Final Thoughts: 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies

(I’ve also annotated my ballot.)

shining.jpgThe results are in.

The top five:

  1. The Shining (1980)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. Halloween (1978)
  4. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  5. Psycho (1960)

Despite complaints in the comments, it’s a pretty damned respectable list. It under-represents early milestones (Bride of Frankenstein and Nosferatu do make the list) and favors the past four decades. That’s problematic with lists of “great” movies but makes perfect sense with films that connect with fear, which is malleable and of its time; what scared us 60 years ago is likely to be radically different from what scares us today, and horror is often reflective of the social concerns of its era.

It’s curious to me that so few “classic” spooks made the list: one vampire, one Frankenstein’s monster. Zombies are here, but they’re amorphous — and that’s a quality I’d attribute to many of the films that made the final cut. The absence of a clear cause, a clear solution, a realistic hope, or a combination of the three means that we can’t easily dismiss them. Which means that they creep us out.

The list is also more psychological than I would have expected, with a surprising number of the selections eschewing the overtly supernatural altogether. Psycho and Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Jaws were expected, but there’s also Night of the Hunter and Se7en.

There’s only one movie (the American remake of Ringu) that can’t be justified intellectually, in my opinion — it’s an inferior version of a movie that wasn’t good to begin with, undone by endless exposition. Everything else on the list you can make a case for, even if it’s not something you particularly like. Then again, the prompt was so nebulous, personal, and gut-level that if it gives you the willies, who am I to disagree?

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