Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies… EVER! #10 – Scream

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Long before I became a doctor, back when I was just a horror intern, I spent plenty of time cruising around the internet, and one of the things I loved to read the most was people’s Top 10 Horror Movies lists. Unfortunately, I never read one I completely agreed with.

After finally becoming sure I would never find that perfect writer who nailed the Top 10 Horror Movies as I saw them, I decided to start my own site and thus gave birth to the short lived, but enthusiastically written, It lasted about as long as “Do No Harm” on NBC. However, my love for top 10 horror lists never faded. And now I’d like to present you with mine.

Over the next 10 days I’m going to count down my Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies from number 10 right down to the granddaddy of them all and give you my reasoning as to why I feel each belongs on the list. I included the films that I felt were the most effective and influential in horror. And you, dear readers, will certainly have your opinions on my entries, I’m sure. And I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below. Maybe between this list and your comments, we can all agree on a top 10 to make the world happy.

It’s nearly impossible to narrow the horror genre down to just 10 films, but here goes nothing. Remember, it’s always easy to add to the list; it’s just really, really hard to find films to remove.

So without further ado, let us begin this walk down memory lane and revisit some of the greatest, most important and entertaining horror films ever made. This is Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies… Ever!

“Do you like scary movies?”

It’s December 1996. The slasher sub-genre of horror has become a joke. Multiple cash-grabbing sequels of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween have hardened audiences. These tired sequels to the films we loved have become so predictable and uniform that the slasher genre is dying. And worse than that, the films themselves are just really, really bad. The Nightmare/F13/Halloween sequels became parasites of their origins. They required no thought or creativity. Pump one out each year and double your investment on brand name alone. But by 1996, that formula was finally drying up. Audiences were sick of watching garbage. They knew a Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween sequel was going to be trash, and they began to stop going to the movies. It would not be long before filmmakers got the hint and stopped making them. We needed a hero.

Who better to be that savior than Wes Craven, the man responsible for The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and the original A Nightmare on Elm Street? He collaborated with writer Kevin Williamson to create a new project called Scream. They enlisted a cast of unknown teens (most of whom would go on to have nice careers: Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, Neve Campbell) to go along with Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox and David Arquette and brought us a horror movie that, while paying homage to the genre, also reinvigorated mainstream horror.

Doctor Gash's Top 10 Most Greatest Horror Movies... EVER! #10 - Scream

Scream is not the Number 10 film on this list because it is the goriest or creepiest or scariest of the bunch. Far from it. Scream is here because it was the perfect film at the perfect time. Scream drew from all the horror that preceded it, incorporating it in either a suspenseful or comedic way, and delivered that to the audience in an extremely entertaining fashion. Scream was based around a true mystery. Who was the killer? Upon first viewing you really had no idea. Suddenly audiences remembered what it was like to enjoy a slasher film, not just go to the movies because it was the new Jason or Freddy flick. Moviegoers were treated to a great story. Scream brought us back. It showed us that there were movie-makers out there who would still put effort into horror, not just throw some crap on celluloid to get you off your ass and into the theater on Halloween to see some lame sequel, all for nothing more than the almighty dollar.

As far as the picture itself, it’s filled with references to great slasher films (not the least of which is Wes Craven himself as Freddy the Janitor in a red and green sweater). Jamie Kennedy is great as the horror sage, preaching the rules to the unsuspecting victims and (aside from the tribute to horror) Scream‘s most powerful asset is Neve Campbell as the perfect Final Girl. She is pretty and innocent. She smart, strong and vulnerable all at the same time. Sidney is THE Final Girl.

Again, Scream is not the “most” anything. It’s not the ‘most shocking’ or the ‘most bloody’ or the scariest film of all time. (Although you could consider it the ‘most perfectly timed film release ever’). But its strength was in its intelligence and timing. Scream is really entertaining, especially for horror fans. It addresses the ‘Rules of Horror,’ those things we can’t do if we don’t want to be filleted by the movie psycho. And the reason these ‘rules’ existed is because horror had become so predictable. Scream took that predictability and played on it, using the weak films of the past to build a stronger future. Just like The Cabin in the Woods recently did again.

Simply put, Scream couldn’t have come along at a better time. It recharged audiences who were numb from countless terrible sequels and showed them that there were still cowboys out there who would bring them quality original entertainment. Neve Campbell was perfect as Final Girl Sidney, and Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich have to be recognized for their incredibly entertaining contributions to the film. Lillard’s physicality and willingness to leave it all out there certainly made for a memorable character, and Ulrich’s downright two-faced nastiness was stellar.

No, Scream doesn’t have the pedigree of Jaws or Friday the 13th or several others that you may feel belong on this list, but without Scream we may not have some of the great horror we have today. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson took the weaknesses of the genre and recycled them into a breath of fresh air movie that brought the slasher film back. We thank them for that and give Scream its proper place at Number 10 on the Top 10 Most Greatest Horror Movies… Ever!

Doctor Gash's Top 10 Most Greatest Horror Movies... EVER! #10 - Scream

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  • nazo

    I like Scream, though it wouldn’t be close to my top ten. I don’t remember it being released (I was too young), which may cloud my judgment, but I think New Nightmare does the “meta-slasher” thing much more effectively.

  • Jinx

    Great article, Doctor.

    Count me among those who adore this film. And I completely agree with you on Sidney Prescott being the perfect Final Girl.

    • Doctor Gash

      High praise from a writer I enjoy immensely! Thanks Jinx!

  • Gus Bjork

    Top 10 anything lists are always tricky as you acknowledge. Reading the title and seeing “Scream” as number 10 led to an eye roll. But then I actually took the time to read the article (how many times do we just stop at a headline?) and I have to admit you make a compelling case for it. And I agree. I can’t say Top Ten agree but I’m really looking forward to the rest of your list. Great job!

    • Doctor Gash

      This top 10 is the toughest I’ve ever done. And the tenth film is the toughest of the list. That’s the cutoff number. So many possibilities. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read my reasoning and keeping an open mind. You’ll probably need to do that again with #9.

  • Uncle Creepy

    You can say whatever you want about Scream, but you cannot deny the impact and influence (for better or worse) that it had upon the genre when released.

    • Terminal

      Yes, but that doesn’t make it a great movie by default. In either case, it’s not the worst slasher movie ever made, I just think it’s pretty forgettable as a movie and immensely fetishized. I do like the killer’s costume though.

    • will graham

      This is it! I remember 93,94 looking through the cinema mags and seeing nothing about horror films.

      vitually all sucessful (and easily to get hold of) horror films from the first half of the 90’s were either a) a franchise title or b) had a big name star or more.
      The only exceptions I can think of are Candyman and People Under The Stairs.

      Love it, like it, hate it, truth is most of your favourite horror titles over the last 15 years would never been made had Scream not shown that there was still a market for horror.

      • Doctor Gash

        Exactly. This film (and also #9 The Blair Witch Project) had qualities about them that made them. Scream brought the horror genre back to the forefront and Blair Witch showed how unique marketing and filmmaking techniques could deliver huge dividends.

  • LSD Zombie

    I don’t care what anyone says, that opening sequence with Drew Barrymore still makes me uncomfortable. If only the rest of the film maintained that same level of intensity and brutality.

    • Doctor Gash

      True. The opening scene was legendary…much like the opener for When a Stranger Calls. Funny both dealt with mysterious phone callers…perhaps both inspired in some way by Black Christmas?

  • Shambling_in_Bandages

    As horror movies go, Scream is tame bollocks. As slasher movies go, it’s still tame bollocks. If horror movies were musicians, Scream would be a boy band.

  • Terminal

    Not a fan. “Leslie Vernon” did a superior job of re-constructing contemporary slasher films.

    • MonsterMash

      Though I like the first Scream, yeah I gotta agree.

    • Doctor Gash

      I’ve gotta go back and watch Leslie Vernon at some point. During my one and only viewing years ago I remember not being overly impressed, but horror fans seem to love it. I must have missed something. That being said, I look forward to your opinions on the rest of the Top 10 entries, Terminal. Hope you dig it.

      • Terminal

        I dig your articles whether we agree or not, Gash.

        • Doctor Gash

          Thank you, brother. Hopefully you’ll dig some of the other entries on the list. Thanks for all the comments!