Horror Movies: Jared’s Top 10 Recommendations

The Scream of the Crop

Officer Brackett:Y’know, it’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare, eh?”

Halloween (1978)

Halloween is a time of endings. The long and cold nights herald the approaching winter. Leaves fall dead from the trees until spring’s rebirth. That may be why people want to tell horror stories during this solemn season. Ghost stories told in oral tradition gave way to terrifying tales in books, which in turn were replaced by a Hollywood classic: Horror Movies.

Everyone has a preference in horror movies, even those who don’t watch traditional horror. Our own C. Dennis Moore runs Horror Corner here on Movie Rewind and is an expert who has published seven novels and dozens of stories. Creating a Top 10 Horror Movies list is out of my wheelhouse, but in the spirit of spooky season, here are ten films I recommend to all you ghouls and buoys.

#10 Hellboy: Sword of Storms

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Peri Gilpin, Gwendoline Yeo

Nukekubi:Where did you hide [our bodies]?!”
Hellboy:I dropped them in the lake. You guys didn’t look too hard.
Nukekubi: [as sunlight burns her to ashes] “Where…?
Hellboy:Bet that hurts.”

Hellboy: Sword of Storms

Many horror movies feature helpless protagonists. Survivors may temporarily escape the big bad monster, but luckily one of our Top 5 Monstrous Superheroes is a lot harder to kill. 

Synopsis: Hellboy and his allies investigate a murder. He is transported to feudal Japan after picking up an enchanted sword. A fox spirit reveals that demons called Thunder and Lightning are trying to escape their prison. Only the legendary Sword of Storms that Hellboy grabbed can stop them. He must find a way back to his time while his friends hold off the demons. 

Why This Movie?: Sword of Storms is an interesting East vs. West story. The gruff Hellboy encounters several youkai (monsters) that try to steal the sword or kill him in unusual ways. Vampires and werewolves are easy, but a river monster that is only weakened by dehydration? A swarm of flying cannibal heads? A humanoid spider with an illusion-creating instrument? These threats are enough to surprise the jaded hero.

While Hellboy is busy in the past, his allies Liz, Abe, and Kate are forced to fight without their big gun. They get plenty of chances to show their skills and quiet moments for dramatic scenes.

#9 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange

[Abbott and Costello‘s characters have pushed a bed against a door to keep Frankenstein out]
Chick:C’mon! Put your shoulder to the door. Hold it tight!
Wilbur:We’ll barricade it! [to the audience] He can’t get in here! [Frankenstein pulls the door open] He ca- AAAHHHH!”

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

It’s easy to forget the importance of Universal’s classic horror movies. Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man all were released in the same ten year period. So when it was time for the old guard’s last dance, what better opponents could be found than comedic legends Abbott and Costello?

Synopsis: Bumbling baggage clerks Chick and Wilbur (A & C) receive a shipment for a wax museum, unaware that Count Dracula has stowed away to retrieve Frankenstein’s body. Working alongside a mad scientist, Dracula plans to transfer Wilbur’s brain into Frankenstein’s body to make the creature obedient and help him conquer the world. Chick and his new friend Lawrence Talbot must save Wilbur, but Chick doesn’t know that his ally is a werewolf.

Why This Movie?: Zany antics blend with a monster mash in 1948’s counterpart to Avengers: Endgame. The heroes’ slapstick and quips knocked viewers dead while the monsters brought the scares and drama. The special effects were stunning for the time and hold up today.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was a huge hit, leading Universal to make several spinoffs. The duo later met Boris Karloff, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Someone give them Buffy’s phone number.

#8 Horror Movie: Scooby Doo on Zombie Island

Starring: Scott Innes, Billy West, Frank Welker, B.J. Ward, Mary Kay Bergman

Daphne:You won’t get away with this!
The Villain:I’ve been getting away with it for two hundred years!” 

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island

Scooby and the gang have faced many monsters over the years, but all were normal people in masks. So what happens when Scooby enters a horror movie where the monsters are real?

Synopsis: Mystery Inc. has drifted apart over the years. They reunite to celebrate Daphne’s birthday and go on a mystery solving spree, but nothing recaptures the magic. They are invited to a mysterious island to investigate a pirate haunting a plantation, but soon face an ancient and real evil.

Why This Movie: The Scooby Doo franchise was all but dead before this movie reanimated it. The animation is sleek, the tone is dark, and the story is mature. The gang spends much of the movie terrified as they flee real monsters who want to kill them. Fortunately, there is enough levity to keep things from becoming too dark.

#7 Freddy vs. Jason

Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland

Freddy: Not strong enough, yet. Well, I will be soon enough. Until then… I’ll let Jason have some fun.

Freddy vs. Jason

Everyone loves a good rivalry. Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger, Kirk vs. Picard, Mac vs. PC have fueled debates for decades. So how better to end the golden age of Slashers than by pitting The Springwood Slasher against the Crystal Lake Killer?

Synopsis: All knowledge of Freddy has been suppressed, making him too weak to kill anyone. Freddy manipulates Jason Voorhees into rampaging so the deaths will be blamed on Freddy and facilitate his return. The dream demon loses control of Jason, who keeps killing Freddy’s victims. Meanwhile, a group of teenagers plot to trick the two into killing each other.

Why This Movie?: Freddy vs. Jason is a balancing act that worked perfectly. The tone is a mix of Friday the 13th’s standard slasher formula and Elm Street’s black comedy. The climactic fight showcases Freddy’s speed, cunning, and dream powers against Jason’s overwhelming strength and durability. The teen side of the story is fine and filled with intrigue to serve as a backdrop for the real stars.

Fun Fact: There were plans for a sequel featuring Michael Myers from Halloween, Pinhead from Hellraiser, or Ash Williams from Evil Dead. Only the last saw the light of day as two comic miniseries.

#6 Horror Movie: Cabin in the Woods

Starring: Kristin Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford 

Sitterson: “I’m sorry, man.
Hadley: “He had the conch in his hands.
Sitterson: “I know. Couple more minutes, who knows what would have happened?”
Hadley: “I’m never gonna see a merman.”
Sitterson: “Dude, be thankful. Those things are terrifying. And the cleanup on them’s a nightmare.

The Cabin in the Woods

Have you ever noticed how horror movies are formulaic? All those characters slotting into familiar tropes while menaced by the same few threats. Why do you think that is?

Synopsis: A group of friends ignore a creepy old man’s warnings and visit an abandoned cabin. They begin acting oddly once they get there, almost becoming caricatures before being attacked by undead killers. Meanwhile, scientists in a high-tech facility prepare a ritual that goes awry. What is the connection?

Why this Movie?: Cabin in the Woods is a deconstructive parody that mocks the standard tropes and film studios. The victims provide all the gore, girls, and stupidity you want from humans in a horror movie. The scientists’ half is a horror-themed workplace comedy that pokes fun at making the movies while they try to finish a big project before very bad things happen.

Special Treat: Read Sue’s review of The Cabin in The Woods.

#5 Trick ‘r Treat

Starring: Quinn Lord, Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Sam Todd

Principal Wilkins:Tonight is about respecting the dead because this is the one night that the dead and all sorts of other things roam free… and pay us a visit. [a child gives him a look] Sorry. All these traditions… jack-o’-lanterns, putting on costumes, handing out treats… they were started to protect us, but nowadays… no one really cares.”

Trick ‘r Treat

One story is good, but several are better. Why put all your eggs in one basket when you can create a unique horror story anthology?

Synopsis: A serial killer attempts to hide the body of his latest kill, but is stymied at every turn. Children invite a quirky girl to investigate a ghost story. Several girls pressure their friend to have “her first time” while someone stalks them. A man who hates Halloween fights a monster. All four of these stories are overseen by a mysterious child named Sam.

Why This Movie?: Trick ‘r Treat approaches anthologies uniquely. The segments are all interconnected and occur at the same time, allowing viewers to jump between stories and enjoy the scares without much set-up.

The tone changes with each segment and includes slasher vibes, ghost stories, paranoia, and action. The movie is light on gore and high on tension. A sequel has been in the works for over a decade. Legendary Studios now has the hot potato.

#4 Let the Right One In

Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, Peter Carlberg

Eli:I’m twelve, but I’ve been twelve for a long time.

Let the Right One In

You didn’t think America has a monopoly on horror movies, do you? While Hollywood titles get the big ticket sales, studios around the world produce great horror. Our next tale comes from Sweden and was adapted as 2010’s Let Me In.

Synopsis: Oskar is a bullied child dreaming of revenge who meets and falls in love with a strange young girl named Eli. Her guardian, Håkan, murders several people to exsanguinate them. What will Oskar do when he learns about the murders and their motive? 

Why This Movie: Some of the best horror movies use the scares as a backdrop to another genre. Let The Right One In is a romance and coming of age story in horror trappings. The leads are restrained and quiet, but that only makes things more eerie. Bonus points for having child actors that aren’t atrocious.

Much of the gore is kept off-screen with only a little glimpse accentuating the kills. The spooks come from suspense, implications, and choreography, with a handful of violent scenes. 

#3 Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss

[Two hillbillies rescue a drowning girl from a lake]
Chloe:  “Oh, no, no, no…
Tucker:We’ve got your friend!
Todd:Oh, God! They got Alison!” [the teens flee]
Tucker:HEY! We’ve got your friend! Why the hell’re they runnin’ off?

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Communication is the most important skill horror movie characters lack. They can’t call for help, hide vital secrets, and make other mistakes that doom them. When good-natured bumblers meet judgmental teenagers, things go bad faster than you can say Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Synopsis: Best friends Tucker and Dale are on vacation when a group of standard horror movie victims show up to party. Several encounters make the teens think the hillbillies are murderers who kidnapped their friend. Their attempts to fight back result in many accidental deaths, leading Tucker and Dale to defend the teen they saved. Will anyone survive by the time the truth comes out?

Why This Movie?: Hillbilly Horror is my least favorite style of slasher flick, but this movie works by turning it into a comedy of errors where the usual antagonists are the heroes. The dim duo never realizing how creepy their actions look and the teens’ ineffectual murder attempts are hilarious. The writers also made sure to develop the main characters instead of keeping them one note jokes.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Mrs. Norman wrote a crackerjack review of Tucker and Dale

#2 Horror Movie: Shaun of the Dead

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran

[the survivors are attacked by a zombie while a jukebox plays Don’t Stop Me Now]
Shaun:Who the hell put this on?!
Ed:It’s on random.”
Liz:For f**k’s sake!
Shaun:Ok… Diane: Get mum somewhere safe! David: Kill the Queen!
David:What?!
Shaun:The jukebox!”

Shaun of the Dead

Romance worked so well in Let The Right One In, so how about a romantic comedy? And what makes a rom-com better than hordes of flesh-eating zombies? Nothing, that’s what!

Synopsis: Shaun is a childish retail worker whose girlfriend recently dumped him. He’s drifting through life with his best friend Ed until an outbreak of zombies interrupt their carefree times. They plan to save Shaun’s ex, their friends, and Shaun’s mom, before holing up in their favorite pub until the outbreak is contained. Will they make it?

Why This Movie?: Shaun of the Dead is even better on a rewatch. The first act sets up many jokes that are called back to later. The cast gels perfectly due to past experience on the cult classic Spaced. The battles against zombies mix laughs with scares as the disorganized survivors fumble their way to safety.

#1: Young Frankenstein

Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman

[Doctor Frankenstein has asked whose brain is in his monster]
Igor:Abby… Someone.
Frankenstein:Abby Someone? Abby who?
Igor:Abby… Normal.
Frankenstein:Abby. Normal.
Igor:I’m almost certain that was the name.”
Frankenstein:Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven-and-a-half foot long… fifty-four inch wide… [throttles Igor] GORILLA!? Is! That! What! You’re! Telling! Me!?

Young Frankenstein

Many of the horror movies on our list have blended comedy and horror together to great effect, but one film is in a class by itself. It’ll knock you dead, but the doc will have you back on your feet in a jiff. The rest of your body parts may be new, though.

Synopsis: Dr. Frankenstein’s estranged grandson Frederick inherits the family estate in Transylvania. He arrives there and meets wise-cracking hunchback Igor, a lovely assistant named Inga, and the terrifying Frau Blucher [whinny], all three of whom lead a reluctant Frederick into the family business. Will he be more successful than his grandfather?

Why This Movie?: Young Frankenstein is a barrage of comedy with Gene Wilder chewing as much scenery as possible. Many scenes parody the Universal Frankenstein movies, with the producers going so far as to use the original laboratory props. Despite its goofiness, the monster is sometimes terrifying.

What are your favorite horror movies? Have you seen any of these? Tell us in the comments. Happy Halloween, folks!

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