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The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time
The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

90

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Before the flourishing digital age paved the way for social-media naval-gazing, YouTube, and selfies galore, The Blair Witch Project foreshadowed the narcissism of a generation, its success unsurprisingly paving the way for an army of imitators that failed to grasp the essence of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s terrifyingly singular vision (with slight apologies to Cannibal Holocaust). Meta levels abound in this poised, deceptively low-budgeted and effortlessly self-reflexive exercise. The heartbreaking fall from sanity experienced by the trio of naïve filmmakers preys with ecstatic precision on our most instinctive fears, building to a rousing crescendo of primordial terror that’s arguably unrivaled by anything the genre has seen before or since.  Rob Humanick

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

89

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

John Carpenter’s 1995 sleeper is a lot of things: a noir, a Stephen King satire, a meta-meta-horror workout, a parody of its own mechanics. Carpenter can’t quite stick the landing(s), but watching his film twist and turn and disappear inside of itself as it twists its detective thriller beats into a full-on descent into the stygian abyss proves consistently compelling. Perhaps the best tack is that of Sam Neill’s driven-mad investigator, pictured in the film’s final frames hooting at images of himself projected in an abandoned movie theater. Perhaps the best way to enjoy In the Mouth of Madness is to relinquish your sanity, losing yourself inside of its loopy, Lovecraftian logic.  John Semley

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

88

The Vanishing (1988)

A disquieting expression of pragmatism as proof of godlessness. Director George Sluizer devises a mystery that very purposefully collapses in on itself; the terror of this film resides in its ultimate revelation that there isn’t any mystery at all, a development that carries obviously existential notes of despair. There’s no guiding motivation behind the disappearance that drives the film, and no cathartic purging of guilt or triumph of good; there isn’t even really a triumph of evil. A few things randomly happen, then a few more things, then nothing. The end. That non-ending, though, is one of the greatest in all of cinema and the source of many a nightmare.”  Bowen

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

87

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Just about any filmmaker can make intruders trying to get into someone’s home scary. It took a genius like Val Lewton to make a horror film wherein no one tries to get into the doomed victim’s home and her grim death isn’t even accorded a shrug by her neighbor. The Seventh Victim, if not Lewton’s most famous film, then almost certainly the one with the most slavish cult fanbase, is a lean-and-mean modernist nightmare that’s on the surface concerned with the diabolical schemes of a Satanic cult, but truly resonates as a portrait of cold, indifferent urban isolationism. You don’t truly know the dread of being alone until you’re surrounded by millions of strangers.  Henderson

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

86

The Leopard Man (1943)

Chris Fujiwara once said of Jacques Tourneur: “Unlike the classic auteur who imposes his vision on his film, Tourneur effaces his vision, not by the absence of style but by a style that emphasizes absence.” Indeed, who else but Tourneur could tell a story almost entirely in shadows? In Leopard Man, were a resistance to tradition and authority and the desire for privilege provocatively links the deaths of three Mexican women, he was able to deliriously evoke the presence of the film’s killer cat with as little as a darkened alleyway and with no more than a swaying tree branch. And Tourneur’s chiaroscuro is as striking as his use of sound, with the terror roused by a dancer’s ever-clinking castanets suggesting culture turning against itself.  Gonzalez

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

85

Opera (1987)

Dario Argento’s last masterpiece to date is one of his supreme essays on the possibilities of the subjective tracking shot for elaborating on the diseased pitfalls of the oft-discussed “male gaze.” Spritely, funny, atmospheric, and formally masterful, this clever fusing of The Phantom of the Opera with the legendarily cursed theatrical history of Macbeth also offers one of the horror film’s greatest metaphors: a collection of pins taped directly under the heroine’s eyes that literalizes a viewer’s astonished inability to look away from the atrocities a filmmaker springs forth.  Bowen

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

84

Martin (1976)

George A. Romero’s dreamlike deconstruction of the vampire myth represents an intriguing change of pace from his career-long fascination with lumbering undead flesh-eaters. A large measure of the film’s success rests with Romero’s formal innovation: employing elliptical editing that unexpectedly shifts registers between the gritty documentary realism of its present day locations and soft-focus monochrome footage that either offers fleeting glimpses into Martin’s disturbed memories or else enacts his private fantasy life as a Romantic antihero out of Byron. A deceptively digressive character study, infused with the filmmaker’s mistrust of intolerance and religious repression, Martin radiates real sympathy for its own (possibly delusional) devil, building inexorably toward a pointedly shattering conclusion.  Wilkins

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

83

Wolf Creek (2005)

A blistering jolt of existential terror that doesn’t come with the noxious sexual baggage that typically dooms its horror ilk, Wolf Creek begins with the stunning image of sunset-tinted waves crashing onto the sands of an Australian beachfront. For a split second, this expressionistic shot resembles a volcano blowing its top, and the realization that it’s something entirely more mundane exemplifies the unsettling tenor of the film’s casual shocks. Like The Hitcher and Near Dark before it, Wolf Creek is propelled by a lyrical sense of doom, expressing a gripping vision of characters struggling and resisting to be made out by a terror that seems at once terrestrial and alien.  Gonzalez

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

82

Irréversible (2002)

As broadly confrontational as Irréversible is (its brutal scene of Monica Bellucci being anally raped, its more consistently brutal depiction of gay men as violent, polymorphously perverse psychopaths), its most open challenge is the one it poses to its audience. The film’s reshuffled chronology may function foremost as a show of writer-director Gaspar Noé artiste-ry, but it also works to punish the viewer, by inverting the forward-moving propulsion of the rape-revenge thriller. Instead of working to contain the violence that motivates Vincent Cassel’s Marcus to tear up a Parisian sex club, Irréversible tapers toward it. It’s a clever-enough bid for genre revisionism, investing the film’s structuring trauma with an air of panting anticipation. Call it Noé’s final fuck-you to even his most patient and forgiving viewers.  Semley

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

81

Deliverance (1972)

America the beautiful turns into a landscape primed for brutal guerilla warfare in John Boorman’s unflinching film. A seemingly peaceful weekend rafting trip turns deadly for a group of suburbanites too arrogant to realize they’ve just trespassed on sacred ground. Not only a scathing revenge yarn, Deliverance addresses the longstanding consequences of class division and regional resentment through heinous (and invasive) acts of physical violence. Eclipsing all the rage is the Chattooga River, a serpentine symbol of natural serenity that only turns more menacing as the bodies start piling up, especially when its soothing hum is contrasted with the twang of an unseen banjo.  Heath

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