The Best Horror Films
Like many kids of my time, I was exposed at an impressionable age to the macabre and the uncanny. Despite my mother's aversion to the horrific and concerted efforts to raise me with wholesome influences, it was, ironically, her reading to me Grimm's fairy tales (I particularly remember Bluebeard!) which cultivated my taste for terror and morbidity (she insists that I point out her strong denial of this charge, the Bluebeard episode in particular). Delicious memories of Halloweens past abide with far greater clarity than any Christmas. I read H. G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, and Forrest J Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland avidly (my introduction to what "pulp" meant), and collected nearly the entire Aurora "Glow in the Dark" monsters plastic model series. The original, 1968-vintage Scooby Doo, Where Are You? cartoon series and Kolchak: The Night Stalker had no small influence upon my development. And I stayed up "past my bedtime" to watch movies of which my mother did not approve.
Around 1973, when I was 8 years old or so, I began a list of all the "monster movies" which I had seen, with pertinent details and a rating of the quality of the experience. Since that time I have compiled a list of 800+ genre films, including fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery-suspense-thriller, and pulp-serial-comics films. There was a renaissance of horror films beginning in the early 1970s and reaching its nadir between 1975 and 1982. I saw many of the films in this list during that time, so my recollection and evaluation of them is at times quite hazy and doubtful (some I cannot even remember watching). It has been my experience, upon seeing a film as an adult which I loved as a child, that my perception of it has changed radically. Conversely, many films which I did not appreciate as a child, because they were "boring" (ie, didn't have any cheap rubber monsters that ate people), I now regard as being superior, much in the same way that I now like Brussel sprouts... Unfortunately, I have not been able to re-watch all of the movies which I saw some twenty-odd years ago; many have slipped into eternal obscurity (possibly to the betterment of mankind!).
Long before TNT's MonsterVision, when the Turner Broadcasting Station, WTBS, was just WTCG, channel 17 in Atlanta, and a young guy named Bill Tush was the program manager, at the height of the renewed interest in the macabre, WTCG and other independent local stations would schedule the old classics of the genre, which was my first and in many cases my only exposure to these films of the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. There was a fantastic Friday night prime time feature on WTCG which began with a sepia-toned montage of shadowy sequences from some of the scariest moments in these older films (notably the Creeper series), set to that famous score from Jaws (the translation to this context was remarkable and effective).
Alas! the day of the independent local station is no more. Nor do many yearn for the films of yesteryear. For those born in the 1980s or 1990s, even the 1960s seem remote, and the younger generation is not naturally inclined to watch movies which are 50, 60 or 70 years old. For those who do remember, this site is a tribute, a guide along the darkened corridors of a lost childhood, and a memorial to a collection of genre work which is now passing into obscurity. For the youth of today it is also an introduction to the wonders of the unknown...
The films reviewed here are presented in chronological order. My intention is to provide an historical artistic context and to indicate the development of the craft of the horror film. If you wish to search for a specific title, there is an index at the bottom of this page which links directly to each film on their respective pages, but I encourage you to take the tour of each page and trace the evolution of the genre. I should also mention that such masterpieces of suspense as Psycho will not be found on this page; look for them on The Best Suspense Films page. Similarly, scientifically slanted monsters such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon will be found on The Best Science Fiction Films page.
And incidentally... if you want to catch some of the older films reviewed on these pages check out the programming schedules of Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics; even such unlikely venues as Cinemax and Showtime I've noticed will show some rare and excellent genre films.
I have removed my Top 20 list of the very best horror films. It was just too short and too arbitrary. I can't choose! I love so many of these films and I find that revisiting them after some time that they are once more fresh and I discover in them new delights of chills and blood-curdling fun.
LINKS TO THE OTHER PAGES
These are the links to the in-depth reviews, trivia and images for all the best horror films that I have seen. Go straight to the source or peruse the list of all the films below.
ALPHABETICAL INDEX TO THE HORROR FILMS
This listing is in alphabetical order for ease in locating a specific film, with a direct link to the location on the page where it is found. The date of release is included to help distinguish films where multiple versions exist. There are over 100 films reviewed here.
THE GRINNING GOBLINS RATING SYSTEM
Instead of stars, I have little grinning goblins. The ratings on my original master list were based on a scale of 1 to 9. Only the better films are represented here, so there are no degrees of bad ratings. Consequently, a perfectly mediocre film rates no goblins. Why bother to review the junk?
LINKS TO OTHER SITES
Originally posted 3 January 1998 -- All rights reserved