Halloween Special – Top 100 Scary Movies

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IT’S Halloween on Monday and, to mark the occasion, JEP feature writer and horror film fanatic Tom Ogg has selected 100 – yes, 100! – of his all-time favourite scary movies.

There are no Blair Witch films (too annoying), no Scream films (too smug) and no Saw films (too rubbish), but there is a film set entirely in a toilet cubicle, a film about killer ice cream and a film featuring an elderly Elvis Presley fighting a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in an Texan retirement home.

100) Host (2020, Rob Savage)

THE debut film from Rob Savage more than lives up to the promise of the British director’s surname.

Set in the UK during the Covid-19 lockdown, Host follows a group of young female friends (and one rather annoying bloke) who unwisely decide to hold an online séance via Zoom video messaging, with all participants joining in from the (dis)comfort of their own home.

As expected, things take a turn for the sinister, and it soon becomes apparent that someone – or rather, something – has gatecrashed proceedings and has no intention of offering cosy messages of comfort from the afterlife.

Remarkably, Host was shot entirely on Zoom, with Savage giving direction to his young cast electronically, and with just a small smattering of computer-generated effects added in post-production.

All of the actors – who use their own first names for added authenticity – filmed themselves with phones/laptops from their homes, and even set up and performed their own stunts.

Admittedly, a film that resembles a Zoom meeting may sound like a nightmare even without the scary goings-on, not least for those whose day jobs entail endless online conference calls.

Yet Host overcomes this oh-so contemporary of gimmicks thanks to the ingeniousness of its plot, its slender running time (the entire film clocks in at a mere 57 minutes) and, above all, the all-too believable performances of its cast.

It is the latter that accounts for many of the film’s most effective scares, with the lead actresses creating a genuine sense of escalating terror and hopelessness as their situation grows increasingly bleak.

Fun fact: The film was heavily influenced by Stephen Volk’s iconic Ghostwatch, which saw British TV heavyweights such as Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Craig Charles playing fictionalised versions of themselves, and which scared BBC viewers senseless back in 1992 thanks to its then-groundbreaking ‘horror mockumentary’ format.

99) Stalled (2013, Christian James)

THE zombie movie seems more open to weird and wonderful concepts than any other genre – and Brit zombie flick Stalled is a case in point.

Directed by Christian James, the film is set almost entirely inside a single toilet cubicle, with Dan Palmer’s workshy maintenance worker trying to fend off the undead hordes gathered outside the flimsy lav door.

It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s no busted flush either, and James and his (very small) cast generate an impressive amount of suspense given the limitations of the setting.

Fun fact: As well as playing the lead role, Dan Palmer also wrote the witty screenplay.

98) Abominable (2006, Ryan Schifrin)

NO, not the adorable 2019 computer-animated film from DreamWorks studios, but rather a low-budget creature-feature from writer-director Ryan Schifrin.

Based on the legend of Bigfoot, Abominable centres on a middle-aged widower, Preston (Matt McCoy), who has been left heartbroken and wheelchair-bound following a mountaineering accident which claimed the life of his wife.

In a somewhat self-flagellating attempt to overcome his loss, Preston moves into a woodland cottage situated directly beside the mountain, the name of which – Suicide Rock – would suggest climbing it had been an accident waiting to happen.

Things turn hairy when a group of young women move into the adjacent cabin and immediately attract the attention of a very large, very hungry and very vicious Sasquatch-like creature.

The subsequent tension arises from Preston seeing that the girls are in danger, but being unable to escape from his wheelchair-unfriendly residence to help. Yes, it’s Rear Window – with Bigfoot!

Released in 2006, Abominable rises above standard killer-creature fare thanks to McCoy’s endearing central performance and Schifrin’s ability to stage an effective scare or suspenseful scene, such as an edge-of-your-seat set-piece in which the monster repeatedly hoists one of the girls towards it with a climbing rope.

Despite its low budget, the film also boasts an impressive orchestral score courtesy of Theme from Mission: Impossible composer – and Schifrin’s dad – Lalo Schifrin, as well as a number of cameo appearances from familiar character actors, with Dee Wallace Stone (ET, The Howling) and Rex Linn (Cliffhanger) turning up in a brief prologue, and Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and Lance Henriksen (Aliens) enjoying themselves as a pair of doomed huntsmen.

Where Abominable really triumphs, however, is in the special effects department, with plenty of good old-fashioned practical effects and none of the ropey CGI visuals that so often blight modern low-budget genre pictures.

The result is a monster that presents a tangible sense of threat and gruesome death scenes that pack real bite (literally). As viewers, we are now so accustomed to ho-hum CGI that it’s startling to be reminded just how effective the time-honoured man-in-a-suit approach can be.

Fun fact: To date, Abominable remains both Schifrin’s first and last outing as a film director. Of the experience, he said: ‘At the end of the day, Abominable is a small, low-budget horror movie. But it’s my baby, my first movie, and I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out.’

Abominable (2006)

97) Friday the 13th (1980, Sean S Cunningham)

DESPITE its reputation as a genre classic, Friday the 13th is actually pretty standard slasher fare, with the gross-out effects by make-up master Tom Savini and Harry Manfredini’s memorable score just about compensating for the poor acting, lacklustre direction and overall lack of originality (all of the best scares are stolen wholesale from other movies). Watched today, it’s hard to believe that such an unexceptional film spawned one of the most long-lasting and lucrative franchises in horror cinema.

Still, it’s all goofily good fun, with a pre-fame Kevin Bacon meeting a particularly grisly end, and the hilariously improbable final twist – memorably referenced in the opening scene of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) – is a hoot.

Fun fact: To date, there have been 12 films in the Friday the 13th series. Most of them are roughly on a par with the original, although Jason X (2001) is surprisingly witty and inventive, and Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th (2009) is one of the better modern-day horror remakes (perhaps because, unlike with most such remakes, there was actually a vague possibility of improving upon the original).

96) The Eye (2002, Pang brothers)

SCARED of lifts? You will be after watching this foreign-language frightener from the talented Pang brothers.

Shot on location in Hong Kong and Thailand, The Eye tells of a young blind violinist, Mun (Angelica Lee), who regains her sight after a successful cornea transplant. Alas, her new peepers come with several unwanted side-effects, such as the ability to see (and, er, hear) petrifying ghostly apparitions.

The retina-scorching finale is fairly unforgettable (there aren’t many films that conclude with a coachload of schoolchildren being incinerated), but the spookiest scenes arrive earlier in the film, with one moment in particular liable to leave you wishing your own eyeballs were elsewhere (it will, I guarantee, put you off lifts for life).

Fun fact: The Eye was subjected to a dire US remake in 2008, with Jessica Alba giving a ho-hum performance to match the surrounding film.

Angelic Lee in The Eye (2002)

95) The Monster (2016, Bryan Bertino)

THE Monster is a monster movie for people who don’t like monster movies. Or rather, it’s a gritty independent drama for monster movie fans.

Written and directed by Bryan Bertino, The Monster follows Kathy (Zoe Kazan), a young single mother trying (and failing) to combat her addiction to alcohol, as well as trying (and failing) to maintain a functioning relationship with her pre-teen daughter, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine).

Sadly, the bond between the two has disintegrated to the extent that Lizzy now wants to live with her father, and so Kathy reluctantly agrees to drive her long-suffering daughter to stay with her absentee dad.

Problems arise, however, when Kathy accidentally hits and kills an injured wolf, bursting a tyre and leaving her and Lizzy stranded on a dark woodland road. But how did the wolf come to be injured? And what chased it into the road? The answer lies in the surrounding woods, although it doesn’t lie there for long, and soon Kathy and Lizzy are fighting for survival against something very nasty indeed.

In truth, Bertino’s screenplay is unlikely to win any prizes for originality, yet so good are the performances of its two female leads that the film far transcends its made-for-TV origins.

One of the great unsung actresses in modern cinema, Zoe Kazan has carved a successful film career on the peripheries of the mainstream, occasionally popping up in studio pictures (Revolutionary Road), but mostly appearing in quality low-budget fare like this. Here, the LA-born actress gives what may be her finest performance to date, subtly suggesting the fragility beneath Kathy’s tough exterior and somehow gaining viewers’ sympathy even as she’s walloping her distraught daughter in a drunken fury.

Throughout the film, there are regular flashbacks depicting Kathy and Lizzy’s troubled relationship in unflinching detail. A foul-mouthed altercation between the two ahead of a school play is particularly shocking, while an emotional scene in which Kathy desperately fights the urge to have a drink is heartbreakingly convincing, as too is the scene that follows in which Lizzy finds her inebriated mum lying on the bathroom floor and gives her a comforting cuddle.

You would imagine that such interludes would lessen the tension of the more action-packed monster scenes, yet so gut-wrenching are these flashbacks that you almost find yourself longing to return to the limb-munching monster.

Oh yeah, the monster…

Let’s face it, if you’re going to call your film The Monster then you’d better make sure your monster is an absolute humdinger. Thankfully, the monster in The Monster doesn’t disappoint. I won’t give too much away other than to say that it’s a satisfyingly physical-looking creature – no unconvincing CGI here – and you could carve your name into marble with one of its teeth.

Fun fact: Zoe Kazan is the granddaughter of Hollywood luminary Elia Kazan, the man behind such big-screen classics as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954) and Wild River (1960).

Zoe Kazan in The Monster (2016)

94) Monkey Shines (1988, George A Romero)

OVER-LONG and flawed it may be, but George A Romero’s Monkey Shines is essential viewing for fans of the legendary horror maestro, with an irresistibly loopy concept – a depressed quadriplegic, Allan (Jason Beghe), befriends a hyper-intelligent but psychopathic monkey – and some nicely suspenseful scenes.

Fun fact: Despite male monkeys being considerably more aggressive than their female counterparts, Romero and co decided to tempt fate and cast a male monkey as Allan’s simian sidekick. Thankfully, no humans were harmed in the making of the film.

93) Dead Snow (2009)

THIS derivative but entertaining European splatterfest centres on a group of obnoxious youngsters who are set upon by an army of zombie Nazis in the snowy Norwegian mountains.

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, Dead Snow is so outrageously violent that it is often hard to know whether to scream, laugh or throw up, while there is a great show-stopping monologue from Bjørn Sundquist’s grumpy middle-aged hiker reminiscent of the famous Indianapolis speech in Jaws.

Fun fact: A sequel followed in 2014 – Dead Snow: Red vs Dead – which amped up the comedy but still delivered plenty of grisly thrills to satisfy gorehounds.

Dead Snow (2009)

92) To the Devil a Daughter (1976, Peter Sykes)

INCOHERENT but enjoyable Exorcist-inspired horror, To The Devil A Daughter was the penultimate Hammer film before the then-ailing studio shut up shop.

Less theatrical and more grittily realistic than Hammer’s earlier output, Peter Sykes’ film – which was adapted from the Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name – benefits from a well maintained and unsettling tone throughout, with Christopher Lee on fine form as the satanic Father Michael Rayner. Pity about the feeble finale.

Fun fact: The film was subjected to considerable studio tinkering, much to Lee’s vocal displeasure, with the actor taking particular exception to the last-minute inclusion of a scene in which a blood-soaked foetus crawls out of 14-year-old Nastassja Kinski. Urgh!

91) Cube (1997, Vincenzo Natali)

THIS intelligent sci-fi-horror from Canadian writer-director Vincenzo Natali sees a diverse group of strangers trapped inside a Rubik’s Cube-like prison in which selected rooms are primed with deadly booby-traps.

In truth, Cube never quite lives up to the promise of its jaw-dropping pre-credits scene, which features one of the most unforgettable death scenes ever committed to celluloid, but it is never less than engrossing, with complex characters who don’t always behave as expected.

Fun fact: Due to the film’s low budget, Natali and his crew had only a single room in which to film. They used different coloured lighting in order to create the illusion of multiple rooms.

90) A Bucket of Blood (1959, Roger Corman)

ALTHOUGH very much of its time, Roger Corman’s dark beatnik classic remains eminently watchable, both for its ingenious concept – a wannabe artist murders arch-rivals and then presents their clay-covered corpses as artistic works to impress the glitterati – and for the poignant central performance by Dick Miller as the murderous yet oddly sympathetic Walter Paisley.

Fun fact: Miller’s work with indie filmmaker Roger Corman endeared him to an entire generation of filmmakers, hence his cameo appearances in Sam Fuller’s White Dog (1982), James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and pretty much every film Joe Dante ever made (Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Explorers, The Burbs, Matinee, etc.).

89) X (2022, Ti West)

TI West is one of the most interesting directors working in modern horror – and X is one of his most entertaining films to date.

A homage to 1970s horror (Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in particular), the good-humoured slasher centres on the cast and crew of an in-production porn movie, The Farmer’s Daughters, and details the horrors that ensue when the sex-mad ensemble find themselves stalked by an elderly killer on a remote Texan farmhouse.

The film is by turns sexy, funny and frightening, with a slow-build typical of Ti West, bloody practical effects – and an unexpected appearance by a very hungry alligator.

Fun fact: A prequel, Pearl, was shot back-to-back with X and was also released this year, with Mia Goth once again playing the lead role.

88) Verónica (2017, Paco Plaza)

THE whole ‘young female possessed by a demonic entity’ trope has been done to death over the years, but Paco Plaza’s impressive supernatural shocker manages to conjure up some spine-tingling fresh scares.

Set in the early 1990s, Verónica centres on – yes! – Verónica (Sandra Escacen), an independent-minded 15-year-old living in a nondescript apartment block in Madrid with her hard-working widowed mother and younger siblings.

Following a school lesson on dark spirits and human sacrifice (oh, the joys of being educated by nuns), Verónica decides to conduct a seance with her schoolfriends in a misguided attempt to contact her late father. Alas, she instead summons something altogether less welcome than her dear departed dad.

So far, so seen-it-all-before. However, thanks to the naturalistic performances of its young cast (Escacen, in particular, is outstanding) and an unsettling sense of slow-building dread, Verónica induces the willies where others induce merely yawns. The film is especially effective in its first half wherein the scares are mostly subtly understated. Never before has a schoolbag falling off a wardrobe ever proven quite so unnerving.

Fun fact: Somewhat dubiously, Verónica was marketed as being ‘based on a true story’, a claim that is often made of films about demons and ghosts. Complete codswallop, of course. It’s the logical equivalent of claiming Jumanji: The Next Level is ‘inspired by real events’.

Sandra Escacena (centre) in Verónica (2017)

87) The Burning (1981, Tony Maylam)

A THOROUGHLY entertaining horror romp from the golden era of American slashers, The Burning features lots of pre-fame famous people being stalked by a garden-shears-wielding lunatic in a picturesque summer camp (keep ’em peeled for Jason ‘Seinfeld’ Alexander – with hair! – and Holly Hunter). Based on a story conceived by Harvey Weinstein, who also produced, but don’t let that put you off.

Fun fact: The blurry shots depicting the killer’s POV were created by rubbing Vaseline on the camera lens. Oo-er, missus!

86) Backcountry (2014, Adam MacDonald)

ALEJANDRO Iñárritu’s The Revenant was showered with plaudits upon its release in 2015, not least for the gruelling sequence in which star Leonardo Di Caprio is mauled by an angry CGI bear.

Yet for my money, the most squirm-inducingly graphic bear attack in cinema is found not in Iñárritu’s po-faced drama, but in Canadian writer-director Adam MacDonald’s overlooked Backcountry.

Based on a true story, the film sees a young Canadian couple (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) embarking on an improvised camping trip in the American wilderness. As expected, the pair soon find themselves lost and up a certain excrement-filled creek minus the necessary rowing equipment, a situation that only gets worse when a very large and hungry bear arrives on the scene looking for something tasty to eat.

What follows makes The Revenant’s bear attack seem like something out of the Paddington movies; it is all the more traumatic for the viewer having spent time with and grown to like the endearing central characters.

Fun fact: How come the bear in Backcountry looks so real? Because they used an actual real-life hairy, scary, clawing, roaring black bear, that’s why, with just a smattering of puppetry effects for close-ups.

85) The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974, Jorge Grau)

THE title of director Jorge Grau’s cult sci-fi-horror may suggest a zany offbeat comedy, but in fact The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is one of the best and most stylish of the many European zombie movies of the 1970s.

Fun fact: The film was shot in sunny Sheffield, not Manchester, with Spanish-born Grau somehow making the South Yorkshire city look like the Peak District.

84) The Conjuring 2 (2016, James Wan)

BY far the scariest entry in the franchise, The Conjuring 2 benefits enormously from its authentic recreation of a working-class English council estate circa 1970s.

Sure, the nun looks like Marilyn Manson in drag, but the ghostly OAP booming ‘This is my house!’ will have you frantically stuffing cushions over your face, ears and other assorted body parts.

Fun fact: The ‘Crooked Man’ that appears in one of the film’s less successful scare scenes is based upon an old English nursery rhyme.

Madison Wolfe in The Conjuring 2 (2016)

83) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Tommy Lee Wallace)

A HALLOWEEN movie without Michael Myers? And with no Jamie Lee Curtis or Donald Pleasence? Surely that is akin to a Fast and Furious movie minus any rubbish CGI car chases or bad acting from Vin Diesel?

In fact, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is among the most enjoyable and interesting films in the long-running Halloween franchise, with a loopy but highly original plotline in which a sinister company mass-produces novelty pumpkin masks which, when worn, cause little kiddies’ heads to turn into a gruesome mush of slime and snakes.

It’s pretty bonkers fare, with pagan rituals, killer androids and microchips implanted with fragments of Stonehenge, but it’s hard not to admire the ambition of writer-director Tommy Lee Wallace, nor the committed performance of genre regular Tom Atkins (Creepshow, Maniac Cop).

Fun fact: The catchy/irritating ‘Silver Shamrock Novelties’ jingle that plays throughout the film is based on London Bridge is Falling Down.

82) Bubba Ho-Tep (2002, Don Coscarelli)

HOW’S this for a synopsis? Having faked his own death, an elderly Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) has adopted a fake name, Sebastian Haff, and resides peacefully in a residential home in rural Texas. There, he befriends a wheelchair-bound black pensioner (Ossie Davis) who claims to be President John F Kennedy (the CIA having allegedly dyed his skin in order to disguise his identity). A re-animated ancient Egyptian mummy then arrives at the home, stalking the corridors at night and killing the ageing residents by sucking out their souls via a certain southerly orifice. Thus, the King of Rock and Roll and JFK must join forces to defeat the evil mummy, which Elvis dubs Bubba Ho-Tep.

Though undoubtedly very silly indeed, Don Coscarelli’s eccentric comedy-horror is far from a frivolous enterprise, with committed performances from Campbell (who makes for a surprisingly convincing Presley) and the late Davis, both of whom bring a real depth and warmth to their characters, and there are several unexpectedly moving moments among the quirky horror.

Thank you very much.

Fun fact: The novella by Joe Lansdale on which Bubba Ho-Tep is based features an elderly female character who believes herself to be American gangster John Dillinger. Perhaps fearing quirky overkill, Coscarelli decided against including her in the film version.

Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and JFK (Otis Davis) in Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

81) Fight for Your Life (1977, Robert A Endelson)

MORE disturbing thriller than horror, Fight for Your Life was reviled by critics upon release, and was later among the titles bunged onto the infamous ‘video nasties’ list in the early 1980s (a list of films deemed unsuitable for public consumption by the authoritarian plonkers at the BBFC).

Uniquely among the nasties, Robert A Endelson’s gritty grindhouse gem wasn’t withdrawn because of sex or violence but due to offensive language, primarily that of the film’s repellent lead character, Jessie Lee Kane (William ‘Blade Runner’ Sanderson), a racist redneck who holds a black minister and his family hostage in their rural home.

Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino is among the film’s high-profile fans, with Run for Your Life having been included on the programme for the sixth Quentin Tarantino Film Festival in 2005.

80) Dead & Buried (1981)

ANOTHER quality film that found itself unceremoniously slung onto the video nasties list by the BBFC, this macabre horror has a notably higher pedigree than most of the other ‘nasties’.

Directed by Gary Sherman (Death Line), Dead & Buried centres on a small-town sheriff (James Farentino) who seeks to unravel the mystery of how and why murdered locals are seemingly returning from the grave, and features an array of behind-the-scenes talent, with a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, Alien) and practical effects by Stan Winston (Aliens, Predator). The result is a cracking whodunnit horror, even if you can see the twist coming a mile off.

Fun fact: Robert Englund – aka Freddy Kruger – has a small role as one of the residents of the fictional Potters Bluff.

79) Watership Down (1978, Martin Rosen)

‘BRIGHT eyes/Burning like fire/How can the light that burnt so brightly suddenly burn so pale?/Bright eyes.’

That Art Garfunkel’s tear-inducing theme song is the least traumatic thing about Martin Rosen’s animation classic says it all.

Based on the book by British novelist Richard Adams, Watership Down is easily the most unsettling U-certificate film ever released – yet it is nevertheless an essential right-of-passage for non-mollycoddled children everywhere. This is the reality of nature, kids – suck it up!

Fun fact: Asked to tone down the violence in his book prior to release, Adams refused and said: ‘Good stories ought to be exciting and if they are exciting then they are inevitably scary in parts.’ Never a truer word spoken.

Watership Down (1978)

78) The Lost Boys (1987, Joel Schumacher)

JOEL Schumacher’s campy comedy-horror may not be the best vampire film ever made; hell, it’s not even the best vampire film of 1987 (that would be Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, about which more shortly).

Yet for a certain generation of filmgoers, The Lost Boys is, was and always will be a quote-filled cult classic, the appeal of which never grows old – much like the film’s characters in fact.

It helps, of course, that the excellent cast all seem to be having the time of their lives, with Dianne Wiest giving a spirited turn as the long-suffering mum of Jason Patric and Corey Haim’s warring siblings, and lead vampire Kiefer Sutherland successfully stepping out from the shadow of his film star father (Donald Sutherland).

The Lost Boys also boasts one of the most memorable soft-rock soundtracks ever recorded, which is fitting given that much of the film looks exactly like the sort of poodle-permed music videos that dominated the 1980s.

Fun fact: By all accounts, the orange contact lens worn by Kiefer Sutherland and co when in full vampire mode were agonising to wear, which isn’t overly surprising given that they were made out of glass.

77) Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)

THIS gleefully sadistic supernatural horror benefits hugely from the vocal talents of Brad Dourif, with the actor imbuing Chucky – a talking children’s doll possessed by the spirit of a psychotic serial killer – with a real sense of menace and dark humour.

Although it is rarely acknowledged as such, the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise is among the most consistently strong in horror cinema. There is Child’s Play 2 (1990) and the unfairly maligned Child’s Play 3 (1991), which are both above-average slashers; Bride of Chucky (1998) and Seed of Chucky (2004), which are tongue-in-cheek campy horror-comedies (if a little too knowingly self-referential for my tastes); and – best of all – Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017), which are the most solidly frightening entries in the series, and which cemented Chucky’s position as one of the nastiest antagonists in horror cinema.

Fun fact: A Child’s Play remake was released in 2019, with Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill taking over vocal duties from Brad Dourif. It was absolutely pants.

76) Green Room (2015, Jeremy Saulnier)

NOT to be confused with the delightful local amateur-dramatics club of the same name, Green Room is a nail-bitingly intense horror-thriller starring the much-missed Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident in 2016.

Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the film follows a struggling punk band called The Ain’t Rights, whose youthful members include nervy bass guitarist Pat (Yelchin). Cash-strapped and callow, the four-piece ill-advisedly agree to perform a gig at a skinhead bar situated in a remote American backwood. As anyone familiar with the horror genre will know, it isn’t only the band’s name that ain’t right in a situation such as this, a point driven home when the customary dodgy mobile phone signal rears its foreboding head.

Sure enough, it isn’t long before the band find themselves barricaded in a small room at the back of the venue, along with Imogen Poots’ sleepy-eyed groupie Amber, as a gang of machete-wielding neo-Nazis try to break through the door (I won’t spoil the plot by revealing why and how the band find themselves on the receiving end of the skinheads’ ire).

The swastika-covered thugs are led by the venue’s elderly owner Darcy Banker, who is memorably played by Patrick Stewart. Filmgoers who are more accustomed to seeing the bald-headed Yorkshireman portraying heroic types are in for a rude awakening; here, Stewart is more well ’ard than Picard, making for a calmly threatening villain whose measured speaking voice belies a bubbling anger beneath the surface.

Writer-director Saulnier was also behind 2013’s Blue Ruin, an almost unbearably tense thriller that had this viewer on the edge of his seat throughout. Suffice to say, Green Room is every bit as nerve-wracking, with sudden bursts of uber-realistic violence, often occurring slightly out of shot and inducing a ‘did that just happen?’ sensation – which, you imagine, is exactly the reaction such incidents would elicit in real life.

Fun fact: Both Saulnier and Yelchin played in punk bands during their younger years.

Patrick Stewart (centre) in Green Room (2015)

75) The Plague of the Zombies (1966, John Gilling)

ONE of the very best and most underrated Hammer horror films, The Plague of the Zombies tells of the panic and paranoia that engulfs a 19th century Cornish village when the local graveyard grows restless.

Directed by Hammer regular John Gilling, the film boasts some terrifically creepy zombie makeup (the bulging white contact lenses are particularly disquieting) and a very English atmosphere of repressed dread.

Fun fact: The League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss has cited The Plague of the Zombies as a major influence on the comedy collective and praised the film in his (excellent) A History of Horror series on BBC Four.

74) The Fog (1980, John Carpenter)

A SMALL coastal town is menaced by ghostly fishermen in this atmospheric horror, which benefits from picturesque location shooting (made doubly effective thanks to John Carpenter’s trademark use of panoramic lenses) and a stellar cast including horror regulars Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins and mother-daughter acting royalty Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis.

It’s not the greatest horror film in writer-directer Carpenter’s illustrious canon, but even slightly below-par Carpenter is still better than many horror directors at the top of their game.

Fun fact: The lead ghost, Blake, is played by make-up effects genius Rob Bottin.

73) Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)

LONG before she became the first female filmmaker in history to win a Best Director Oscar, Kathryn Bigelow helmed this cult horror-western about a group of immortal vampires causing mayhem across the American Midwest.

Although Lance Henriksen’s Jesse is ostensibly the bloodthirsty gang’s leader, it is the late, great Bill Paxton as the psychotic but charismatic Severen who delivers the film’s most memorable moments, whether drawling snappy one-liners (‘I know you’re awake – I can smell it’) or using his metal spurs to cut the throats of his victims.

Fun fact: The word ‘vampire’ is never once mentioned throughout the film. Nor, for that matter, is the word ‘blancmange’. Or ‘bumfuzzle’.

72) Horror Express (1972, Eugenio Martín)

A MARVELLOUS Hammer-like horror romp from Spanish filmmaker Eugenio Martín in which Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas do battle with an uber-intelligent alien entity that boils the brains of its victims while journeying along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Fun fact: Horror Express is loosely based on John W Campbell’s sci-fi-horror Who Goes There? – the same novella from which Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951) and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) were adapted.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in Horror Express (1972)

71) Ju-On: The Grudge (2002, Takashi Shimizu)

A FILM that almost entirely dispenses with narrative cohesion in favour of hair-raising imagery and spooky set-pieces, Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge is almost too frightening. If it were a food dish, it would be a vindaloo – and, quite frankly, it had much the same underwear-desecrating impact upon this writer. I first watched Shimizu’s film in the middle of the day, lights on, curtains open, and it still had me hitting the pause button several dozen times because I was simply too petrified to continue.

Predictably, the success of Ju-On: The Grudge led to an English-language remake, 2004’s The Grudge, with US studio execs commendably keeping Shimizu on-board as director. Despite this, the skin-tightening terror of the original only partly survived the journey overseas.

Fun fact: Hollywood powerhouse Sam Raimi – who produced the remake – described Ju-On: The Grudge as the scariest film he had ever seen. Not bad coming from the guy behind the Evil Dead series.

70) Frankenhooker (1990, Frank Henenlotter)

WHEN it comes to high-concepts, they don’t get much higher than Frank Henenlotter’s cult comedy-horror.

Here’s a quick synopsis: medical school drop-out Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) is left heartbroken after accidentally decapitating his fiancée Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) with a remote-controlled lawnmower.

Unbeknownst to the authorities, the budding young scientist has rescued Elizabeth’s severed head from the scene of the tragedy with the aim of bringing his dismembered bride-to-be back to life, Frankenstein-style. This he does using the body parts of various New York streetwalkers, who are dispatched in show-stopping style via exploding crack-cocaine. The ensuing resurrection doesn’t go entirely to plan, however, and, when Elizabeth returns from the grave, she has inherited the attitudes, addictions and habits of the ‘ladies of the night’ from whom she was stitched together.

As with most of American writer-director Henenlotter’s films (Basket Case, Brain Damage), Frankenhooker is cheap but cheerful, with practical effects that are unapologetically shoddy, and bad taste humour that glories in its own crassness.

The main reason the film is such good fun, though, is the dedicated performances of its two youthful leads. By all accounts, James Lorinz improvised much of his character’s dialogue and the results are frequently laugh-out-loud funny (‘Oh my God – bunion!’ he exclaims while examining a severed foot).

Former Penthouse playmate Patty Mullen, meanwhile, is an absolute scream as the re-animated title character, gurning wildly as she lumbers around the streets of New York. In a just world, she would have become a star, but sadly she never acted again.

Fun fact: Struggling to find actresses who would take their clothes off on camera, Henenlotter instead cast real-life strippers from a nearby bar to play Franken’s victims and then had them join the Screen Actors Guild. Problem solved.

Patty Mullen in Frankenhooker (1990)

69) Eden Lake (2008, Jamie Atkins)

A DAILY Mail headline writ large, Eden Lake sees nice middle-class couple Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) besieged by a horde of working-class hoodies while hiking in the English countryside. The result is one of the most taut and disturbing British horrors in recent decades. It also annoyed the hell out of Owen Jones. What’s not to love?

Fun fact: Lefty Guardian critic Alex Hess described Eden Lake as the scariest film he’d ever seen, writing: ‘Perhaps, among all the distress and dismemberment, the really disturbing thing about Eden Lake is how it ripped me from the comfort of my latte-swilling high horse.’

68) Sleepaway Camp (1983, Robert Hiltzik)

THE early 1980s was truly a golden age for American slashers – and Sleepaway Camp was one of the highlights.

Directed by Robert Hiltzik, the film follows much the same plotline as Friday the 13th and umpteen other slashers of the era, with a bunch of teens spending the summer in a holiday camp and being brutally slaughtered by an unseen assailant.

It rises above the majority of its contemporaries, however, thanks to the assured direction of Hiltzik and make-up effects that are well above average, with performances that range from good to bad to unutterably bizarre (I have no idea what Desiree Gould is supposed to be doing as the batty Aunt Martha but it’s very entertaining to watch).

But it is for its genuinely shocking finale that Sleepaway Camp is best remembered, with a final-act twist that is among the most unexpected and outrageous in horror, and which feels doubly pertinent in this age of gender-nonconforming pronoun-policing pottiness.

Fun fact: The nude stand-in seen during the above-mentioned finale was so nervous prior to filming that they got well and truly plastered. Once you’ve watched the film, you’ll understand why.

67) 10 Rillington Place (1971, Richard Fleischer)

HAVING directed a well-acted but factually dubious big-screen account of the Boston Strangler in 1968, American filmmaker Richard Fleischer relocated to England for this painfully raw true-crime classic.

Filmed on location in west London, 10 Rillington Place tells the heartbreaking story of Timothy Evans (John Hurt), the uneducated working-class Welshman who was hanged in 1950 after being found guilty of murdering his wife and infant child. Sadly, and in what is now seen as one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in British history, it was soon after revealed that Evans’s young family were the victims of their neighbour: former police officer and closet serial killer John Christie (Richard Attenborough).

Surprisingly, 10 Rillington Place received a fairly subdued critical reception upon release (perhaps the spectre of capital punishment, abolished just six years earlier, was still all-too fresh in the British consciousness). Regardless, Fleischer captures the bleakness of post-war UK life with an authenticity few other films have matched, either before or since, while Attenborough’s quietly menacing portrayal of Christie is about as far removed from his cuddly image as can be imagined.

Fun fact: The entirety of Rillington Place was demolished immediately after filming was completed, with a small public garden now residing where Christie’s property once stood.

66) Poltergeist (1982, Tobe Hooper)

TOBE Hooper’s supernatural suburban horror is famous – or, rather, infamous – for what transpired behind the cameras as much for what occurs on-screen.

From the endless on-set wrangling between director Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Salem’s Lot) and producer Steven Spielberg to the controversial use of authentic human skeletons during the finale, the film’s troubled production – and the subsequent premature deaths of two of its child stars (Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke) – have led to numerous ‘curse of Poltergeist’ stories in the years since its release.

None of which should detract from the quality of the film itself, which expertly balances homely Spielberg cosiness with grisly moments of horror, such as the scene in which a paranormal investigator peels his own face melt off in a bathroom mirror.

Poltergeist is also an ideal horror movie for young viewers and horror newcomers – it’s scary, but not excessively so, and it remains one of the few horror films in which there are no on-screen fatalities.

Fun fact: The face in the above-mentioned face-peeling scene may be that of actor Martin Casella, but the hands belong to one Mr S Spielberg.

Heather O’Rourke in Poltergeist (1982)

65) It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell)

THE Ring with sex – such is the premise of this appealingly old-school supernatural horror.

Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows centres on Jay, a 19-year-old student played by the likeable Maika Monroe, who meets, dates and has backseat nooky with Hugh, a seemingly pleasant but nervy young man.

Unfortunately for Jay, Hugh harbours a dark secret: he is in possession of a curse which sees him followed everywhere he goes by a shape-shifting – and very deadly – apparition. The only way to escape the curse is to pass it onto someone else via sexual intercourse, meaning poor Jay is now the one being followed, as becomes apparent in a disturbing sequence in a disused car park.

The ‘It’ of the title takes the form of random figures (be they creepy old ladies, angry young men or even close friends and family), all of whom walk at the same slow but incessant pace, and all of whom can be seen only by those who have been cursed.

There are standard horror film tropes to be found – the occasional jump-scare here, the odd splash of gore there – but more often Mitchell’s film favours low-key ambience and an unshakable sense of impending doom.

The early, classic films of John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog) have all clearly been major inspirations on Mitchell, with the director opting for Carpenter-like widescreen shots that leave the viewer constantly waiting for someone – or something – to unexpectedly leap out in the corner of the frame.

The film’s characters, meanwhile, are refreshingly authentic. You genuinely believe Jay and her friends like and care for one another, with none of the endless bitching and barbed jibes that too often pass for friendship in films featuring teenagers.

Admittedly, It Follows does get a little repetitive towards the end, with a swimming pool-set finale that doesn’t really work. For the most part, though, it’s an effective slow-burner, the true terrors of which may not make themselves known until you’re walking down the street late at night and you hear someone approaching from behind…

Fun fact: The idea for It Follows originated from a recurring childhood dream in which Mitchell found himself followed by random strangers. Other successful films that stemmed from the dreams of writers and directors include The Ladykillers (1955) and The Terminator (1984). At the time of writing, no film studio has expressed an interest in my own screenplay wherein I suddenly appear naked in front of my peers during school assembly.

64) The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014, Adam Robitel)

AMONG the scariest found-footage films yet made (yes, even scarier than that one with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian), Adam Robitel’s The Taking of Deborah Logan follows a team of filmmakers as they shoot a documentary about an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer, Deborah (Jill Larson). However, it soon becomes apparent that there is something even worse than Alzheimer’s afflicting the unfortunate OAP.

A minor classic of the found-footage subgenre, Robitel’s film is consistently scary, although nothing prepares viewers for the sight that awaits them in the finale: Deborah, her mouth stretched wide like a snake, slowly attempting to swallow her granddaughter whole. And you thought visiting your grandparents was bad…

Fun fact: Fans of cheesy American soap All My Children will recognise Jill Larson as kindly Opal Cortlandt. Not that fans of cheesy American soap All My Children are likely to be watching this film.

63) Rabid (1977, David Cronenberg)

A TYPICALLY intelligent – and typically disgusting – offering from Canadian writer-director David Cronenberg, Rabid tells of a young woman, Rose (Marilyn Chambers), who is subjected to experimental plastic surgery following a near-fatal cycling accident and awakes to discover she has developed a phallic stinger beneath her armpit, which she can protrude and retract at will, and from which she is soon drinking the blood of libido-led strangers.

As always with Cronenberg, Rabid is awash with provocative body horror and psychological subtext, as well as oddly prophetic moments of sci-fi (an early scene sees an ambitious doctor envisaging a future world in which plastic surgery is as normalised and commonplace as KFC – a prediction that has today become a reality).

Fun fact: Prior to her starring role in Rabid, Marilyn Chambers worked exclusively in the porn industry, which only makes her nuanced performance as Rose all the more remarkable.

Marilyn Chambers in Rabid (1977)

62) Society (1989, Brian Yuzna)

BRIAN Yuzna’s squirm-inducing satire sees the rich literally feeding off the poor in the most revolting manner imaginable.

Introduced the word ‘shunting’ to the world. Special effects by ‘Screaming Mad George’. No more needs to be said really.

Fun fact: Lead actor Billy Warlock will be familiar to many viewers as smiling Eddie Kramer in TV’s Baywatch. I doubt even the sight of David Hasselhoff in speedos could have prepared the young actor for the horrifying sights that awaited him in Yuzna’s film.

61) Braindead (1992, Peter Jackson)

BEFORE he devoted himself to making lengthy po-faced Tolkien adaptations and 500-hour Beatles documentaries, New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson helmed wildly inventive and spectacularly gory low-budget horror movies, of which Braindead is his crowning achievement.

By rights, the film is so violent that it ought to be hard to stomach, yet the never-ending blood, guts and gore is so dementedly extreme that the effect is ultimately more comic than scary, which was probably Jackson’s intention. This, after all, is a film where a set of intestines grooms itself in a mirror, where pus is mistaken for pea soup and where a lawnmower is used to despatch a roomful of rampaging zombies. You don’t get that in The Hobbit!

Fun fact: For more early Peter Jackson splatter gems, check out the aptly named Bad Taste (1987) and the-Muppets-go-X-rated musical-comedy Meet the Feebles (1989).

60) The Stuff (1985, Larry Cohen)

‘ARE you eating it or is it eating YOU?’ – so ran the tagline for this lively horror-sci-fi satire courtesy of the late, great independent writer-directer Larry Cohen.

The ‘it’ in question is ‘The Stuff’, a gooey substance that is discovered emerging from the earth and is promptly mass-marketed by greedy corporations as a delicious edible snack, even when the deadly side-effects of their best-selling new product come to light. Think McDonald’s meet The Blob.

As always with the free-spirited Cohen, The Stuff is smartly written and highly inventive, with plenty of witty dialogue, oodles of cheap but (mostly) effective practical effects and spirited performances from all involved, in particular Cohen regular Michael Moriarty.

Be warned: it’ll put you off McFlurrys for life.

Fun fact: Although fun to watch, The Stuff wasn’t necessarily fun to shoot. A foamy blend of fish bones was used for the scenes in which the Stuff chases after characters and the stench from the fishy pulp was so potent that cast and crew would often bathe in a nearby river after shooting.

The Stuff (1985)

59) Q – The Winged Serpent (1982, Larry Cohen)

MORE Cohen craziness.

As its title suggests, Q – The Winged Serpent tells of a gigantic flying reptile, which builds its nests atop a Manhattan skyscraper and then takes to feeding on unsuspecting New Yorkers, among them a window cleaner and a topless sunbather.

The film’s real star isn’t the reptilian title character, however, but rather Jimmy Quinn, a nervy small-time crook, played to perfection by Michael Moriarty (yes, him again).

On the run following a botched diamond heist, Quinn hides in the 1,046ft-high spire of the Chrysler Building, whereupon he stumbles across Q’s nest and discovers that a bloodthirsty monster lizard is a useful ally when it comes to seeing off vengeful criminals and authoritarian city officials.

The film feels like two entirely different movies combined: one a Ray Harryhausen-like production with dated but endearing stop-motion animation effects, and the other a gritty Martin Scorsese-style picture.

It really shouldn’t work, but it does, with Cohen’s snappy dialogue and storytelling skills, and Moriarty’s mesmerising method performance, ensuring Q remains grounded (the film, if not the flying dragon).

Fun fact: The jewellery store robbed by Quinn and his associates during an early scene is called – wait for it! – Neil Diamonds.

58) Re-Animator (1985, Stuart Gordon)

‘HERBERT West has a very good head on his shoulders… And another one in a dish on his desk.’

The tagline for Stuart Gordon’s oddball classic tells you all you need to know about the accompanying film.

Fun fact: According to cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, David Bowie cited Re-Animator as his favourite film.

57) Se7en (1995, David Fincher)

STILL the best film director David Fincher has ever made, Se7en centres on odd-couple detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and their investigation into a series of brutal murders that have been carried out in the style of the seven deadly sins – a rein of terror which, they discover, began exactly 12 months previously.

Anyone questioning whether Fincher’s gloomy crime-thriller can legitimately be classed as a horror film must never have watched it in a packed cinema back when it was first released. Speaking as someone who did just that, I’ll never forget the sight and sound of an entire auditorium screaming and jumping in unison as the supposed corpse of one of Doe’s victims unexpectedly sprung to life.

And no one screamed louder or jumped higher than me and my 15-year-old friends. Much to our initial amusement, we had talked our way passed the front-of-house staff in order to watch our first 18-certificate film on the big-screen, but our laughs had turned to whimpers by the time the end credits scrolled.

Fun fact: New Line Cinema moguls were uncomfortable with the film’s downbeat denouement and tried to have it replaced with something more stereotypically Hollywood, until both Fincher and Pitt threatened to leave the project and the studio execs backed down.

56) The Blob (1988, Chuck Russell)

MODERN-DAY remakes of horror classics may be almost universally dreadful, but this wasn’t the case in the 1980s. Back then, there appeared a slew of remakes that not only matched the originals but sometimes even surpassed them, and Chuck Russell’s The Blob was one such film.

Sure, his update of Irvin Yeaworth’s 1958 cult classic may lack the star power of Steve McQueen, but it more than compensates with some fantastically gooey practical effects and a screenplay co-written by Frank ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ Darabont that doesn’t follow the rulebook when it comes to which characters live or die.

Fun fact: Russell has stated that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) was an inspiration in terms of he and Darabont choosing to kill off likeable or lead characters midway through the film. Hell, even the cute little kiddies aren’t safe in this one…

55) Eraserhead (1977, David Lynch)

THERE has been a horror element to almost every film David Lynch has ever made, from Blue Velvet (1986) and Lost Highway (1997) to Mulholland Drive (2001), but few have ever been quite as relentlessly committed to agitating audiences quite like Eraserhead.

The film – Lynch’s feature-length debut – is unnerving throughout, with the mutant baby proving especially nightmarish. The scene in which the alarming infant inexplicably breaks out in sores and spots must be among the scariest Lynch has ever created, which is saying something.

Fun fact: It was watching Eraserhead that convinced Mel Brooks (yes, that Mel Brooks) to help finance Lynch’s follow-up film, The Elephant Man (1980), through his company Brooksfilms.

54) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Wes Craven)

THE original and best of the Elm Street series, with Robert Englund legitimately terrifying as back-from-the-dead child killer Freddy Krueger.

The character had yet to turn into the wisecracking cartoon villain of later entries, and is all the scarier for it.

Fun fact: Wes Craven chose to have Krueger wear a red-and-black jumper after reading that the two colours are considered the most jarring to the human eye. And here was me thinking he’d just been reading Dennis the Menace cartoons…

Amanda Wyss in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

53) The Devils (1971, Ken Russell)

THERE are some horror films that generate scares via subtle suggestion and subdued understatement. The Devils is not one of those films.

Based on the witch trials that engulfed France (and elsewhere) during the 17th century, Ken Russell’s gloriously loopy historical epic features a powerful lead performance from Oliver Reed as Father Urbain Grandier, the Roman Catholic priest who was tried for witchcraft in 1634, as well as a gleefully menacing turn from Dudley Sutton as the sadistic Baron de Laubardemont. The graphic burning-at-the-stake scene, meanwhile, is realistic to the point of being almost unwatchable.

Fun fact: Sutton later found household fame in TV’s Lovejoy as chirpy sidekick Tinker Dill.

52) Dracula (1958, Terence Fisher)

A SEMINAL, albeit decidedly non-reverential, take on Bram Stoker’s classic novel from Hammer Studios, Dracula elevated Christopher Lee from interesting bit-part player to debonair leading man.

Now seen as the quintessential Dracula, Lee’s was a Count of quiet intensity, with his transition from well-mannered host to lascivious bloodsucker rewriting the rule book for all future Dracula adaptations.

Fun fact: Charismatic he may be, but Lee’s Dracula is far from chatty, with just 13 lines of dialogue in the entire film. Mind you, that is 13 more lines than he speaks in the sequel, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), during which the Count utters not a single peep.

Christopher Lee as Dracula (1958)

51) Alligator (1980, Lewis Teague)

THE box-office-bothering success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws resulted in dozens of copycat pictures featuring killer wildlife, from William Girdler’s Grizzly (1976) and Michael Anderson’s Orca (1977) to this satirical creature-feature.

Directed by Lewis Teague, Alligator stars Robert Forster as David Madison, a no-nonsense police detective who discovers a giant alligator is roaming the streets of Florida and enthusiastically munching on its inhabitants.

For the most part, the film is good gory fun, with a typically smart script by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and Forster enjoying himself as a grouchy cop more concerned with his thinning hairline than the marauding mutant reptile.

There are, however, a few genuinely disquieting moments amid the campy carnage, such as the scene in which a young boy, Donald, is swallowed whole by the alligator during a children’s birthday party.

Fun fact: The above-mentioned child character was named after a certain high-profile, straw-haired, orange-hued New York businessman.

Alligator (1980)

50) The Omen (1976, Richard Donner)

Overly earnest but much-imitated big-budget horror from the versatile Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon), The Omen may overdo the Biblical tub-thumping, but it boasts an impressive cast of Hollywood stars, led by the ever-dashing Gregory Peck, an Oscar-winning operatic score by Jerry Goldsmith, and individual scenes that rank among the most iconic in horror, from the nurse hanging herself at a children’s party (‘It’s all for you, Damien’) and the baboons going ape at Windsor Zoo to David Warner losing his head in Israel.

Two reasonably good sequels followed, Damien: Omen II (1978) and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), as well as the obligatory appalling remake (2016’s The Omen).

Fun fact: In order to elicit an authentic smile from Harvey ‘Damien’ Stephens in the final shot of the film, Donner told the four-year-old actor: ‘If you laugh, I won’t be your friend’, which, naturally, resulted in Stephens struggling not to laugh and beaming into the camera.

49) Lake Mungo (2008, Joel Anderson)

THIS understated gem from Australian writer-director Joel Anderson offers a welcome reminder of just how effective the found-footage genre can be when done well.

A slow-burning faux-documentary, Lake Mungo centres on a teenage girl, Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker), whose tragic and mysterious death haunts her family (in more ways than one).

Foregoing lazy jump-scares in favour of atmosphere and naturalistic acting, Anderson’s film steadily builds a sense of unease, culminating in a scene which is among the scariest I’ve ever seen. (I won’t give anything away other than to say that, when I first watched Lake Mungo, the scene caused me to leap off the couch with fright, which in turn scared my wife half to death.)

In short, Lake Mungo induces more terror with a single static photograph or snippet of shaky footage than the entire Saw franchise has managed in umpteen torture-heavy films, while the plot has so many leftfield twists and turns that it’d leave even Derren Brown scratching his head.

Fun fact: Anderson’s screenplay featured no dialogue with the actors instead improvising all of their lines, which no doubt contributes to the authentic feel of proceedings.

48) Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)

ONE of the most controversial films ever made, Tod Browning’s Freaks was reviled by critics and audiences alike upon release, with the director – a former carnival sideshow and circus entertainer – accused of exploiting his disabled and disfigured stars (the film was subsequently banned in the UK for over three decades).

Watched today, it is clear that Browning’s sympathies lie solely with the socially ostracised ‘freaks’ of the title, and his film has been rightly re-appraised as a ground-breaking genre classic.

Fun fact: MGM Studios were so horrified by the negative reaction to Freaks that they drastically edited the film, removing almost 30 minutes of footage, all of which was then lost. As such, Browning’s original 90-minute version of the film no longer exists.

48) Martin (1977, George A Romero)

BY far the finest non-zombie picture George A Romero ever made (and the director’s favourite of his own works), Martin tells of a disturbed teenager who believes himself to be a vampire, although whether John Amplas’s title character is vampiric bloodsucker or mere mortal remains tantalisingly unresolved come the closing credits.

Fun fact: The song Martin by Soft Cell was named in tribute to Romero’s film.

47) Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979, Lucio Fulci)

A SUPREMELY bonkers entry in the prolific Italian zombie-cannibal genre, Zombie Flesh Eaters transcends its origins as a cheap Dawn of the Dead rip-off thanks to director Lucio Fulci’s penchant for expertly staged suspense sequences and puke-inducing practical effects.

The scene in which a zombie wrestles underwater with an actual LIVE SHARK is fairly unforgettable (if ever a stuntman deserved an Oscar…), but it is the stomach-churning moment in which a large wooden splinter and a soft gooey eyeball come into close contact with one another that will have you reaching for the smelling salts.

Fun fact: While filming one of the early office scenes in New York, Fulci and his crew inadvertently interrupted a meeting chaired by one Rupert Murdoch, much to the chagrin of the notoriously hot-headed media mogul.

46) Hellraiser (1987, Clive Barker)

WRITER-DIRECTOR Clive Barker’s franchise-spawning sadomasochistic horror is altogether less conventional, and a hell of a lot kinkier, than you probably remember. The famous Cenobites, led by Doug Bradley’s iconic Pinhead, barely feature for the film’s first hour, with the focus instead on the horrifying Frank Cotton, aka ‘Uncle Frank’.

I first watched Hellraiser as a horror-loving 13-year-old and the moment in which a skinless – yes, skinless! – Uncle Frank comes crawling out of the darkness across an attic floor gave me nightmares for weeks.

Fun fact: Even by the standards of horror, Hellraiser has been subjected to a merciless slew of sub-par sequels, although Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth have their moments. Though acclaimed by critics, the recent remake by David Bruckner (The Ritual, The Night House) was a little too polite and passionless for my tastes.

45) Bone Tomahawk (2015, S Craig Zahler)

S CRAIG Zahler’s gripping horror-western is a film of two distinct halves – which is fitting given that one of the film’s less fortunate characters ends up similarly split in two.

Set in the late 19th century, Bone Tomahawk stars the ever-excellent Kurt Russell as Franklin Hunt, the lusciously moustachioed sheriff of the small rural town of Bright Hope.

After the wife of a local foreman is kidnapped by a mysterious and deadly tribe of cannibalistic Native Americans, Hunt and a trio of brave/foolhardy companions – Brooder (Matthew Fox), Chicory (Richard Jenkins) and the aforementioned foreman, Arthur (Patrick Wilson) – set out to track her down, with eye-wateringly violent results.

As anyone familiar with Zahler’s impressive filmography will know, the American writer-director is not one for pulling his punches when it comes to… well, punches. Or kicks. Or stabbings. Or, indeed, scalpings and live bisections.

Yet even if you’re averse to graphic screen violence, Bone Tomahawk is essential viewing for horror and/or western fans, with an impressive cast giving note-perfect performances (Fox is particularly good as the cool-headed Brooder) and Zahler’s intelligent script and precise direction generating an insidiously effective sense of looming disaster.

Prior to making his directing debut with Bone Tomahawk (aged 43), Zahler was a prolific screenwriter and novelist, with four published books and 25 screenplays to his name (although at the time of Bone Tomahawk’s release, only one of these – 2011’s disturbing Asylum Blackout – had made it to the screen).

Thankfully, the critical and relative commercial success of his debut resulted in Zahler developing a career as an accomplished filmmaker, with brutal prison thriller Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017) and gritty action-thriller Dragged Across Concrete (2018) maintaining the quality of Bone Tomahawk.

Fun fact: The cave set that is used during the grisly finale is the same as that used in Iron Man (2008). Hell, I doubt even Tony Stark’s superhero alter ego would emerge unscathed from an encounter with Zahler’s cannibals.

Matthew Fox and Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk (2015)

44) The Changeling (1980, Peter Medak)

NOT to be confused with the Angelina Jolie-starring drama of the same name, The Changeling is a low-key supernatural shocker from director Peter Medak.

The ever-excellent George C Scott excels as John Russell, a composer struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife and daughter (as depicted in a heart-wrenching opening sequence) and harried by ghostly goings-on in the Victorian mansion in which he is attempting to recuperate.

Hungary-born Medak generates subtle scares aplenty from the most everyday of household objects, be it a piano, a wheelchair or a children’s ball.

Fun fact: American actress Trish Van Devere – aka Mrs George C Scoot – appears in the film as Claire Norman, an estate agent who befriends John. During the scene in which Claire is startled by a wayward wheelchair, the actress accidentally refers to her off-screen hubbie as ‘George’ rather than by his character name.

43) The House of the Devil (2009, Ti West)

A THROWBACK to the low-budget independent horrors of the VHS era, The House of the Devil sees writer-director Ti West using vintage equipment and shooting on 16mm film in order to give his leisurely paced slasher an authentic retro vibe.

Model-turned-actress Jocelin Donahue is appealingly down-to-earth as college student Samantha Hughes, who comes to regret agreeing to babysit for the unorthodox Ulmans (Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov), and the slow-burning narrative culminates in a supremely frightening finale.

Fun fact: In keeping with its retro stylings, The House of the Devil was issued on VHS cassette, despite the format having been obsolete for several years at the time of release.

42) Scanners (1981, David Cronenberg)

THERE is far more to Scanners than merely the greatest exploding-head scene in cinema history but, let’s face it, if the greatest exploding-head scene in cinema history isn’t enough to make you want to watch David Cronenberg’s near-perfect sci-fi-horror then you probably shouldn’t even be reading this list.

Fun fact: Michael Ironside – who steals the show as head-bursting bad guy Darryl Revok – was 31 at the time of filming. 31?! The bloke looks at least 51.

41) The Evil Dead (1981, Sam Raimi)

THIS gore-tastic horror classic was directed by Sam Raimi when the future Hollywood filmmaker was just 20 years old and stars Bruce Campbell as Ash, one of five young students who visit an isolated cabin in the remote woodlands of Tennessee and, once there, inadvertently summon a demonic entity. As you do.

Based on Within the Woods (a Super 8mm short-film which Raimi, Campbell and co made as teenagers), The Evil Dead rapidly became a phenomenon – or rather, a ‘Necronom-enon’ (one for all you hardcore fans out there!) – upon release in 1981, with no less than Stephen King describing it as ‘the most ferociously original film of the year’.

Sadly, The Evil Dead was somewhat less well received by the British censors, who – following its release on VHS – consigned the film to the infamous ‘video nasties’ list, having completely failed to appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humour behind Tom Sullivan’s impressive splatter effects. Later, Raimi even had to travel to the UK to defend the film’s distributors – Palace Videos – in court. Proof, as if it were needed, that uptight cancel-culture authoritarians aren’t the sole preserve of 2022.

Despite the controversy, Raimi would go on to direct two successful Evil Dead sequels – slapstick comedy-horror Evil Dead II (1987) and the underrated (and completely bonkers) Army of Darkness (1992) – after which the director unexpectedly entered the Hollywood big-time with the Spider-Man trilogy, before returning to his horror roots for 2009’s knockabout Drag Me to Hell.

Fun fact: The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale driven by Ash and his friends to the woodland cabin has since made a guest appearance in every film Sam Raimi has ever directed.

Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead (1981)

40) Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey)

THE only feature-length film American director Herk Harvey ever made, Carnival of Souls has proven to be hugely influential, with David Lynch and George A Romero citing it as an inspiration, and countless subsequent horror films nicking its final-act twist, not least M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999).

Fun fact: The entire budget for Carnival of Souls was just $33,000, which these days probably wouldn’t be enough money to buy a cup of coffee for a Kardashian.

39) Misery (1990, Rob Reiner)

DIRECTOR Rob Reiner struck commercial and critical gold with his 1986 adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Body. Titled Stand By Me, the coming-of-age classic remains one of the finest examples of a filmmaker portraying the less scary side of King’s oeuvre on screen.

When Reiner returned to King four years later, however, scares were very much on the agenda.

Released in 1990, Misery stars James Caan as Paul Sheldon, a successful author of cheesy romance novels who – following a car accident in the snowy wilds of Colorado – awakes, crippled and bed-ridden, in the rural home of his ‘number one fan’ Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates).

Unfortunately for Paul, the former nurse is also several sandwiches short of a full picnic, with an eccentric turn-of-phrase (‘Now that’s an oogie mess’) and a propensity for increasingly violent outbursts, both physical and verbal (‘You’re just another lying ol’ dirty birdy’).

Both on page and screen, Misery is a perfectly conceived horror-thriller and remains a career highlight for both King and Reiner, the latter of whose filmography has otherwise focused primarily on romance and comedy (This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…). In fact, Reiner is so adept at building and maintaining nail-biting suspense that it’s a crying shame he hasn’t subsequently returned to the genre. In particular, the scene in which a wheelchair-bound Paul escapes from his room to snoop around Annie’s house is almost unbearably intense, even on repeat viewings.

It helps, of course, that Misery was adapted by William Goldman, who was one of the most talented screenwriters in Hollywood and a published author in his own right (his rip-roaring 1983 memoir, Adventures in the Screen Trade, is required reading for any self-respecting film buff). Goldman mostly stays faithful to King’s classic potboiler, toning down the graphic gore (those hoping to see Annie squashing a state trooper’s head with a ride-on lawnmower will be disappointed) and amping up the already nerve-racking tension.

Performance-wise, Misery is equally top-tier, with Kathy Bates on Oscar-winning form as the wacky Wilkes. The American actress perfectly balances the character’s absurd blend of eccentricity, naivety and menace without ever descending into caricature.

Caan has a less showy role but is equally good, gaining our sympathy despite playing a wealthy writer disdainful of his own success.

And Misery isn’t entirely a two-hander either, with credit due to the late Richard Farnsworth as the local sheriff, Buster, and Frances Sternhagen as his wife, Virginia. Together, these two use their small amount of screen time to make a big impression and, in doing so, they ensure we’re genuinely fearful for their safety when Buster starts investigating Annie’s new-found interest in bulk-buying writing materials.

Fun fact: Think the infamous ‘hobbling’ scene is brutal? Be thankful it wasn’t an axe, as per both King’s novel and Goldman’s screenplay. It was Reiner’s decision to change Wilkes’ weapon of choice to an enormous sledgehammer.

Kathy Bates in Misery (1990)

38) The Descent (2005, Neil Marshall)

GIRL power! British director Neil Marshall marshals an all-female cast for this claustrophobic horror in which a group of thrill-seeking friends go caving in North Carolina and promptly find themselves trapped, lost and hunted in a labyrinthine subterranean world.

I remember watching The Descent at the Odeon (RIP) when it was first released in 2005 and feeling like I was struggling to breathe during the scenes in which the cast scramble on their chests through increasingly narrow and unstable underground passages.

Fun fact: Although set in the US, The Descent was shot entirely in the UK, with the wilds of Scotland standing in for rural North America.

37) Cannibal Holocaust (1980, Ruggero Deodato)

SUCH is the ferocious reputation of Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust that those who defend it are often accused of being almost as depraved as the film’s main characters (an immoral group of sensation-seeking filmmakers). Well, maybe, but it’s still an excellent movie, with the infamous brutality largely offset by Deodato’s ability to capture beautiful compositions amid the carnage (the film was largely shot on location in the Amazon rainforest).

Among its many claims to fame, Cannibal Holocaust single-handedly invented the ‘found footage’ genre (the film is part faux-documentary) and provided inspiration for a generation of no-holds-barred filmmakers, from Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino to Eli Roth, the latter of whose The Green Inferno (2013) is effectively a love letter to Deodato’s controversial classic.

Fun fact: In order to create the illusion they had died, Deodato had the cast of Cannibal Holocaust sign contracts that stipulated they disappear from public life for a year following its release. Alas, the ruse proved rather too effective. Convinced that the events depicted in the film were real, Italian courts arrested Deodato and charged him with murder. It was only when the actors appeared in court, alive and well, that the charges were dropped.

36) The Invisible Man (1933, James Whale)

NO, not the feminist-friendly 2020 remake of the same name, nor Paul Verhoeven’s enjoyably seedy 2000 interpretation (Hollow Man), but rather James Whale’s iconic original, the invisibility effects of which remain genuinely impressive 89 years on from the film’s release.

Unlike in H G Wells’ source novel, the Invisible Man – or rather Dr Jack Griffin to give him his official title – isn’t mad and bad to begin with, and only starts to lose his mind when the powers of invisibility take hold.

Yet whether sane or mad, the character remains fascinating to watch (or not watch, as the case may be) thanks to a supremely charismatic turn by Claude Rains, who commands our attention despite spending the majority of the film either wrapped in bandages or as a disembodied voice.

Dudley-born Whale directed a number of horror masterpieces throughout the 1930s (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein) but The Invisible Man is by far the most dark and ruthless, and therefore my favourite.

Fun fact: In order to make Rains appear invisible in the scene where Dr Griffin removes his bandages, Whale dressed the actor in black velvet and had him stand in front of a black velvet background.

Gloria Stuart and Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)

35) Kill List (2011, Ben Wheatley)

IF football is a game of two halves, then writer-director Ben Wheatley’s Kill List is a film of three thirds: one third kitchen-sink drama, one third gritty gangster film, and one third The Wicker Man.

Imagine if Martin Scorsese directed a film set in Sheffield and with a screenplay by Ken Loach, only while shooting the final act Scorsese accidentally ingested a bunch of powerful hallucinogens. The result would likely be something akin to Kill List.

Fun fact: Not even Wheatley himself can watch the moment in which a librarian is graphically kneecapped with a hammer. ‘I don’t watch this bit,’ the director says during the DVD commentary track, presumably while holding his fingers over his eyes.

34) Eyes Without a Face (1960, Georges Franju)

THE synopsis of Georges Franju’s French-language horror – mad plastic surgeon kidnaps and removes the faces of young women in an attempt to restore the once-beautiful features of his disfigured daughter – may suggest a macabre and gruesome viewing experience, but in fact Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage) is among the most beautiful and moving horror movies ever made. Except for the bit when a young woman’s face gets cut off, which is indeed a tad macabre and gruesome.

Fun fact: Upon its release in America, Eyes Without a Face was retitled The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, despite there being no character called Dr Faustus in the film. It wouldn’t be released uncut in the US until 2003.

Édith Scob in Eyes Without a Face (1960)

33) Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Roman Polanski)

FEW horror films dare to tackle their subject matter with quite the muted subtlety which Roman Polanski brings to this psychological chiller. The Polish director may be persona non grata due to his off-screen actions, but there is no denying his brilliance as a filmmaker, and Rosemary’s Baby is arguably Polanski at his very best.

The scene in which Rosemary (Mia Farrow) finally discovers the truth about her neighbours – namely, that they’re a bunch of mad Satanists – is especially powerful, with the camera remaining focused on Rosemary as she recoils from her newborn baby, screaming: ‘What have you done to its eyes?’ A lesser director would cut to the repellent rug rat in question, but Polanski commendably leaves our imaginations to fill in the blanks.

Fun fact: Rosemary’s Baby was primarily filmed in the Dakota in New York – the same building outside which John Lennon would be shot dead by a crazed fan 12 years later. Not the funnest of fun facts that, I admit.

32) The Mist (2007, Frank Darabont)

IF, like me, you first watched Frank Darabont’s The Mist in a packed cinema, then you’ll no doubt recall the stunned silence that permeated around the auditorium as the end credits rolled and ashen-faced audience members staggered to the exit.

If you haven’t seen Darabont’s third, and arguably best, Stephen King adaptation – in which terrified townsfolk hide from a deadly extra-dimensional mist in a local supermarket – then I’m not going to give anything away. Let’s just say that not even King himself dared to enter the dark terrain into which Darabont delves here (King’s original novella ends ambiguously).

A truly shattering experience. I cannot recommend it enough.

Fun fact: Darabont was initially offered a sizeable $30 million to make The Mist, but only on the condition that he ditched the downbeat ending. He refused and, as a result, he had to make the film for $18 million instead, ditching his directorial salary in the process. It was worth it.

Thomas Jane in The Mist (2007)

31) Candyman (1992, Bernard Rose)

A HORROR film which seems to get better with every passing year, Candyman centres on Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a college graduate hell-bent on disproving the existence of the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed spirit who – urban legend has it – appears whenever anyone dares to say his name five times, and who is held responsible for a series of brutal murders on the notorious Cabrini-Green public housing project.

Directed by Brit filmmaker Bernard Rose, Candyman combines expertly staged scares (once seen, the scene with the psychiatrist is not easily forgotten) and a stunning Philip Glass score, alongside outstanding performances, not least from the beautiful Madsen as the object of the Candyman’s affections.

Much better than Nia DaCosta’s recent heavy-handed remake, which was so preoccupied with political messaging that it forgot to include any decent scares.

Fun fact: The bees that are seen swarming over Madsen and Todd in several scenes in the film were indeed real bees, with pointy stings and everything. Todd negotiated a bonus of $1,000 for every time he was stung by a bee – and netted an additional $23,000 as a result.

Virginia Madsen in Candyman (1991)

30) Manhunter (1986, Michael Mann)

THE Silence of the Lambs may be the most famous and critically revered Hannibal Lecter movie, but – in the opinion of this writer – it isn’t the best. That honour belongs to Michael Mann’s superlative Manhunter, which may technically be a thriller, but which is more unsettling than many established horrors.

Based on Robert Harris’s novel Red Dragon (as was 2002’s lacklustre Red Dragon), Manhunter focuses on former FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (an excellent William Peterson), who is recalled to the force in order to help track down a terrifying serial killer, nicknamed ‘the Tooth Fairy’, and unforgettably played by Tom Noonan, who somehow manages to gain our sympathy even while plotting to butcher entire families.

Scottish actor Brian Cox portrays Lecter – or ‘Lecktor’ as he is here – and his performance is altogether more believable than Anthony Hopkins’ fun but hammy turn. Cox’s understated icy calm is truly chilling, with the scene in which he casually asks Graham for his home phone number proving more insidiously alarming than any air-sucking theatrics from Hopkins (while Hopkins’ Lecter resides in a cartoon dungeon, Cox’s cell is a maddeningly pristine white box).

Elsewhere, the sequence in which Graham and the FBI race against the clock to decipher clues from a piece of fan mail is, quite simply, filmmaking at its finest.

Fun fact: Cox based his performance on Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel, who was the second to last person to be hanged in Glasgow.

Brian Cox in Manhunter (1986)

29) Les Diaboliques (1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot)

MUCH imitated, rarely bettered, Les Diaboliques is truly terrifiant. Not for nothing is director Henri-Georges Clouzot known as the French Hitchcock. (It goes without saying that the 1996 US remake should be avoided at all costs, despite featuring Sharon Stone at her sultriest.)

Fun fact: There is no music in Les Diaboliques other than during the opening credits.

28) The Vanishing (1988, George Sluizer)

THE banality of evil is at the heart of Dutch director George Sluizer’s claustrophobic chiller.

A young traveller, Rex (Gene Bervoets), is desperate to find out what happened to his girlfriend, who vanished without trace while the couple holidayed in France several years earlier.

And find out he does – in what must be the most calmly monstrous finale in cinema history. It will, I guarantee, remain lodged firmly in your brain for weeks, months and quite possibly years afterwards.

Fun fact: Regrettably, George Sluizer later directed an unspeakably abysmal English-language remake, which featured uncharacteristically lame performances from Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, and which is horrifying for all the wrong reasons.

27) Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971, John Hancock)

JOHN D. Hancock’s little-seen gem is about as low-key as horror gets, but the chills, when they arrive, are hauntingly effective.

Mentally fragile Jessica (Zohra Lampert) is staying with her husband and a hippy friend in a rundown farmhouse on the outskirts of New York. There, the trio meet and befriend the mysterious Emily (Mariclare Costello), who seems to possess a secret vampire-like taste for human blood, or at least so Jessica comes to believe.

Belying its attention-grabbing title, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is filled with quietly unnerving moments, such as the celebrated scene in which Jessica and Emily go swimming in a lake, only for Emily to abruptly disappear beneath the water and then re-emerge wearing an antiquated bridal gown in place of her swimming costume.

Fun fact: Studio execs were so impressed by the watery sequences in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death that they approached Hancock to direct Jaws 2 but, sadly, the proposal sank. They handed the reins to journeyman director Jeannot Szwarc instead.

26) Ringu (1998, Hideo Nakata)

INFERIOR US remakes and unfunny parodies may have sought to lessen the impact of the Ring films, but nothing can dilute the sheer terror of Hideo Nakata’s Japanese-language original.

Released in 1998, Ring – or Ringu as it’s known in Japan – tells the story of a cursed videotape which, when watched, results in the viewer being marked for death by the vengeful Sadako, a lank-haired female ghost with a chip on her shoulder the size of Tokyo Tower.

From the opening credits onwards, Nakata’s film positively drips with a bone-chilling sense of otherworldly dread, culminating in the celebrated finale wherein Sadako crawls out of a TV screen towards an open-mouthed onlooker and viewers urgently find themselves in need of a spare pair of underpants.

I first watched Ringu on VHS, late at night, alone, in a very large, very creeky Victorian-era apartment block in Yorkshire. I finished the film in a cold sweat of terror, unlike anything I’d felt since visiting Guernsey for the first time, and I spent the subsequent two nights sleeping with the lights on, not even daring to venture down the corridor to the toilet. I even turned my TV to face the wall, just in case Sadako decided to come crawling out to get me in the middle of the night.

Fun fact: Nakata’s Ringu wasn’t the first adaptation of Koji Suzuki’s source novel of the same name. There was a little-remembered made-for-TV version in 1995, titled Ringu: Kanzenban, but it wasn’t very good.

Ringu (1998)

25) The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy)

MANY films are described as being ‘unique’, but The Wicker Man is one of the few that truly deserves the accolade.

A detective story-turned-horror-stroke-musical, Robin Hardy’s cult favourite foregoes stereotypical shocks and scares in favour of an off-kilter folk soundtrack and a queasy sense of pervading wrongness, with horror veteran Christopher Lee playing the charming but sinister Lord Summerisle (the late actor often cited the role as his personal favourite).

Even those who have never seen The Wicker Man are familiar with its famous fiery finale (‘Oh, God! Oh, Jesus Christ, no!’) but there are many more memorable moments to be found, not least the scene where Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) finds himself caught up in a sinister May Day ritual and that bit where Britt Ekland dances about with her clothes off.

Under no circumstances watch the staggeringly awful 2006 remake in which Nicolas Cage punches a woman in the face and then gets stung by bees.

Fun fact: Rod Stewart was dating Ekland at the time The Wicker Man was released and, allegedly, the raspy-voiced rock star was so nonplussed by the sight of his girlfriend in the all-together that he tried to have the film banned.

24) Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma)

SCHOOL proms have long been a staple of the horror genre, presumably because they offer ample opportunity to slaughter hordes of annoying teenagers in one convenient setting. Few big-screen proms have ever proven quite as grisly as that featured in Brian De Palma’s Carrie, however, with the American director incorporating everything from slow motion to split-screen for a never-bettered sequence of telekinesis-induced kiddie carnage.

Prior to this show-stopping finale, the film – a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel – proves surprisingly moving, with Sissy Spacek superb as the mousy, troubled title character, and Piper Laurie on Oscar-nominated form as her overbearing Bible-thumping mother.

Fun fact: Wanting to dress as Carrie for Halloween this year? The pig’s blood was made using corn syrup and food colouring.

23) Wait Until Dark (1967, Terence Young)

THINK Audrey Hepburn’s filmography was all rom-coms and musicals? Think again.

Directed by Terence Young, Wait Until Dark stars Hepburn as Susy Hendrix, a middle-aged blind lady who finds herself in possession of an old rag doll, unaware that it has a sizeable quantity of heroin stashed inside. When drug dealer Harry Roat (a sinister Alan Arkin) learns of the doll’s whereabouts, he and his colleagues duly descend on Susy’s New York apartment to reclaim their hoard.

Hepburn is terrific as the naïve but resilient Susy, giving what is easily the most ‘method’ performance of her career. Ahead of filming, the elfin actress wore shields over her eyes to recreate the sensation of sightlessness and it really shows: you believe her character is blind.

The film builds to an intense finale in which Susy turns the tables on Roat and co by breaking all of the lights in her apartment. Back in 1967, many cinemas would simultaneously turn out their auditorium lights during this final scene, thus leaving the audience – like the film’s characters – in total darkness. Ah, those were the days…

Fun fact: No less than Stephen King described Wait Until Dark as ‘utterly terrifying’, adding: ‘Alan Arkin’s performance may be the greatest evocation of screen villainy ever, rivalling and perhaps surpassing Peter Lorre’s in M’.

Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark (1964)

22) Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster)

TWO words: telegraph pole.

Fun fact: Ahead of its release, a cinema in Australia accidentally showed a trailer for Ari Aster’s Hereditary prior to a screening of the Peter Rabbit movie. Considerable childhood trauma ensued and the cinema owners had to dish out free tickets to angry parents by way of compensation.

21) The Birds (1963, Alfred Hitchcock)

ALFRED Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece gives lie to the term ‘feathered friends’. On this evidence, ‘beaked baddies’ or ‘nest-building b*****ds’ would surely be more accurate descriptions.

Based on the novella by Daphne du Maurier, The Birds depicts the inexplicable assault on a nondescript Californian town by its local bird population. After a restrained opening half-hour, the nasty little flockers quickly gravitate from the occasional rogue pecking to clawing out eyeballs and blowing up petrol stations, and all set to an eerie soundtrack of synthesised bird squawks.

As is to be expected, Hitchcock’s storytelling is gleefully merciless, at one point unceremoniously offing one of the film’s most sympathetic characters. However, it’s the subtler moments that are most effective, such as the celebrated scene in which a flock of crows quietly descend on a children’s playground while the film’s heroine (Tippi Hedren) stands in the foreground, oblivious to the mounting menace.

Fun fact: The climatic scene in which Hedren is attacked indoors by a swarm of birds took over a week to complete and left the actress hospitalised from exhaustion.

20) Nosferatu (1922, F W Murnau)

THIS German silent-era masterpiece turned 100 this year and yet it still harbours the power to unnerve. An unofficial take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu is far more frightening than the colourful Counts who subsequently cropped up in authorised big-screen adaptations, with Max Schreck’s depiction of the vampiric title character proving truly unsettling.

Fun fact: A successful lawsuit by Bram Stoker’s widow resulted in all prints and negatives of Nosferatu being destroyed. Thankfully, several second-generation reels of the film survived the cull and later resurfaced overseas.

Nosferatu (1922)

19) Dawn of the Dead (1978, George A Romero)

FOLLOWING the genre-defining success of Night of the Living Dead (about which more shortly), George A Romero delivered two sequels that broke further new ground, with 1978’s Dawn of the Dead setting new heights for politically-minded horror cinema.

Those who dismiss these films as mere gruesome schlock are woefully off the mark. Romeo’s zombie trilogy ranks among the most high-minded horror movies ever made, with Vietnam analogies, social commentary and political subtext that howls off the screen with the force of a disembowelled victim’s final screams.

Following the mercilessly bleak but very good Day of the Dead (1985), Romero took a break from all things zombie for two decades, before returning with the unintentionally amusing Land of the Dead in 2005, followed by Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). This second series of films was enjoyable enough, but not fit to lick the blood-splattered boots of the original trilogy.

Fun fact: Dawn of the Dead was initially going to end with the film’s heroine, Fran (Gaylen Ross), committing suicide by sticking her head into the rotating blades of a helicopter, before Romero decided it was perhaps a little too bleak for comfort.

18) Let the Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson)

TOMAS Alfredson’s foreign-language vampire classic is a horror film like few others.

Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s controversial novel of the same name, Let the Right One In may well have its share of creepy and/or gruesome moments (death by hydrochloric acid, anyone?), yet this is a movie more likely to elicit tears than screams.

Set in snowy Stockholm in the early 1980s, the film centres on Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), an introverted 12-year-old who is ignored at home and bullied at school. That is until he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a mysterious young girl who has moved into a neighbouring apartment and who harbours several strange abnormalities, not least an apparent inability to feel the cold.

Bonding in their shared outcast status, the pair become close friends and it isn’t long before Oskar uncovers Eli’s secrets, including that she may not even be a girl at all (‘I’m 12, but I’ve been 12 for a long time,’ she tells him).

Along the way, Swedish filmmaker Alfredson breathes fresh life into the hackneyed vampire clichés of lore, with an unforgettable depiction of what happens when a vampire enters a property uninvited. Elsewhere, the director incorporates harsh overhead lighting to create an atmosphere of frosty isolation, as if the Nordic winter is inescapable even when indoors, although this frostiness is countered by the warmth of Oskar and Eli’s blossoming friendship.

Somewhat inevitably, Let the Right One In was subjected to a US remake, and, while Matt Reeves’ Let Me In (2010) is better than most such remakes, it doesn’t come close to matching the daring and dream-like beauty of the original.

Fun fact: Of the US remake, Alfredson said: ‘I think that it is a little sad. When I first got asked about the remake I said, “Can you not just get [American viewers] to see this one? It is a perfectly good film you know”.’

Lina Leandersson and Kåre Hedebrant in Let the Right One In (2008)

17) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Philip Kaufman)

WHETHER Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is better than Don Siegel’s 1956 original remains open to debate (I personally love both films and find it hard to pick a favourite), but what is surely beyond dispute is that Kaufman’s film is the more frightening of the two.

The jittery performances of the strong cast (Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy) do much to amp up the queasy paranoia, as does Denny Zeitlin’s disjointed soundtrack and the disconcertingly off-the-wall practical effects. And then, of course, there is that ending.

Fun fact: There have been two further remakes in the decades since Kaufman’s film, with Abel Ferrara’s so-so Body Snatchers in 1993 and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s dire The Invasion (2007).

Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

16) The Fly (1986, David Cronenberg)

THE third and final film by David Cronenberg on this list, The Fly is among the Canadian director’s more mainstream offerings, being based on the same George Langelaan short story as the 1958 film, although that doesn’t mean he skimps on the thought-provoking nonconformist ideas and spew-inducing special effects for which his oeuvre is famed.

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis both deliver career-best performances amid the disintegrating body parts and regurgitated doughnuts.

Fun fact: The film is wittily referenced in The Divine Comedy single Gin Soaked Boy, which sets a ‘what am I?’-like riddle to music (‘I’m the spirit in the sky/I’m the catcher in the rye/I’m the twinkle in her eye/I’m Jeff Goldblum in The Fly/Well, who am I?’).

15) The Innocents (1961, Jack Clayton)

THIS taboo-tackling supernatural chiller remains as shocking today as when first released, with Deborah Kerr on impeccable form as Miss Giddens, a sexually-repressed governess who gets a little too close for comfort to one of the young orphans in her care.

The scene in which Miss Giddens joins her precocious young charges for a game of hide-and-seek around a large country estate is scalp-pricklingly creepy, with something other than the children finding her as she hides behind a curtain in an adjoining room.

Fun fact: Wide-eyed warbler Kate Bush has said that her 1980 song The Infant Kiss was inspired by The Innocents, in particular the film’s controversial final scene.

14) Black Christmas (1974, Bob Clark)

A PIONEERING film in its day (it pre-dated John Carpenter’s Halloween by almost five years), Bob Clark’s festive-themed Black Christmas introduces many of the tropes that would soon become slasher movie clichés (killer’s POV camerawork, sorority house setting, etc).

Somewhat uniquely for horror, it isn’t the jump-scares or violence that most unnerve, but rather the language, with the film’s antagonist prone to calling his future victims on the phone and hissing sexually-explicit abuse at them (hence the tagline: ‘If this doesn’t make your skin crawl – it’s on too tight!’).

Avoid both Glen Morgan’s limp 2006 remake and Sophia Takal’s unendurably woke 2019 re-remake at all costs.

Fun fact: For an entertaining Bob Clark-helmed anti-Christmas double-bill, seek out the director’s jet-black seasonal comedy A Christmas Story (1983).

13) Phantasm (1979, Don Coscarelli)

WHEN it comes to writer-director Don Coscarelli’s dreamlike sci-fi-horror curio, I can’t put it better than Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower, who wrote the following in the JEP in 2016:

‘Phantasm appeared out of nowhere in the late 1970s and cleaned up at the box-office, introducing a new directing talent, Don Coscarelli, and a new denizen of the fantastique hall of fame: the unforgettable Tall Man.

‘Played by the wonderful Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man belongs in the pantheon of classic horror icons: an elegant, looming fiend straddling the divide between horror and fairytale. Far more than just a killer in the Michael Myers mould, the Tall Man embodies a primal archetype: the figure at the end of the bed. He represents a whole swarm of childhood fears: an abductor, a killer of parents, a lurker in the dark.

‘And yet the overwhelming vibe of Phantasm is the thrilling and enticing pleasure of the macabre, which makes it an ideal Halloween film. Look out for the scene in which the lead character sees the Tall Man walking in ominous slow-motion down the street, “warming” his hands over the chilly condensation rising from an ice-cream van – it’s as poetic, funny and strange as anything in the genre.’

Fun fact: Don Coscarelli helmed three further Phantasm films throughout the 1980s and 1990s: Phantasm II, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion. All are enjoyable, but none come close to matching the nightmarish surrealism of the original.

* Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA – which is quite possibly the finest book on independent horror films ever written – is available now on Amazon UK.

12) Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A Romero)

‘THE Walking Dead was a movie that George Romero made back in 1968. And they have milked that, and they are still milking it.’

So said Halloween director John Carpenter during an online discussion about zombie-horror TV series The Walking Dead.

Of course, the film that Romero made back in 1968 was actually called Night of the Living Dead, but Carpenter’s point was clear: no matter how good modern zombie movies – or zombie TV shows – might be, George A Romero will always have done it first and done it better.

The American-Canadian director is often referred to as ‘the godfather of the zombie film’, and with good reason. Yes, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (both 1960) may have invented the slasher genre, but it was Night of the Living Dead that introduced audiences to the horror template that thousands of subsequent films have sought to emulate.

From the startlingly graphic violence (see the scene in which a pre-teen girl messily devours her own parents) to the underlying message that it is other humans, not monsters, who are our greatest threat, Romero’s film has been endlessly copied, referenced and parodied in the half century since its release.

Yet despite this, Night of the Living Dead still maintains its power to shock, with the despairingly downbeat ending as devastating as any in cinema history. (I once showed the film to an initially sceptical friend and she was completely blindsided by the finale, her loud gasp a joy to behold.)

Fun fact: Due to the film’s original theatrical distributor, the Walter Reade Organization, failing to place a copyright indication on the prints, Night of the Living Dead has long been in the public domain, hence the number of unofficial sequels, prequels, remakes and 3D reboots.

11) Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)

IN space, no one can hear you scream. Well, they might if you’re watching Ridley Scott’s sci-fi-horror classic…

Released in 1979 (to surprisingly mixed reviews), Alien is set in the year 2122 and takes place on-board the Nostromo, a futuristic but believably time-worn merchant space vessel.

There, the ship’s ill-fated seven-member crew – among them Sigourney Weaver’s Lieutenant Ripley – are rudely awoken from hypersleep in order to investigate a mysterious otherworldly signal, which may or may not be a warning (it is). Cue facehuggers, chestbursters and one of the greatest false endings in cinema.

Watched anew, it’s odd to think that Scott’s low-key, slow-paced, unapologetically arty film would go on to launch a lucrative and still-ongoing Hollywood franchise. The film comfortably passes the half-hour mark before anything remotely extra-terrestrial appears on screen, and, for all that everyone remembers the gruesome chest-bursting scene, Alien is notably restrained in the blood-and-guts department, with most of the film’s subsequent deaths taking place off-camera.

Instead, it is the convincingly nervy performances of the cast that account for much of Alien’s scariness and suspense, with seasoned American character actors like Harry Dean Stanton rubbing shoulders with theatre-trained Brit thesps (Ian Holm and John Hurt). This adds a real sense of understated authenticity to the unfolding action that succeeding Alien movies largely failed to match.

In truth, over-familiarity has now rather dampened some of Alien’s scream scenes. Remember, at the time of its release, audiences had no idea what the title character looked like, and – thanks to Scott’s less-is-more direction – they remained largely oblivious come the end credits.

However, as the series progressed H R Giger’s extraordinary xenomorph would be increasingly showcased in all its acid-blooded, multi-mouthed, phallic-headed glory, which was initially satisfying (the appearance of the Alien Queen in James Cameron’s superb Aliens is a franchise highlight), but ultimately transformed Giger’s creation from terrifyingly unknowable entity into just another movie monster.

Nevertheless, Alien is still capable of tingling audiences’ spines, not least during the climactic scenes as Ripley desperately tries to reach the ship’s escape shuttle without getting munched. The sequence represents what is for many people their worst nightmare: being trapped in a confined space with something unpleasant close behind.

Fun fact: It has often been claimed that Scott and his crew kept the actors in the dark about the precise details of the chest-bursting scene prior to filming, hence the authentically horrified reactions of Sigourney Weaver and co.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979)

10) Psycho (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)

FEW actors have ever been defined by a single role quite like Anthony Perkins. Throughout the 1950s, the New York-star was best known as a young heart-throb in family-friendly films and TV shows – but then came his note-perfect portrayal of mother-fixated motel proprietor Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s smash-hit Psycho and, well, Perkins’ days as a romantic lead were left as lifeless as a post-shower Marion Crane.

Based on Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel of the same name, Psycho contrasted sharply with Hitchcock’s previous film (the light-hearted adventure epic North By Northwest) and, as such, it was initially met with resistance from Universal Studios, who refused to give the Brit director the sort of big budget to which he had become accustomed.

Undeterred, Hitchcock simply shot the film in black-and-white and with a cast largely pilfered from his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series – a compromise that ultimately worked in the film’s favour (it’s hard to imagine Psycho proving quite as effective had it been shot in bright technicolor and with Cary Grant or James Stewart playing Bates).

As with many classic horror films (including more than a few in this top ten), Psycho was reviled by film critics upon release, only to be hurriedly re-appraised following an enthusiastic reception from the public.

In fact, Psycho’s enormous success at the box office was in large part due to its Hitchcock-devised promotional campaign, during which the Master of Suspense appeared on posters and in TV commercials and instructed film-goers not to miss the start of the film or reveal plot twists to their friends.

Fun fact: American director Gus Van Sant helmed a pointless shot-for-shot colour remake of Psycho in 1998, for reasons best known to himself.

Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960)

9) Don’t Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg)

BRIT filmmaker Nicolas Roeg maintains an insidious sense of foreboding throughout this superlative horror-thriller – and all without resorting to a single conventional horror movie trope.

Based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, Don’t Look Now sees a grief-stricken couple – John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) – escaping to Venice to recover from the death of their young daughter, Christine, which is depicted in an audacious opening sequence.

Once there, John becomes increasingly intrigued by a fleet-footed diminutive figure, who sports a red coat similar to the one Christine was wearing when she died, and who is repeatedly glimpsed darting through the maze-like Venetian streets. Laura, meanwhile, befriends two elderly sisters, one of whom possesses psychic abilities, although – as with everything and everyone in Roeg’s kaleidoscopic narrative – the pair are perhaps not quite what they seem.

Throughout the film, Roeg incorporates his characteristic time-hopping narrative techniques, including during the legendary sex scene, with the director’s innovative approach – intercutting footage of John and Laura in bed with post-coital shots of them getting dressed and preparing for dinner – creating a sense of authenticity and intimacy that few films before or since have managed to capture. (So believable is the on-screen passion that for decades rumours persisted that Sutherland and Christie were at it for real. Spoiler alert: they weren’t.)

Fun fact: There was talk for some years of Don’t Look Now being subjected to a modern-day remake but, mercifully, the project never came to pass. Its cancellation was likely prompted in part by Donald Sutherland’s reaction to the proposals: ‘Don’t embarrass yourselves by making it. Don’t embarrass yourselves by participating in it. It’s bull****… Why do they do it? It’s just people wanting profit, trying to profit off the back of Nicolas Roeg, and something that’s very beautiful. It’s shameful. They should be ashamed of themselves.’

Hilary Mason and Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now (1973)

8) An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis)

THE greatest comedy-horror in horror movie history. The greatest werewolf transformation in horror movie history. The greatest dream sequence in horror movie history. The famous Jenny Agutter shower scene. A very young Rik Mayall. A very angry Brian Glover. What more could you possibly ask for?

Fun fact: Director John Landis cast David Naughton in the lead role after seeing the actor in a series of TV commercials for Dr Pepper. Who knew drinking unpleasant carbonated soft drinks could lead to such carnivorous lunar activities?

7) Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento)

DARIO Argento isn’t overly renowned for his restrained understatement – the director’s loud, colourful films of the 1970s are among the most entertainingly brash in horror – but ‘the Italian Hitchcock’ also has an unsung talent for summoning a sense of threat from the most ordinary of scenarios.

The opening five minutes of Suspiria are a case in point. As heavy rain pours from the night sky, American ballet student Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) leaves a German airport and takes a taxi to the dance academy at which she has enrolled – that’s it.

Yet add in Argento’s customary technicolor lighting, as well as unusual close-ups of passing storm drains and a fairytale-like soundtrack by Italian synth rockers Goblin, and an undeniable sense of mounting trepidation takes hold.

The result is one of the all-time-great opening sequences in horror cinema – and yet Argento somehow manages to maintain the same level of filmmaking brilliance throughout much of the ensuing 90 minutes.

Fun fact: A remake was released in 2018, directed by Luca Guadagnino, and proved to be a painfully over-long but moderately interesting misfire, with impressive multi-role performances by Tilda Swinton and a dreary soundtrack courtesy of Radiohead whingebag Thom Yorke.

Suspiria (1977)

6) The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)

HAD I compiled this list before 2000, then it is likely The Exorcist would have been comfortably in my top five favourite horror films, if not at the very top of the list.

Having first watched it as an impressionable 15-year-old, my passion for William Friedkin’s box office-busting 1973 horror classic was akin to that of BBC film critic Mark Kermode, who famously considers The Exorcist to be the greatest film ever made.

But then came the release of a ‘director’s cut’ in 2000 – or ‘The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen’ as it was called. Personally, I think of it more as The Version I Wish I’d Never Seen.

For whatever reason (I suspect a wrongheaded attempt to make the film more appealing to younger audiences), Friedkin chose to tamper with his hitherto near-flawless film, inserting random ghostly images into scenes for no discernible purpose, faffing around with the soundtrack and – worst of all – re-instating below-par deleted scenes, among them the notorious ‘spider-walk’ sequence (which, sadly, looks more like it belongs in French and Saunders’ famous Exorcist parody than the film itself).

The result is the equivalent of colourising Laurel and Hardy films or drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa, yet sadly it seems this updated version now takes precedent whenever The Exorcist is shown on TV or re-released in cinemas. Suffice to say, I recommend watching only the untarnished original. Better the devil you know, as they say.

Fun fact: The look of surprise and disgust on the face of Jason Miller (Father Damien Karras) in the infamous vomiting scene is entirely genuine. The ever-considerate Friedkin had assured Miller that the puke/pea soup would hit him in the chest but, unbeknownst to Miller, the director then instructed his special effects team to aim for the actor’s face instead, and they duly obliged.

5) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)

‘IT’S all right for middle-class cineastes to see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but what would happen if a factory worker in Manchester happened to see it?’

The above is a quote by the late James Ferman, former director of the British Board of Film Classification and the censorship-loving bogeyman of British horror fans in the 1980s.

As it is, time has provided us with an answer to Ferman’s hypothetical question. Today, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is readily available for anyone to watch on streaming, DVD or Blu-ray – Manchester factory workers included – and, at the time of writing, no chainsaw-inspired killing sprees have taken place in the UK.

Back in the 1980s, however, Ferman’s hideously condescending attitude was the norm and the great British public were denied the opportunity to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, with the BBFC refusing to grant it a certificate for home video. This despite the film having been lauded by Cannes, the London Film Festival and even the Museum of Modern Art, who bought a print for its permanent collection.

At the time, the typical response of the BBFC when faced with a gory or violent film was to cut out all of the gore and violence (much to the chagrin of filmmakers and horror fans). But this wasn’t an option with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as Ferman himself explained: ‘We tried to cut it… but there are very few on-screen atrocities.’

Here at least, Ferman was right. For all that its exploitative title promises a gruesome bloodbath, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is notably lacking in gore. The film’s body count is relatively low (it is more kerfuffle than massacre) and all but two of the fatalities occur off-screen, with only one involving the eponymous power tool of the title. If you’re squeamish, there is little to turn your stomach.

So why, then, is the film so scary?

Well, because rather than offering run-of-the-mill splatter, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre instead serves up 80 minutes of grinding intensity that yanks you in and refuses to let go until the closing credits (‘this relentless terrorisation’, as Ferman put it).

Despite a paltry budget of less than $300,000, Hooper’s film avoids all of the trappings of low-budget filmmaking, with the director extracting uniformly strong performances from his amateur cast. There is none of the finesse you would expect from seasoned performers, but this only adds to the film’s documentary-like authenticity. You believe that the central characters are genuine friends, rather than a bunch of professional actors playing at being pals. The late Paul A Partain, in particular, is terrific, imbuing the wheelchair-bound Franklin with a wide-eyed temper that makes him seem almost as nutty as the film’s antagonists.

The bad guys are equally well acted, with even the mute, mask-wearing Leatherface (Icelandic actor Gunnar Hansen) given a distinctive personality – and an oddly sympathetic one, too.

The quality of the acting is no doubt partly due to the cast having been made to suffer almost as much as their fictional counterparts. By all accounts, the shoot was unendurably gruelling, with filming coinciding with a mid-summer heat wave across the Deep South, and scenes often taking entire days to complete. When Sally (Marilyn Burns) begs to be released during the unforgettable dinner party sequence, you suspect that her deranged screams and desperate pleading have become all too real.

Along the way, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre steers clear of almost every horror movie cliché, making for a deeply unsettling and unpredictable viewing experience. For instance, when we first meet Leatherface – all 6ft 4in. of him – he calmly and quietly steps out from an open doorway, to the accompaniment of complete silence on the soundtrack.

When the soundtrack does appear, it seems to be in the throes of a devastating nervous breakdown, with bangs, scrapes, shrieks, animalistic squeals and what sounds like someone beating the living daylights out of a washboard. Anyone watching the film with a hand over their eyes would likely hear all of this and imagine all kinds of grisly barbarities unfolding on-screen, which possibly accounts for why so many people remember the film as being far grislier than it actually is.

Fun fact: The initial idea for the film stemmed from a seasonal shopping expedition during which Hooper found himself stuck in the middle of a crowd of shoppers and, upon spotting a nearby display of power tools, began visualising laying waste to the surrounding hordes with a chainsaw.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

4) Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)

FOR all its undeniably effective jack-in-the-box scares, John Carpenter’s hugely influential Halloween – which is to slasher movies what Elvis was to rock ‘n’ roll – is often most frightening in its quieter moments. The early scenes are particularly unsettling, as we see the masked Michael Myers silently appearing in suburban streets, gardens and school playgrounds.

It’s the everyday normality of the daytime setting – and, mask aside, of the man himself – that ultimately makes Carpenter’s film so deeply frightening (a point completely missed by Rob Zombie’s boneheaded remakes and David Gordon Green’s recent reboots).

Fun fact: Although set in Autumn, Halloween was actually shot in the middle of summer. Carpenter and his crew tossed leaves all over the sun-kissed streets to create the required Autumnal atmosphere.

3) Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg)

FOR all that Steven Spielberg has developed as a filmmaker in the years since its release, Jaws remains arguably the director’s finest hour.

A horror-thriller disguised as a family-friendly summer blockbuster, the film consists of one classic scene after another, not to mention several of the most effective jump-scares ever conceived (Ben Gardener’s head, Hooper in the shark cage, ‘Come on down here and chum some of this ****’).

Whereas some filmmakers merely steal, Spielberg has always been adept at borrowing ideas and techniques from other directors and making them his own. The still-shocking sequence in which a little boy is devoured by the shark is a case in point, with Spielberg expertly mimicking Alfred Hitchcock’s sleight of hand and dolly zooms as Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) watches for hungry great white sharks amid a barrage of distractions and false alarms.

The opening scene, meanwhile, is surely the most frightening ever seen in a PG-certificate film, with a young female, Chrissie (Susan Backlinie), going for a late-night swim in the sea and being viciously attacked and eaten.

The scene is all the more disturbing for what we don’t see (i.e. the shark), although what we do see is still pretty horrendous, with Backlinie’s screams horribly convincing – perhaps because, as the former stuntwoman has since revealed, the harness Spielberg and his crew used to thrash her about in the water was genuinely painful.

Fun fact: The malfunctioning mechanical shark – the unreliable nature of which added millions to the film’s budget – was nicknamed ‘Bruce’ by Spielberg and his crew in honour of the director’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer.

Jaws (1975)

2) John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

DIRECTOR John Carpenter created some of the best genre pictures ever made during his 1970s-80s heyday, but it is his adaptation of John W Campbell’s sci-fi-horror novella Who Goes There? that remains the crowning achievement of his career.

A very different beast indeed to Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951), John Carpenter’s The Thing is a terrifying mixture of edge-of-your-seat set-pieces, razor-sharp dialogue and outstanding acting from an ensemble of talented character actors, with Kurt Russell on career-best form as grouchy helicopter pilot RJ MacReady.

Elsewhere, Ennio Morricone delivers a minimalist but powerfully atmospheric score, which is very much in the style of Carpenter’s own self-penned scores, and which does much to heighten the sense of escalating paranoia.

The sound effects are equally effective, with the unearthly shriek of the ‘dog-thing’ proving almost as unsettling as the creature itself (I was first shown The Thing by my babysitting big sister in 1993 and, despite 12-year-old me spending most of the film with my hands over my eyes, the sound effects alone guaranteed I had nightmares for a week).

Of course, no write-up on The Thing would be complete without making reference to Rob Bottin’s never-bettered practical effects, which bring the title character – a murderous extraterrestrial creature capable of masquerading as perfect imitations of other beings – to life in mesmerisingly hideous fashion.

Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.

Fun fact: There are no female characters in John Carpenter’s The Thing, although The Fog star – and Carpenter’s then-wife – Adrienne Barbeau provides the voice of the computerised chess game.

* John Carpenter’s The Thing is showing at Cineworld Jersey on Monday 31 October, 7.30pm

1) The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick)

NOT just the greatest horror film ever made, but the greatest film ever made, period. ‘Nuff said. End of.

Fun fact: There are so many fascinating facts and figures related to Stanley Kubrick’s seminal horror masterwork that it is hard to know where to begin, but there are few better places to start than with film critic Rob Ager’s Collative Learning website: collativelearning.com/the%20shining.html

Danny Lloyd in The Shining (1980)

* Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Is there a scary film that you feel I have overlooked? Write and let me know at togg@jerseyeveningpost.com

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