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Horror Top 10 | #1 Halloween

horror-Halloween-1978-still-movieHorror Top 10 | #1 Halloween (1978) – “The night HE came home!”

John Carpenter’s Halloween started as a low budget indie film, shot in twenty-one days and became the most iconic horror film of all time, and popularized the slasher genre that would tear through cinemas year after year throughout the 80’s. The film’s antagonist is silent, masked maniac Michael Meyers who has been locked away in a mental facility for fifteen years, since killing his sister as a child. On Halloween, Michael Meyers escapes and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to stalk and kill a group of unsuspecting babysitters. In her debut role, 18horror-halloween78-poster year-old Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Psycho scream queen Janet Lee who made the previous generation terrified of showers, plays innocent Laurie Strode. As Laurie and her friend Annie, baby sit two of the neighbor kids, the boogeyman strikes in the form of the deadly Michael Meyers.
This film is number one on my list for many reasons such as its iconic score, sinister tone, and slow pace that builds to a heart-racing climax. Halloween also benefits from a humorous script, sometimes unintentionally, and a format that was fresh at the time, but is pure nostalgia for modern audiences. Halloween established the concept of horror movie “rules” as explained in the late 90’s horror satire Scream (see below.) Never say, “I’ll be right back,” because you won’t. You can never drink, do drugs, or have sex. If you do, you’re next.

Fun Facts about Halloween:

Due to its low budget of $300,000, John Carpenter declined to collect any director’s fees and the iconic Michael Meyers mask was modified from a Halloween mask of William Shatner from Star Trek that was purchased by the wardrobe crew for $1.98.


Here is a recap of the 10 day countdown:

#10 The Ring (2002) – “Before you die, you see the ring.”Horror-BYD-the-ring

A moody and extremely eerie remake of the Japanese film Ringu which explores the concept of an urban legend of a video tape that causes anyone who watches it to die seven days later.

Naomi Watts plays Seattle based reporter Rachel Keller whose niece Katie unexplainably dies during a sleepover with a friend. As Rachel investigates she is led to the tape that Katie’s friends believe killed her. After watching the series of disturbing images and receiving a spectral phone call warning her of her impending death, Rachel races against time to decipher the origin of the tape and the meaning behind its images.

The film is a unique take on the original and is expertly Americanized. The film has a beautifully eerie look with dark, green tinted cinematography that perfectly captures the gloomy Washington coast setting and adds a sense of foreboding.

Fun Facts about The Ring: In order to advertise The Ring, the video of the cursed videotape was played on late night cable channels.

#9 The Blair Witch Project (1999) “In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary…A year later their footage was found.” 

Time Magazine CoverIt’s hard to imagine horror without the found footage genre due to the enormous popularity of the Paranormal Activity franchise. The Blair Witch Project is the student film that started it all.

The film portrays the story of three filmmakers who disappeared hiking in the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 to film a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch. The film claims that the crew was never seen or heard from again, but that their equipment was found a year later and this is the recovered footage.
The Blair Witch Project received huge critical and financial success, likely due to how many believed the footage to be real. The film cost $22,000 to make and made back $240.5 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made.

Fun Facts about The Blair Witch Project: Actress Heather Donahue’s mom received sympathy cards from people who believed her daughter was actually dead/missing. Before the film was released, the three main actors were listed as “missing, presumed dead” on IMDb.

#8 Saw (2004) – “Oh yes, there will be blood.”Horror Saw

What began as an indie film that took three years to get off the ground, Saw developed into the most well known and lucrative horror franchises of modern times.

The film’s story revolves around Adam and Lawrence, two men who are chained in a dilapidated subterranean bathroom and are each given instructions via a microcassette recorder explaining how to escape. Adam is told he must escape the bathroom, while Lawrence is told to kill Adam before a certain time, or Lawrence’s family will die. Meanwhile, police detectives investigate and attempt to find the victims’ location and apprehend the mastermind behind the current “game” and several other similar incidents.

While the films are often compared to Hostel and classified as “torture porn” by critics, the creators of Saw disagree with the term “torture porn”. Writer Luke Y. Thompson argued that, unlike Hostel, the Saw films actually have less torture than most, as Jigsaw believes that those who survive his methods will be stronger people for it. He called him a kind of a “deranged philanthropist.”

Fun Facts about Saw: In order to help attract producers, James Wan and Leigh Whannel shot a low budget short film of the same name based on a scene from the script. The duo says their budget restrictions aided them creatively in the process because it forced them to create a self-contained script of the two men in the bathroom.

Saw 2 (2005) – “The game continues.”Horror_saw_two_ver2

Rarely is a sequel as good as the original, but Saw 2 managed to up the ante on the plot with a bigger budget. This time featuring eight victims trapped in a house, the group must complete torturous tasks to retrieve an antidote to the poison they’ve all been given that will kill them in two hours.

While more gruesome than the original, Saw 2 doesn’t go over the top in the way the other six sequels do and can still be considered tasteful, and in my opinion comparable to Seven. Additionally, Saw 2 has one of my favorite endings of any horror film ever.

Fun Facts about Saw 2: The shocking ending was one of the most intensely kept secrets in horror history. The cast was only given the first 88 pages of their scripts, were forced to sign extensive confidentiality agreements, and four or five alternate endings were shot to keep the conclusion under wraps.

#7  Scream 4 (2011) – “New decade. New rules.”horror-scream-4

Scream 4 is the most recent installment of the popular Scream franchise and in my opinion the best of the sequels. The set up of the film leads the audience to believe this is the first of a new trilogy, introducing a new set of teenage characters to mix in with the original cast, and heading back to Woodsboro. Scream 4 cleverly follows the rules of horror movie remakes, which, as pointed out by one of the characters, “are the only horror studios will green light nowadays.” As the copycat Ghostface killer terrorizes the returning Sidney Prescott and a new band of high school kids, the film freshly discusses not only modern cultures fascination with violence, but also fame, and the ease of achieving infamy through use of the Internet. While many believe the franchise is tired, I believe Scream 4 found a voice as unique as its predecessor that wasn’t afraid to make fun of itself and offered audiences something electrifying, hilarious, fun, and frightening.

Fun Facts about Scream 4: This film was originally planned as the first of a new trilogy, but the idea was scrapped. It’s been announced that MTV is developing a series based on the Scream franchise, but will have no connection to the original characters or plots.

#6 The Exorcist (1973) – “Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world. The world of darkness.”horror-the-exorcist

One of the most controversial and terrifying films of all time, The Exorcist is a classic for a reason. While the film may be most famous for its obscene shock value, particularly a scene involving an incorrectly used crucifix, its worth is in its political and social commentary. Set in a world at the intersection of religion and science, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is an agnostic who turns to the Catholic church and a priest questioning his own faith when modern medicine fails to explain her twelve year old daughter’s bizarre and increasingly disturbing and unexplainable behavior. The film has a slow, but captivating build with a sinister mood throughout, punctuated by horrifying moments that even contemporary audiences find shocking.

Fun Facts about The Exorcist: Based on a novel by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the screenplay. Aspects of the novel were inspired by an exorcism performed on a boy from Cottage City, Maryland, in 1949 by the Jesuit priest, Fr. William S. Bowdern, The boy’s Catholic family was convinced the child’s aggressive behavior was attributable to demonic possession, and called upon the services of Father Walter Halloran to perform the rite of exorcism. The director said he made the film with the intention of immortalizing the events that took place in Cottage City, Maryland in 1949, and despite the relatively minor changes that were made, the film depicts everything that could be verified by those involved. It was one of three exorcisms to be sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the U.S. at that time. In order to make the film, the director was allowed access to the diaries of the priests involved, as well as the doctors and nurses; he also discussed the events with the boy’s aunt in great detail. The director doesn’t believe that the “head-spinning” actually occurred, but this has been disputed.

#5 The Conjuring (2013) – “Based on the true case files of the Warrens.”horror-the_conjuring

Creating a new horror film that is truly terrifying to modern audiences is nearly impossible. That’s why James Wan, the creator of Saw and Insidious has earned his stripes as the king of modern horror. The Conjuring stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren who were real paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of haunting. Their reports inspired The Amityville Horror. The Warren’s come to the assistance of the Perron family who are experiencing increasingly disturbing events in their farmhouse in Rhode Island in 1971.

James Wan takes us back to the 70’s and the eerie feeling of films like The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror, but turns up the volume on the scares while leaving much to the imagination. With plenty of heart stopping scares and breath-holding suspense, The Conjuring might be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.

Fun Facts about The Conjuring: Development for the film began over 20 years ago when Ed Warren played a recording of Lorraine’s original interview with Carolyn Perron for producer Tony DeRosa. He said, “If we can’t make this into a film, I don’t know what we can.” It would take another 14 years before The Conjuring saw any signs of life when it officially went into pre-production in 2011.

#4 Scream (1996) – “Don’t answer the door, don’t leave the house, don’t answer the phone, but most of all, don’t SCREAM.”horror-Scream_movie_poster

Scream was credited with revitalizing the horror genre in the late 90’s. After the horror tropes of the slasher films of the 80’s had exhausted and sufficiently bored audiences, Scream changed everything by combining a traditional slasher film with humor, awareness of horror film clichés, and a clever plot. The films follow the character of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who becomes the target of a succession of murderers who adopt the guise of Ghostface to stalk and torment their victims. Sidney receives support in the films from the town deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette), reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and film-geek Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy).

Fun Facts about Scream: Drew Barrymore was originally cast as Sidney Prescott, however, as time progressed her time commitments made it impossible for her to commit to the lead role, so she volunteered to play the smaller role of Casey Becker who dies in the film’s terrifying opening scene. The production felt that killing of an actress of Barrymore’s stature early on would be a risk but thought that it would be shocking to audiences and make them feel that none of the characters were safe.

#3 Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – “Pray for Rosemary’s baby.”horror_rosemarys_baby

Roman Polanski’s psychological thriller Rosemary’s Baby stars Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse whose husband Guy Woodhouse is a moderately successful actor who is disappointed in his career. The young couple moves into an old apartment building in New York City with a dark history of witchcraft and Satanism. The couple’s nosy neighbors, Roman and Minnie Castevet are a kind, but odd old couple who take a special interest in Rosemary and Guy. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, Guy’s career suddenly takes off and a series of strange and sinister events lead Rosemary to believe there is something unnatural about her pregnancy.

This film is pitch perfect in its portrayal of paranoia and its progressive commentary on patriarchy and control of women. Maintaining a

sinister, creepy tone throughout the film, Rosemary’s Baby will leave you feeling sick to your stomach and questioning your own sanity.

Vidal Sassoon cuts Mia Farrow's hair on the set of "Rosemary's Baby".

Vidal Sassoon cuts Mia Farrow’s hair on the set of “Rosemary’s Baby”.


Fun Facts about Rosemary’s Baby:  Vidal Sassoon achieved international fame thanks to director Roman Polanski. Polanski featured

the coiffeur’s London salon in his 1965 film, Repulsion, and three years later, he paid Sassoon $5,000 to cut Mia Farrow’s hair in front of reporters for Rosemary’s Baby. Farrow’s soft pixie cut became a sensation and sparked a major fashion trend. “It’s Vidal Sassoon!” her character gushes in the film. “It’s very in.”

Mia Farrow was married to Frank Sinatra at the time. Moments before shooting a pivotal emotional scene, Farrow was unsuspectingly delivered divorce papers on the set. Director Roman Polanski insisted she use her despair to film the scene and is actually sobbing in the final cut.

#2 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – “Who will survive and what will be left of them?”horror_texas_chainsaw_massacre_polansky

This indie film came before Halloween and shocked audiences far and wide with violent and disturbing content. The film follows a group of friends who fall victim to a family of cannibals while on their way to visit an old homestead. Although it was marketed as a true story to attract a wider audience and as a subtle commentary on the era’s political climate, its plot is entirely fictional; however, the character of Leatherface and minor plot details were inspired by the crimes of real-life murderer Ed Gein.

The film was produced for less than $300,000 and the limited budget forced them to film for long hours seven days a week, so that he could finish as quickly as possible and reduce equipment rental costs.

Upon its October 1974 release, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was banned outright in several countries, and numerous theaters later stopped showing the film in response to complaints about its violence. While it initially drew a mixed reception from critics, it was enormously profitable, grossing over $30 million at the domestic box office. It is credited with originating several elements common in the slasher genre, including the use of power tools as murder weapons and the characterization of the killer as a large, hulking, faceless figure.

Fun Facts about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: In many scenes, the blood used was real. In a scene where Marilyn Burns’ character is cut, the crew couldn’t get the tube of fake blood to come out of its tube, so they cut the actresses index finger with a razor. The film is banned in Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, and West Germany.

Horror Top 10 | #1 Halloween (1978) – “The night HE came home!”horror-halloween-1978-movie-poster







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About the Author: Dustin Waine Nelson - I'm a creative writer at heart with a journalists edge. I love clothing, jewelry, shoe design and weddings as much as cooking in the kitchen with Martha Stewart. I look for the eclectic and unique in every one and encourage people to show their "pop" look on the outside. You can catch me on the streets of Portland finding the new, the old, and the indie design or designer. I specialize in arts and entertainment reporting as well as human interest and civil rights. I focus on public relations, event planning, as well as portrait and event photography. I work for AM/PM PR Group in Portland, Oregon, and I am the owner and event planner for Waine Weddings.

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