John J. Miller, author, professor and horror story sage (his Claremont Review piece on H.P. Lovecraft is one of the best pieces of popular criticism I ever read) posts his ten favorite horror films in Hillsdale College’s Collegian newspaper:
Dracula (1931): Among the first batch of black-and-white monster movies from Universal Pictures, this is the best of the bunch, though others prefer Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). It’s based on a theatrical production rather than Bram Stoker’s excellent novel and parts may feel campy today, but Bela Lugosi set the standard for blood-sucking Transylvanians. He also inspired the finest song by the quintessential Goth band: “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” by Bauhaus.
The Innocents (1961): This film asks one of horror’s staple questions: Is the main character troubled by evil spirits or is she just nuts? The evidence is ambiguous, but the sight of Miss Jessel in her black dress by the lake will make you shudder. Also, the source text is The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James—who wrote way more ghost stories than your English professors have told you about.
The Birds (1963): It’s hard to pick this one over Psycho (1960)—director Alfred Hitchcock’s other horror classic—but it gets the nod because its terror comes from the incomprehensible forces of the natural (or supernatural) world rather than the inner turmoil of disordered characters. Also, it totally creeped out my mom. These are the original angry birds.
The Exorcist (1973): This may be the scariest movie of all time, though it has spawned a legion of imitators and derivatives, making it impossible to recapture the experience of the first audiences. The head-spinning, projectile-vomiting parts are sensational and the blasphemous bits are disturbing. Yet the movie is also the product of the late William Peter Blatty’s sincere Catholic faith. It isn’t for everybody, but those who see past its provocations will appreciate its richness. Also, its climactic scene provides an excellent and quirky tourist destination in Washington, D.C.: the Exorcist Steps. Climb them if you dare.
The original Angry Birds! Smart aleck!
Read the rest here.