Saturday, October 31, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #1) The Exorcist (1973)

One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.

I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion.  I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed.  There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated.  There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.

Thus far, the list includes:

#20) The Fly (1986) 
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979) 
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
#15) Suspiria (1977) 
#14) Phantasm (1979)
#13) Evil Dead 2 (1985)
#12) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 
#11) The Descent (2005)
#10) Fright Night (1985)
#9) Halloween (1978)
#8) Return of the Living Dead (1985) 
#7) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
#6) Deep Red (1975)
#5) The Shining (1980) 
#4) Dawn of the Dead (1978)
#3) The Thing (1982)
#2) Jaws (1975) 

I had a hard time putting this list together, but determining which movie belonged at the top of the charts was rather easy.  There can be no doubt that The Exorcist is the crown jewel of horror cinema.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #1) The Exorcist (1973)

Believe the hype.  The Exorcist is the most frightening movie ever made.  William Friedkin did a flawless job of bringing William Peter Blatty's novel to the screen.  His efforts were greatly enhanced by legendary effects work from the great Dick Smith and a fantastic cast that nailed the difficult material.  Ellen Burstyn is unbelievably good and it is her work here that truly defines the experience, though Linda Blair, Jason Miller, and the one and only Max Von Sydow (who plays the title role) all brought their A-game to the table.  The score is haunting, the script is razor-sharp, and most importantly, Friedkin (a superb director with a considerable legacy who still doesn't get the love he so richly deserves) was at his very best when he made the greatest horror movie of them all.  The subject matter is extremely disturbing and equally frightening, largely due to Burstyn's bravura performance as she plays the character that viewers relate to throughout the picture.  The Exorcist is as daring as it is horrifying; I am positive that you couldn't make this movie in this day and age without significant alterations to some of the more explicit portions of this grim journey into demonic possession and despair.  I treasure both this film and the book it was based upon, but I’ve only read the book a couple of times and I’ve only watched the movie four times.  When I’m looking for a horror film to watch, I frequently grab this Blu-Ray only to pause long enough to wonder if I really want to spend another night with Reagan and Father Karras.  If you have never experienced The Exorcist, there could be no better time than Halloween to do so.  Please don’t invite me over, however, because I’m not ready for another descent into the devil’s domain just yet.

Note: The original theatrical release is awesome but I prefer the updated version from 2001.  The "spider walk" is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

Friedkin used every trick at his disposal to bring William Peter Blatty's terrifying novel to life in spectacular fashion.
They say it's the scariest movie ever made, and this time they are right.

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