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Monday, August 10, 2009

The "Cyber-Horror Elite" Present: THE HORROR CANON

Just when you thought the web was safe from horror snobbery, here I am back once again with another pontification from on high. Many of you, no doubt, remember how I gathered together a veritable "Justice League" of horror bloggers and writers on several occasions in the past and polled them on very relevant issues. The results included our "Top 50 Horror Films of All Time" and the first-ever Cyber Horror Awards, amongst other things.

This time around, I set out to do something unique, which I don't believe has ever been done before. As an English Lit. major, I was very familiar with the concept of a "canon"--specifically, an agreed-upon collection of "great works" that should be read by every student/scholar. And so, I decided, why not take this concept and apply it to horror movies?

My plan was to create a list of absolutely indispensable horror films that every fan needs to have seen in order to consider themselves a proper horror geek. This is not to be confused with "The Greatest of All Time". For example, Plan 9 from Outer Space would not be on my list of the greatest of all time, but I might very well consider it "must-see" viewing for any wannabe horror fanatic!

Think of it this way: If someone came to you and said, "I want to get into this whole horror thing, what movies do I need to see? " Which movies would you give them to watch? In another scenario, let's say aliens came down and asked you, "What's this horror movie business all about?", what movies would you give them to take up in their ship?

Each participant provided me with their essential ten, and I tallied up all the votes using my byzantine points system, resulting in the rock-solid list of 35 which you will find below. And so I give you, THE HORROR MOVIE CANON:

  1. Halloween (1978) dir: John Carpenter
  2. The Exorcist (1973) dir: William Friedkin
  3. Night of the Living Dead (1968) dir: George Romero
  4. Frankenstein (1931) dir: James Whale
  5. Dracula (1931) dir: Tod Browning
  6. Psycho (1960) dir: Alfred Hitchcock
  7. Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
  8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) dir: Tobe Hooper
  9. Nosferatu (1922) dir: F.W. Murnau
  10. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) dir: James Whale
  11. Dawn of the Dead (1978) dir: George Romero
  12. The Shining (1980) dir: Stanley Kubrick
  13. The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
  14. Evil Dead II (1987) dir: Sam Raimi
  15. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) dir: Wes Craven
  16. Let the Right One In (2008) dir: Tomas Alfredson
  17. The Wolf Man (1941) dir: George Waggner
  18. Cannibal Holocaust (1980) dir: Ruggero Deodato
  19. Suspiria (1977) dir: Dario Argento
  20. Gojira (1954) dir: Ishiro Honda
  21. The Ring (2002) dir: Gore Verbinski
  22. Orphan (2009) dir: Jaume Collet-Serra
  23. Jaws (1975) dir: Steven Speilberg
  24. The Evil Dead (1981) dir: Sam Raimi
  25. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) dir: Robert Weine
  26. Hellraiser (1987) dir: Clive Barker
  27. House on Haunted Hill (1959) dir: William Castle
  28. Saw (2004) dir: James Wan
  29. The Haunting (1963) dir: Robert Wise
  30. Zombi 2 (1979) dir: Lucio Fulci
  31. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) dir: Rupert Julian
  32. The Omen (1976) dir: Richard Donner
  33. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) dir: Don Siegel
  34. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) dir: Ji-woon Kim
  35. The War of the Worlds (1953) dir: Byron Haskin

As was to be expected, there is a bit of overlap here between this and the "Top 50 of All Time" list. Specifically, the top two films are the same--guess there's just something about those two that seem to make just about everyone agree as to their greatness. However, I'm struck by the amount of contemporary films on this list of 35, much more than the Top 50. There are a total of five films (1/7th of the list) from the current decade, with the most recent of them being Orphan, still in theaters! That's promising for the future of the biz, if you ask me--maybe the Elite were in a little better mood than last year, who knows.

However, the fact remains that no film in the top 15 of this list was made in the past 20 years, so let's not break out the confetti just yet. I'm impressed with the showing of Dracula, which scored a lot higher here than it did in the top 50--I think people recognize it as somewhat inferior overall to Frankenstein, yet nevertheless an extremely important film for any horror fan to see. I'm also impressed by the amount of foreign films on the list--a total of eight, or just under one quarter of the entire rundown. Its nice to see our participants taking into account such cult films as Cannibal Holocaust (you sickos!) and A Tale of Two Sisters, easily the most unexpected of the bunch. It's not only about the obvious choices, folks.

Decades breakdown:

  • 1920s: 3
  • 1930s: 3
  • 1940s: 1
  • 1950s: 4
  • 1960s: 3
  • 1970s: 9
  • 1980s: 7
  • 1990s: 0 (!)
  • 2000s: 5
It's been a while since I've done one of these things, so the list of usual suspects has changed a bit. But here are those who participated in making the Horror Canon a reality:

Iloc Zoc of Zombos' Closet of Horror
Wes Cavins of Horror Film Magazine
Max Cheney of The Drunken Severed Head, 2008 Rondo Runner-Up for Best Blog
Ryne Barber of The Moon Is a Dead World
The Lightning Bug of The Lightning Bug's Lair
Jeff Allard of Dinner with Max Jenke and Shock Till You Drop
Justin of Send More Cops
Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia, Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Famer
BC of Horror-Movie-a-Day
and Bloody-Disgusting
Unkle Lancifer of Kindertrauma
John Kenneth Muir, horror critic (Booklist Editor's Choice)
Pax Romano of Billy Loves Stu
Ms. Harker of Musings Across a Continuum
Marc Patterson of Brutal as Hell
Christine Hadden of Fascination with Fear
Monster Scholar of Monster Land
Soap Magic of The Beyond and Bloody-Disgusting
Cortez the Killer of Planet of Terror
Judd Clarke of Igloo of the Uncanny
RayRay, Vault of Horror contributing writer
Frank Godbey of TFAV...1630...Pure Horror!
Matthew House of Paracinema and Chuck Norris Ate My Baby
Johnny Boots of Freddy in Space
Corey Lafferty of Evil on Two Legs
James Zahn of Fangoria.com
Karl Hungus of KarlHungus.com
BJ-C of Day of the Woman and Bloody-Disgusting
Nate Yapp of Classic-Horror.com and Cinema Blend
Scott Weinberg of HorrorSquad, FEARnet.com and Cinematical
And yours truly, of course.


There you have it. Digest. Discuss. Debate. Distribute.

26 comments:

BJ-C said...

Holy balls, how did Zombi 2 get so low? Sheesh. I don't remember if I even put it on my list...I might have...but that's really the only one that shocked me as far as placement.

Matt-suzaka said...

I think the list is mostly spot on, though it does seem like Orphan and A Tale of Two Sister are a little out of place, considering American Werewolf in London is not present. And both Scream and Blair witch are strangely absent….probably two of the most important horror movies of there time. It also would have been nice to see Candyman on the list over Saw.

If Saw can make it on this list, then why not a Friday the 13 film, right? What franchise made a bigger impact? It’s not as if either film has mad any impact with quality, at least the Friday films changed the game and influenced/created the standard for Slasher films in the 80’s. So there could be a few film swaps in my opinion.

Six of my top ten essentials are in the top ten totals, so I am happy with the results. There were so many films that could have easily made it, and a lot of those are on this list. I like seeing The War of the Worlds, Zombie 2, and Cannibal Holocaust on here. I wouldn't have expected those, but they certainly are essentials, and are films that have left an impact, as is the case with Holocaust.

I look forward to what everyone else has to say about how the list turned out, and I am glad to have been a part in the decision-making process.

Lily Strange said...

I am reasonably geeky. I haven't seen the newer ones (haven't been to a movie in a theatre in more than 2 years) and that Italian cannibal one--sheesh! Yes, my short term memory really is that bad right now.

Ms Harker said...

I am delighted 'A Tale of Two Sisters' made the list! Sometimes the obscure gives you the pinch on the arse you most desire! Or the hand that grabs your ankle from under the stairs, whatever floats your boat... Also ecstatic to see that a modern classic in my opinion LTROI made a good showing as well. Bravo!

www.musingcontinuum.com

Seth Canes said...

Nice to see that A Tale Of Two Sisters finally gains some recognition. But The Orphan? Now I haven't seen it, but I'm pretty sure there must be a few other movies that are more Must-see than that one? Also how House On Haunted Hill can be above The Haunting is beyond me, one is superior to the other and it aint the Price version. Completely baffled by the absence of Scream and The Balir Witch Project too, regardless of what you think of them they were still the two biggest horror movies of the 90s. And as usual I would rather have seen the original Ringu rather than the remake, in fact on this list it would have been even more appropriate since Ringu, being the original, is the most influential of the two, almost singlehandedly starting the asian horror wave. But overall I like the list, only four of them that i haven't seen.

Karl Hungus said...

I'd agree with Seth there about Ringu. Not only was it a staggeringly influential film, it was also a far better film than the remake. So much more subtle, slow burning and brooding than Verbinski's brash, flashy and effects laden version. I guess I always find it depressing when a remake overshadows the original, and I think that's part of the reason I find issue with remakes in general.

However, it is interesting to see how this list has turned out, having contributed to it. The inclusion of A Tale of Two Sisters is excellent, which hopefully shows that it's a film not in danger of being overshadowed by an inferior remake.

It is interesting to note the recent films in the list though. I'd say Horror has seen a good few exceptional films lately, and that's definitely an influence (I know I couldn't help but include Let The Right One In and Pan's Labyrinth in my contribution). Considering Drag me to Hell, we've seen an absolutely exceptional horror film that was a big success in the summer months, a time we'd usually never see horror.

I know myself that films like the above, along with others like [Rec] and Martyrs have been some of the best horrors I had seen in years, so I'd certainly think things are looking up for fans of the genre.

I can't help but wonder, what would the Cyber-Horror Elite think the best foreign language horror films are? Perhaps a suggestion for the next list?

gord said...

@Karl, I was going to suggest the same thing.

I had wanted to contribute but ran out of time, but my list was going to be of all foreign horror, just to shake it up.

And there's no way Tale of Two Sisters is out of place, that movie is damned awesome.

Ms Harker said...

I concur that Ringu should have made it up there instead of the re-make, but people know my feelings about Asian cinema western remakes vom! I has quite a few foreign language horror in my list including Wicked City an anime. Alas we must follow the formula in the interest of equality!

Drew Golburgh said...

I think this is a really diverse list of some classic films. I would have liked to have seen Friday the 13th on the list, possibly Re Animator and/or Basket Case as well. I think Gordon and Hennenlotter are deserving. Pretty cool though.

Anonymous said...

I know that every list will have some choices that will be debated, but how Orpah made it in the list of these films is unbelievable. If ti was to have a killer-kid entry, there are much, much better (Who Can Kill A Child?).

But how Orphan got on this list over a slew of other classics (like AWiL as another poster stated) sullies up what is otherwise a decent list of horror films.

Planet of Terror said...

I applaud my horror cohorts who contributed (and many thanks again to B-Sol for allowing us to also do so) for including more modern films. While Orphan was great as was the Ring remake (agreed the original is still better and much more well executed), I'm puzzled by the exclusion of Martyrs and Inside. Both have had a more lasting impact on me and in my guestimation, will in future years have a more lasting impact on the genre itself. As suggested, maybe we should do a list of best foreign horror?

And Cannibal Holocaust? Holy jesus, I would only show that to someone who I would NOT want to be a true fan or neophyte of the genre. You have to have the right mindset (and lack of stomach contents) to watch that film. Its NOT something you go back to time and time again. Really, WTF is wrong with some of you?

Much Love,

Cortez the Killer

Landon.Kraemer said...

@matt and seth:
I think the absence of Blair Witch Project can be justified by the presence of Cannibal Holocaust. There is nothing intrinsically interesting about Blair Witch except that it was mainstream's first exposure to vérité-style horror. Holocaust covers this formula quite well already, and Blair Witch doesn't bring much else to the table.


I would like to have seen Braindead/Dead Alive on this list, but I couldn't find a movie that it should replace. Then again, the nineties aren't represented at all....

Doruk said...

Very nice list, and it seems like I have to fiddle with my queue at Netflix... Now, how about one for books?

B-Sol said...

The absence of AWIL, Scream and Blair Witch was surprising to me, as well, as was the inclusion of Orphan. I will say that I personally prefer the remake of The Ring to the original.

As for foreign horror films, we've already done that list, check it out here. The plan for the next list will most likely be horror literature...

Karl Hungus said...

@ Planet of Terror

Martyrs not being included on this list I can understand. As B-sol posed the question, what would you tell someone who asked you where to start, what would be a good introduction to horror. Films like The Shining or The Exorcist are fantastic starting points, but Martyrs would probably be far too heavy going.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the film, I thought it was the most powerful film experiences I've had since Let The Right One In. It just left me staggered. But it's not something I'd use as a starting point.

@ B-Sol

Ok, must've forgot about that one. How about something different? Instead of tallying top tens, ask the Cyber-Horror elite to recommend one obscure horror film each, and write a paragraph about it. Try get more left of field, underground films out there. I'd say everyone could bring something unique to the table.

Karl Hungus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Planet of Terror said...

I can see that arguement In my humble opinion, I do think that Exorcist is just as heavy a film as Martyrs is. People were yacking in the aisles when it came out. Not too mention the topics of the film were completely unsettling (especially to a mainstream audience which had never seen anything like it on the big screen). Martyrs struck me in a similar fashion in its heavy handed way of questioning religion. And that is why I would recommend it as a good starting point. To me, The Exorcist and Martyrs are great bookends in that one espouses the existence of the devil and the other god. Brilliant stuff!

Drake said...

No Hammer,Amicus or even a single British horror film in the top 35?
Tsk Tsk

B-Sol said...

Ahem, let the record show that I had The Curse of Frankenstein on MY top 10. Just sayin.

Wesley Cavins said...

Full disclosure, this is the note I emailed with my list. I had Orphan at #9:

"The logic behind this list is getting them hooked with the best of the most recent, starting with an effective film based on a fear
everyone can relate to (The Strangers,) gradually exposing them to different types of
horror designed for modern audiences so they can acquire a taste, and then let them work their way back through the entire genre hopefully saving the very best for last."

Pax Romano said...

B-Sol,

No complaints, great list. All must sees

The Igloo Keeper... said...

So my beloved Hostel never made it - can't say I'm too surprised though. And I'm glad to see that the lack of 90's movies replicates my lack of 90's movie reviews over in the Igloo...

the jaded viewer said...

I've seen 28 of the 35! And I'm damn proud of that.

RayRay said...

I would just like to thank B-Sol for the honor of contributing to this list.

B-Sol said...

A pleasure to be able to include you this time, Ray!

DLR said...

There probably should have been a "ten years old at least" rule as some of these choices will be embarassing in a few years (not bad movies, but "canon"? Sheesh.)

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