Like most horror buffs, I’ve been watching genre films since I was old enough. My favourites have always had a simple plot, and been a blend of supernatural horror and fantasy.
So, which are my favourites, and why? Here they are, in reverse order:
5. The Amityville Horror. I think this was the first horror film I saw at a cinema. It’s about a family who move into a house where murders took place a year earlier. It was released in 1979; by modern standards the plot is cliché and the effects out dated, but at the time I loved it. I haven’t watched it since, but it’s a film I have a soft spot for.
4. Highlander. Okay, it’s not horror, but the film does have some dark elements and themes. One of these is the need to chop heads off your enemies, which is defiantly a horror plot. And any film set in the stunning Scottish highlands, and has Queen providing the soundtrack, can’t go far wrong - even if the story is, quite frankly, daft.
3. Saw. A lot of extreme horror is sparsely plotted and little more than an attempt to be more brutal and shocking than the previous slasher. The Saw films are different in that they have theme, subtly and plot. They manage to be cleverer than most and had me wondering what’ll happen next, rather than simply going onto another horrific death. The series lost its way a little part way through, but overall I think it’s by far the best of its type.
2. Predator. This is a story about a group of soldiers fighting something invisible yet nasty in the central American jungle. They are picked off one by one until only one survives to fight the ‘predator’. We don’t see the monster until late in the film which I think ups the suspense in a brilliant example of the technique of not letting the audience see the ‘thing of evil’ until as late as possible.
1. Alien. Perhaps the best known sci-fi horror. A brilliant film about something nasty aboard a spaceship many years in the future. The image of Ripley and the alien is one of those that stays with you long after the end credits. Later films in the franchise lost a little because by then we knew what Ripley was up against, despite writers upping the ante – but that shouldn’t take anything away from the first in the series.
There are some classics missing from my list; nothing my Stephen King, for example. I’ve seen several films based on his books (‘The Dead Zone’; ‘Carrie’; ‘The Shining’; Christine’, etc) and enjoyed them, but I think my choice says something about the sort of plot I like rather than anything about a film or writer’s quality. I like watching (and writing) simple, ‘in yer face’ linear shockers rather than subtle or psychological horror, and those sort of films give me most pleasure.