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

40

Re-Animator (1985)

Among the great debuts of the 1980s, Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator landed like a rusty fork in the eye of the sterile values trafficked by Reagan’s America—a breathless cornucopia of premarital sex, mutilated cats, bloody entrails, zombies, and, to quote Matt Zoller Seitz, “Barbara Crampton being subjected to the most ridiculous visual pun of all time.” Where it stands above so many of similar aim is in its sincere affection for its characters and refreshing abstention from irony. Like Frankenstein for Generation X, Re-Animator’s shock factor suggests the absurdities of life (and death) writ large, a sublime reminder that sometimes we must laugh so we may not cry.  Humanick

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

39

Frankenstein (1931)

James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein incited many vital developments in our consideration of cinema. Besides ushering in the concept of the modern American horror film, it also made a star of Boris Karloff, sent director James Whale off on a lengthy career in both film and theater, and brought censorship into the cultural conversation as no film had ever previously done. But on a more elemental level, it remains an intimate accomplishment in character-based drama and ethical inquisitiveness, spawning a legacy diverse enough to accommodate the likes of everyone from Victor Erice to Bill Condon, not to mention a franchise character in no threat of extinction.  Cronk

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

38

Deathdream (1972)

A grindhouse threnody for the Vietnam generation, Bob Clark’s emotionally overwhelming Deathdream is a raw nerve radiating pure shock and grief, as evidenced by the reunion of Faces’s Lynn Carlin and John Marley to play the parents of a young private who, after apparently dying in battle, returns to their doorstep. With echoes of “The Monkey’s Paw,” it gradually dawns on the initially relieved family that Andy’s purple heart may no longer beat, and yet he thirsts for blood, which would be horrifying enough if the film didn’t also seem to be suggesting that, whether soldiers return home from war decorated or draped by the flag, they never return as they were before.  Henderson

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

37

Dressed to Kill (1980)

An elegant fusion of giallo tropes, grind-house transgression, and art-house cool, Dressed to Kill is a checklist of the auteurist trademarks that earn Brian De Palma constant comparisons to Hitchcock. Chock-full of Hitchcockian fetishes like doubles, blondes, and voyeurism, it plays like Psycho dialed up to 11 for a post-Hays-code audience—relentlessly violent and casually provocative. The lurid story, in which a sexually frustrated housewife, creepy psychiatrist, and beleaguered call girl cross paths, is almost irrelevant. The film is about the manipulation of image and audience. It’s a dazzling display of craft, wielded like a straight razor to dissect the viewer’s id. Every shot is visual perfection, forcing you to look exactly where you’d rather not.  Das

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

36

The Tenant (1976)

The masterful final panel in Roman Polanski’s remarkable “apartment trilogy,” The Tenant surpasses even Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby in its portrayal of claustrophobia and dissipating sanity. Casting himself as Trelkovsky, a meek Polish wanderer whose new Paris residence comes equipped with sinister neighbors, mysterious hieroglyphs, and mystical intimations, the great director employs a comically escalating sense of dread to crystallize a worldview in which weaklings and barbarians jostle for power and everyone is an outsider, as powerless against bullying as they are to helping the suffering of others. A master class in ominous, insinuating mise-en-scène, this is the ultimate Polanski skin-crawler and one of cinema’s supreme paranoid fantasias.  Croce

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

35

God Told Me To (1976)

Larry Cohen, that mad genius whose A-list ambitions were thankfully preoccupied with funky, B-list concepts, had already plunged his rusty instruments into the heart of the feminine mystique and racial identity (Dial “Rat” for Terror) and the sanctity of the womb (It’s Alive) when he dared to connect the diseased dots between rampage shootings, religious revivalism, alien abduction, original sin, and bicentennial apocalyptic dread. More than any other film in any genre, God Told Me To, a grindhouse basilica that practically craves for oblivion, could only have been made during the collective insanity that was 1970s America.  Henderson

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

34

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Everything seems beautiful because you don’t understand,” warns cynical Brit Paul Holland (Tom Conway) to a naive woman as they both travel by boat to the West Indies. Considering the deceptive menace that plagues every sweaty frame of Jacques Tournuer’s woozy horror film, his wise words act as an omen for things to come. In this fable about a Canadian nurse traveling to the West Indies, death is elemental, riding on the wind, buried beneath the earth, and glimmering like fluorescents in the ocean current. Western stoicism proves to be useless in an exotic place with such deep-seated historical trauma. Survival means respecting local traditions and superstitions, even if that means jumping down the voodoo rabbit hole headfirst.  Heath

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

33

Jaws (1975)

The thriller that helped to dubiously restructure Hollywood’s methods of selling its films to the public is also cinema’s most enduring comic-horrific deconstruction of the macho-man-at-sea story. The shark in Jaws is the shark of our collective worst nightmares, a great big phallic joke that can mean anything you want it to mean, or nothing, and that uncertainty epitomizes the movie’s lasting appeal. Steven Spielberg’s film is the pop masterpiece as happy accident—a parody of America’s can-do spirit that’s also, by the end, a celebration of it.  Bowen

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

32

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

For Frankenstein’s sequel, James Whale turned up the dial on the extravagantly expressionistic set designs and sly sense of black humor. Especially notable in a storyline that more or less picks right up where the first film concluded is the addition of a prologue featuring a tale-spinning Mary Shelley (played by the Bride herself, Elsa Lanchester) and Ernst Thesinger’s mad, Mephistophelean Dr. Pretorius, who seduces Henry Frankenstein back into the laboratory by dangling the prospect of unnatural knowledge before him. Whale isn’t ashamed to plumb for pathos either (witness the scene where Boris Karloff’s Monster sheds a tear), when he isn’t waxing macabrely poetic with the Monster’s final summation: “We belong dead.”  Wilkins

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

31

The Brood (1979)

A film that externalizes all its subtexts like nervous welts in order to mock the burgeoning self-help and divorce crazes that had parents everywhere willfully unable to look beyond their own navels, David Cronenberg’s dark comedy The Brood is as perverse as it is incisive. The message that, no matter what parents try to do to internalize their own therapies and protect their loved ones from the messes they’re inside, there’s no possibility for a clean separation from the beds they make coincided with Cronenberg’s own divorce, which may account for the film’s transitional tone, alternately savage and chilly.  Henderson

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