In the grand tradition of my previous decade-favorite lists, I'm moving right along to the era when your parents used the Vietnam War as an excuse to smoke dope and get on the pill! That's right friends, it's the 1960s--quite possible the most tumultuous age of horror. This is quite an interesting list if i do say so myself, a telling mix of traditional terrors and more modern-style flicks. This was, after all, the decade in which the Hays Code and studio system died, and all the rules went out the window. Anyway, enough of my blatherings--enjoy!
10. The Birds (1963)
The second of Hitchcock's two genuine horror films, and a definite direct ancestor to Night of the Living Dead. Don't believe me? Ask George Romero himself. Tippi Hedren is gorgeous, and that iconic playground scene will stay with you forever! Best thing about it? You never even find out what made all the birds go nuts in the first place.
9. The Brides of Dracula (1960)
For my money, Hammer's finest offering of the decade. Ironically, Dracula himself is not in the film, yet it's tangentially connected to Horror of Dracula of two years prior. Peter Cushing returns as Van Helsing for one thing, and David Peel's Baron Meinster may be one of the screen's most underrated vampires. Director Terence Fisher delivers the goods again.
8. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
One of the last of the epic Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allen Poe confabs, this is also probably the best. Price stars as the malevolent Prince Prospero, one of his finest roles. Add a little Hazel Court, and you've got a can't-miss recipe. Too bad the rise of more "reality-based" modern horror brought an end to this marvelous cinematic experiment.
7. Kaidan (1964)
Four supernatural tales make up this excellent Japanese anthology, the finest foreign-language horror film of the decade. In fact, it was actually nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. A terrific score by future Kurosawa collaborator Toru Takemitsu put this one over the top as truly one-of-a-kind horror.
6. The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Speaking of NOTLD forerunners, here's another one. Very possibly Vincent Price's first "modern" horror film, and in my opinion still the very best adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Best scene: Neville buries his wife, only to find her reanimated and scratching at his front door. Shivers.
5. Repulsion (1965)
What a disturbing picture this is--and not just because of Roman Polanski's later kid-touching exploits. Catherine Deneuve is enthralling as Carole, a young woman who literally loses her mind during a single weekend by herself. A masterpiece of cerebral horror that's visually stunning in stark black and white.
4. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Most might rank this one a spot or two higher than me, but I never quite was as on board with it as most, anyway. I value it more for its historical importance as one of the movies that ushered in the modern era of horror than anything else. It also helped really cement horror's longstanding fascination with Satanism...
3. The Haunting (1963)
It would be no exaggeration to call this the greatest haunted house/ghost movie ever made. And the classic example of "less equals more". You see almost nothing in this paranormal treasure, yet it remains one of the most frightening experiences you are ever likely to have watching a horror movie. Watch it alone. I dare you.
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
What is there to say that hasn't been said? George Romero's seminal zombie touchstone is more than just a film--it's a cultural entity. More than any other single motion picture, this one is responsible for most of the horror of the past 40 years. It never gets old, and it never loses its power.
1. Psycho (1960)
It was a tough call between the top two, but I just can't see Hitchcock's slasher prototype anywhere else but in the very top spot, can you? No other decade has such a single dominant horror character as the 1960s does with Norman Bates, Robert Bloch's amazing Ed Gein-inspired creation. Hermann's composition is not just a film score--it is the film score. Janet Leigh was nominated for an Oscar, and Anthony Perkins should've been. With one of the most well-known climaxes in film history, it still packs a hell of a punch. The reason: absolutely breathtaking filmmaking. It gets no better.
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