Carpenter's film was not initially well-received by critics. Its forwarding of gore-effects and gross-out viscera was considered too blunt to generate suspense or real dread. However, in recent years, re-assessment has led to a new appreciation of The Thing. Based on Hawk's The Thing from Another World, Carpenter modernized and intensified the claustrophobic dread encircling arctic explorers facing a terrifying monster who could have taken over any one of their own group.
The Vanishing is definitely a slow-burner. While not completely laced with moments of horror, this quiet mystery concerning one man's search for his missing partner builds to the singular best climax I've ever witnessed in a movie. Stay away from the American remake.
Similar to The Vanishing, Wait Until Dark slowly builds up its intensity until a corker of a third act. In this film, Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman who must fend off several maniacal home-invaders. The (literally) pitch-black climax makes great use of sound design and heightens the tension to almost unbearable levels.
Polanski's early art-film used new and exciting cinematic techniques and expressive symbolic visuals to externalize the effects of mental illness. Watching the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve spiral into murderous madness presents an odd and perverse voyeurism that viewers can't help but continue watching.
While Stephen King has expressed his disappointment in this adaptation of his wonderful novel, director Stanley Kubrick's aims were to explore a different kind of malevolence lurking in an isolated hotel. The Shining is a cold film, one that feels unnerving and unnatural right from the very beginning. The stilted performances, Wendy Carlos' synth score, and the symbolic visuals all amount to a heightened film that must be experienced. Recent documentary Room 237 explores some of the cult that has grown out of this particular entry.
Whale's second Frankenstein entry in the Universal monster series delves deeper into the pathos and despair at the heart of this adaptation. Collectively these two films took Shelley's source material along with the inspiration of German Expressionism and created Gothic cautionary tales about the downfall of playing God. That Bride allows us complete identification with a monster who speaks so few words and forwards additional subtext on gay rights only provides the cherry on top.
While horror has been an essential part of cinema from its inception in the mid-1890s, no film is as markedly important as F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Taking the German Expressionist style, which would permeate every other horror film that followed, and breaking copyright rules to adapt Dracula without permission, Murnau created a moody and atmospheric film that plays the vampire myth as plague-like disease rather than sexual transmission per other adaptations.
The new school in vampire flicks, Let the Right One In is a violent and unsettling story of two outcast children; one of whom happens to be a vampire. The film is unrelenting in its depths of darkness and deliberately paced (film snobbery for slow) where every frame of frigid Swedish winter is arresting.
One of the only true horror movies to ever win the Academy Award for best picture, The Silence of the Lambs is feminist film in which a naive FBI trainee must match wits with a mythical psychopath to catch a sadistic killer of women.
Friedkin's masterpiece was an adaptation of a William Blatty novel that shouldn't have worked. Groundbreaking effects (make-up and practicals), crisp performances, and a no-holds barred cinematic approach that refuses to sugarcoat any aspect of the story led to the creation of a film that truly feels evil to behold. It takes a lot to ask an audience to suspend disbelief, what The Exorcist allows audiences to believe is brutally beautiful.