Friday, October 30, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #2) Jaws (1975)

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)

As we near the end of this list, it's time to break down a pair of exceptional movies based on novels that I hold near and dear to my heart.  First up, we've got my favorite movie of all time.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #2) Jaws (1975)

Steven Spielberg's efforts as a filmmaker have yielded an amazing filmography, but the thrilling motion picture that put him on the map remains his finest offering.  Working from Peter Benchley's stellar novel, Spielberg fashioned a tale of terror that continues to scare moviegoers away from the beach better than 40 years after it gave birth to the summer blockbuster.  At the end of the day, this is a horror movie that nearly matches Benchley's ability to convey the might and fury of a great white shark, driving home the terror that encountering such a creature in its natural environment would generate.  There are some brutal moments in this vibrant shocker, and yet the warmth and drama that propels the film toward a grand finale do make it seem a bit too adventurous for the genre at times.  The three leads take a fabulous script and run wild with it, with Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss both doing a tremendous job while Robert Shaw dominates the screen with one of the richest performances in the history of the cinema.  The score from John Williams is as simple as it is iconic, the effects are far better than the mechanical sharks' place in film history would have you believe, and Spielberg's gifts have never been so evident.  There are big scares, big laughs, and even when things settle down, Jaws is ten times more enchanting than most movies.  This is my favorite movie, and if we were talking about movies in general, I would surely put it atop my list.  Yet I did elect to place it at #2 on my list because I cannot fathom putting anything other than the scariest movie ever made at #1.  Having said that, second place here is no small prize, and I hope I have made my affection for this grand voyage into horror on the high seas evident. 

Jaws has inspired numerous imitations, yet 40 years later it still reigns supreme.
Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss shine only to be blown away by Robert Shaw as Quint.

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