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Influential Horror Films

Updated on October 12, 2014

About Horror Films

Since my teenage years, horror films have held a special place in my heart. Whether you are looking for a good horror flick for Halloween, or just a good Horror film in general, you just might find something you are interested in here.

Many people have asked me, given my views on life, just how I can watch Horror films. The simple truth is that most good Horror (although certainly not all Horror) has a positive and redeeming message at its core. The “good guy” almost always triumphs and the “evil” is put in its proper place. The “good” overcomes adversity and becomes stronger as a result. The “evil” is banished, at least temporarily, and the moralistic triumphs. This is much like Fairy Tales, from which Horror has largely grown.

One thing which I must make clear here is that I place a difference on Horror and, say, Thrillers or Slasher Films. For a movie to be considered Horror to me, it must contain an element of the Supernatural. Thus the first Friday The 13th film (although the sequels later evolved onto Horror and thus it can be considered Horror from the over-all story line) was not by my definition a Horror film. Nor was Misery. A great movie, although also technically not Horror, is the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. What this guy goes through, and keeps moving, to protect the life of his baby, is awe inspiring. The movie realizes the original film in so profound a way it is as if the original were just a rough draft. A hard one for me is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Although one could argue for demonic influence, there is just nothing in the film that truly hints at the Supernatural. Thus it must not be considered a true Horror movie, although certainly influential both to the genre and to myself personally.

Below are some of the Horror Films which have had an influence upon myself over the years. This is by no means meant to be comprehensive, or to suggest that there might not be better Horror Films out there. These are just some of the most influential Horror Films to me.

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Phantasm (1979)

Although the sequels evolved into something else over the years, the original Phantasm movie was really a film about a child dealing with his own sudden loss of his parents. Thus the dream-like, disjointed nightmare quality of the film (while it could be considered annoying in other movies) served its roll in this film perfectly:

Mike discovers that his mortuary has been taken over by a dark creature known as “The Tall Man,” who has sinister motives for using the bodies of the dead, and must try to defeat him.

Phantasm on Video

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Evil Dead 2 (1987)

I had talked my uncle into taking me to the drive-in theater to see Creepshow 2, which turned out to be awful. But playing before this film was Evil Dead 2. I had never laughed so hard in my life.

Ash travels with his girlfriend to a remote cabin, where an incantation is played aloud on tape from The Book of the Dead, and a dark spirit or demon is released into the woods.

What truly makes this film astounding is its blend of comedy with the truly horrific. You are utterly horrified for what Ash goes through, but completely laughing the whole time. One of the funniest moments for me was (SPOILER) when Ash places the bucket over his severed hand and holds it in place with a copy of A Farewell to Arms. Pure Genius – and totally underplayed.

The movie is largely a re-make of the original The Evil Dead film, which I watched later. That one, however, was more straight foreword horror. They tried to recapture some of the humor of the second film in the third installment, Army of Darkness, but it was just not as good as the second film.

Evil Dead 2 on Video

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Hellraiser (1987)

When my brother brought this film home one night, I sat in stunned silence in front of the television – awed by the film’s mixture of beauty and the grotesque. I was unaware that something so powerful could be created.

Kirsty discovers a puzzlebox which her uncle used first to enter Hell, and later with the help of her father’s wife, to escape. Now she must deal with the creatures that come after him.

While I had read and enjoyed both The Damnation Game and Weaveworld, by the film’s creator Clive Barker at the time, this was something completely new to me. Now, after all this time, I do find some of the acting and some of the dialog to be less than ideal - but at the time it completely blew me away.

To less a degree, but also influential was Clive Barker’s film Night Breed – which made the creatures into the “good guys” and the humans into the true monsters.

Hellraiser on Video

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House 2: The Second Story (1987)

Okay, it is probably not one of the greatest films ever made. Again, one of its stronger points is its humor. More importantly, however, it expands upon the idea of the first film of complete other worlds existing within the walls of a single house. While other films, such as The Amityville Horror, bring horror to the average neighborhood rather than remote places such as forests, this film seemed to really bring the idea home for me. Thus it was an influential film to me, as well as being humorous to watch.

House 2 on Video

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Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Although the original film is probably a more influential film, this movie had a profound impact on myself. This largely came at the end of the film when one of the characters says (SPOILER) something along the lines of “They are us” - which I later learned came from Dawn of the Dead, though perhaps I was too young to remember it at the time. This line was a turning point in my view of zombies in general. Of course they largely represented the brainwashed consumers of society in Dawn of the Dead, but until this moment there had always been a feeling of “them” about zombies for me. For the first time, I really began thinking about them as “us.”

Night of the Living Dead on Video

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Mama (2013)

Although somewhat predictable, at least as you learn more of the story, what really stands out in this film is the beauty of the imagery. At times the film seems more a work of art. You find yourself staring in awe at the images before you.

A Husband and wife discover the husband’s nieces where they have been living in a cabin in the woods for the last 5 years and are nearly feral. But something else has been taking care of them.

Mama on Video

Some Other Influential Horror Films that might be worth checking out, are:

 
 
Nosferatu (1922)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Poltergeist (1982)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Company of Wolves (1984)
The Wicker Man (1973)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Exorcist (1973)
Ringu (1998)
The Omen (1976)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Carrie (1976)
The Grudge (2004)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Silent Hill (2006)
The Shining (1980)
 
This list is by no means complete, but it is enough to get you started. I’ll be adding more as I think of them.

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films mentioned

Friday the 13th (1980)

Misery (1990)

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Hills Have Eyes (2006 remake)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003 remake)

The Evil Dead (1983)

Evil Dead (2013 remake)

Army of Darkness

Nightbreed (1990)

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

© 2014 Michael Camarata

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