10 Best! Horror film classics

by Keith Barber

Psycho Alfred Hitchcock was the master of capturing the terror of everyday life. Fifty years after its release in 1960, Psycho still sets the standard for psychological terror. The famous shower scene where Marion Crane is stabbed to death by Norman Bates is arguably the scariest scene in movie history. The actual murder takes about 15 seconds of screen time but it feels like an eternity. Anyone who has experienced Psycho will be left with a latent, irrational fear of taking a shower for the rest of their life. Halloween Director John Carpenter composed the score for his 1978 horror film Halloween, and the eerie, memorable music is a big reason why the film succeeds on so many levels. A cult classic, Halloween held the box office record for the highest-grossing independent film for more than a decade. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Laurie Strode, the unwitting target of Michael Myers, a psychopath bent on destruction. Halloween undoubtedly influenced the glut of horror films that flooded movie theaters in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Nightmare on Elm Street The core idea of Wes Craven’s 1984 classic Nightmare on Elm Street centers on one of our greatest fears — you can die in your dreams. Craven builds a surreal psychic landscape as Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp, begins having dreams about a badly scarred psychopath who wears a glove with finger knives, she confides in her friends. They tell her they’re having the same dreams and she realizes she must stay awake to survive her nightmares. The Exorcist Pea soup. Spinning heads. Masturbation with a crucifix. Enough said. Poltergeist The myth of the Poltergeist curse, based on the premature deaths of four of the cast members during the six-year span of the horror film trilogy — including the young actress that played little Carol Anne — has often overshadowed the greatness of the 1982 film that masterfully blended horror and science fiction. Texas Chain Saw Massacre Before Poltergeist, director Tobe Hooper essentially created the “slasher” genre with this cult classic inspired by the real-life murderer Ed Gein. Hooper wrote, produced and directed Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974 for a miniscule budget of $300,000 and the film grossed more than $30 million. The Omen The 1976 film based on David Seltzer’s novel is one of the rare examples of a major Hollywood horror that delivers great acting, including a fantastic performance by the legendary Gregory Peck, great direction and plot twists that shock and disturb the viewer. Like the closing shot of little Damien’s evil smile, The Omen is a haunting tale of prophetic horror. Dracula Long before the watered-down vampire  played by Robert Pattinson in the Twilight series, Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the Romanian count in the 1931 original Dracula deserves a great deal of credit for making the horror genre viable. The Shining The 1981 Stanley Kubrick masterpiece of filmmaking tells the story Jack Torrance, the struggling writer who takes the caretaker job at the isolated Overlook Hotel. Jack’s son, Danny, has a gift of clairvoyance known as “the shining” and acts as a medium between this world and the ghosts that haunt the hotel. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the main character’s descent into madness marks one of the greatest screen performances in Hollywood history. Carrie No Top 10 list of horror classics would be complete without a Stephen King big-screen adaptation. In a breakthrough performance, Sissy Spacek plays Carrie White, a shy girl with telekinetic powers. After a horrible prank leaves her covered in pig’s blood at the senior prom, Carrie takes her fiery revenge on her classmates as well as her psychotic, religious mother.