Top 10 horror movies to watch for Halloween
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Here's my list of the 10 best horror movies of all time, with enough demons, serial killers and space creeps to satisfy just about everyone. If these don't keep you awake long after your pumpkin candles have burned out, nothing will.
1. The Shining (1980) Stanley Kubrick's towering monolith of horror gave us some of the most memorable moments in movie history: an elevator gushing blood, a terrifying Jack Nicholson ("Heeere's Johnny!") and little Danny Lloyd riding his tricycle through the silent halls of the Overlook Hotel. After more than 30 years there have been few imitators and absolutely no equals.
2. Alien (1979) The sequels became action movies, but Ridley Scott's original about an acid-blooded creature running amok on a spaceship remains a horror landmark. It's dark, claustrophobic and mercilessly intense, but also hugely entertaining, with a jolt around every corner and the curdling screams of an excellent cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Harry Dean Stanton.
3. The Exorcist (1973) The story of a young girl (Linda Blair) possessed by Satan, "The Exorcist" turned sophisticated modern audiences into hysterical villagers who reportedly fainted, vomited and went into seizures at screenings. Media hype aside, it's still a whoppingly effective shocker, especially director William Friedkin's 2000 version with tingly subliminal effects and the famously freaky "spider-walk" scene.
4. Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg's epic horror-adventure about a killer shark is part oceanic slasher flick, part "Moby-Dick" and one white-knuckle ride from start to finish. The trailers alone permanently scarred most of America: Has anyone since 1975 ever gone for a swim without looking around for a fin?
5. Eraserhead (1977) This extended hallucination so defies description that first-time writer-director David Lynch called it simply "a dream of dark and troubling things." One of the most ghastly things about its central creature -- a malformed fetus growing in a dark hotel room -- is that Lynch still won't discuss how he made it.
6. The Thing (1982) The story of Antarctic researchers battling a shape-shifting alien, John Carpenter's remake of the 1951 classic was panned for its stomach-churning special effects but has since become a populist favorite. Part of the reason is its cast of tasty hams, including Kurt Russell, Keith David and an unhinged Wilford Brimley losing his Quaker Oats.
7. Seven (1995) Few movies can elicit the emotional and physical nausea that truly defines horror, and one is David Fincher's "Seven," about two cops (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman) tracking a gruesomely patient serial killer. The "Saw" films can't hold a candle to its pervasive atmosphere of dread, decay and doom.
8. Audition (1999) This Japanese film begins as a sensitive drama -- it's about a widower searching for a new wife -- then suddenly becomes a screaming freak-out with eye-watering scenes of torture. Even if you go in prepared, it won't lessen the shock.
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999) A low-budget film about backpackers in a haunted forest, "Blair Witch" relied on nonprofessional actors, hand-held cameras and zero effects. It spawned a new genre of mockumentary horror and remains a harrowing triumph of technique over splatter.
10. Diabolique (1955) The headmaster of an isolated boarding school, his unhappy wife and his scheming mistress are the players in this ghostly, goose-pimply French chiller. Robert Bloch, author of "Psycho," called this his favorite horror movie.
Readers' scary favorites
We asked our readers to tell us their favorite scary movies. Here's a sampling (responses have been edited for brevity and clarity):
The Horror of Dracula (1958)
"What made this movie so wonderfully scary was that it was in 'living color.' When Dracula took a bite on a victim's neck or when a stake went into a vampire's heart, the blood was as bright a red as can be." -- Mark Warner, East Meadow
The Haunting (1963)
"Nary a ghost or ax murderer in sight, but oh, was it chilling! Much, much better than the remake!" -- Ruthellen Rankin, Huntington Station
The Shining (1980)
"There were virtually no scenes in this movie that didn't leave you apprehensive about what was going to happen." -- P. Russo, Bayport
The Fly (1958)
"When the scientist's wife pulled the towel off his head to reveal giant insect eyes and hairy tentacles, I froze with a paralyzing fear manifested as nightmares and a loathing of flies lasting several summers." -- John Herman, Babylon