The Best Movie Critic + wicker man

5 Favorite Horror Movies: Justin Couch

(Sadly, Coffin Joe didn't make the cut)

Hey gang, Justin here. I wanted to get in on the fun and share the list of my 5 favorite horror movies. Probably more than any other genre, I gravitate towards horror. I think it can be fun to be scarred. People who don't watch scary movies aren't just missing out on some awesome movies, they're missing out on an important sociological function that humans have evolved. I like the absurdity of horror movies, and to some extent, I even enjoy how formulaic they are. Horror movies are like jazz songs in that they follow a simple framework. In that framework though is a lot of room for improvisation and virtuosity. Enjoy!

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street makes the list because growing up, nothing scared me more than Freddy Kruger. Movies work really well for me when there’s a strong physical element that I can relate to. In the Nightmare series, it’s trying to stay awake. Also, surrealism and dream imagery always hit me really hard. Beyond that, I don’t think that Wes Craven was ever sharper than here. His best movies exploit the tension between a strong sense of Christian guilt and the bacchanalian desires of teenagers. Freddy isn’t just a child murderer who kills sleeping teenagers, he embodies the emotional force of shame.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. The godfather of all zombie and survival horror movies. I’m fucking sick of zombies, but I could watch this every day. Night of the Living Dead is a stone classic. Scary, suspenseful, and compelling; it’s required viewing. If you haven’t seen this yet, what’s your excuse? I know you like Walking Dead or Zombieland or Dawn of the Dead. This is better than all of those.

3. Cat People/I Walked with a Zombie/Isle of the Dead

I’m fully aware that it’s a cop out to list 3 movies, but pressed, I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite from these I wrote in some length about Val Lewton’s RKO horror movies here. I’m a HUGE Val Lewton fan. These three are my favorites. These are minimalist movies by necessity. By consequence of that though, Lewton and co. must rely on the power of suggestion rather than showing monsters disemboweling people. These are scary movies for adults. Cat People deals with Christian guilt about sex. I Walked with a Zombie is about colonialism, exploitation, and xenophobia. Isle of the Dead is about the tension between science and faith. I can’t recommend Lewton’s movies enough, these three are the best places to start.

2. Phenomena

Phenomena is my favorite Dario Argento movie. I know that’s a relatively controversial opinion to have. Argento also made Suspiria and Deep Red, which would make my top 10. Phenomena though, takes the cake for me. In short, a 13 year old Jennifer Connoly can control bugs with her mind. Meanwhile, a series of murders is happening. Donald Plesance and a helper monkey teach Jennifer to use her powers to solve the mystery. Then things get really awesome. Phenomena has THE BEST third act of any horror movie I’ve seen. There’s genuine suspense, terror, and twist after shocking twist. The last fifteen minutes of the movie are so money it’s unbelievable.

1. Wicker Man (1973)

Wicker Man is my favorite horror movie because there are no other movies like it. It's incredible and should be seen by everyone who is serious about awesome movies and cult cinema. I wrote about it at length here.

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