But there are those few that have weathered the test of time and continue to be the basis for films that are still coming out to this day.
And it’s also interesting to note that the movies on this list were all made before I was born.
Few horror movies that were made during my time on this earth have left such a lasting impression on me, and perhaps it was because I was so young when I finally watched the films that the fear was imprinted on my psyche.
The Evil Dead (1981)
dir. Sam Raimi
“The Evil Dead” is still considered a cult classic in most circles.
But its low-budget style and creativity that have showered the film with countless fans across the globe and spawned two sequels, dozens of special editions on VHS, DVD, LaserDisc and Blu-Ray and a remake coming in 2013.
The film features a group of teenagers who decide to spend a weekend in an old abandoned cabin in the woods.
Once there, they discover an old tape recorder of someone trying to decipher the Necronomicon, aka the Book of the Dead.
Playing the recording inadvertently releases the Evil Dead, and the teens haven’t got a prayer.
Bruce Campbell bucks up and has to kill his possessed posse, including his girlfriend, with an ax, chain saw and gun among other things.
The cheap makeup fx actually add a lot of horror and disgust, while Raimi’s furious pace and inventive use of the camera and shots are still mimicked to this day.
It’s gory, terrifying and well acted by a bunch of first-time actors that just wanted to make a horror film but, instead, created a low budget, cinematic masterpiece.
But it’s not for the weak of heart.
Raimi went on to direct the original Spider-Man trilogy, and Campbell went on to star in numerous movies and television shows.
The Exorcist (1973)
dir. William Friedkin
Often touted as one of the best horror movies ever made.
And with good reason, too.
Many people I know still can’t watch this film in its entirety, much less alone.
The film stars Linda Blair as Regan, a little girl who gets possessed by a demon and goes all kinds of crazy.
Regan’s mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, slowly begins to lose her mind and, after countless medical tests done to her daughter, decides the only way to fix her is to have an exorcism performed on her.
She enlists the help of Father Damian Karras, who’s beginning to lose his faith in God and struggling with his existence.
The movie is more than a horror film. It’s a drama that deals with faith, love and the lengths we go to protect our children.
It’s shocking and disturbing at times, as most people have at least seen the head spinning gag or the green puke shooting from Regan’s mouth onto the priests.
The film was nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Linda Blair, winning only Sound Editing and Screenplay awards.
It was a time when a film was a film, no matter what the subject matter was.
The production got a grade A director and stars along with a great composer and crew who, not only wanted to make a great horror film, but just make a great movie.
With the too-numerous-to-count “Exorcist” movies that have followed in its wake, including two sequels and a spoof featuring Linda Blair herself, it’s clear that this film struck a chord and still terrifies its audiences to this day.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
dir. Tobe Hooper
We live in Texas. That was scary enough for me as a child.
The very sound of a chain saw, to this day, still sends chills down my spine.
I don’t think I know a single person that hasn’t seen this movie.
And most still believe it’s based on a true story.
It’s not. It’s loosely based on true events. The serial murders of Ed Gein. But that’s another story.
What we have here is another low-budget, independent feature done with little to no money that is scary and creepy as anything ever filmed before or since.
Once again, we have a group of teens, but, instead of heading into the woods, they’re heading to a small Texas town to visit one of their grandfather’s grave site. But find out the cemetery is surrounded by cops who are investing grave robberies.
They then head to their family home, and the horror begins.
I think that most people are afraid of this movie because of the scrolling text before the film that states it’s based on reality.
This meta-fiction take on a horror film has since been used over and over again. But never to this effect.
It’s the sweaty, dirty, loose camera style that Hooper used in this film that makes it seem more of a documentary than a horror film.
The audience is sitting in the van with the teens.
Hanging on the meat hook with the girl.
Bashed in the head with a giant hammer.
Chased through the woods by a chain saw-wielding, human face-wearing madman.
With an unknown cast of misfits thrown in for good measure, the movie feels dirty, and you can almost smell the disgusting odors that most likely fill the killer’s farmhouse.
The costume designs are dingy, grimy and great.
The set design is one of a kind. Human skeleton chair, chickens in bird cages and random bones laying around. It truly is a house for sickos.
The film spawned three sequels, a remake, a prequel to the remake and another 3D sequel, supposedly to the original, coming in 2013.
Though very little blood is actually seen in the film (watch it again if you don’t believe me), it’s still one the most terrifying films in history.
And the chain saw dance at the end is unbeatable.