The 5 Best Horror Films Ever Made

With the Mayhem Film Festival, a celebration of all things scary, right around the corner, here are my five favourite horror films ever made...
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With the Mayhem Film Festival, a celebration of all things scary, right around the corner, here are my five favourite horror films ever made...

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Mayhem Film Festival is based at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham and is run by real fans of the horror genre. Mayhem has grown over the years from a night of short films dedicated to horror to five days of feature film previews and premieres, guests and events and this years is the biggest yet.

We have a premiere of episode one of the BBC's new supernatural drama series The Secret Of Crickley Hall adapted from the James Herbert novel by our special guest Joe Ahearne, who created the TV series Ultraviolet for Channel Four and directed the revived Doctor Who.

Steven Sheil might be the festivals co-director, but he's also the director of Mum & Dad, the film that shocked British audiences a few years ago and this year we're holding the premiere of his new film, DEAD MINE, shot in Indonesia with Joe Taslim from The Raid and Miki Mizuno from Guilty of Romance – a real step into uncharted territory!

In addition we're screening Sightseers with Ben Wheatley, Grabbers with director Jon Wright, tense alt.slasher Guinea Pigs with helmer Ian Clark, the amazing indie The Casebook Of Eddie Brewer, a really clever ghost story and a series of utter must-sees, from American Mary, the Soska Sisters masterpiece, to cutting edge anthology V/H/S... Mayhem is bursting at the seams with quality and very disturbing entertainment.

Coming up with any list of favourite or best films is always hard for any fan of the genre – it will always seem limiting or shortly after I will think of another five, or ten, or 50, I could have mentioned.

But – here goes my Top Five of the best horror films ever made. My criteria: I am armed with my memory and wanting to remind people of how broad the genre is.

This must be Argento.  A beautiful film to look at and one that is filled with mystery, darkness and a sense of utter dread and ultimate doom.

So, in at number five:

Dario Argento's INFERNO. 1980

Grand set-pieces – check! Bombastic prog rock – check. Beautiful women in danger – check! This must be Argento.  A beautiful film to look at and one that is filled with mystery, darkness and a sense of utter dread and ultimate doom. The harder our protagonist looks for clues the closer to death he comes himself, literally. This is a handsome looking film and one virtually ignored by the studio that funded it. Okay – so everyone loves Suspira, it's prequel, but this film feels like it's Argento at a real cross-roads, scaring us, filling every frame with beauty but also commenting on the horror genre itself.

James Whale's THE OLD DARK HOUSE. 1932.

Whale's two Frankenstein films are masterpieces of the horror genre, but this creepy, atmospheric and genuinely disturbing film shouldn't ever be overlooked – it's the film that sets the standard for all creaky, crumbling, sinister buildings that people take shelter from a storm in films to come. Plus it has Karloff in a genuinely unsettling role as mute, dangerous servant Morgan.

Talking of creepy old houses and demented families – they don't come more demented than this little family...

Jack Hill's SPIDER BABY (or THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD). 1968.

This is the weirdest fun you'll ever have being scared. From the opening credit song, sung beautifully by the great Lon Chaney Jr (The Wolfman himself!) to the utterly bonkers, deadly game of Spider Baby played by one half of the maddest sisters on screen this is like The Addams Family if David Lynch had created it. AND MUST BE SEEN BY EVERYONE!

At two:

Robert Wise's THE HAUNTING. 1963.

A lot of the films I have chosen seem to be about evily eccentric families and their horrible homes and this version of The Haunting (please erase all memory of the remake from your mind with mind-napalm) is a classic tale where the building itself seems alive, menacing, malevolent – as well as a clever metaphor for the insane human mind itself. Brilliantly acted by Julie Harris and Claire Bloom this is also the best, most frightening and effective ghost story EVER filmed.

And in at number ONE:

Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. 1974.

This is it – terror, claustrophobia, mania. A demented family feeding off passers-by, but a close knit and loyal family never-the-less. This is probably the most influential horror film ever made and many of the filmmakers working today must surely acknowledge it's power, artistry and effectiveness. Brilliantly made, kinetic and violent it's an assault on the senses as well as on the flesh of the victims trapped and killed. Who will survive and what will be left of them? The question applies to the traumatised audience as well.

Full details of MAYHEM and how to buy tickets can be found here...

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