Peeping Tom (1960) by Dusty Somers
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock shocked the moviegoing world with Psycho. The same year in Britain, Michael Powell caused even more scandal with his psychosexual horror masterpiece Peeping Tom, but while Hitchcock's reputation as a master filmmaker was only solidified, Powell's career was effectively ruined.
Peeping Tom possesses the same bold, expressionistic approach to color that Powell often used in his collaborations with Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes). Here, the entire film is an exercise in boldness, as Powell frankly explores the voyeuristic nature of filmmaking and film viewing, seen through the lens of troubled filmmaker Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm). Mark kills women while filming them, with the final looks of horror that he captures acting as both sexual stimulants and a kind of emotional connection.
When a friendly neighbor (Anna Massey) tries to reach out to Mark, a more standard kind of emotional relationship develops. Powell elicits superb moments of tension during the pair's interactions as we imagine the horrible fate that must await. We both fear Mark and feel deeply bad for him at the same time. Powell's horror is that of an emotionally warped man, damaged and empowered by the act of creating images.
In 1960, audiences and critics only saw the sensational shocks, but Peeping Tom is a smart, sensitive and haunting horror film.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) by El Bicho
Don't know why, but I've never been a big horror fan. I have seen most of the classics of the genre, and admittedly enjoyed or at least appreciated what they were, but I've never understood the appeal of getting frightened. I find real life scary enough, so it's no surprise that my favorite horror film is the most realistic.
Inspired by Henry Lee Lucas, James McNaughton's film is about Henry (Michael Rooker), a serial killer who looks normal and is so causal about what he does it is terrifying. Throughout the film, Henry kills women, and many of those scenes are brilliantly assembled by showing the visual of the aftermath while the audio of the murder plays.
Henry shares an apartment with Otis (Tom Towles), who he met in prison. One night, they pick up prostitutes, and Henry kills both of them. Surprisingly, Otis' only concern is about getting caught. Henry takes Otis under his wing and they begin a killing spree, murdering people they know and random strangers, whenever the impulse strikes. The film will make you think twice about helping someone on the side of the road. Otis' sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) stays at their apartment and comes between the men, creating great tension between the two sociopaths.
While many horror films featuring monsters can be dismissed because they aren't real, people like Henry are too often seen on the news. I attended an afternoon with two friends, and we were all skittish walking back to the car in broad daylight. No other film has had that strong of an effect on me.
28 Days Later (2002) by Amanda Salazar
I really enjoy a good horror film but when it comes to a particular kind of horror film I love a great zombie movie. Although there is some debate over this being a true "zombie" film, my favorite horror film has to be 28 Days Later.
A disease called Rage is let out after an experiment on primates goes wrong. A man wakes up in a hospital after being unconscious for 28 days and finds that no one is around, as in the cities have been emptied. When he finds other living people, he finds out that people have been "infected" and they try to kill off the uninfected.
The film is violent, scary and Boyle does such a great job at creating a realistic world in chaos. The infected people are unpredictable and the world that they now live in is frightening in its despair. Not only is the film going to give you a scare but it is beautifully done and worth the watch.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) by Shawn Bourdo
Picking my favorite horror film is akin to picking my favorite child. Okay, picking my favorite child might be easier because I only have three of them to choose from. Horror is a genre that I've largely ignorred since 1999, but that's mainly because most everything you need to see in the genre was made before the turn of the century. It was tempting to pick some of the ones that made huge impacts on my fandom of the horror genre - The Exorcist, The Thing, or Dawn Of The Dead. Those are great examples of the genre. My other pick Alien reminded me that most of my favorites owe a huge debt to the Universal Monster films of the Thirties.
I didn't see them all in order. I was at the mercy of when they aired on Chiller Theater on Friday nights. The ones that first hit me were Dracula, The Invisible Man and Wolfman. They were my favorite characters and didn't have all the angst that Frankenstein seemed to come with. They were my favorites until I saw Bride Of Frankenstein. To this day it is one of the most important films to making me a horror fan. I wouldn't have watched the ones previously mentioned if I hadn't seen this film. It's not the scariest - not in the traditional way of horror films. The 1935 film took me by surprise. The monster isn't necessarily the villain - he's our "hero". It's here that I learned what Shelley was trying to say in the books - that men are the real monsters. The monster's friendship with the hermit is heartbreaking - "Friend, good." The sound of that violin haunts me. And that's the sign of any great horror film - it's the sucker punch. Filmmakers have missed the point and sucker punch the viewer with shocks in the middle of the film. This one gets you hours or days afterwards as it sinks in.
Our poor friend just wants love - what we all want - but he is denied that love because it doesn't come organically. Like him - a perfect human cannot be made in a laboratory. This film haunts me still. And the more I learn about director James Whale, the more I'm affected by it. My favorite horror film extends beyond the genre as just a great film.