Insidious is one of those rare films that understood the concept that the less you see of a monster, the scarier it is. A few brilliant shots and an unceasing atmosphere of doom (not to mention some creepy as hell stop-motion) are all one needs to create a chilling and supremely effective ghost story. I also enjoyed the Lovecraftian astral projection angle; a bit of a deus ex machina, but a well executed one nonetheless.
Elise: Dalton? Why aren’t you…why aren’t you talking anymore? Dalton?
Dalton: If they hear me, they’ll hurt me.
Elise: Who will hurt you? Who will hurt you, Dalton?
Dalton: The man…with…fire…on his face.
4. The Silence of the Lambs
Though not a horror movie per se, this one makes the list, not because of the gore or violence, but because of the sheer amount of gut-wrenching tension that silver screen god-king Anthony Hopkins can cram into a single, chilling conversation. I’ve never seen a better anti-hero than Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ Lector, nor do I ever expect to.
Hannibal Lector : A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Because of this film, the hellish buzz of a whirring chainsaw has forever ingrained itself the the minds of Americans as a sign of sheer terror. There are so many elements of horror in this film, including captivity, a terrifying masked thing, and a truly brutal way to die.
Old Man: “I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”
2. The Mist
Some hated The Mist. I loved the Mist because it capture the sense of being absolutely trapped with no escape and with enemies on every side as if to suggest that when people are thrust unwillingly into impossible situations, they’ll eat each other alive. The ending was one of the greatest tragedies and the blackest of pitch black ironies I’ve ever seen.
Amanda: You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?
David: None, whatsoever.
Amanda: I can’t accept that. People are basically good; decent. My god, David, we’re a civilized society.
David: Sure, as long as the machines are working and you can dial 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, you scare the shit out of them – no more rules.
This Spanish horror flick mixes the best of the unknown, conspiracy, deadly contagion, and gruesome visuals. As the virus spreads, the remaining protagonists seal themselves off into smaller and smaller sections of the complex, essentially baiting their own trap. All the while, the audience roots for someone…anyone…to make it out alive.
Angela: There are incredible security measures in place. We know nothing. They haven’t told us a thing. We saw special forces, health inspectors wearing suits and masks, and it’s not very comforting.
*Honorable mention: Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
Vile. Just sick, in the most intense form of the word. Everything, from the main character to the locations to the relationships, is designed to be repulsive. I usually have a strong stomach for gore, but this meta and admittedly unique piece of cinema is by far the filthiest, nastiest, and most cringe-inducing film I’ve ever seen. I’m still trying to process it all, and trying to decide if it’s tripe or a triumph.