger Snaps (Werewolf film)
Hellraiser
Carrie
almost forgot: It (the film which made everyone afraid of clowns, I think it's a two-parter)

The above list is quite modern, and quite serious. Also, no vampires. Maybe add "From Dusk 'til Dawn", "Shaun of the Dead", and "Evil Dead II".

On the very recent front, "Drag Me to Hell" was brilliant as a horror comedy, and "30 Days of Night" was a decent vampire film.

If you want to get away from the classic definition of a horror film, "Silence of the Lambs", "The Audition", "Blade", "Night Watch", and "Gremlins" have horror themes or elements.

If your audience aren't horror fans, then put the more referential stuff later.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2009


I would agree that Suspiria is an unimpressive film; it's just ridiculous plotwise, gets itselflost at a couple of points and the acting leaves something to be desired. But if you have any interest in direction/cinematography it is well worth it, and visually very interesting. Use of colour has rarely been so intrusive (in a good way), and at times he plays with it in some really interesting ways (two thirds of the way through, the green shard on the red clock).

Apart from that, I would nth the following:

Ringu
Ginger Snaps
Let the Right One In
Shaun of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead
Dellamorte Dellamore

All the Gillermo Del Toro films.

I spend quite a lot of time paying a lot of attention to horror, but for some reason I can think of very few of the ones I really rate right now. If I think of anymore, I will post.
posted by opsin at 1:21 PM on October 28, 2009


opsin: I would agree that Suspiria is an unimpressive film; it's just ridiculous plotwise, gets itselflost at a couple of points and the acting leaves something to be desired. But if you have any interest in direction/cinematography it is well worth it, and visually very interesting. Use of colour has rarely been so intrusive (in a good way), and at times he plays with it in some really interesting ways (two thirds of the way through, the green shard on the red clock).

Agree 300%.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:22 PM on October 28, 2009


But if you have any interest in direction/cinematography it is well worth it, and visually very interesting. Use of colour has rarely been so intrusive (in a good way), and at times he plays with it in some really interesting ways

Agreed. I think part of the reason I didn't care for it was too much BEST HORROR MOVIE EVAR buildup and it just didn't deliver compared to some newer movies. Interesting though, definitely.
posted by electroboy at 1:30 PM on October 28, 2009


+1000 for Cemetery Man. Highly underrated and highly awesome.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:18 PM on October 28, 2009


I can't believe no one has mentioned _Sleepaway Camp_. Cheesy 80s goofy horror... with one hell of a twist.
posted by gurple at 4:14 PM on October 28, 2009


Also, if you're interested in Friday the 13th movies, skip the first one. It's awwwwful. 2 or 3 are not bad though. And it has Kevin Bacon in a banana hammock, which could be a feature or a bug, depending on your feelings about Kevin Bacon.
posted by electroboy at 7:17 AM on October 29, 2009


Eating Raoul...best ever!
posted by karan at 2:41 PM on October 30, 2009


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