Like many of us horror geeks out there, I remember watching most of the below movies at various stages in my life and look back with fond memories but to do this list a just service I felt that I would have to watch each of my choices again. So, each of these, in my mind, has earned its place after being viewed in the dark of night with nothing but shredded nerves to keep me company.
10. Event Horizon
I know Paul W. S. Anderson is popularly hated among the horror fraternity and with Soldier and AvP to his ‘credit’ it’s not hard to see why but with Event Horizon, he takes a rather worn out premise and makes some truly frightening scenes and the handling of Sam Neill’s Dr Weir from proud ship designer to nuttier than a bag of beavers is extremely well paced.
The horror and sci-fi are here in fairly equal measures and when Weir takes sadistic pleasure dissecting Jason Isaacs D.J alive its stomach-churning stuff.
9. Frankenstein (1931)
Directed by early genre pioneer James Whale, this version of Mary Shelley’s literal masterpiece stars early make-up effects master Boris Karloff in a career-defining role as the monster.
The way that Colin Clive’s Dr. Frankenstein obsesses with his work to the point that his unwavering belief in his science is the root of his and his beloveds downfall is mirrored and compounded by Karloff’s turn as once obedient ‘offspring’ to caged freak to ultimately unleashed animal and it’s for these reasons why this incarnation will always be my favourite.
David Cronenberg has always enjoyed success with horror and it’s Sci-Fi cousin and with Scanners he brought the paranoia of an underhand government and it’s medical experiments to the fore with this gory but tightly scripted tale of ‘scanners’ people with the telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
As the audience you are constantly trying to second-guess who may or may not be a scanner, which echoes the paranoia facing Stephen Lacks good guy scanner ‘Cameron Vale’. The ambiguous ending is also a success, leaving you wondering just who survived.
7. The Invisible Man (1933)
The science of the then ground breaking technology of making things invisible on film mixed with H. G. Wells classic fiction topped by James Whales superb direction make this a classic of the Sci-Fi Horror genre.
Claude Rains, who spends 90% of the film either in swathes of bandage of as just a voice, is brilliant as the deranged scientist giving real credibility to his first American movie.
While the effects are now dated in the context of the film they still hold up well and actually give a rough untested science kind of feel that sits well with the mad science of Dr. Jack Griffin.
Stuart Gordon’s first entry into the popular franchise is very much a zombie movie but it’s the science in the fiction that gives us the films main theme. Again its man messing with nature and using science to act god but this time instead of an experienced scientist or professor we have the naive young student Herbert West played chilling by genre favourite Jeffrey Combs.
The effects are still passable but it’s the way that West and his medical student room-mate Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) know the horror of what they are doing and actually get excited about it, they maybe young but they are fearless in their pursuit of the re-animator and despite a couple of close calls with death at the hands of one of the re-animated corpses, they push feverishly ahead.
The ending is brilliantly obvious but never dull as you know that in the same position, you would do the same thing.
5. 28 Days Later
While most think of Danny Boyle’s serrated-edged horror as a modern rethink of the zombie movie and while this is acceptable, it is much closer to Sci-Fi than is generally considered, even if the Director himself insists that the film is not a Sci-Fi Horror but a drama set in that environment.
The injection of the ‘Rage’ virus into lab chimps and the subsequent outbreak of it is swift and unrelenting. The characters are rounded and you genuinely care for them, with the single blood drop into Frank’s eye a particular standout.
The theme of man meddling with nature is not a new one but its well handled and powerfully driven home when you see the ghost-like streets of a deserted London.
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Don Siegel, the man behind many of Clint Eastwoods big screen hits directed the original film version of Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers.
The studio Allied Artists told Siegel to make significant budget cuts, so he had to abandon his original choices for the lead roles, which turned out to be the best thing for the movie as relatively unknown actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter lent an air of realism to the film that might otherwise been have been taken away by casting star names, see Spielberg’s update of War of the Worlds if you need confirmation and its this realism, including the then unheard of ‘breaking the 4th wall’ where a frantic McCarthy screams directly into the camera “"They're here already! You're next!!!" that makes makes this an easy choice for a top ten slot.
3. The Fly (1986)
The role that Jeff Goldblum was made for, his portrayal of doomed scientist Seth Brundle is tear jerking and terrifying in equal measure. Director David Cronenberg (again) crafted a superb sci-fi horror where for all Brundle’s sins you still don’t want him to die you want him to find a cure.
The effects also still look good today, with the fingernail and teeth scenes being particularly strong. But the standout is Goldblum, as he slowly loses his human features and his mind and turns into the Brundlefly the agony on his once lover Veronica is echoed in the audience.
2. The Thing
For me, this is hands down John Carpenters greatest movie, horror or otherwise. He handles the isolated location, internal paranoia and murderous body-cloning alien with expert hands.
The tension is almost unbearable as anyone who has ever sat through the blood test scene will testify to.
Any film that makes you feel uneasy about rooting for the ‘hero’ because you just don’t know if he is one of ‘them’ too deserves kudos but the way that Carpenter never lets you go, hanging on, not letting you catch a breath, even after the now infamous ‘ECG’ scene, he instils the paranoia into you, the viewer.
The only thing that stops this being my number 1 is that the effects have started to date but that’s such a minor quibble when you consider the power that Carpenter once weaved.
Whilst this may be an obvious choice for the top slot, there can’t be any denying that Ridley Scott crafted the greatest Sci-Fi Horror of all time.
The scares are spot on, the tension would make Hitchcock envious and the creature designs from the eggs to the face huggers to the Alien itself are immediately chilling and terrifying.
Scott was only 6th choice to direct and was only approached after producer Walter Hill had seen Scott’s debut film The Duellists.
Obviously this turned out to be the films masterstroke as Scott buried himself in the project, even describing it as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Science Fiction”.
Even today the film holds up in pretty much every department and not many films, regardless of genre can do that.
So, am I, as usual, talking out my rather pert backside or did i at least get some right?