Hall of Phame
The following is a list of, what I consider to be, the greatest horror films of all time. What qualifies a film to make my list? Imagination, scares and a good helping of gratuitous gore is a good starting point. These films, for whatever reason, are the ones that have affected me the most in my 30 years+ of movie watching. These are the films that I would encourage you, my fellow PHANTASM phans, to seek out. I know that you will embrace them as I have. Many are well known classics, many are obscure gems. All are great. It is with great pleasure that THE SENTINEL presents the following list of my Top 20 favorite horror films.
The PHANTASM Series
No big surprise here. Hands down, the most imaginative horror franchise of all time. Each film has a distinctively different feel that advances the mythos to exciting new plateaus. The PHANTASM series defines the expression "brilliance on a budget."
The great Italian director Lucio Fulci is gone forever, but he will never be forgotten. This is the film that made Lucio a household name in the horror community. It is also, arguably, a better zombie movie than DAWN OF THE DEAD, with its overwhelming atmosphere of gloom, despair and hopelessness. You can almost smell the pungent rot of Fulci's army of the undead through your TV screen. The walking dead in ZOMBIE are the scariest, most menacing ever seen on film. And you can take that to the bank.
The LIVING DEAD Trilogy
Three decades after its release, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD continues to scare the bejeezus out of us with its horrifying, documentary-like feel. DAWN OF THE DEAD remains, to this day, one of the greatest, wackiest, most ultra-violent social commentaries of all time. DAY OF THE DEAD meant well, but...
THE GATES OF HELL
Another Fulci masterpiece of gore and the occult. Scary as hell. Features the famous "barfing up the intestines" scene. Show it to Grandma. She'll love it!
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
Absolutely one of the most harrowing and sadistic films ever made. Utterly disturbing in its realism. Amazingly, hardly a drop of blood is seen during the entire film. Launched a series of dubious (at best) sequels.
The EVIL DEAD Trilogy
Parts 1 & 2 are so frighteningly over the top with their slapstick horror, gore and scares that ARMY OF DARKNESS seems just a bit pale by comparison. A great, imaginative trilogy.
Stuart Gordon's horror masterpiece. Enough gut-churning gore, humor and sex with a severed head to please even the most jaded horror fan. Followed by the uneven, but fun, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR.
Carpenter's original slasher classic. Followed by a slew of wildly uneven sequels (Parts 2, 4 and H20 being the best of the bunch).
Fulci's third visit to our Top 20 list. Considered by many to be a sequel of sorts to THE GATES OF HELL, THE BEYOND is surely Fulci's most finely crafted film. Despite its abundance of gore and shocks, it does not quite have the same horrific punch of ZOMBIE or GATES OF HELL. A classic, nonetheless.
Quite possibly David Cronenberg's most surreal film. VIDEODROME takes the viewer on a wild, violent ride into the world of sadomasochism, murder and hallucination-inducing cable television (yep, even worse than VH-1). Both James Woods and Deborah Harry give great performances.
FROM DUSK 'TIL DAWN
One of the most clever pictures I've ever seen. The first two-thirds of the film is a tense hostage drama, then suddenly it shifts gears and becomes a visceral vampire epic. Amazing work by talented director Robert Rodriguez.
(aka DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE) - Michele Soavi's hilarious, sexy, violent and beautifully crafted zombie epic about a cemetery caretaker whose responsibility is to keep the freshly dead tucked away in their cozy graves, by any means necessary.
What can be said about this one that hasn't been said before? I can't believe some people actually think this movie is funny. I pee my pants just about every time I see it.
Cronenberg's pre-VIDEODROME horror/sci-fi opus. All the hype was about the exploding head. Guess what? The rest of the film is damn fine, also.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS
A virtually overlooked Carpenter gem about the release of Satan from a jar of green slime housed in the basement of a church. Utterly creepy and full of style. I kid you not, this one gave me nightmares.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
The best American-made zombie film outside of Romero's works. Favors humor over scares, but still features some righteous gore and non-stop action. Followed by two essentially forgettable sequels.
An amazing exercise in filmmaking style which features tons of homages to other classic sci-fi/horror films. Tells the story of a spaceship which, literally, has been to hell and back. Terrific scares and atmosphere, and some of the best effects I have ever seen.
GALAXY OF TERROR
An obscure and bleak post-ALIEN hodgepodge of horror and sci-fi. The film tells the story of a pyramid on an alien planet which brings to life the innermost fears of a group of astronauts exploring the structure. Produced by Roger Corman on a shoestring budget, GALAXY OF TERROR overcomes its lack of finances by offering outstanding effects, imaginative set design and a surprisingly original storyline. Additionally, some quirky casting (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN's Ray Walston and HAPPY DAYS' Erin "Joanie" Moran, who dies a spectacular death in this film) helps make GALAXY OF TERROR a minor classic.
Clive Barker's original apocalyptic vision of hell and its encroachment upon Earth. Followed by three sequels, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II being the only one of any real merit.
David Cronenberg's second major release is a bizarre twist on the vampire genre, with overtones of Romero's LIVING DEAD thrown in for good measure. Former porn actress Marilyn Chambers stars as a young woman who, after an experimental surgery, develops a compulsion to consume blood; through a penis-like appendage which has grown under her arm. Wheeeeee!!!
The following films did not quite make the cut for THE SENTINEL's Top 20 list, but are certainly worthwhile in their own rights. Check 'em out!
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
A hotly debated film if there ever was one. As a faux documentary, it is utterly brilliant and convincing. As far as the hype about it being one of the scariest movies ever, it is not entirely deserved. Features Academy Award-caliber performances from a cast of unknowns. Filmed for about the same cost as a Lexus, it stands as one of the most inventive films of recent years.
THE SIXTH SENSE
A remarkably affecting and creepy ghost story with real heart. Offers up some genuine scares and features a much talked about ending that literally takes your breath away. One of the best screenplays I've seen in a long time, full of clever twists that leaves the mind reeling.
One of my favorite Argento films (better than SUSPIRIA, in my opinion). Creepiness with tons of style.
Lance Henriksen (MILLENNIUM) turns in an amazing, sympathetic performance as a father seeking revenge for the death of his son by conjuring a demon.
Technically not a horror film. However, there is some sorcery and literally geysers of blood flowing as a dishonored samuai carts his toddler son across the wastelands of Japan hacking up the evil Shogun's assassins (which is, I guess, why they call it "SHOGUN ASSASSIN").
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES
Who would have thought a Disney-produced film would ever make it into this website? This film has loads of style, some pretty decent creepiness and some great performances. Based upon the book by Ray Bradbury, the plot involves two brothers who end up confronting the forces of evil as an unholy carnival comes to their town. Sound vaguely familiar? Well, this is the story that Don Coscarelli wanted to film, but couldn't because the film rights were owned by other parties. Instead, he came up with a macabre twist on the "two-brothers-versus-evil" plot and called it PHANTASM. Small world, huh?
Wesley Snipes is cool-as-hell as a vampire hunter in this violent epic!
Bloodthirsty nomad vampires.
Sick, sick necrophilia stuff. Not a film I'm proud to say I love!
More early Cronenberg.
Not the crappy TV version.
Relentless Italian zombies. Nobody survives!
Carpenter's awesome remake. Just missed the top 20!
Atmospheric ghost story courtesy of Carpenter.
Werewolf classic. No film has had better werewolf effects.
DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D.
Especially lurid Italian cannibal/zombie fun!
HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
Another one that just missed the cut. More Fulci!
Excellent Italian mega-horror from Lamberto Bava. Argento produced.
Possibly Tobe Hooper's only good film outside of CHAINSAW.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES
Mega sadistic flick. My wife hates it!!!
Avante garde vampire tale from talented director Abel Ferrera.
FEAR NO EVIL
Underrated and overlooked tale of teen possession.
My ultimate guilty pleasure. See it and find out why.
The scariest PG-rated movie I ever saw. Nazi zombies!
Tony Todd is one of the nicest guys I ever met, but damn scary here!
Another wild Lovecraft adaptation from Stuart Gordon.