Horror movies. You either love 'em or you hate 'em.
I happen to enjoy flicks whose sole missions are to terrify the everliving crap out of me. Extra points if they accomplish their frights without using jump scares -- a cheap tool that I believe ruins others chances of enjoying the movie, especially first-time horror watchers.
Since Halloween will be here before you know it, I've compiled a short list of films I think you should watch before October ends. Be advised, I do not consider these movies to be the undisputed best in the genre, so don't throw a fit if your favorite didn't make the cut.
The movies included in this list were chosen for their significance in the horror genre itself, as well as their scare factor, special effects, filmmaking prowess and overall greatness. I also wanted to cover all kinds of horror movies. So don't be surprised to see blood and gore mixed in with a classic by Alfred Hitchcock.
In fact, that's a good place to start...
He's called the "Master of Suspense" for a reason, you know. Hitchcock's 1960 masterpiece still holds up to this day thanks to its performances, camerawork and recognizable score. "Psycho" is considered the birth of the slasher genre and is partly responsible for inspiring other big names in the genre like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Halloween." While it's gore is certainly tamer than other films on this list, "Psycho" is not to be overlooked. It doesn't get more classic than that.
DAWN OF THE DEAD
I was this close to adding the horror-comedy "Shaun of the Dead" to this list as my go-to zombie movie, but I have to give props to the late George A. Romero. Some may say "Night of the Living Dead" is his masterwork (and they'd probably be right in saying that), but "Dawn of the Dead" remains as entertaining as ever with its outrageously gruesome special effects and compelling social satire. Romero earns his title as "The Father of the Zombie Film."
WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE
What's a horror movie binge without a Wes Craven flick? And although I do enjoy the humor and awesome effects from the earlier "Nightmare on Elm Street" films, I gotta give it to "New Nightmare" for its creativity and meta commentary and for reigniting Freddy Krueger has a brutal horror villain. Funny Freddy in "Dream Warriors" is great and all, but he was given new levels of terror in "New Nightmare." And it's one of those horror movies that instantly sparks a conversation the moment it's over.
For a long time, I have been skeptical of supernatural horror movies. Many seem to be downright awful or get turned into stale, one-note horror franchises (ahem, "Paranormal Activity"). But the past few years have been kind to this subgenre of horror with "The Conjuring" series and "The Babadook" being some of the more standout titles. But the one that has impressed me the most is "The Witch." How do you make a period piece scary? Make early colonial settlers go crazy with paranoia with tales of witchcraft and offer no reprieve for those characters. And you're along for the ride.
I struggled choosing between "Alien" and "The Thing" as my sci-fi horror selection. As much as I love "The Thing," there's no beating the original "Alien" with it iconic creature created by H.R. Giger. The Academy Award winning effects still hold up well -- and so do the scares. The chest bursting scene, the Xenomorph lurking in the dark and the first introduction to the facehugger still fill my brain with nightmares. Coupled with a unique landscape and its dedication to realism, "Alien" can be extremely frightening. The film is a critic's darling to this day. After watching it, you'll understand why.
Many might not consider this famed Steven Spielberg film a true example of horror, but I disagree. "Jaws" has all the horror tropes: thrilling instances of paranoia, bits of gore and scenes that clearly elicit fear, as well as a boat-load of horrible sequels. Considered the first blockbuster, "Jaws" became a pivotal landmark in movie history -- and likely made waves of audience members afraid of the ocean. "Jaws" still has that B-movie feel, but that shouldn't dissuade horror fans. Best of all, it's still just as entertaining as both a popcorn flick and a movie with depth. Quint's Indianapolis speech is just as provoking.
C'mon. This list wouldn't be complete without John Carpenter (yet another reason why I knew I would have to keep "The Thing" off this list). "Halloween" is by no means one of those "sophisticated" horror movies; in fact, it's rather simplistic with its approach: a crazed killer is on the loose. Sure Michael Myers' backstory gives the film and his character a little more depth, but "Halloween" is unapologetically fun. Directed and scored brilliantly by Carpenter, the movie is notable for inciting fear by barely depicting any real gruesome scenes or blood of any kind. A horror movie without much blood? Huh? It works surprisingly well. What better movie is there to watch this Halloween than... well... "Halloween?"