Halloween is about a boy (played by Nick Castle) who wants nothing to do but to kill people. He has no proper reasons or motives –at age 6, he stabs his sister to death and is quickly apprehended. Many years later, when he escapes from captivity, he returns to town to once again kill people. Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is his main target, and Micheal ends up killing a lot of people in his crazed one-man hunt for his prey. Is Micheal even human? The film is not too clear about this, but it is heavily hinted that the killer is no ordinary being as he is able to shrug off injuries that would otherwise kill a normal person.
John Carpenter’s impressive imagery and delivery has made this film a cult classic for horror fans. Despite the fact that it was critically panned on release, Halloween quickly gained its own niche of fans, and the film series would continue on with five main sequels and several more retellings, spinoffs and reboots.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This film is well remembered as one of Wes Craven’s most iconic works –and for good reason too. The movie pretty much established a new standard for slasher-style horror films and proved to moviegoers that there are plenty of ways to get scared. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a story about a vengeful entity that stalks young people in their dreams –and if they die in those dreams, they also die in real life. The lore alone is enough to make viewers feel vulnerable –after all, everyone goes to sleep. Most of the deaths in the movie are rather gruesome, violent, and full of gore, making it a very graphically intense film to watch (of course, the film has dated visuals, so many of the effects will not seem as impressive now as it was back then).
The biggest contribution of Nightmare is none other than the character of Freddy Krueger, a thin man with long, metal blades for fingers with scarred skin. His outfit, which is composed of a hat, a striped sweater and his claw-gloves, has become a very recognizable icon of horror films, especially the slasher genre.
Deep Red (1975)
Originally released as Profondo Rosso, this Italian film about a mysterious killer is full of mysteries, suspense, and very violent imagery. After Helga Ulmann, a psychic, goes onstage, she feels the threat of a killer in the audience. After the performance, as she attempts to figure out who the dangerous person might have been, Helga is murdered. Her death is investigated by Marcus Daly, who has to quickly learn the identity of the killer as the number of murders slowly piles up.
The movie’ svery dynamic approach to storytelling can be evidently seen with its camerawork and overall pacing. Despite being an old film, there are very few scenes that feel slow or taking too long –most of the time, there is movement and action, constantly pushing the audience forward. While the main plight of the protagonist is an investigation, the film does not present itself as a mystery –and gives the audience very little time to ponder on who the killer might be. Instead, the movie focuses on getting the viewers to feel the tension and danger of the constant threat.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Despite being heavily discussed and studied for its themes and symbolisms, at its core, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gorefest of a film that many grindhouse works attempt to live up to. The movie is about friends on a long trip to an old family homestead in the middle of nowhere. Not surprisingly, there’s a crazed killer out there whose weapon of preference is a chainsaw –not that the chainsaw is used exclusively, Leatherface also makes use of other sharp pointy things to kill his victims. The movie is praised for its incredibly dark and grim delivery and themes.
The Shining (1980)
When Jack Torrance takes up a job as a caretaker for a hotel’s closed off winter season, he takes his family with him and makes use of the chance to write his book. However, his very unstable psyche makes for a bad mix with the hotel’s paranormal occupants (yes, ghosts and stuff, this is a list of horror films after all). The presence of strange beings in the hotel plus Jack’s own personal demons quickly turns him to a danger to his own family.
As well praised as The Shining is, it is surprising to know that Stephen King, the original writer of the novel it was based on, was not all too happy with the movie. In many ways, the film was more of director Stanley Kubricks interpretation of the story than it was an adaptation. But despite this, the movie has earned a lot of positive criticism and is considered an important part of horror film history.
The most well known of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Psycho is considered by many as one of the best horror films of all time; in the film, Marion Crane is a real estate secretary who attempts to steal a large amount of money from her employer. During her haphazard attempt to leave town, she ends up in the Bates Motel, where she meets the owner of the establishment, Norman Bates. It appears that Norman still leaves with his mentally ill mother. As the night goes on, Marion quickly learns that Norman is not what he seems to be.