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, DoctorGash.com. 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.
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!
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