To close out this fine spook season, it only seems right that we focus on the positive – the best of the best, the horror movies that have meant the very most to us over the years, and the ones that we adore the most. This won’t be a smug critics list of the very best of oblique, pretentious horror that you’ve never heard of before – no, this is just going to be a truthful look at the horror which, at this particular moment in time, means the most to me. Ask me next week, and I’ll come up with ten different answers – but for now, in this moment, let me share my very favourite horror movies with you.
An American Werewolf in London
Horror, to me, is a connection to my dad. It’s always been one of the major things we’ve shared (once I grew out of being scared by the Bear in the Big Blue House, that is), and so, a lot of my favourite horror movies are ones that I’ve inherited from him. An American Werewolf in London was one of the first he handed down to me, and it’s still one of my total comfort-watches: it’s funny, it’s inventive, it’s scary, it has a fabulous soundtrack, and everything about it hits this pitch-perfect tone that makes me feel warm and fuzzy (not in the “covered by an inhuman wolf pelt as part of my monstrous transformation” way, but you know). This is the mark against which all other werewolf movies are judged, and honestly, I’ve yet to find one that matches up since.
The Blair Witch Project
If American Werewolf is a comfort watch, The Blair Witch Project is a dis-comfort watch. Another one that was passed down to me by my dad, back when we lived in the middle of nowhere surrounded by acres of woods that seemed to contain multitudes, this found footage classic is simply just a sublimely brilliant chunk of horror cinema. Many have come for its crown, but the original is always the best, and The Blair Witch Project still lands its brilliant scares and painfully ratcheting tension twenty years later.
When I was growing up, there weren’t many films that I deeply related to – films that I loved, yes, but none that seemed to actually reach out to me in a way that mattered. Excision, back in 2012, was one of the first which really seemed to delve into me in a way that I connected with. Gory, gross, sexy, funny, and totally twisted, it’s an underrated horror coming-of-age story that elevates the usual teen-girl horror into territory so extreme and parodic that it comes back around to being downright brilliant again.
The Loved Ones
This just in: No But Listen is an exclusive The Loved Ones stan blog from this point onward. Yes, I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about this movie over the last few months, but damn, there’s a reason for that, you know? I imprinted on this movie the moment I was able to sit through the hideous horror within, and I still have this connection to it that feels distinctly fond despite the, you know, obvious horribleness. Sean Byrne, please, for the love of fuck, make more movies!
The Cabin in the Woods
I saw this movie the summer of 2012, when it first came out, as I was taking a turn into the die-hard horror fandom and realizing just how much I loved this genre. And then I saw it again. And again. And then I took my dad to see it, and then I watched it with everyone that I’ve ever shared a bottle of wine with since. The Cabin in the Woods is a film for horror fans, and a brilliant one at that – for me, it dropped at the perfect time, and showed me just how welcome I was in this fandom, and just how much more there was for me to explore of it.
The Japanese classic Ju-On is, for my money, one of the downright shit-scariest films I’ve ever seen. That’s it, that’s why it’s on the list. Brutal, brilliant, and genuinely terrifying, I couldn’t leave this off the list, because it’s always one that I’d reccommend to someone looking to get their true horror spook on. It’s high-art horror, a haunted house story with an ice-cold heart and an unapologetically unfair central engine. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it with the lights on.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Paris Hilton says “cunt” in this movie! What more could you want? Look, I understand that Darren Lyn Bousman’s horror-opera isn’t for everyone – my own dear and darling co-editor being one of those for whom it is not -but I adore it. I love musicals, I love a little emo fantasy, and I love Bill Moseley more than is healthy for an adult woman: this movie has it all. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, but God, it’s my taste. I still know all the words to most of the songs. Ask me to sing them next time you see me. I will happily oblige.
Final Destination 5
The snob in me doesn’t want to put this film on this list. But I must, I must! If you asked me to watch this movie at any given time on any given day, I would say yes, and that’s got to count for something. It was the first horror movie I ever really watched in the cinema, and I’ve been a hardcore stan ever since: this is just the noughties mos deranged franchise at its most unhingedly mad, and I always have time for that. I can still remember punching my ticket for this one and going into the near-empty cinema in the middle of the night with my best friend to watch this strange fever-dream of a prequel, and for that, it will always have a place on this list.
You know, I thought a lot about whether or not I wanted to put this on the list, because it’s relatively new and I haven’t had time to let it fully sink in as a favourite yet. But Us is one of those films that I distinctly remember seeing, and being so grateful for when I did. It came out when my partner was in a psychiatric hospital (smuggling out handwritten op-eds about Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk for No But Listen), and, after a couple of weeks of running back and forth to this distant hospital to see him, no idea when he would get out or how he would be when he did, I took myself to see this at the cinema. I can still remember sitting there in the dark and having a good cry at just how beautiful it all was, what a relief it was to get lost to film once more when everything else felt way scarier than the horror I usually found solace in. Us is a fantastic film no matter what way you slice (heh) it, but it has a special place in my heart for being a fucked-up little refuge when I needed it most.
Possum is about the only film on this list that I wouldn’t jump to watch again, and maybe the objective best on it, too. I’m obsessed with Matthew Holness’ bizarre horror psychodrama, a woozy and disturbing excavation of childhood trauma through the medium of puppets. I said that you shouldn’t watch this movie, but hey, if you can stand it – it’s one of the best you’ll ever see.
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Mental Floss)