My Top 8 Horror Films

Growing up, my sister and I would watch horror movies because they were her favorite kind and, as you know, big sisters always hold the fucking remote. We’d watch them in the dark on Friday nights while our mom worked late shifts, the dreamy glow of our cheap TV screen shimmering in her eyes. I particularly remember this scene from the opening credit montage of The Return of the Living Dead (1985) when the zombies rise in a morgue: the camera slowly zooms in on a clear body bag hung from an iron claw on the ceiling with a brown, dry cadaver frantically struggling to escape. The goosebumps rose to my skin like teeny bubbles in boiling water and vibrations rung from every beat of my heart and pulsed throughout my body at imagining, for myself, this dystopian version of eternal consciousness after death (something echoed in Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo {1} and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children {2}). It’s a feeling I’ve been chasing ever since.

We’d re-watch and wear out the VHS tapes on tons of those horror movies because either: a) we loved them; or b) we were poor. With every viewing, I’d see or realize something new or old and grow less afraid. I started to recognize tropes, tricks and gimmicks. Now, I laugh when a cat pops out from the left side of the screen or tsk when I’m supposed to be scared at some disturbing image on screen (it does nothing for me since I was partially raised by the internet in the 2000’s). Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s why I’m such a fucking stickler when it comes to horror films. I annoy the shit out of my girlfriend each time we walk out of a horror movie with my roasting of the director as she trembles with unease. I tend to not like a lot of contemporary horror because of so many recycled elements and tactics; as a result, you get a lot of horror movies that: you can’t take seriously (“Another goddamn exorcism?”); don’t take themselves seriously (I hate the newest Halloween [2018] because there’s too many self-referential jokes that take me out of the film); or just show you a bunch of disturbing images facilitated by a flimsy plot (Hereditary [2018] was just a PowerPoint of fucked up scenes, not unlike those internet gross-out internet memes which I won’t name). To each their own. I’m busy hungrily seeking out that life-affirming sensation from my childhood that’s unlike anything else: realizing or learning something so horrific that the world will never be the same, even long after the credits try to remind you it was just a movie.

In no particular order, here’s a list of 8 horror movies that have left that impression on me. They vary in decades and from ‘artistic’ to ‘trashy,’ atmospheric to grotesque, body and/or mind horror, based on truth and/or fantasy. I tried to pick unique movies that you: may not have seen; heard about but haven’t gotten around to seeing; saw at one point but totally forgot about; hate but are willing to hear me out. Also, I left out movies that I think have been explored enough (The Shining [1980], Alien [1979], Evil Dead [1981] and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [1974]) or are within the last 10 years and I don’t want to spoil (Get Out [2017], The Witch [2015], The Skin I Live In [2011], and It Follows [2014]). There’s also some that I’m too ashamed of for liking to talk about, like From Dusk till Dawn (1996), Cube (1997), Candyman (1992), and Audition (1999) {3}. This is by no means comprehensive, but these are certainly films I revisit time and time agian. Click on the titles below to read a mini essay about why I like it.

  1. The People Under the Stairs (1991)

  2. Tales from the Hood (1995)

  3. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

  4. Day of the Dead (1985)

  5. Demons 2 (1986)

  6. The Thing (1982)

  7. REC (2007)

  8. Summer of Sam (1999)

  1. “Now stop being afraid. No one can do anything to frighten you anymore. Try to think about nice things because we're going to be buried here for a long time.”

  2. “The dead die, and are gradually forgotten; time does its healing, and they fade - but in Parvati's basket I learned that the reverse is also true; that ghosts, too, begin to forget; that the dead lose their memories of the living, and at last, when they are detached from their lives, fade away-that dying, in short, continues for a long time after death.”

  3. Oh, shit. I didn’t realize they were all from the 90’s until just now. To be fair, I’m ashamed for liking a lot of things from the 90’s (rap-rock and those windbreakers). It was a different time.

Reyes Ramirez