It's a Horror Classic! - Part 3

by billychess7 | created - 06 May 2012 | updated - 06 May 2012 | Public

They have become cults, unforgettable, they have the gift to be immortals. I could support the opinion that cinema is the descendant of dreams. At the same time, I believe that thrillers are the descendants of nightmares. Here I have collected the 100 horror movies I consider to be the scariest of all time. In this list you might see movies that are more of thrillers and not horror movies. Masterpieces like Se7en or The Silence of the Lambs can be found in police drama thrillers' lists, but here all the maniac serial killers are well welcomed. Science fiction films that cause fear are acceptable. Movies with monsters like King Kong are hardly here because I consider them more of fantasy films. Mystery films that are first of all thrillers have been also put. Sequels? No, only the mot characteristic movie of a series. Remakes? Of course! Sometimes the students get better than the teachers, after all...

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1. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

Not Rated | 122 min | Crime

A new crime wave grips the city and all clues seem to lead to the nefarious Dr. Mabuse, even though he has been imprisoned in a mental asylum for nearly a decade.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke, Gustav Diessl, Rudolf Schündler

Votes: 9,788

Fritz Lang directed this sequel to his nearly four-hour Dr. Mabuse silent of 1922 (often shown in two parts, Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler/The Gambler and Dr. Mabuse: King of Crime). The film opens with Detective Hofmeister (Karl Meixner) spying on the activities of a criminal syndicate. Not realizing he has been seen, Hofmeister is attacked by the thugs and later turns up out of his mind. He is placed in the institution of Professor Baum (Oscar Beregi), who becomes increasingly obsessed with another patient -- the master criminal and hypnotist Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). Baum's assistant, Dr. Kramm (Theodor Loos), connects Mabuse's writings to a series of the syndicate's recent criminal activities, and is murdered for his knowledge by crime lord Hardy (Rudolf Schündler) who takes orders from a hidden Mabuse. Putting all these pieces together is chief investigator Lohmann (Otto Wernicke), whose story plays out simultaneously with that of ex-cop Thomas Kent (Gustav Diessl), a member of the gang who is torn between his need for money and his love for a young woman named Lilli (Wera Liessem). Various clues lead Lohmann to suspect Mabuse's involvement, but when he arrives at the asylum, Baum reveals that Mabuse has died. Meanwhile, Kent's decision to confess to the cops lands himself and Lilli in a room with a hidden bomb. Lohmann traps the gang in a moll's house, leading to a wild shootout. Kent and Lilli escape and race to Lohmann to tell him that Mabuse is behind the crimes. They all race back to the asylum where they discover that Mabuse has taken control of Baum, who sets a monstrous fire at a chemical factory. The mad doctor then leads Lohmann and Kent on a wild car chase back to the asylum where the mystery behind the Baum-Mabuse-Hofmeister connection takes a disturbing turn.

2. The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.

Director: Victor Sjöström | Stars: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm

Votes: 8,025

Also known as Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness, The Phantom Chariot was the most famous of Swedish director Victor Sjöstrom's pre-Hollywood films. Based on a novel by Selma Lagerlöf, the film is predicated on an ancient Scandanavian legend. It is said that each year, on St. Sylvester's Night (New Year's Eve), a phantom chariot materializes to carry off the souls of those who have sinned. On one such occasion, David Holm (played by Sjöstrom) is forced to recall his past misdeeds, especially his brutal treatment of his wife. Holm's only hope for salvation lies in his performing a spectacular act of selflessness. As the chariot approaches, Holm despairs: how can he possibly be redeemed before the clock strikes twelve? Sjöstrom's masterful direction is superbly complemented by Julius Jaenzon's multi-exposure cinematography. When artists like Victor Sjöstrom and Mauritz Stiller were lured away by Hollywood, their exodus very nearly brought the wrath of "The Phantom Chariot" on the entire Swedish film industry.

3. Cat People (1942)

Not Rated | 73 min | Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

An American man marries a Serbian immigrant who fears that she will turn into the cat person of her homeland's fables if they are intimate together.

Director: Jacques Tourneur | Stars: Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph

Votes: 15,914 | Gross: $4.00M

Handed the exploitive title Cat People, RKO producer Val Lewton opted for a thinking man's thriller--a psychological mood piece, more reliant on suspense and suggestion than overt "scare stuff". Simone Simon plays an enigmatic young fashion artist who is curiously affected by the panther cage at the central park zoo. She falls in love with handsome Kent Smith, but loses him to Jane Randolph. After a chance confrontation with a bizarre stranger at a restaurant, Simon becomes obsessed with the notion that she's a Cat Woman--a member of an ancient Serbian tribe that metamorphoses into panthers whenever aroused by jealousy. She begins stalking her rival Randolph, terrifying the latter in the film's most memorable scene, set in an indoor swimming pool at midnight. Psychiatrist Tom Conway scoffs at the Cat Woman legend--until he recoils in horror after kissing Simon. If the film's main set looks familiar, it is because it was built for Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (Lewton later used the same set for his The Seventh Victim). Cat People was remade by director Paul Schrader in 1982.

4. Peeping Tom (1960)

Not Rated | 101 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A young man murders women, using a movie camera to film their dying expressions of terror.

Director: Michael Powell | Stars: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley

Votes: 25,212 | Gross: $0.08M

Michael Powell's controversial meditation on violence and voyeurism effectively destroyed his career when it was first released, but later generations have come to regard it as a masterpiece. Karl Heinz Boehm stars as Mark, the son of a psychologist who kept a video journal of the boy's upbringing for research purposes. The constant intrusions profoundly affected the boy, who grew up to be a photographer himself; but his principal subject matter consists of women whom he murders before the camera. He then runs the films of his victims in their final throes so that he can study their reactions to death--a perverse extension of his father's experiments, which tormented Mark to analyze his reactions to raw fear. The British press had long been hostile to the unorthodox films of Powell and his partner Emeric Pressburger; when Peeping Tom came around, they used the film to castigate him as "sick" and tawdry. The passage of time has proven Peeping Tom as profound and accomplished as any of Powell's earlier films, and it ranks with Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958) as a landmark exploration of the links among voyeurism, violence, and male sexual desire. Powell himself plays the evil father in the flashback sequences, and his son Colomba plays Mark as a child.

5. Diabolique (1955)

Not Rated | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

The wife and mistress of a loathed school principal hatch a plan to murder him while having the perfect alibi. They carry out the plan...but then his body disappears.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot | Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel

Votes: 53,023

The greatest film that Alfred Hitchcock never made, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique is set in a provincial boarding school run by headmaster Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse). A ruthless lothario, he becomes the target of a murder plot concocted by his long-suffering invalid wife Christina (Vera Clouzot, the director's own spouse) and his latest mistress, an icy teacher played by Simone Signoret. A dark, dank thriller with a much-imitated "shock" ending, Diabolique is a masterpiece of Grand Guignol suspense. The simple murder plot goes haywire, and Michel's corpse disappears, prompting strange rumors of his reappearance which grow more and more substantial as the film careens wildly towards its breathless conclusion. Later remade as a greatly inferior 1996 Hollywood feature with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani.

6. Dead of Night (1945)

Approved | 77 min | Horror

An architect senses impending doom as his half-remembered recurring dream turns into reality. The guests at the country house encourage him to stay as they take turns telling supernatural tales.

Directors: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer | Stars: Mervyn Johns, Michael Redgrave, Roland Culver, Mary Merrall

Votes: 8,929

Considered the greatest horror anthology film, the classic British chiller Dead of Night features five stories of supernatural terror from four different directors, yet it ultimately feels like a unified whole. The framing device is simple but unsettling, as a group of strangers find themselves inexplicably gathered at an isolated country estate, uncertain why they have come. The topic of conversation soon turns to the world of dreams and nightmares, and each guest shares a frightening event from his/her own past. Many of these tales have become famous, including Basil Dearden's opening vignette about a ghostly driver with "room for one more" in the back of his hearse. Equally eerie are Robert Hamer's look at a haunted antique mirror that gradually begins to possess its owner's soul, and Alberto Cavalcanti's ghost story about a mysterious young girl during a Christmas party. Legendary Ealing comedy director Charles Crichton lightens the mood with an amusing interlude about the spirit of a deceased golfer haunting his former partner, leaving viewers vulnerable to Cavalcanti's superb and much-imitated closing segment, about a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) slowly driven mad when his dummy appears to come to life. Deservedly acclaimed and highly influential, Dead of Night's episodic structure inspired an entire genre of lesser imitators.

7. Dracula (1931)

Not Rated | 75 min | Fantasy, Horror

The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye

Votes: 38,509

"I am....Drac-u-la. I bid you velcome." Thus does Bela Lugosi declare his presence in the 1931 screen version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Director Tod Browning invests most of his mood and atmosphere in the first two reels, which were based on the original Stoker novel; the rest of the film is a more stagebound translation of the popular stage play by John Balderston and Hamilton Deane. Even so, the electric tension between the elegant Dracula and the vampire hunter Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) works as well on the screen as it did on the stage. And it's hard to forget such moments as the lustful gleam in the eyes of Mina Harker (Helen Chandler) as she succumbs to the will of Dracula, or the omnipresent insane giggle of the fly-eating Renfield (Dwight Frye). Despite the static nature of the final scenes, Dracula is a classic among horror films, with Bela Lugosi giving the performance of a lifetime as the erudite Count (both Lugosi and co-star Frye would forever after be typecast as a result of this film, which had unfortunate consequences for both men's careers). Compare this Dracula to the simultaneously filmed Spanish-language version, which makes up for the absence of Lugosi with a stronger sense of visual dynamics in the lengthy dialogue sequences. In 1999, a special rerelease of Dracula was prepared featuring a new musical score written by Philip Glass and performed by The Kronos Quartet.

8. Les yeux sans visage (1960)

Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Horror

90 Metascore

A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to extremes to give her a new face.

Director: Georges Franju | Stars: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel, Alexandre Rignault

Votes: 20,473 | Gross: $0.05M

French director Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage) is an unsettling, sometimes poetic horror film. Pierre Brasseur plays a brilliant plastic surgeon, Prof. Sereneness, who has vowed to restore the face of his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob), who was mutilated in an automobile accident. With the help of his assistant (Alida Valli), he kidnaps young women, surgically removes their facial features, and attempts to graft their beauty onto his daughter's hideous countenance. This naturally has an adverse effect on the "donors," some of whom commit suicide rather than go through life faceless. Franju's haunting, muted handling of basic horror material is what lifts Eyes Without a Face out of the ordinary and into the realm of near-classic. When the film failed to draw crowds under its original title, however, the distributors decided to exploit it as a two-bit "scare" flick with the new title The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus.

9. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Approved | 69 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A Canadian nurse is hired to care for the wife of a sugar plantation owner, who has been acting strangely, on a Caribbean island.

Director: Jacques Tourneur | Stars: Frances Dee, Tom Conway, James Ellison, Edith Barrett

Votes: 9,070

RKO producer Val Lewton seemed to thrive upon taking the most lurid film titles and coming up with pocket-edition works of art. Saddled with the studio-dictated title I Walked With a Zombie, Lewton, together with scripters Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray, concocted a West Indies variation on Jane Eyre. Trained nurse (Frances Dee) travels to the tropics to care for Christine Gordon, the wife of seemingly abusive Tom Conway. At first, Dee merely believes her patient to be comatose. But as the drums throb and the natives behave restlessly, Dee tries to bring her patient back to life by jungle magic. Conway is racked with guilt, believing himself responsible for his wife's condition; his guilt is stoked by Conway's drunken brother James Ellison, who has always loved Gordon. Utilizing very limited sets and only a handful of extras, director Jacques Tourneur manages to evoke an impression of an expansive tropical island populated at every turn by voodoo worshippers. Many of the sequences, notably Frances Dee's first languid stroll into the midst of the native ceremonies, have an eerie dream-like quality that pervades even the most worn-out, badly processed TV prints of I Walked With Zombie.

10. Braindead (1992)

R | 104 min | Comedy, Horror

54 Metascore

A young man's mother is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. She gets sick and dies, at which time she comes back to life, killing and eating dogs, nurses, friends, and neighbors.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin

Votes: 83,941 | Gross: $0.24M

Director Peter Jackson's second feature cheerfully trumps the gross-out quotient of his splatterfest debut, the appropriately named Bad Taste. The tone is cartoonishly comic, and the premise is simple: The village dweeb (Timothy Balme) is trying to maintain a budding romance with the sweet Paquita (Diana Penalver) while concealing the fact that his overbearing mum (Elizabeth Moody, in an amazing good-sport performance) is a flesh-eating zombie. (She owes her condition to a bite from a "Sumatran Rat Monkey" at the local zoo.) Complicating matters even further is Les, a greedy uncle (Ian Watkin), who suspects that his sister has died and is eager to occupy her elegantly furnished Victorian mansion. The climax is a housewarming party Les throws to celebrate his "inheritance;" what he really gets is his comeuppance, thanks to his sister and her similarly afflicted zombie pals, who burst out of their basement prison to turn the guests into appetizers. Our hero finally cuts a wide swath through the zombie party crashers with the help of a rotary blade lawn mower, leaving the house awash in blood and body parts in order to save his romance.

11. Ringu (1998)

Not Rated | 96 min | Horror, Mystery

A reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed video tape that is rumored to kill the viewer seven days after watching it.

Director: Hideo Nakata | Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi, Hitomi Satô

Votes: 56,008

While there have been many slasher and monster films that shock us with excessive gore, few recent horror films actually create that overwhelming sense of terror that stays with us long after the film has finished. Japanese director Hideo Nakata ’s Ring is a rare exception, making it one of the most frightening films since The Shining. While investigating the sudden death of a group of students, reporter Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa) discovers a cursed videocassette. Watching the video, she then receives a phone call telling her she will die in exactly a week. After having discovered that this is also how the students had died, Nanako reluctantly enlists the help of her ex-husband to track down the source of the tape. Rather than resorting to sudden surprises or gruesome effects, Ring slowly builds in tension and dread by not only exploiting our fear of the unknown, but by exploiting the terror of everyday things taking on unfamiliar meanings. The steady camera work, restrained performances, long silences and macabre sound design all combine to generate the nightmarish sensation of an uneasiness that cannot be explained, only experienced. Refreshingly free of social metaphor or self-parody Ring is proudly content to simply be an incredibly scary film.

12. Poltergeist (1982)

PG | 114 min | Horror, Thriller

79 Metascore

A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight

Votes: 121,407 | Gross: $76.61M

The story, conceived and written by Steven Spielberg, and directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) tells the story of a home salesman (Craig T. Nelson) and his family living in one of his developer's own original houses who begin to experience strange occurrences, each pointing to a supernatural incursion of some kind. The film opens as the Star Spangled Banner plays off the nightly television program before shifting to "snow". Young Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke) walks up to the television settles down in front of the static and begins quietly conversing with the strange entity within, an entity that neither the audience, nor her family can see. From there, several strange things begin happening, chairs will be pushed out from the table even though they were previously pushed in, then later those same chairs will be found balanced in a precarious stack on the table even though the mother (JoBeth Williams) had her back turned for only a second. Other intensely creepy events take place before Carol Ann is sucked into the closet while her brother is being pulled out through a window and eaten by a large, hollow tree in the backyard. The Freelings bring in an expert in such phenomena (Beatrice Straight) who, along with her associates, come to the conclusion that their house is haunted and that only one person can help save Carol Ann: a diminutive psychic (Zelda Rubinstein) who must convince the Freelings to listen to her instructions or face losing their daughter forever. This is a film whose visual effects are truly special, unlike the excessive abuses in most modern films, Poltergeist uses its chilling effects so well that it's difficult at times to tell where some of them begin and end. And despite being nearly 30 years old, the film's effects hold up amazingly well, the closing scene with the house being pulled into an extra-dimensional speck is quite impressive. Other effects feel dated, but they are entirely in service to the film, something a lot of new filmmakers should learn. The performances aren't great, but they serve the plot quite well. O'Rourke was a talented discovery whose death in 1988 at the age of 12 sent shockwaves through audiences who had cherished her in this film. That and the earlier murder of actress Dominique Dunne (who played her older sister in the film) led to several speculations that her involvement in the Poltergeist films led to her passing, all of which have been debunked for years now. Had she lived, she might have followed a similar career trajectory to Dakota or Elle Fanning. While some of the film's conceits are firmly rooted in the '80s (television hasn't gone off the air at night in more than a decade), there is still a timeless quality to the film's format. It's a engaging thriller that relies less on grossing the audience out and more on terrifying them. And in a decade where horror films perfected the slasher milieu, Poltergeist stands out further as an example of how horror could still scare audiences even if there aren't buckets of blood on the screen.

13. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Horror

60 Metascore

Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, Griffin Dunne

Votes: 76,881 | Gross: $30.57M

While wandering the English moors on vacation, college yanks David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) happen upon a quaint pub with a mysterious patronage who warn them not to leave the road when walking after dark. Irreverent of such advice as characters in horror films always are, the two decide to find a short cut....David wakes up in the hospital with a nasty bite wound to his shoulder; the freshly deceased, and rapidly decomposing, Jack arrives soon after to deliver the grim news that, unless he commits suicide, David will become a werewolf when the moon is full. David dismisses the encounter as a hallucination, but all indicators point to lycanthrope; evenings of barking and bloodletting follow closely behind. While the story is thin and much of the tongue-in-cheek humor is overdone, there are plenty of genuine jolts thanks to makeup guru Rick Baker's eye-popping special effects. The werewolf, resembling a cross between a bear and a wolverine, appears frighteningly real, and, given the fantastic premise, the gore is most convincing (although surprisingly and refreshingly scant). The hospital dream sequences are creative, and the scenes in which the werewolf runs rampant through downtown London are particularly good. In all, An American Werewolf in London is an original, atmospheric film that manages both to scare and amuse. While dismissed by most American critics upon its release, the film managed to secure a place in the annals of American cinema when Baker won an Academy Award for his amazing effects and creature designs.

14. 28 Days Later... (2002)

R | 113 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.

Director: Danny Boyle | Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Alex Palmer

Votes: 331,436 | Gross: $45.06M

Animal rights activists free a group of infected chimpanzees to horrifying results in this speculative sci-fi horror effort from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle. Waking from a coma in a deserted London hospital 28 days later, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) takes to the deserted city streets in a state of mystified confusion. Joining forces with another group of survivors following a terrifying encounter in a seemingly abandoned church, Jim soon learns the truth behind the deserted streets and the menacing creatures that lurk in the shadows. It's soon revealed that the chimpanzees had been harboring a deadly virus that sends its victims into a furious, murderous rage, and in the days following the initial exposure, the entire population was nearly wiped out due to the resulting homicidal rampage. Is there still a glimmer of hope for humanity -- or has the deadly "rage" virus found its way to foreign shores and infected the entire planet?

15. Antichrist (2009)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, Horror

49 Metascore

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage, but nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm

Votes: 100,574 | Gross: $0.40M

This enormously controversial psychodrama-cum-horror film from Danish enfant terrible Lars von Trier charts the degeneration of a marriage into apocalyptic violence, chaos, and insanity following an unthinkable domestic tragedy. The film opens with a prologue. While they make love in their apartment on a snowy winter afternoon, a husband and wife known only as "He" and "She" (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) fail to keep an eye on their young toddler. In a horrific turn of events, the child wanders over to an open window, entranced by the snow cascading down, and falls two stories to his death. Von Trier then divides the remainder of the film into four chapters, beginning with "Grief." In that segment, the woman finishes a month's hospitalization, and accuses her husband of apathy over the child's death, but proceeds to take responsibility for it herself; he calmly and rationally guides her through this process. In the second segment, "Pain," she confesses to him that she's most terrified of their property in the forest, because she spent time with her son there over the preceding summer; as a form of therapy, he takes her to that locale on a wilderness retreat. She appears to grow more calm and rational over their first days in that milieu. Yet the recovery, it seems, was only illusory, and the subsequent two chapters, "Despair (Gynocide)" and "The Three Beggars," depict the woman's shocking and abrupt regression into unbridled insanity, culminating with grotesque sexual violence against herself, gruesome acts of destruction against her husband, and an apocalyptic climax.

16. The Last Wave (1977)

PG | 106 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

85 Metascore

A Sydney lawyer defends five Aborigines in a ritualized taboo murder and in the process learns disturbing things about himself and premonitions.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil, Frederick Parslow

Votes: 7,321

Peter Weir follows up on his critically acclaimed masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock with this surrealist psychological drama. The film opens with a freak hailstorm in Australia's outback. Cut to David Burton (Richard Chamberlain), a well-to-do Sydney corporate lawyer plagued by visions of impending doom who is assigned to defend five accused of murdering a fellow Aborigine. The case itself proves to be mysterious -- no exact cause of death can be determined by the pathologist, and the accused remain strangely tight-lipped about the whole affair. As his visions grow increasingly weird and intense, Burton sees in his dream one of the five Aborigines, Chris (David Gulpili of Walkabout fame), who is drenched and clutching a sacred rock. Burton's interest in the case slides into complete obsession, and he comes to believe that not only was the murder related to an underground urban tribe of Aborigines but that Australia is about to be decimated by a massive, apocalyptic tidal wave.

17. The Sixth Sense (1999)

PG-13 | 107 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

64 Metascore

A boy who communicates with spirits seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan | Stars: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams

Votes: 802,420 | Gross: $293.51M

A terrific last-minute story twist goes a fair way toward redeeming "The Sixth Sense," a mostly ponderous tale of paranormal communication across the River Styx. Moody, low-key and semi-pretentious effort is ominous without being scary or suspenseful for most of its running time, but the positioning of a child at the center of otherworldly goings-on has worked many times before, and combo of the theme's proven appeal, Bruce Willis' presence and the promise of more thrills than it actually delivers (a la "The Haunting") could spell sleeper status for this late-summer Buena Vista release. "The Sixth Sense" is an odd film in that it's borderline dull to sit through but, because of the revelation of its ending, is actually rather interesting to think about afterward, and could conceivably be more rewarding to watch a second time in light of what one knows after seeing it once. Few pictures have had their effectiveness hinge so completely upon information withheld until the last moment, which is not a particularly recommended way to construct a movie but undeniably gives people something to chew over after the fact. Ten-minute prologue has the Philadelphia home of child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Willis) and his wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), broken into by a mental case (Donnie Wahlberg) who, after accusing the doctor of having failed him, shoots Malcolm before turning the gun on himself. The following autumn, the slowly recovering Malcolm takes an interest in the case of an 8-year-old boy, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), the unusually bright son of sorely taxed single mother Lynn (Toni Collette). Through the accretion of small details revealed with aggravating tediousness in one sluggish reel after another, Cole is presented as a kid obsessed with toy soldiers and religious figures, prone to violent free-association writing, victimized by divorce trauma , able to envision what happened in certain places years before and, most crucial, capable of seeing and hearing the dead. This news, which comes halfway through, is scarcely surprising but slightly enlivens matters, which until then have largely been concerned with Malcolm's ineffectual attempts to get the guarded kid to open up to him. Malcolm seems to have been so shaken by his shooting that he has little confidence in his professional abilities, and things aren't any better on the domestic front, as the preoccupied doc suspects that his lovely wife may be having an affair. Gradually, Cole's visions increase --- people hanging from the rafters of his school, which used to be a prison, a kid with the back of his head blown away, a teenage girl from the neighborhood dying. Often, as in "The Haunting," the presence of ghosts is indicated by frosty breath, and James Newton Howard's score effectively builds and sustains a threatening mood. But Philadelphia-based writer-director M. Night Shyamalan ("Praying With Anger," "Wide Awake") keeps the dramatic temperature low throughout, an approach that attempts to make mood and state-of-mind the content of the film but that results, on a moment-by-moment basis, in a lot of downtime. Acting is in tune with the overall sense of understatement. Osment, who played Forrest Gump Jr., is the standout here, reminding with his straight-faced intelligence of some exceptional British moppet thesps over the years. Willis is at his most subdued, which for long periods makes it look like he's sleepwalking through the role but in the end makes a lot of sense. Williams and Collette are OK in the seriously circumscribed female parts. Production values are serviceable.

18. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

87 Metascore

A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 481,519 | Gross: $260.00M

Based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark saga set the standard for the New Hollywood popcorn blockbuster while frightening millions of moviegoers out of the water. One early summer night on fictional Atlantic resort Amity Island, Chrissie decides to take a moonlight skinny dip while her friends party on the beach. Yanked suddenly below the ocean surface, she never returns. When pieces of her wash ashore, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) suspects the worst, but Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), mindful of the lucrative tourist trade and the approaching July 4th holiday, refuses to put the island on a business-killing shark alert. After the shark dines on a few more victims, the Mayor orders the local fishermen to catch the culprit. Satisfied with the shark they find, the greedy Mayor reopens the beaches, despite the warning from visiting ichthyologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) that the attacks were probably caused by a far more formidable Great White. One more fatality later, Brody and Hooper join forces with flinty old salt Quint (Robert Shaw), the only local fisherman willing to take on a Great White--especially since the price is right. The three ride off on Quint's boat "The Orca," soon coming face to teeth with the enemy.

19. Funny Games (1997)

Not Rated | 108 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

69 Metascore

Two violent young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic "games" with one another for their own amusement.

Director: Michael Haneke | Stars: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering

Votes: 52,280

"Funny Games" finds Austrian auteur Michael Haneke again chastising our materialistic society for breeding huge amounts of decadence, dehumanization, and spiritual death, especially among the bourgeoisie, which is too busy plugging away at its dubious pleasures to realize that its collective soul has been slaughtered and buried as definitively as the hapless thief in "The Well," the disappointing Samantha Lang movie that showed here the other day. Haneke's heroes are a middle-class family on vacation in their lakeside hideaway, where they are visited, tormented, and eventually killed by two men whose crisp young faces and hypocritically polite manners recall the Nazi thugs who ravaged Europe not so long ago. (A friend pointed out the Nazi critique to me in a conversation shortly after the screening; since then I've found that some other people see the movie itself as an echo of fascism--a provocative perspective, although I don't agree with it.) As in Haneke's earlier "Benny's Video" and (less directly) "The Seventh Continent," the target here is not only contemporary materialism and self-satisfaction, but also modern media--symbolized by a mobile phone that refuses to function dependably, and brought directly into the narrative by a few surprising moments (and one that's downright astonishing) when a character manipulates the action (and us in the audience) as a self-aware part of the fiction. In all, the movie is sadistic, insufferable, clever, and relentlessly compelling. See it if you dare.

20. Don't Look Now (1973)

R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.

Director: Nicolas Roeg | Stars: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania

Votes: 39,670

A superbly chilling essay in the supernatural, adapted from Daphne du Maurier's short story about a couple, shattered by the death of their small daughter, who go to Venice to forget. There, amid the hostile silences of an off-season resort, they are approached by a blind woman with a message of warning from the dead child; and half- hoping, half-resisting, they are sucked into a terrifying vortex of time where disaster may be foretold but not forestalled. Conceived in Roeg's usual imagistic style and predicated upon a series of ominous associations (water, darkness, red, shattering glass), it's hypnotically brilliant as it works remorselessly toward a sense of dislocation in time; an undermining of all the senses, in fact, perfectly exemplified by Sutherland's marvellous Hitchcockian walk through a dark alley where a banging shutter, a hoarse cry, a light extinguished at a window, all recur as in a dream, escalating into terror the second time round because a hint of something seen, a mere shadow, may have been the dead child.

21. The Thing (1982)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

57 Metascore

A crew in Antarctica finds a neighboring camp destroyed and its crew dead. Whatever killed them is nowhere to be found, unless it's hidden in plain sight.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur

Votes: 309,040 | Gross: $13.78M

John Carpenter's The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. story "Who Goes There?" on which it was based. Carpenter's film is more faithful to Campbell's story than Hawks' version and also substantially more reliant on special effects, provided in abundance by a team of over 40 technicians, including veteran creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. The film opens enigmatically with a Siberian Husky running through the Antarctic tundra, chased by two men in a helicopter firing at it from above. Even after the dog finds shelter at an American research outpost, the men in the helicopter (Norwegians from an outpost nearby) land and keep shooting. One of the Norwegians drops a grenade and blows himself and the helicopter to pieces; the other is shot dead in the snow by Garry (Donald Moffat), the American outpost captain. American helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell, fresh from Carpenter's Escape From New York) and camp doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) fly off to find the Norwegian base and discover some pretty strange goings-on. The base is in ruins, and the only occupants are a man frozen to a chair (having cut his own throat) and the burned remains of what could be one man or several men. In a side room, Copper and MacReady find a coffin-like block of ice from which something has been recently cut. That night at the American base, the Husky changes into the Thing, and the Americans learn first-hand that the creature has the ability to mutate into anything it kills. For the rest of the film the men fight a losing (and very gory) battle against it, never knowing if one of their own dwindling number is the Thing in disguise. Though resurrected as a cult favorite, The Thing failed at the box office during its initial run, possibly because of its release just two weeks after Steven Spielberg's warmly received E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial. Along with Ridley Scott's futuristic Alien, The Thing helped stimulate a new wave of sci-fi horror films in which action and special effects wizardry were often seen as ends in themselves.

22. Repulsion (1965)

Not Rated | 105 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

91 Metascore

A sex-repulsed woman who disapproves of her sister's boyfriend sinks into depression and has horrific visions of rape and violence.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux

Votes: 40,884

One of the first books to take a significant critical look at the horror genre was Ivan Butler’s Horror in the Cinema, which was published as part of Paperback Library’s “International Film Guide Series” in 1967. Butler was one of a few critics willing to take the genre seriously at that time, arguing that “even the commercial Horror Film itself, abused and degraded though it may often be, is a thriving country in the world of film, and at its best, made with integrity, artistry, enthusiasm and cinematic skill, is worthy of consideration and respect.” From that standpoint, it is interesting to note Butler’s chapter breakdown, as he divides the book among various subcategories such “The Macabre in the Silent Cinema,” “Dracula and Frankenstein,” and “British Horror.” Several filmmakers get entire chapters dedicated to their work, including Val Lewton, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Roger Corman, but there are only two chapters of the twelve that focus on a single film: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, that latter of which Butler describes as “a film of such complexity and subtlety that an entire book could be written about it” (Butler never went that far, but he did write a subsequent book on Polanski). It is hard to disagree with Butler’s assessment of Polanski’s sophomore feature, especially for admirers of the horror genre who recognize that so many horror films are cheap and easy, settling for simple scares and lazy gross-out moments. In the history of horror, Repulsion is a landmark, a film that helped to re-establish the primordial power of the genre and its thematic and emotional complexities. After the 1950s had turned horror into something of a joke via teen-cheapie drive-in staples and Abbott and Costello comedies, the 1960s was a decade of reinvention, starting with Psycho and culminating with Repulsion and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), three psychologically dense, visually inventive, and thematically rich explorations of what scares us most, which always amounts to some drastic collapse of what we consider “normal.” Repulsion is in many ways the most complex and demanding of these films, particularly in the way it denies any kind of explanation for what happens during its taut 105 minutes. Rather, Polanski and his longtime co-screenwriter Gerard Brach drop us at the beginning of a psychological meltdown, which they then follow relentlessly, refusing to allow the audience a moment of respite from the addled perspective of the mentally crumbling heroine, a French-Belgian girl living in London named Carole Ledoux. Carole is played by the Catherine Deneuve, who at the time was a rising star in her native France, but was generally unknown in English-language cinema, which gives her a kind of beautiful anonymity that makes her eventual breakdown all the more shocking and perplexing. Carole, who is almost pathologically shy and reserved (not to mention sexually repressed), lives in a flat with her older sister Hélène (Yvonne Furneaux), a sultry and outgoing brunette who is engaged in an affair with a married man (Ian Hendry). When she and her boyfriend go on holiday in Italy for a week, Carole is left alone, and her mental state quickly begins to deteriorate, which Polanski depicts with riveting intensity, taking us deep inside her experience of hallucinations, paranoia, and dread. Shot in stark black and white by Gilbert Taylor, an industry veteran who had recently shot Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and would go on to shoot Hitchcock ’s Frenzy (1972), as well as Star Wars (1977), Repulsion is first and foremost an intensely experiential film, bringing literal physicality to mental and emotional fissures. Polanski draws us in with an escalating cascade of sounds and images, beginning with small strange noises and the odd appearance of cracks in the walls that first-time viewers will easily dismiss. As time moves forward, marked by both growth (a pile of sprouting potatoes on the kitchen counter) and decay (a skinned rabbit slowly rotting on the table), those cracks start getting larger, and the strange sounds develop into a cacophony of what sounds like distorted human screaming. Carole is overwhelmed with images of an unseen assailant attacking her in her bed and dozens of arms materializing from the walls and groping her. When outsiders attempt to come into the apartment, including a lecherous landlord (Patrick Wymark) and a young man (John Fraser) who has been unsuccessfully trying to date Carole, her paranoia turns homicidal. Yet, throughout the film Polanski refuses to turn Carole into a simple monster, which is why Repulsion is such a progressive horror film, one that cuts through the simple and comforting categories of good and evil. The film is frightening precisely because we are thrown directly into Carole’s mindscape, and we see virtually everything through her eyes. Thus, Carole’s fears are our fears; we jump as she does when the cracks, increasingly massive, suddenly appear in the walls; we feel disoriented when the living room is inexplicably larger than it was; and we feel the horrors of suffocation when she is attacked in her bed. Polanski was only 32 at the time he made Repulsion, and he had directed only one other film, the Polish thriller Knife in the Water (1962), which had earned him significant international acclaim and opened doors for him to make films in other countries. Not surprisingly, Repulsion, which was made on a low budget for a small British production company known mainly for making soft-core porn, solidified the promise that he was one of the most artistically inventive and thematically daring of young filmmakers. And, while many have attempted to copy his remarkable achievement in Repulsion, no one has done it better.

23. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

R | 81 min | Horror, Mystery

81 Metascore

Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez | Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard, Bob Griffin

Votes: 208,223 | Gross: $140.54M

Combining Hi-8 video with black-and-white 16 mm film, this film presents a raw look at what can happen when college students forego common sense and enter the world of voodoo and witchcraft. Presented as a straightforward documentary, the film opens with a title card explaining that in 1994, three students went into the Maryland back woods to do a film project on the Blair Witch incidents. These kids were never seen again, and the film you are about to see is from their recovered equipment, found in the woods a year later. The entire movie documents their adventures leading up to their final minutes. The Blair Witch incident, as we initially learn from the local town elders, is an old legend about a group of witches who tortured and killed several children many years ago. Everyone in town knows the story and they're all sketchy on the details. Out in the woods and away from their parked car (and civilization), what starts as a school exercise turns into a nightmare when the three kids lose their map. Forced to spend extra days finding their way out, the kids then start to hear horrific sounds outside their tents in the pitch-black middle of night. They also find strange artifacts from (what can only be) the Blair Witch, still living in the woods. Frightened, they desperately try to find their way out of the woods, with no luck. Slowly these students start to unravel, knowing they have no way of getting out, no food, and it's getting cold. Each night they are confronted with shrieking and sounds so haunting that they are convinced someone is following them, and they quickly begin to fear for their lives. The film premiered in the midnight movie section at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

24. The Fog (1980)

R | 89 min | Horror, Thriller

52 Metascore

An unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in its waters.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman

Votes: 53,100 | Gross: $21.38M

Following the phenomenal box-office success of his seminal horror classic Halloween, director John Carpenter teamed up with producer Debra Hill for a second independent horror project, this time in the mode of an old-fashioned ghost story. The end result was The Fog, a spooky romp about a dark secret that returns to haunt the Pacific fishing community of Antonio Bay on the 100th anniversary of the town's charter. Carpenter sets the mood in the film's prologue, which features grizzled old sea salt Mr. Machen (John Houseman) spinning ghost stories for a group of local children. For his final tale, he recounts the legend of the Elizabeth Dane -- a ship which crashed 100 years ago against the very rocks upon which the children are sitting. Meanwhile, as the clock strikes midnight on the fateful anniversary of that disaster, eerie phenomena begin to plague the town as a dense fog bank creeps toward the bay. Seeming to appear from nowhere and emitting a ghostly glow, the fog surrounds a small trawler filled with drunken fishermen, who glimpse the vague outline of a decrepit sailing vessel before being brutally killed by shadowy figures brandishing hooks and swords. That morning, news of their disappearance is relayed to the town by Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), owner and operator of the local radio station. The news reaches the wife of one of the fishermen, city councilwoman Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) and local boy Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), who takes a trip out to the abandoned boat to investigate, accompanied by teenage drifter Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis). As the day progresses, a grim series of events paints a decidedly unpleasant picture of Antonio Bay's founders, and foreshadows the ghostly retribution that awaits the town's present-day residents. When Mrs. Williams visits local priest Fr. Malone (Hal Holbrook) about a benediction for that night's centennial ceremony, he relates a ghastly tale discovered in his grandfather's journal, which details the town fathers' decision to murder a group of lepers who had planned to build a commune outside of Antonio Bay. Just as the night's proceedings are haunted by the horrors of the past, the ghosts of the murdered dead have returned to seek symbolic revenge by claiming the lives of six townspeople, arriving amid the ominous fog bank which has completely engulfed Antonio Bay. Carpenter reportedly shot and inserted additional gory scenes after the original 'PG' cut failed to impress preview audiences.

25. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

PG | 107 min | Horror

Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to Wismar, spreading the Black Plague across the land. Only a woman pure of heart can bring an end to his reign of horror.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, Roland Topor

Votes: 26,990

For Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 silent horror-fest Nosferatu, star Klaus Kinski adopts the same makeup style used by Murnau's leading man Max Schreck. Yet in the Herzog version, the crucial difference is that Nosferatu becomes more and more decayed and desiccated as the film progresses. Essentially a retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nosferatu the Vampyre traces the blood-sucking progress of the count as he takes over a small German village, then attempts to spread his influence and activities to the rest of the world. All that prevents Dracula from continuing his demonic practices is the self-sacrifice of Lucy Harker, played by Isabelle Adjani. Director Werner Herzog used the story to parallel the rise of Nazism. The film was lensed in the Dutch towns of Delft and Scheiberg. Nosferatu the Vampyre was filmed in both an English and a German-speaking version; the latter runs 11 minutes longer.