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Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Greatest Horror Film of All Time?

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Well, that’s what what British film magazine Total Film says. I’m not sure how they came to this decision, or the rest of the Top Ten results. The BBC reported on the list, but did not state what type of poll this was, or how the results were quantified.

I guess it doesn’t matter much, rating films is such a subjective undertaking. There are many different types of horror, and many people gravitate towards different types of horror. You have slashers, psychological, ghosts, haunted houses, the list goes on and on.

Let’s take a look at the full list:

1. Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). There is no denying the place the film holds in horror history, but not sure I would rank it number one. Director Tobe Hooper took some elements of the real world and crafted this gritty low budget classic. Not as gory as I had been led to believe when I first saw it and it does seem a bit dated, but it still has a great creepy atmosphere of unease.

2. Halloween (1978). John Carpenter’s tale of that night that he returned comes in at number 2.. Eerie, spooky, downright scary, they all apply to this film. This was one of the films that spawned the slasher era. No, It’s not the first, but it did spawn numerous copies. The first film is a little slower paced than most, not as many kills, but it builds so much into it’s atmosphere. It’s too bad that the series went so far downhill.

3. Suspiria (1977). Dario Argento’s classic giallo. This film has one of the best deaths I have seen committed to film. The story of a dance school which was founded by a coven of witches is definitely one to be seen. This film is all about atmosphere. It was also the last Technicolor film.

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978). Arguably the best zombie film. Not necessarily scary in terms of shock value, but society implications is rather frightening. Nobody does zombies like George Romero. This is one of my favorites.

5. The Shining (1980). Stanley Kubrick’s modified version of the Stephen King novel. Definitely one of the creepiest films made, Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack’s (the character) descent into madness is one horror’s finest moments.

6. Psycho (1960). What best of list would be incomplete without Hitchcock? This is one of the master’s best films. Anthony Perkins really brings Norman Bates to chilling life.

7. The Wicker Man (1973). I have had this sitting on the shelf for some time now, but have not yet watched it. I do know that Christopher Lee stars, and it is said to be on the strange side.

8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Would you believe I haven’t seen this yet either? It too is waiting on my shelf.

9. Don’t Look Now (1973). This one I am completely unfamiliar with. If you couldn’t guess, I haven’t seen it.

10. Cannibal Holocaust (1980). This one I have read about, but have not yet seen. There is a new DVD edition slated for later this month, so I will be seeing it soon. This is one of the most infamous of all horror films, graphic violence, actual violence to animals, allegations of violence to people. It has been banned in many places the world round. This could be interesting.

It is interesting to note that the newest film on the list is from 1980. None of these films are all that recent, most being more than 25 years old. Is this a comment on the state of current horror films? Perhaps. The horror scene, at least in the US has not been all that good, we are given a sea of remakes, and imitations, amidst a sea of bloodless films that rely on the occasional jump scare as opposed to genuine dread and genuine shock.

It is also interesting to see some of the usual suspects missing from the list. Most notably The Exorcist. That film tops many of these types of lists, and would definitely be on my list. Or Spielberg’s Jaws. Or Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street. Or maybe even Ridley Scott’s Alien?

If we were to compare this list to, say IMDB.com’s list, a different story is told. There are only 2 films that appear on these two lists. Of course, that list is a lot more fluid and subject to change, it still represents a could collection of films. For the record, their number 1 at the moment is Psycho.

I will close by saying that it is tough being a fan of horror films. There are so many bad ones, so many. Perhaps I will put together list of my favorite horror films.

What’s your favorite?

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  • Rosemary’s Baby is too low on the list.

  • Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby are both sorely overrated. This list was fairly strange, in the magazine it goes to fifty, and features the likes of The Descent, which is from this year and hasn’t even made it to video yet! (the choice does seem a bit dubious, though, when one considers the director wrote a column for Total Film through much of the film’s production). Texas Chain Saw Massacre is unspeakably glorious, and i ain’t got no problem with it’s placing, although i don’t think it IS the best horror film ever made. certainly i can see why others would assume so. and my god, i had no idea that DVD of Cannibal Holocaust was on the way. hopefully it’ll get through customs alright.

  • There are some really great movies on that list…Halloween being the best of the slashers, Suspiria the best of 70s atmosphere movies, Chainsaw best of torture/killers, Dawn best of zombies. But I have to say I was sorely disappointed with Rosemary’s Baby on that list – it is just not horror. Also, Evil Dead needs to make it – it’s impact on horror films is crucial. Additionally, Nosferatu (1979) needed to make that list as the best dracula movie…hands down. It wasn’t even in the top 50!!!