Maybe “horror hater” is a bit strong, but it has a nice ring to it. I’m at least generally averse to the horror genre for the most part, which you might notice makes me something of an odd bird around these parts. And a lot of parts of the movie blogosphere, actually. I’ve spent the last decade working on various movie websites alongside men and women who are very geeky about horror movies if not also preferential toward them. The kinds of critics who now have published collections of horror movie reviews. The kinds of critics who attend film festivals held in horror movie locations. The kinds of critics who’ve probably seen more horror movies this month than I’ll see in my lifetime.
Every year, I’ve watched as my peers and many others spend October focused on my least favorite genre and I’ve usually skipped out of the lists and the countdowns and the daily entries in month-long recommendations and reviews of beloved horror (cult) classics. Well, at the start of this October, I thought I’d challenge myself to finally be a team player and name 31 horror movies I actually love. Not just those I tolerate or even think are quality efforts, but movies I genuinely enjoy and maybe have watched multiple times. There are still four more days left to my challenge, but I figured I’d share my results plus those future picks in advance.
Here’s what I learned while making this attempt: my favorite horror movies are divided between films that are truly classic works of cinema, never mind what genre they fall under, and then some really silly and possibly downright terrible movies that I grew up with in the 1980s. I don’t think I was much more interested in horror as a kid, but I saw a lot of stuff at a very young age and I developed a taste for certain kinds of schlocky pictures and creature features, stuff that made me laugh more than afraid. I should point out that I did not qualify anything I consider first and foremost a comedy or genre deconstruction, such as some of my very favorites, Shaun of the Dead, Cabin in the Woods, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Finally, before getting to the goods, I want to add the main reason I’m sharing this, why I’m confessing to being both a snob and an ignoramus when it comes to many of our readers’ favorite genre: I’m always willing to try things. I believe I will never like most horror movies out there, so much of which I just personally find boring or beyond my taste for gore, violence, and realistic trauma. But if you horror experts out there can look over my list and figure me out as a fringe horror appreciator, I’d love to see what you can recommend to me. One major thing to consider, though: I’m prejudiced against anything seriously involving religious themes – basically anything with a priest. I find them all just stupid as Hell. Pun intended.
- Poltergeist (1982) – A movie I saw when it came out, at age 5, that can still scare the shit out of me. And wow me on a technical level, too.
- Poltergeist III (1988) – It’s mostly badly executed, but I love the mirror tricks, which have me doing double takes for days after any time I re-watch.
- Alien (1979) – I’m mostly in it for the sci-fi, but I guess technically that Xenomorph is a slasher villain. I like all the sequels and prequels, too, but don’t consider them horror.
- The Shining (1980) – I’ve only seen it all the way through once, so “love” of its entirety is a bit strong, but I do love some re-watched scenes a lot.
- Frankenstein (1931) – It’s amazing how after so much parody and other derivation, this classic can still be so enthralling.
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – It’s pretty remarkable how long it takes for the Bride to show up in this film. It keeps the campiness wrangled in.
- Maximum Overdrive (1986) – It baffles me that this movie is so deeply despised. I had the poster on my wall as a kid. I also forever fear steamrollers.
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) – Set designer Hermann Warm is a hero. It’s a shame more horror movies aren’t so fantastical in their backdrops.
- Gremlins (1984) – I love any little creature movie of that era, but this one is the most magical as it claws through its Capra-esque setting.
- Critters (1986) – I also like Ghoulies and Munchies, etc., but this Gremlins ripoff is the best. I like the sequel quite a bit, as well.
- Slither (2006) – James Gunn is obviously a fan of the kind of horror I’m a fan of.
- Grabbers (2012) – This under-seen gem is another great recall of the ’80s little monster era.
- Final Destination (2000) – Ignoring the paranormal hints, a horror movie focused on accidents is the scariest idea of all (that’s how many of us will die, after all). The sequel also has some incredible kills if you like Rube Goldberg-like cleverness and the best traffic jam disaster set piece since Maximum Overdrive.
- Dawn of the Dead (1978) – I love this one because I hate consumerism.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Kids of my generation loved Freddy Krueger as much as Mickey Mouse.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) – It’s almost more of a fantasy film than horror flick.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) – I went in excited about another Lubbock girl joining the franchise. I left obsessing over the time loop bit.
- Child’s Play (1988) – Chucky is almost just another little monster, but with the personality of a guy who’s way too into Jack Torrance.
- Creepshow (1982) – Specifically I grew up loving the “Something to Tide You Over” segment.
- Creepshow 2 (1987) – Specifically I grew up loving the “The Raft” segment.
- The Blob (1958) – There’s always room for a jello-like monster.
- The Blob (1988) – Arguably the most perfect example of an update on a horror classic.
- Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) – Michael Myers is boring. Give me masks that kill! Also, the “Silver Shamrock” jingle is my jam.
- Jaws (1975) – I almost forgot about this one because it’s only kind of a horror movie.
- Psycho (1960) – I almost forgot about this one because it’s so good it’s impossible. I will never fully believe this movie exists. It’s too unique, still.
- Chopping Mall (1986) – I love a good goofy exploding head.
- Deadly Friend (1986) – I love a good goofy exploding head.
- Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) – I love a good goofy punched-off head. Also, I’m obsessed with all things New York in film and have literally written a paper partly focused on this movie.
- American Psycho (2000) – I’m running out of titles. This is a horror movie, right?
- Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) – Apparently this is considered horror, and I consider it a masterpiece.
- The Night of the Hunter (1955) – This is also on many horror film lists. I’ve never thought of it as one. But if it is, then that’s fine because it’s a brilliant work worth closing with.
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