As a huge horror fan I watch pretty much any film released in the genre. Problem is that many filmmakers think that horror is an easy genre, something to just slap together and release for some quick cash. This is why I have seen some truly horrible movies. This is why I am writing this guide, so those interested in starting a horror dvd collection have an idea of what is out there. If you are a big horror fan most of the films in this guide you are probably familiar with, but hopefully you will find some to add to your collection.
There are slasher films everyone knows, Friday the 13th, Halloween and the granddaddy of all slashers Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But these are other slashers worth adding to your collection..
May - lonely and disturbed May wants a boy to love and understand her. She thinks she finds him but she realizes he is not perfect, he only has perfect hands. So she takes his hands and goes out looking for other parts for her perfect soulmate.
Sleepaway Camp - A boating accident leaves Angela an orphan, she moves in with her aunt and cousin. In typical 80's slasher fashion the kids get sent to summer camp where people start dying. Better than most slasher movies of the era, this one has the same low-budget creepiness and uneven acting. But has more depth and wit than other released at the time. The ending was unthinkable at the time, now we have been there and done that, but it is still unexpected.
The Devil's Rejects - A sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses but stands well on its own. I actually like it better. The Devil's Rejects - great title! - has the feel and look of Texas Chainsaw but is it's own movie. Lots of gore and smart writing. Baby Firefly and her brother Otis survive an ambush at their family home. Together with Baby's father (Sid Haige as the creepiest, nastiest clown EVER) they slash their way through Texas.
Ju-On - (The Grudge) The creep-fest that inspired the American version. Or rather it was remade step by step for people who do not want to read subtitles. Even with the exact same locations and director the original Japanese film is creepier and just better that the remake.
The Fog - Antonio Bay looks like the perfect little coastal town and everyone is excited about the upcoming centennial celebration. Except that the founding fathers were not the nicest people in the world - backstabbing jerks is more like it - and their victims came back for some justice.
Stir of Echoes - Really creepy film of the best kind! Kevin Bacon goes to a party where his sister in law hypnotizes him and a latent gift or "door" to his subconscious opens up. Now he can see and hear spirits and scenes from the past. He sees a girl in his house and seeing images through her eyes - he has to find out what happened to her. It does sound a bit like Sixth Sense but they are different and both are great in their own way
Vampires and werewolves are classic horror the first horror movie was the German- made Nosferatu in 1929. Then came Dracula in 1931 and in 1941 came The Wolf Man. Modern classics Wolfen and interestingly enough another Nosferatu. Nosferatu was released in 1979 and directed by Werner Herzog and is not just scary but so beautifully shot it is art.
An American Werwolf in London - 2 American backpackers get attacked by a wild animal. One is killed, the other wakes up in a London hospital. The dead one keeps hanging around and the hurt one transforms into a werewolf and wrecks havoc at night. Very funny and very gory.
The Addiction - This cult 1995 film stars Lili Taylor as a student who gets bitten by a vampire. It works out since she was writing a thesis about good vs evil - now she can compare! Very hard to find film, long out of print.
From Dusk 'Till Dawn - What some people did not like about this movie is what I find brilliant. The film starts as a heist and turns into a vampire movie halfway through. Taken separately they both work. The special effects are not the best - or maybe I have seen it too many times and see every little flaw - but it is funny and smart with enough violence to keep everyone happy
Ginger Snaps - The trilogy about sisters dealing with the curse (both werewolf and puberty) is a cult favorite. The first two are set in modern times. The third one is a clean slate, set in the past. Same sisters, same curse, different story - very original and bloody!
Dog Soldiers - Soldiers on a training mission in Scotland come across werewolves. All their training and weapons do very little for them and soon they are chow or turning into werewolves. Surprisingly good, I was tense, grossed out and could not take my eyes off the screen.
I've written a guide specifically for zombies but there is no way I could do a horror guide without including my fave sub-genre! Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead are the classic zombie trilogy of master filmmaker George A Romero. Other than Romero's Living Dead trilogy my favorite zombie films are all international.
Dead and Buried - Tourists are welcomed at Potter's Bluff, they just don't seem to go back home. The townspeople kill tourists (and anyone who passes through their town) in an effort to increase its population. Thing is the dead seem to come back to life like nothing happened and settle in town. Excellent special effects by Stan Winston.
Dellamorte, Dellamore - AKA Cemetery Man. The dead in this cemetery do not stay dead. So the caretaker has to kill them again - it's all just part of the job! One day he falls for a recently widowed woman who seems to share his indifference to the zombie aspects of his job. Too bad she is bitten by her dead husband and he has to do what he gets paid to do. It gets a little complicated from there with doppelgangers and talking decapitated heads.
Shock Waves - Deserted island, mad scientist, Nazi zombies. Sound cheesy, right? Well, in a way it is but it is also a great zombie film with a great cast - Brooke Adams, Peter Cushing, John Carradine. What is scarier than Nazi zombies?
Versus - Japanese martial arts/gangster/zombie film with lots of gore and violence. Prison escapees find refuge in a forest - too bad it this specific forest is one of the portals to hell. That makes anyone who dies there come back as a zombie. Even worse is that this forest is where gangster dispose of their victims.
Zombi - Romero's Italian counterpart, Lucio Fulci has a trilogy of his own. Zombi and its sequels (Fulci only directed 3 of them but there are more using the title) along with City of the Dead showcase the goriest zombies around. The stories may be a little weak and the acting a bit amateurish the make up and craziness make up for it.
Witches and warlocks, the Devil and demons all are part of the occult. The classics are some of the best known horror films of all times - The Exorcist, The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, Poltergeist
Candyman - A student doing a thesis on urban legends decides to focus on the legend of The Candyman. Supposedly he was a black man brutally tortured and murdered for falling in love with a white woman. Now he appears if you say his name 5 times in front of a mirror. He has a hook and is not afraid to use it. One of my favorites!
Children of the Corn - A couple gets lost and ends up in a town where the kids have killed all adults. They worship an unseen evil in the cornfields - those darn kids! Creepy in a Stephen King short story way - which is what it was adapted from. Relly one of the more original 80's horror movies with only a glimpse at the killing spree that started it all. What is unseen is what makes this movie work, just seeing the corn swaying in the breeze gives you a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Suspiria - Dario Argento's masterpiece about and American girl studying ballet in Europe. The school not only teaches ballet but also doubles as a witches coven. Argento is the Italian master of horror and this one is full of gore, tension and creepy atmosphere, not to mention a great horror musical score.
The Church - A church is built over the massacred bodies of a town suspected of worshiping the devil - guess they did not know about building stuff over any type of cemetery or massacre. The church was supposed to hold down the evil spirits but when the crypt breaks all hell breaks loose.
While Sci-Fi is a movie genre on its own, there is something to be said for mixing sci-fi and horr. As the best-known horror/sci-fi hybrid tagline states "In Space No One Can Hear You Scream". And if you did not jump at least once during Alien you have nerves of steel!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Emotionless shells are replacing the citizens of a California town. At first the town doc puts it down as paranoia - but is it paranoia when they're really after you? Plant-like pods enclose copies of the citizens and the duplicates kill the originals when they sleep. The doc and a small group of citizens decide to leave town and warn the world but they are too late. This film has been seen as an allegory of communism and even as criticism for the US government at the time. Whatever people saw or want to see under the surface of the movie is just another artistic layer of this great sci-fi movie. The first one to make you scared to fall asleep - take that Freddy!
She-Creature - a throwback to the creature feature era, this film has a mysterious creature in a tank and the man who tries to make his fortune by exploiting her in freak shows - too bad for him not all mermaids are like the Disney type!
The Thing - Master of horror John Carpenter directs this thriller set in the Antartic. A group of US scientists are just minding their own business when a dog comes running across the snow. The dog is being shot at and the US group fearing for their safety shoot at the men. What they don't know is that the dog is infected with an alien and soon they will be infected too.
Viruses and Other Itchy Diseases
28 Days Later - mistaken as a zombie film, a virus causes people to go mad with anger and kill anyone not infected. The people are not dead so they are not zombies - just very upset individuals! I found it gory, smart and sometimes funny - a great combination in a horror movie.
The Crazies - Romero made this film between zombie ones and like 28 Days Later it is thought of as a zombie film. It is not. A biological weapon which contains a virus goes off in a small town and those who do not die right away go crazy. They kill everyone else.
Rabid - A young woman is injured in a horrible motorcycle accident. She is taken to an experimental plastic surgery clinic where she is "fixed" like new. Of course she aso has a weird thing growing out of her armpit - how lovely! She cannot eat normal food but uses her new armpit friend to feed on humans - jeez I wonder if they will come back in style soon? The people she feeds on foam at the mouth and go crazy. Soon it is a full blown epidemic and all over the news - which the girl never manages to see or even realize that there is something wrong with her.
I have written a guide that specifically deals with cult films. I had to add this section to highlight great horror films that may have fallen through the cracks, those hidden gems of gore, creepiness and terrifying tension.
Carnival of Souls - I consider this the creepiest film I've ever seen. A girl and her friends have a car accident and go over a bridge and surprisingly she walks out unscathed. She moves to a new town and gets a job playing the organ at a church. She has strange visions and an unexplicable pull to an abandoned carnival. She goes to the carnival in search of answers but finds much more! Seriously creepy, the look, the music, the carnival pavillion.
Martin - George A Romero took some time off from zombies and created a portrait of a disturbed young man who may or may not be a vampire. He does not show any symptoms or has any of the aversions vampires do but he still kills people and drink their blood - your call!
The Wicker Man - A cop tries to solve the case of a missing girl, but no one in the town seems to be willing to help. He keeps digging for the truth - and you know what happens to people who dig too much in horror movie! While not very gory or bloody it is really creepy.
Near Dark - A young man is bitten by a vampire and must leave his home to protect his family. His new family show him the ropes about night-living and how to survive. Thing is he still has human emotions and a conscience while the other see this as a weakness. Let's jus say this is a very dysfunctional family! Low budget but great production values, does not date itself as much as the rest of the horror movies made at the time (1987) because this movie is about the story not (just) about the gore and guts
I am not a fan of remakes or sequels. The only sequels I can stand are the 80's sequels that are funny as well as gory and they are good for laughs. Still, once in a while I have been surprised by good remakes and sequels. I am in no way saying they are as good as the original but they stand on their own as a good horror movie.
Dawn of the Dead - same setting (a mall as refuge from zombies) this is actually not a bad interpretation of the original. Great cast and special effects. Nice addition to your zombie collection.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre - My first thought when I heard this was - blasphemy! But I watched it anyway. While it does not have the raw, gritty look and feel of the original this one is a good slasher movie on its own.
The Blob- Loved the original with Steve McQueen but this 1988 remake is actually pretty good, very 80's!
The Hills Have Eyes - A huge fan of the original I stll thought this could be a successful remake by not changing much more other than the special effects. As it is the remake is a very good updated version, not the original but a good horror film on its own.
Of course all of the titles mentioned are recommended. This is by no means a complete list, but more of a starter kit of modern horror films.