I've received a few requests for a list of some of my favorite horror movies, so for Halloween I'm going to share ten of the movies I enjoy this time of year. This is not meant as a critical assessment of their absolute value as cinema, or even their ultimate value for the horror genre. (For that, read my Knowing Fear.) As you'll see, I tend to enjoy older films more than modern ones. I think this due to horror's relationship to the Gothic, and the age of the film creates that layer of historicity that recreates some of the ancient terror of the Gothic.
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) - an expressionist masterpiece.
- Nosferatu (1922) - one of the greatest vampire films.
- Dracula (1931) - at least the first act in Transylvania; after that it gets a little boring; if it's too dull for you, try Return of the Vampire (1944), also with Bela Lugosi.
- Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939) - true classics, and since they tell three parts of one story, I'll count them as one.
- The Haunting (1963) - perhaps the most effective haunted house movie I've seen, and one that captures Shirley Jackson's novel almost perfectly in atmosphere and tone.
- The Horror of Party Beach (1964) - the most awesomely terrible monster movie ever made, and the only one I've ever felt compelled to buy on DVD after seeing it on MST3K.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) - really the only chain saw cannibal movie you need
- Halloween (1978) - still the most effective slasher film I've ever seen.
- From Dusk til Dawn (1996) - extreme in every respect, but admirably controlled in its storytelling.
- Scream (1996) or I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) - because I am a child of the 1990s and this is what I watched when I was a teenager. But you don't need both. One will do.
If I get to count TV movies, I'd also give an honorable mention to segment three of Trilogy of Terror (1975), "Amelia," about an evil doll stalking a woman, and the first segment of the 1969 Night Gallery pilot movie, "The Cemetery," about a mysteriously changing painting that seemingly depicts the imminent rise of a zombie and its attack on its former home.
Finally, if you aren't too serious about your horror, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is the best monster mash available, and one that works almost as well as a Universal Horror film as a comedy.