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

80

They Live (1988)

With They Live, John Carpenter took the idea of allegorical horror, acknowledged it, and proceeded to upend all notions of subtlety, casting a professional wrestler in the lead role and turning his villains into human aliens spearheading a worldwide media brainwash. As Roddy Piper roams the streets of Los Angeles, rifle in hand, chewing scenery and bubblegum alike, a one-man wrecking crew on a mission to thwart invasion and open the third eye of a populace too drugged on consumer culture to realize their utility as vessels of widespread conspiracy, the blunt impact of Carpenter’s missive and subversiveness of his humor proves more potent than any comparable dramatic conception.  Jordan Cronk

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

79

The Innocents (1961)

The fear of sex underlining Cat People is a mere copped feel compared to the turbulent erotic paranoia moistening Jack Clayton’s adaptation of Henry James’s psychological ghost story The Turn of the Screw. As Deborah Kerr’s governess discovers the kids are far from all right, Clayton contrasts her cold sweats against an endlessly ripening, mossy English backdrop, where the screams of humans are usurped by the mating calls of mocking birds. As an acquaintance aptly put it, this is the prurient horror film Last Year at Marienbad, underneath its own self-imposed confusion, was trying to be.  Henderson

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

78

The Beyond (1981)

Midway through The Beyond, a blind woman (Cinzia Monreale) presses her fingers on a canvas and, frightened by a shrieking bell, rushes off with bloody palms. The irrationality of the moment, as well as its sensory hyper-intensity, embodies the necro-lyrical mood of Lucio Fulci’s New Orleans-set nightmare, which hinges on a decaying hotel erected upon an infernal doorway. A couple (Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck) set out to investigate the strange events, though the narrative is increasingly discarded as Fulci contemplates queasy textures and crumbling flesh, building to an abstract tableau palpitating with the “sea of darkness” so characteristic of the Italian filmmaker’s visionary grotesqueries.  Croce

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

77

Zombie (1979)

B-movie schlock reigns supreme in Zombie, an irreverent gore fest that adheres, like many of Lucio Fulci’s movies, to a nightmarish sense of logic. It’s been accused of possessing poor pacing, structure, and dialogue, but these assumed deficiencies are indicative of the film’s virtual attack on narrative technique. Throughout, Fulci willfully defies all sense of logic, character development, and subtext in favor of elaborate zombie set pieces both frightening and surreal. He might not have possessed the Mario Bava’s wit or Dario Argento’s lyricism, but he was an unabashed showman with a macabre imagination, like the infamous zombie-versus-shark sequence that remains one of the strangest and most exhilarating moments in the horror canon.  Hunt

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

76

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

More disturbing than the abusive mind games, violent mayhem, and sibling betrayals throughout, the real terror of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is spelled right out in the title itself, its mocking, exploitative tone attacking the condescending manner with which the entertainment industry even today treats its female stars. Robert Aldrich’s masterstroke in pairing up two volatile and immensely gay-friendly divas and then shooting them to appear as old as they were proved a prescient and unforgiving mirror upon the latent misogyny of what hadn’t yet even been invented: camp. So of course the film and its ilk all were flippantly tagged “hag horror.”  Henderson

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

75

Trouble Every Day (2001)

Oft considered the province of the primitive, critics and horror enthusiasts alike don’t often take well to art-house auteurs adopting elements of the genre for their highbrow experiments. Case in point: Trouble Every Day, a retroactively identified harbinger of the “New French Extremity” to which it ultimately held only peripheral association and a subversive interpolation of vampire tropes, it may very well stand as the quintessential Claire Denis film. The director’s fascination with the flesh, her conflation of the malignant and the euphoric, and her elliptical use of an interpersonal ensemble result here in perhaps the most sinister, seductive film in a career built on nascent eroticism.  Cronk

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

74

Witchfinder General (1968)

Whereas Vincent Price’s Poe adaptations were apt to be ornate and histrionic affairs, Witchfinder General is lean and mean, a brutal bit of business for which Price turns in a restrained yet menacing performance. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a government-sponsored witch hunter traversing an English countryside riven by the depredations of Civil War and putting anyone he pleases to the rack. With its 24-year-old director in perfect tune with the tumultuous times (the film was fittingly enough released in May 1968), Witchfinder General lays bare the bloody violence inherent in the system, and ends on an uncommonly bleak note of irremediable madness and unquenchable bloodlust.  Wilkins

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

73

Near Dark (1987)

The zenith of a career phase defined by sneakily subversive genre films, Kathryn Bigelow’s melancholic Near Dark remains a singular milestone in the evolution of the vampire myth. It’s a delirious fever dream grounded periodically by masterfully constructed scenes of carnage and the rooting of its mythology in the period’s twin boogeymen of addiction and infection. An excellent cast of pulp icons—Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen are particularly unhinged—bring restless energy to the story of itinerant vampires cruising the neon-soaked highways of a beautifully desolate Southwest. It’s Gus Van Sant through a Southern-gothic haze, thrumming with an urgency bestowed by Tangerine Dream’s score and thematic heft alike.  Abhimanyu Das

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

72

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Channeling the coolly homicidal HAL-9000, Anthony Hopkins established a new high-water mark for the portrayal of evil on film in The Silence of the Lambs, and Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel remains an artistic milestone that’s frequently underestimated in light of its deft, thematically befitting subterfuge as a mere “thriller.” The relationship between Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling and Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter draws brilliantly from the beauty-and-the-beast archetype, but The Silence of the Lambs plumbs to far greater depths than that of a merely high-class monster movie. Here, the fluid nature of the self, and a nation’s psychological, sexual, and spiritual tumult, are the source of our deepest nightmares.  Humanick

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

71

Hellraiser (1987)

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a superlative horror film because it broadly illustrates the mechanics of horror films. Through the character of “Uncle” Frank (Sean Chapman), an unremorseful libertine whose pursuit of pleasure leads him to the Lament Configuration (a puzzle box that, when solved, draws the user into a hellish underworld of torment overseen by the Cenobites, a disfigured class of leather-clad dominants), Hellraiser explores the sadomasochistic impulses that drive horror viewing, that dynamic between agony and gratification. The sequels offered diminishing returns, but Barker’s original craftily crams sex, sadism, and gothic Grand Guignol in its snug leather-fetish trappings.  Semley

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