• The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

    1.The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

    ★★★★★

    I find it hard to know where to begin. The most important thing is how visceral and brutal this film is. It's a horror film. It should effect some form of fear, horror, or disturbance. There are a few jump-scares (the best ever, in fact, in that first death) and some gross-out moments (anything involving a meathook) and an excellent setting that has creepiness pervading it (you can almost feel the heat of east Texas in those golden and sanguine hues).

    But fundamentally, this is a film that is disturbing. It takes a relatively simple concept--what it must feel like to wait in line to be slaughtered--and amplifies it to the most nightmarish level. I've always been unnerved by scenes where someone awaits execution, especially if they are seeing others go first (concentration camps and firing squads are particularly awful). In the infamous dinner scene in TXCSM, our heroine watches her own fate over and over again as a feeble grandfather fails to crush her skull.

    They literally take moments of survival and make them more horrific than the alternative. It can be scary. It can fill you with dread. But for me, it just makes me squirm. It's sheer…

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  • House

    2.House

    ★★★★★

    The most common description of this film is "insane." It's ostensibly a haunted house film, and there's nothing in it to contradict that. But the manner of the haunting is so utterly and completely off-the-wall and actually quite cartoonish that merely calling this a haunted house film is a disservice.

    House (or Hausu, to more readily differentiate it from another haunted house film), is a brightly colored, psychedelic jaunt into Hell. The film establishes our heroines, focusing on our lead protagonist, but giving us a rough idea of each of the girls if by nothing else than their descriptive names.

    In three notable scenes, it lets us know that the tone of this film will not be one of sheer horror, but one of schizophrenic madness. We see our heroine Gorgeous discuss her situation with her father. The background is a sterling cloudscape, and everything seems oddly windy. It seems hyper-stylized and melodramatic. Later, on the train ride, Gorgeous gives us a load of backstory, and in a flashback sequence, the girls on the train comment on the flashback itself, breaking the fourth wall and letting you know that reality is no barrier to this film's narrative. And in there…

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  • StageFright: Aquarius
  • The Seventh Victim

    4.The Seventh Victim

    ★★★★★

    This movie seems at first to be a fairly standard, noirish film about a lost sister. Knowing nothing about it going in, it seems like the horror that we find will likely come from discovering that sister's fate. While this is technically true, the twists and turns we take to get there are not even remotely what one would expect of a mid-forties film--unless you know Val Lewton and his masterful screenwriting.

    What we find is a peaceful cult that worships Satan. This set up is bizarre enough on its own to be unnerving, but the central conflict of the film is one in which they seek to drive one woman to suicide. And that, more than any demons or goblins, is truly a terrifying conflict to behold.

  • Witch's Cradle

    5.Witch's Cradle

    ★★★★★

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  • Jonathan

    6.Jonathan

    ★★★★★

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  • Torso

    7.Torso

    ★★★★★

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  • Ginger Snaps

    8.Ginger Snaps

    ★★★★★

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  • Kissed

    9.Kissed

    ★★★★★

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  • The Woman Who Powders Herself

    10.The Woman Who Powders Herself

    ★★★★★

    This short, experimental film is proto-David Lynch in every way possible. Using a windswept soundtrack and grotesque, evocative imagery, The Woman Who Powders Herself maintains is distance from any sort of narrative in a way that amplifies the sense of dread that it causes. With no explanation for these images, the only reasonable assumptions are unpleasant and dark.

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  • Suspiria

    11.Suspiria

    ★★★★½

    If you're unfamiliar with Italian horror, the dubbing will take a while to get used to. Warm up with something else first, perhaps. If you're ready, though, Suspiria will take you through a dark, unnerving tale of a girl at a ballet school discovering its horrifying secrets. Scored by the gods of horror music, Goblin, every moment of this one has a tense, almost painful tone that is amplified by the jagged prog-rock soundtrack. When it reaches its crescendo of madness and flame, you'll feel like it was you that fell into a room full of barbed wire.

  • Folies Meurtrières
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

    13.A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

    ★★★★½

    The gimmick of this particular installment on the long running nightmare slasher series is the key to its success. Taking lucid dreaming into the mythology of Freddie Krueger, it makes good use of the setting of nightmares and gives our heroes a chance in a fascinating, if campily depicted, way.

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  • Dracula

    14.Dracula

    ★★★★½

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  • Halloween

    15.Halloween

    ★★★★½

    The third part of the unholy trinity of slasher films that starts with TXCSM and Black Christmas, Halloween codified the genre and made it into the money-making juggernaut that it would become in the following decade. Carpenter tapped into the true depths of horror by making his villain faceless and unexplained, creating an embodiment of the only thing anyone truly fears (the unknown).

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  • The Fan

    16.The Fan

    ★★★★½

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  • Alucarda

    17.Alucarda

    ★★★★½

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  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet
  • Night of the Comet

    19.Night of the Comet

    ★★★★½

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  • Messiah of Evil

    20.Messiah of Evil

    ★★★★½

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  • The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
  • Blood and Black Lace
  • Phantasm

    23.Phantasm

    ★★★★½

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  • Tombs of the Blind Dead

    24.Tombs of the Blind Dead

    ★★★★½

    This early zombie film is notable for a variety of reasons. The early-seventies tendency toward exploitation and lesbian sex aren't entirely avoided, but the lesbian undertones are tactfully handled (for a zombie movie), and the exploitation aspects give way to pure zombie horror rather quickly.

    The zombies, as I call them, aren't really zombies in the traditional Voodoo manner nor even too much like the Romero zombie horde. They are undead, blind templars, cursed for their previous blasphemies. This set up gives us a few crucial elements that make this film work: a flaw in the monster that gives us a (false) glimmer of hope and some tense set ups, a reason for their existence that doesn't break suspension of disbelief with fake science bullshit, and a religious undertone that adds to the creepiness of the setting.

    All in all, it would be an almost standard zombie film but for the inventiveness of the monsters, the creepiness of several scenes, and the grimness of their origins... and the brilliance of the ending, which is possibly the key to its favor with me.

  • The Grapes of Death

    25.The Grapes of Death

    ★★★★½

    With a name this ridiculous, it's easy to write this one off, but this film is actually one of the best zombie movies ever made. It uses the simple, straight forward formula of a decent protagonist and a lot of zombies, and it creates suspense. But what it does best is reveal the depths one will go to in these situations to survive.

  • Night of the Living Dead

    26.Night of the Living Dead

    ★★★★½

    The first and greatest of the zombie horde movies, Night of the Living Dead masked social commentary with pure terror. In black and white, it doesn't need graphic displays of gore or zombie make up (not that those are bad things) to convey all the menace of a horde of the undead. It's impossible to overstate how impressive Romero's commentary is, given context, and there has never been a zombie horde film that matched it.

  • The Blood Spattered Bride

    27.The Blood Spattered Bride

    ★★★★½

    A feministic take on the vampire myth, Blood Spattered Bride sets up the mysterious vampires through dreams and nightmares while showing a domineering, demanding husband as the real villain in the piece. When all the blood is spilled and the hearts ripped out, the headlines show he gets his comeuppance.

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  • Litan

    28.Litan

    ★★★★½

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  • The Blood on Satan's Claw
  • The Living Dead Girl
  • Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly

    31.Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly

    ★★★★½

    A demented little British horror film about a fucked up family that takes in men and kills them, Girly doesn't break the mold in any way, but it delivers in terms of tension and discomfort. The film is unbelievably campy, but somehow that does not detract from the unpleasantness--the performances make them that much more menacing in a twisted sort of way. In short, the campiness suits the film.

  • The Perfume of the Lady in Black
  • Lucifer Rising

    33.Lucifer Rising

    ★★★★½

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  • The Slumber Party Massacre
  • Nightmare

    35.Nightmare

    ★★★★½

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  • Footprints

    36.Footprints

    ★★★★½

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  • Seconds

    37.Seconds

    ★★★★½

    This, at first, seems to be a science-fiction daydream about second chances, but as the world unravels for our hero, a sense of deep dread sets in. The ending is heavily foreshadowed--almost spelled out--near the beginning, so the whole film has a tone of impending doom despite the decadence and freedom the film's hero is offered. There is a complex moral here that is driven home with cold calculation in the film's final moments, a scene that will leave you haunted for life.

  • Mirror Mirror

    38.Mirror Mirror

    ★★★★½

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  • Hospital Massacre
  • The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh
  • Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

    41.Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

    ★★★★

    The giallo genre is full of movies that combine murder mysteries, plot twists, sex, and a little gore into a tight movie, but Your Vice is a Locked Room... sets a standard for all of those factors that is hard to meet. As it is slowly revealed who is behind all of the killings, the film seems to amplify its denunciation of the upper class greed that drives the plot.

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  • Cat People

    42.Cat People

    ★★★★

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  • The Haunting

    43.The Haunting

    ★★★★

    As significant for its effective practical effects as its lesbian undertones, this classic haunted house tale uses its limitations to set the standard for adaptations of classic haunted house tales.

  • The Town That Dreaded Sundown
  • Dracula's Daughter

    45.Dracula's Daughter

    ★★★★

    With rampant and obvious lesbian undertones, this film crossed lines during its initial release that the Hays Code somehow missed. Following immediately upon the surprisingly weak original Dracula film, this one makes good use of some solid performances and use of the vampirism affliction as a metaphor that would set a trend for vampire films to come.

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  • Humanoids from the Deep
  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

    47.The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

    ★★★★

    A mystifying murder mystery, The Bird With Crystal Plumage manages to use the maintain suspense and mystery for its entire length with its fair share of twists and turns, but it never feels rote or trite, or like the twists are mere gimmicks.

  • Candyman

    48.Candyman

    ★★★★

    A socially conscious horror film that uses modern folklore as its foundation, this film is set amidst America's most under-privileged corners. Featuring a truly magnificent performance by Tony Todd as the titular villain, it uses bizarre imagery and a jagged, broken down setting to create an impressive tension that ends only in fire.

  • Pieces

    49.Pieces

    ★★★★

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  • Carnival of Souls

    50.Carnival of Souls

    ★★★★

    A difficult film to pin down, Carnival of Souls is, I suppose, a ghost story. A woman is haunted by the aftereffects of a car accident, and her life seems empty and difficult ever since. As she slowly succumbs to these impairments, the truth is slowly revealed until a fever pitched climax wherein she is terrorized by very zombie-like spirits. It's intense and beautiful in its own way.

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  • Black Christmas

    51.Black Christmas

    ★★★★

    The slasher film is my favorite subgenre of horror, and aside from TXCSM, this is the finest (and one of if not the earliest) of the lot. A simple set up--young women living together slowly being killed off--but with an almost invisible (to the camera) killer and long, suspenseful set up, this is just plain perfection... and then it ends in a way to make it even better.

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  • The Vampire's Coffin
  • Black Sunday

    53.Black Sunday

    ★★★★

    There is a moment late in the film where a character speaks with her past self, so to speak, and in this moment, the film solidifies into one of the greats. The idea of a descendant-doppelganger is a common one in horror films looking to bring back an ancient horror, but few do it this well.

  • Splatter: Naked Blood
  • The Beyond

    55.The Beyond

    ★★★★

    The best film Fulci ever made, The Beyond wins points for being filmed and set in my home city. Beyond that (heh), it has Fulci's common characteristics of religious imagery, apocalytpic dread, gore and gore and more gore, and a few twists on the tropes of horror films that all mix to make one of the most amazing films of the genre.

  • Deep Red

    56.Deep Red

    ★★★★

    A constantly moving film, Deep Red is an obviously bloody giallo. It's a creepy one, too, with its strange dolls and the usual giallo twists and turns. Add to that Argento's impressive directing and it makes for one of the best of the genre.

  • Terror in the Swamp
  • The Blob

    58.The Blob

    ★★★★

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  • The Innocents

    59.The Innocents

    ★★★★

    Deborah Kerr could carry any film, but she turns this melodramatic ghost story into a psychological powerhouse. Focusing on the children her character is sent to care for, this film lets the ghost story unfold parallel to a foreboding revelation of the darkness within the children, letting the double dose of horror culminate in a truly bleak manner.

  • The Witches

    60.The Witches

    ★★★★

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  • Fascination

    61.Fascination

    ★★★★

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  • The Witch Who Came from the Sea
  • The Revenge of Frankenstein
  • Symptoms

    64.Symptoms

    ★★★★

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  • Hands of the Ripper
  • Tenebre

    66.Tenebre

    ★★★★

    When Argento returned to the giallo genre, it might well have felt like coming home. Tenebre tackles the idea of an artist's culpability in the actions inspired by his works, but, of course, in this genre, those actions are murder. It also suggests that those who create horrors and mysteries are themselves hiding something, and when all is said and done, it makes the simple, common suggestion that we're all harboring some darkness.

  • Malpertuis

    67.Malpertuis

    ★★★★

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  • I Was a Teenage Serial Killer
  • The New York Ripper
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
  • Vampire's Kiss

    71.Vampire's Kiss

    ★★★★

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  • The Red Spectre

    72.The Red Spectre

    ★★★★

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  • Mystics in Bali

    73.Mystics in Bali

    ★★★★

    Drawing from Indonesian folklore, this lo-fi film exploits the unfamiliar and disturbing details of the penanggalon, a monster that preys on pregnant women and uses witchcraft to make Western audiences squirm.

  • Alice Sweet Alice

    74.Alice Sweet Alice

    ★★★★

    Psychotic children are a favorite of mine, I suppose. There is something especially monstrous about innocence perverted and corrupted, and the sight of a sweet child killing with glee is equal to the most horrific slasher villains. This film has always topped the much more heralded and much more inferior Don't Look Now in my book.

  • The Bloodstained Shadow

    75.The Bloodstained Shadow

    ★★★★

    Probably one of the most standard gialli on this list, it still manages every element of the giallo genre with skill. There are twists, a murder mystery, and a bit of sex. It stands out not by breaking the mold, but by perfecting it.

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  • The Deadly Spawn
  • Ogroff

    77.Ogroff

    ★★★★

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  • The Sadist

    78.The Sadist

    ★★★★

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  • The Thing

    79.The Thing

    ★★★★

    John Carpenter's remake/reincarnation of The Thing From Another World does something few remakes have ever managed: it improves upon the original. Smartly finding horror not in the grotesque monster but in the psychological anxiety of not knowing who the monster is, the film uses the cold isolation of Antarctica as the backdrop for sheer paranoia (and the occasional moment of impressive action).

  • Eyeball

    80.Eyeball

    ★★★★

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  • Jennifer's Body

    81.Jennifer's Body

    ★★★★

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  • The Deliberate Stranger
  • The Stuff

    83.The Stuff

    ★★★★

    Larry Cohen was a genius, and Michael Moriarty knew how to milk a performance. Combine these with a satire about the evils of capitalism, and we have one of the funniest, most over-the-top, and scathing horror films of all time. At home to its own absurdity, The Stuff evolves slowly into a bizarre action epic, but it has the heart of a horror film.

  • See No Evil: The Moors Murders
  • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
  • Anguish

    86.Anguish

    ★★★★

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  • Macabre

    87.Macabre

    ★★★★

    Like many horror films, this one is amplified from a great film to a fantastic one by its shock ending. Exploring depravity indirectly and letting a cast of unsettling characters carry the film, this one has its share of gore and violence, but its true source of dread is the conflict created between what the audience knows and what the characters know about each other.

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  • Possession

    88.Possession

    ★★★★

    The title of this film seems to encapsulate multiple ideas at once, all of which the film captures perfectly. It is about the horrors of a relationship, ultimately, the misguided belief that one person possesses another romantically. Jealousy drives our hero to obsession, and ultimately, to brutal horror. But it also shows some sort of supernatural possession, though unlike any you would see in The Exorcist or its flawed ilk. This is more visceral, sexual, and solidly paced. It's a quieter sort of film, but more unnerving for it. There are moments of gross-out horror here, but they pale compared to the steady advance of psychological trauma that pervades this movie.

  • Prince of Darkness

    89.Prince of Darkness

    ★★★★

    A psych-religious horror film with zombies hanging around the edges, this movie is curious for having a union of science and religion at the core. A deep mythology forms the basis of this film and informs the sense of impending doom throughout, and as the titular being reaches out through every means it has, taunting our collection of scientists and scholars, the film draws us in to its disturbing maw and into the horrors beyond.

  • Ganja & Hess

    90.Ganja & Hess

    ★★★★

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  • The Final Terror
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

    92.Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

    ★★★★

    Anyone familiar with Henry Lee Lucas's story will find this both a blessing and a curse while watching this film loosely based on his exploits. If you're a stickler for the facts, you might be disappointed. If you're in it for a chilling, masterful performance by Michael Rooker and a horrifying look into one of the most infamous serial killers of modern America, this gruesome story will stick with you as one of the best horror films of all time.

  • Nekromantik

    93.Nekromantik

    ★★★★

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  • Jaws

    94.Jaws

    ★★★★

    There is true suspense here, a tension that cannot be understated, but the most compelling piece of this film is the bonding that occurs between the three ad hoc shark hunters as they seek the massive, toothed menace. Sea shanties, scar stories, and a bit of alcohol blend to give a heart in the midst of this basic monster story.

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  • The Living Corpse
  • Possibly in Michigan
  • Spook Sport

    97.Spook Sport

    ★★★★

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  • The Telltale Heart
  • What Have You Done to Solange?

    99.What Have You Done to Solange?

    ★★★★

    The answer to this question seems obvious enough at first, but the reasons why and the full details are somewhat surprisingly topical for the time and rather disturbing. Centering this giallo on this mystery as well as the usual string of murders adds a surprising depth to the film that makes it stand out in a packed genre.

  • Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees