The following is a comprehensive overview of films in the horror genre. This is not a “TOP,” or “BEST OF” list, as those can only be measured in terms of personal preference. This is more like an overall introduction to the genre from A to Z. Horror 101 if you like. This list is intended to give the reader a broad scope and understanding of the many elements within the genre and how they work, or have been used in the past. There are many sub-genres contained therein including: supernatural, slasher, science fiction, thriller, suspense, classic, comedic, experimental, and cult.
While compiling this list there were certain challenges when deciding what to include. For some of the more difficult letters, such as: Q, U and X the choice was incredibly easy. There were also some letters that had a number of specific themed titles to choose from, like W and Z, which almost exclusively deal with Werewolves and Zombies. Of course the hardest letters were the ones with multiple titles to choose from, such as A, E, H, P and S to name a few. Under these circumstances the decision was made to stick with diversity among the themes and avoid common titles like Alien (1979), The Exorcist (1973), Halloween (1978), Psycho (1960) and The Shining (1980). All of which are honorable mentions and credits to the genre.
Each title listed below links to a quick profile or synopsis of the film and includes a still, or two, and a video clip. In some cases the entire film is featured on the page for your viewing pleasure. So.... without any further ado, get ready to sink your teeth into the complete overview of Horror, A - Z.
Much like "W," when it comes to "Z" there is only so far you can go in terms of content. Zombies represent that intermittent terror between ghosts (the dead) and monsters (abominable creatures). Over the last decade there has been a huge revival of the sub-genre originally pioneered by George A. Romero and his "Living Dead" films. Lately there have been more misses than hits in this sub-genre, partially due to Romero's own continued involvement. Zombieland (2009) is one of those films that keeps the fire burning and interest growing. Fun and engaging from start to finish, the film plays with the culture impact of the dreaded, yet invited, Zombie Apocalypse. Much like Shaun of the Dead (2004) before it, Zombieland follows a group of survivors, two misfit outcasts and a pair of sisters, who have managed to hang on to their senses of humor despite losing everything else. It is through their back stories, particularly Woody Harrelson's character Tallahassee, and their encounters together that the group bonds to form a new dysfunctional family. Peppered with rules from the narrator (Jesse Eisenburg) on how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, the film acts as a humorous record of events, or an instructional guide. Either way it allows the film to not be taken too seriously, yet still remain entertaining, which is what movies are supposed to be anyway.
Young Frankenstein (1974) – Mel Brooks
A pseudo-classic horror tale, Young Frankenstein (1974) is a comedic extention on the original story written by Mary Shelly. One of the great achievements of the film is how well it blends the visual style and material with the generation in which it was filmed. The film is presented in the guise of the Universal monster films of the 1930s and '40s. Everything from the production design to the cinematography is in tune with that era of filmmaking. In fact most of the laboratory equipment are props from the originalFrankenstein(1931) andBride of Frankenstein(1935). Of course the thing that makes Young Frankenstein (1974) so successful is the thin line it walks between comedy and horror. Co-written by star Gene Wilder and director Mel Brooks, the two of them manage to show the darkness of comedy and the absurdity in horror. This is further illustrated by the black and white presentation of the film, which, much like the two separate genres, comes together in the grayscale.
For those of you unlucky enough to have witnessed this movie you'll understand the briefness of this post. For those of you lucky enough to have missed it I've taken the liberty of posting the only memorable scene from it below. As long as you watch this scene it will more than likely count for the entire picture because there is absolutely nothing else memorable (or enjoyable) about this film what so ever. Take it for what it's worth, which isn't much, and move on.
When it comes to "W" the selections become extremely specific and with very few exceptions. In an attempt to defy convention I've selected Wolfen (1981) for inclusion on this list. An often overlooked contribution to the genre, the film is not without its faults. However, it does break from the traditional presentation of wolves in the genre, while still paying tribute to the ferocious supernatural aspect often associated with them. Without spoiling it for anyone, the film is set in New York City and focuses on the Native American folklore involving shape-shifting. Based on the novel The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber, the film follows a pair of NYC detectives investigating a series of brutal murders with few clues, links, or motivation. The real mystery comes from their only clue (aside from the method of killing), a few Canis Lupus (WOLF) hairs. The film also introduces the use of heat vision POV shots made famous in the Predator (1987 - 2010) film series. Beautifully shot, edited, acted, and written, Wolfen has but one flaw. Unfortunately you have to wait until the end to find out.
James Woods stars in this technological horror opus for the video/computer age. Following the success of Scanners (1981), Canadian director David Cronenberg channeled his efforts (no pun intended) towards something completely unique. The result was Videodrome (1983), an avant-garde look at the window through which we see the rest of the world, and sometimes ourselves. Woods plays Max Renn, the immoral president of Channel 83 - Civic TV, a local cable station, who comes across a scrambled television signal with some provocative programming. Mutilation, torture, bondage, sex, and violence - anything goes on "Videodrome" and Max must have it for his station. However, prolonged exposure to the videodrome signal has certain incurable psychological side effects. Max's perception of reality becomes as blurry as the videodrome signal and his hallucinations become tangible manifestations. The only way to end it is by bringing "death to videodrome." The film has been classified as "techno-surrealism," but its content pushes it under the psychological thriller category, which is a sub genre of horror. "Long live the new flesh."
A classic ghost story in every possible way. The Uninvited (1944) is well known for being one of the first haunted house movies to use ghosts and supernatural elements for scares instead of laughs. A legacy which continues to bring it much acclaim and recognition in the genre. While on vacation Rick and Pamela Fitzgerald, a pair of siblings from London, come across a seemingly abandoned cliffside mansion. They procure the property at a more than reasonable price because of disturbances related to its past. Everything seems fine until Stella, the granddaughter of the man who sold the property, begins coming around. Stella had lived in the house up until her mother's death when she was three. It doesn't take long for the disturbances to come back, but there is some mystery as to whether they are welcomed or uninvited. The film was nominated for a black and white cinematography Oscar in 1945. It has yet to be officially released on DVD and only exists on Turner Classic Movies or low grade bootlegs through the internet. Interesting note: both Martin Scorsese and Guillermo del Toro rank this film highly among their personal favorites for the genre.
Cosmic horror at its finest. Almost thirty years after its initial release and The Thing (1982) still ranks highly among the most terrifying films ever made. Filled with tension and suspense, the film is remembered not only for its engaging story and chilling atmosphere, but also for Rob Bottin's incredible creature effects work. Not one pixel in any of the CG work from the last twenty years can hold a candle to Bottin's creations in The Thing. Every single one of them is memorable, practical, and tangible in design, function, and execution. Of course the greatest accolade goes to director John Carpenter for bringing all of these elements together with his unique style and vision that he developed on other horror hits such as Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980). A fan of the original Howard Hawks version, The Thing From Another World (1951), Carpenter decided not to remake that film, but instead base his version off the original source material, John W. Campbell's short story Who Goes There?