Shock Horror - The Sequel

Okay, okay… we knew that posting 50 horror movies as the greatest of all time was gonna cause tears, tantrums and – shock – a smattering of plaudits, but the response has been overwhelming. Talk about opening a can of worms (to employ a rather appropriate metaphor).

Oh god, where to start? How about with embracing the positives: we’re glad so many of you agree with most of the choices. The list was compiled by those at the Total Film towers who know and love - really love – the genre, so it’s great to have fellow fans offer hearty backslaps. We deliberately set out to compile a confrontational, contentious (but never deliberately perverse) list instead of offering the same 50 films that always turn up, so it’s good that our more leftfield choices have won effusive praise in many quarters.

Aah, the negatives. Or at least the niggles. Between all your forum posts and emails, there must be 100 or so titles that we cruelly overlooked, and probably every single one of our selected 50 didn’t deserve its place according to somebody, somewhere. Some of your suggestions were just plain ludicrous (Stigmata, White Noise, Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan); most of them had real merit (The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, Nosferatu, Deep Red, The Omen, Ringu, Eyes Without A Face, The Changeling) and would have honoured our list with their considerable presence.

Why exclude them? Several reasons.

1) Numbers

We only had 50 bloody places… and 125 (the amount of titles on our original list) into 50 just doesn’t go. We know because we tried - again and again and again for days and days and days until we were all frustrated, angered, red-eyed and, finally, resigned to losing some of our babies.

2) Balance

Many of the oh-so-close-but-no-cigar titles (the list wouldn’t budge an inch once we’d got down to 63) finally got the chop because their omission was partly rectified by the inclusion of another title.

We adore Deep Red, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Tenebrae, but Argento already had two entries.

Re-Animator and Dellamorte Dellamore are absolute blasts, but how many horror-comedies can you feature? We already had The Evil Dead, American Werewolf In London and Scream, all of which are as funny and more scary.

Nosferatu’s a landmark movie and as creepy as hell, but we felt it was time Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr got a chance to blink in the spotlight.

Cat People and Frankenstein are copper-bottomed classics, but both are bettered by their wonderfully wacky sequels: Curse Of The Cat People and Bride Of Frankenstein. To include all four was a luxury we just couldn’t afford.

The justifications could go on and on...All we can say is that we promise you that no decision was made lightly and that we were as pained by some omissions as you were.

3) Diversity

As mentioned earlier, we wanted to avoid a list that trundles out the usual 50 titles; we wanted to instead explore dark little corners and shine our probing torch onto lesser known gems (The Sect, Hour Of The Wolf) that will open eyes and minds. This meant that a handful of deified pictures got the cold shoulder (Browning and Fisher’s Dracula movies, for example) – not because we don’t rate them or recognise their importance, but because we prefer other vampire movies (Martin) or Universal Monster movies (Bride Of Frankenstein) or Hammer movies (The Plague Of The Zombies).

Our criteria for this list was to go with the movies that excite or unnerve us over those that were IMPORTANT. We wanted to choose films that will unsettle modern viewers (isn’t this the genre’s primary purpose – to scare and shatter?), meaning a handful of masterpieces got the brush off because their terror tactics now creak and groan. A list of the 50 Most Seminal Horror Movies would include Häxan and Caligari, but do they really still terrify?

4) Range

We wanted to represent every kind of horror film, from the most subtle psychological-whispers to the loudest splatter-screams. As Stephen King always says, you can terrify, horrify or just plain gross people out – all have their worth. Is Nekromatik really better than Karloff’s The Mummy or portmanteau chiller Dead Of Night? No. But you tell us a film that’s more disturbing, more impossible to shake off - even if it does hammer you over the head with a blunt axe to get a reaction.

5) Boundaries

Yes, you can scream Jaws and Seven at us, but we’d scream back that they’re thrillers, not horrors. Thrillers stuffed full of horrific episodes, sure, but thrillers nonetheless. The boundary is often blurred but we had to draw the line where it felt right. Include Jaws and you’re one step away from including Taxi Driver, Persona, Fight Club, Saving Private Ryan…

Hope that clears up a few matters. Compiling any list is never an exact science – thank god – and we’re delighted that you have come straight back with so many alternative offerings. One thing’s for sure: it shows just how many great horror movies are out there. And that’s one in the eye for all those film snobs who regard the genre as the bastard son of cinema.

Jamie Graham
Features Editor

P.S. You can keep the comments coming by posting on our Forum.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.