I love the horror genre so I wanted to take some time before Halloween and post some of my favorite scary stories. There’s no better time to watch horror films than October, the beginning of fall. It reminds us of classic films like Halloween, and classic novels like Something Wicked This Way Comes. When the leaves crack and tumble from the trees and the air turns cold and crisp, it’s time for some horror.
1 – The Shining
Sure, the book is better but Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation is a masterpiece of set design and filmmaking. The way the Outlook hotel offers an endless maze of long, monotonous, carpeted hallways instills a deep sense of ill ease in the audience. A landmark performance from Jack Nicholson takes this one all the way to the top. Surreal, scary, and disorienting, just like a haunted hotel should be.
2 – American Psycho
Not necessarily the scariest movie outright, American Psycho is one of the best films in the horror genre. There’s a sense of ambiguity by the end, and Christian Bale absolutely kills his role as Patrick Bateman. The scene where Bale extols the virtues of Huey Lewis and the News while putting on a raincoat and dancing with an ax stands out in my mind. This film made me recognize just how good Christian Bale is at acting.
3 – Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The classic zombie film updated. A haunting ending. Dawn of the Dead is intense, scary, and set up a lot of the cliches that would continue on to plague the zombie genre. The ‘people trapped in a mall during the zombie apocalypse’ setup is all Dawn of the Dead. I picked the remake because it’s scarier than Romaro’s classic (1978).
4 – Alien
Horror in space is my favorite genre, even above just plain horror. I believe the dark vacuum of space is the perfect arena in which to experience a story of fear, isolation, and terror. It’s dark, it’s unknown, it’s cold, and like the tagline for Alien says, “in space, no one can hear you scream.”
5 – Get Out
The only relatively new film on this list, Get Out is deeply disturbing, unique, and well-rounded. There’s good humor in this film to go with the scares, and the scares are very intense. Deeply scary, well-acted, very well written, and original. What more can you ask for?
6 – The Thing (Carpenter version)
John Carpenter’s the Thing is a standout classic among horror films. The special effects are less convincing every year but the movie’s still tense and scary. Quality acting, wonderful atmosphere, and a spooky soundtrack provide plenty of tension. Don’t watch the remake.
1 -Black Mirror
Black Mirror might as well be tied with Hannibal as the top horror offering on Television. Superb writing carries this series into an elite category. Not every episode is perfect, but when it hits, Black Mirror astonishes and terrifies. Episodes like Playtest make one question the safety of VR in a series of mind-bending twists. Metalhead, a slasher flick about a relentless drone, brings back memories of Terminator and unstoppable monsters. USS Calister is a horrifying concept and a wonderful story. The Waldo Moment predicted the rise of populist political movements. Black Museum is a little collection of chilling shorts arranged within an intriguing backdrop. Black Mirror succeeds because of plausibility and exceptional writing. It’s also the scariest which it’s why I’m placing it on the top.
2 – Hannibal (2013)
Hannibal is such a well made TV show. The set design is exceptional, offering a palate of crimson, cream, and dark shades. There are subtle references to mythology and religion, an effect amplified by the gorgeous set pieces and costume design. Best of all, Mikkelson’s Hannibal truly feels like the devil incarnate. This is must-watch television for any horror fan.
3 – American Horror Story (Season 2) Asylum
American Horror Story is an anthology series so every season is different. I personally favor season 2, Asylum, as I found it the most overtly scary. I’d be lying if I said I loved every season of this show but season 2 is disturbing, terrifying, and scary as hell. James Cromwell stands out for his fantastic performance as Dr. Arthur Arden.
4 – Stranger Things
80s nostalgia mixes with telekinesis, small town vibes, and a charming coming-of-age tale. Stranger Things is great TV. While it’s not always horror-focused, there’s enough spooks and scares here to keep you up at night.
5 – The Strain
Del Toro’s take on the monster apocalypse starts with a bang. This show is excellent in the first couple of seasons before losing some of it’s charm. Those first few seasons are some of the best apocalyptic horror on television.
1 – The Shining
The best of the best. The Shining is a terrifying novel that will leave you feeling haunted. This is King’s best book in my opinion, and easily the scariest horror novel I’ve read.
2 – Hell House
The Mount Everest of haunted house novels and just a short step beneath the Shining. Hell House is really, really scary and it comes from Richard Matheson, the author of I am Legend. Tense, character-driven, and terrifically frightening, Hell House will grab you and refuse to let go until you’re scared senseless.
3 – Clive Barker’s Books of Blood
The short story collection that brought Barker’s name into the mainstream, Books of Blood is gruesome, gritty, and sharp-edged. The stories are truly disturbing and Barker’s writing is exceptional. Bite-sized horror with enormous teeth.
4 – Phantoms
I’m not a huge fan of Koontz, a lot of his books just aren’t that scary, but Phantoms is. The first three quarters, at least, is really terrifying fiction. Phantoms deliver it’s frightening best when dealing with the fear of the unknown, although it struggles to maintain that throughout the entire book. At it’s best, however, Phantoms is exceptional.
5 – The Troop
Nick Cutter’s somewhat-realistic body horror follows a troop of Canadian boy scouts into the wilderness of Ontario. Gory, disgusting, disturbing, and terrifying, the Troop features Cutter’s excellent prose chops and a horrifying premise.
6 – Sandkings
Fans of George R. Martin might not know he started out his writing career working in the science fiction genre. Sandkings isn’t science fiction, but it is a short horror story from the Game of Thrones mastermind. Sandkings is insanely scary and disturbing. I read it and couldn’t shake the feeling of fear afterward.
Agree with my list? Think I’m out to lunch? Did I miss something scary? Jump in the comments and let me know.