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Box Office Theory's Top 100 Horror Movies: Vol. 2 | #1 has been revealed!

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So the top 5 is 4 all time greats and the Shining...

Don't get me wrong, I like The Shining, it was on my list. at the same time I don't think it's nearly as good as Alien/Psycho/Jaws/The Thing.

 

Overall though, a great list that also has several entries that I need to see before we do this again.

 

And of course a huge thanks to WrathOfHan for all the work put into this.

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39 minutes ago, JamesCameronScholar said:

A worthy top 2. I think Jaws scores too highly. Anyone who considers Jaws a horror movie now is insane.

 

Everything about Jaws is structured as a horror movie.

 

- The initial score from the first moments tell you it’s a horror movie. Compare with the Spielbergian wonder and majesty of the score for nearly-a-horror-movie Jurassic Park.

- The use of the unknown in the opening credits tell you it’s a horror movie. An unseen thing is closing in on an unseen target.

- The first sequence that refuses to show the threat tell you it’s horror movie. An unseen and unseeable threat emanates from the darkness. Visible, and more importantly, audible suffering takes place.

- The targeting of the perceived vulnerable in the first two deaths tell you it’s a horror movie.

- The Indianapolis speech tells you it’s a horror movie. The way the historic third person story is unfolded towards an immediate second person scenario as it gets to the affective bits without the viewer realising is the literal mechanics of how horror works.

- The entire movie uses one of the most unknowable and disburbing environments that exists - the open ocean. The open ocean is emphasised throughout, including at the end - despite the threat having been resolved the open ocean and all its threats still remains. 

 

You potentially thinking it isn't scary (or isn't scary *anymore*) doesn't make it not a horror movie.

Edited by Ipickthiswhiterose
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@WrathOfHan Wow! What an incredible job you did on this countdown. As I mentioned before, I look forward to this every day. When I had a break from work I would grab my phone, scroll through just to see if you had added anything new. And of course when you did I would just get lost in my own little world reading your write-ups and enjoying what everyone else had to say in the thread as well.

 

I can't thank you enough not just for doing an incredible job with this but recognising the amount of time and effort that you put into this. It's kind of been a reason for me to come back to the forums everyday now. So thank you once again.

As you know I've done my own countdowns before so I know how much time and effort goes into this, your efforts certainly were not unnoticed.

 

+ 2 everyone else in the thread who did drop by, make a few comments here and there and have some good debates I thank you. You guys made it a lot of fun as well.

 

And to @Ipickthiswhiterose I want to thank you for you're passionate write-ups and responses to all of this. I never met you before this thread but you're one of my favourite posters now. Your knowledge and your passion and your dedication to your write-ups are simply incredible and even though I'm almost 50 years old and horror has been my favourite genre for 40 years, I learned a lot from you. So thanks for chiming in because it really added 2 my overall interest of this thread.

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Get Out wasn’t on my list. It is a well acted film with interesting ideas that is really well executed for around 85% of it’s run time. Peele is a well loved figure for a reason and it is a great feat of marketing that he has become positioned as the figurehead of sociopolitical horror, and indeed that sociopolitical horror has become framed as something contemporary. Of course, I would point the fact that this has always been the case and the notion that sociopolitical horror is contemporary is exactly that…marketing. Some of the sequences such as the silent crying and the hypnosis are really well done in Get Out and it’s definitely the better of the films that have had Peele’s major involvement so far. Ironically, for a genre associated with sequels Get Out chose not to be one of the few films that actually merited a potentially really interesting sequel by choosing to incorporate a secondary atonal ending that didn’t really make sense from what we saw….

Spoiler

Essentially I’m referring to the cold calculating sociopath Alison Williams character spontaneously turning in a k-k-k-k-krayzee bish in the last 10 minus for no reason rather than slinking away quietly like a sociopath would do setting up what would have been one of the most charged and interesting versus/‘revenge’ films ever made.

 

 

TCM was my number 43. I’ve always got a bit of a quandary with TCM. I mean, I’ll stick my neck out and risk ridicule and say that I think there is a bit of an unspoken truth that the first 20 minutes of TCM are just not very good. Not because they’re pre-action, that’s a necessity, but I don’t rate the acting and more importantly I don’t really rate the script. As others have pointed out…the remake of TCM comes across well and that’s partly because it improves massively on these mechanics. Even more contentiously…I don’t really rate the last 20 minutes or so either. Once it has become a runaround it becomes fairly generic in my eyes. BUT….but…..there is simply the fact that there is a solid 40 minutes or so between around the 40%-80% mark of the film that is just grittier, and more raw, and more visceral and terrifying than almost anything put to celluloid. Something that nearly 50 years of trying hasn’t improved upon. Is it deliberate, or was it a happy accident? Depending on one’s perception of Poltergeist Hooper either never did it again in decades of trying or only managed it once when under the auspices of Spielberg. I don’t know. Maybe I’m in the happy accident camp. But that 40 minutes is not just perfect, it’s a microcosm of visceral, immediate fear. It’s something primal.

 

The Fly was my number 58. Wow. Okay, I wasn’t expecting this. I mean, I thought my perception of The Fly was a fairly standard. Maybe it is but this forum specifically loves it. Ether way, I’m kind of here for it. I’m due for a Cronenberg rewatch and rate his work. I placed Fly and Videodrome on my list closish together and Dead Ringers, Scanners and eXistenZ would have all made a Top 150. I suppose I never saw Fly as such a specific standout within his work, although on reflection it is kind of the most accessible (I mean that sincerely and not as some backhanded compliment) and classically structured and of course features a still-relevant actor in its lead. Some of the aesthetics are wonderful and it plays around with the abject in a way that disgusts but remains voyeuristic and pulls the audience in. Yeah, maybe it IS that good.

 

Scream was my number 44. See now the thing about Scream is that I think the narrative that built up about its meta nature has become a little overstated. It is understandable because I think the meta aspects ARE what made it a zeitgeist film at the time and made a genre that had been rejected by the mainstream cool again. And the result is that it is overlooked that Scream is a great and innovative PURE horror film in its own right: remove the Randy character and the movie references and it’s still a top 1% film of that type. For me the real overlooked innovation is the physical humanisation of the killer: a complete opposite of *The Shape* Craven and Williamson were bold enough and brave enough to have slasher icons that flail, fall arse over tit, are fully vulnerable and can be killed (I do wish one of the sequels had riffed on this with a shock early death/defeat/unmasking of a killer, maybe even in the opening sequence to invert the opening of the original). A capable protagonist and proper, objective laden characters.

 

Halloween was my number 38 & The Thing was my number 8. John Carpenter is only going up and up in my estimation as the years go on and at some point it seems inevitable his entire oeuvre is going to end up being reappraised, even Ghosts of Mars and the Ward and such. Maybe not Memoirs. Somehow he managed to create the epitome of both slasher horror and cosmic horror on film, a quite astonishing achievement. His range of settings is fascinating. What stands out to me though is his career long unwillingness to approach character in a way that conforms to the American cinema norm. It stands out less against other traditions, but against American realism those critical receipts become totally understandable. His commitment to Myers being unexplained and Laurie being just some girl who happened to be there, his commitment to the Antarctic base being full of just some guys doing a job, Starman never being truly humanised and remaining a distanced alien, Roddy Piper never being much of anything other than a working class tough guy barely changed by events….by the standards of American cinema these characters are ‘underdeveloped’ when in fact they are of course just ‘everything they need to be’. It’s not that they’re broad, or that they’re empty, it’s just that if the information about their backgrounds or motivations aren’t relevant to the story then they don’t come up and we don’t need to know about them. That’s good, contained storytelling in an environment where the stakes are already as high as  ‘live or die’. It’s why his films are so good, and I suspect why they each take/took so long to be embraced, especially in the US. A note for Halloween that Carpenter’s ability to innovate the American suburb into a centre of dripping ATMOSPHERE wasn’t just a cue for other horror films (none of which have done it as well) but for drama films as well. Where other horrors have failed, movies like American Beauty, Ladybird and Booksmart HAVE succeeded in following Carpenter in that harnessing of suburban texture.

 

Psycho was my number 7. Every time I watch Psycho I get so wrapped up in the early drama and the chase and the money plot that the whiplash of the change hits me every time. I know Scream got likened to it when it first came out because of the first sequence, but having lavishly praised Scream above I think that sells the first act or Psycho short….Scream has a prologue, what Psycho has is an entirely separate first act with its own world, motivations, stakes, tensions, conflict everything. And it flips away from a COMPELLING story and has to earn it…and it does. And it does via the evening dialogue between the two characters…you know the one…and for that I think that scene just has to take it as one of the five greatest scenes in horror. It says so much that you can go in like so many now do knowing every last surprise and the tricks and the spoilers and it still doesn’t matter, you still get a full meal every time. Oh to have been able to see it fresh and without those things already embedded in pop horror folklore. (PS: Hitchcock still a vile creepy scumbag.)

 

Jaws was my number 3. Right, so let’s unpack the greatest speech in film shall we? It starts as a story from the third party in the past with a tangential objective (‘We’d just delivered the bomb’). It throws in trigger phrases to provide helplessness (‘We didn’t know’ and the emphasis of Brody’s lack of knowledge and needing to be taught). Then we hear a story and it pushes even more…Quint doesn’t use ‘we’, he talks about things happening to the other men and what the other men do and their fates. But then he shifts with ‘sometimes he looks right into you, right into your eyes’ and he’s now talking through the screen. the viewer doesn’t even notice. Seconds ago this shark attack was in the past, happening to other people, and a vague tale and now seamlessly it’s in the present, happening to you, and a description of what your affective experience of this attack is. The visuals come in detail (the eyes), then the sound (high pitched screaming), and finally the result (rip you to pieces). I’m not the first to point these out, a few papers have unpacked this. But it’s still a perfect marriage of speech with delivery and direction. Everyone does their job. Masterpiece.

 

Alien was my number 6. This also comes from the Carpenter school of characterisation funnily enough. Shows how effective it is. Like Nightmare, two subgenres are subtly combined in the film: in this case slasher and body horror and all that layered too on top of a futuristic sci-fi/adventure plot. I perhaps wish that Alien played with the body horror more in terms of exploring the abject (maybe the Fly does that better) or maybe emphasising the penetrations and fluids would have been too much for mainstream audiences. What works perfectly though are the slasher elements and the atmosphere. The design is rightly notorious and celebrated, the sequences are iconic and it’s always good (and omnipresent in the high rankings here) to have competent protagonists.

 

The Shining was my number 17. I might be out of momentum here. I don’t know if I have much else to say. Umm, the Shining is great. I watched it in optimum circumstances at the age of around 15 and couldn’t sleep that night and it stayed with me for a week. It hasn’t had that effect on rewatches and maybe I don’t *enjoy* it as much as some others. But it was still a seminal early horror experience for me. Nicholson’s performance carries the movie and his journey to me are what makes the film for me more so than the notorious visuals and sequences. It is hard to predict on first watch and the details reward rewatches. It’s accomplished, stylish and takes advantage of an inherently scary setup and environment. You can always feel the ghosts, and you can always feel the oppression, and I thinks that what stays resonant with audiences.

 

Interesting that for someone who might come across at times as a horror contrarian, I nevertheless aligned 4 of the top 10 and 9 of the top 20.

 

While I am sad that my Top 20s of Ravenous, The Devils, The Witches, The Devil Rides Out and Lemora are not on the list this is ultimately in line with my expectation. I may at some point wax lyrical about them in the vain hope that sometime eventually they get their dues or at the very least that some who haven’t yet watched them might do so or that those who have watched once and dismiss give them a second chance.

 

On the other hand, that Wicker Man, Martyrs and Don’t Look Now can’t/don’t make a popular top 100 list genuinely shocks me.

 

And a final thank you to Wrath of Han. This was a great undertaking and I've enjoyed it very much, and your work is very much appreciated. Probably more than anything else I've done on this forum, which I am prone to only dabble in. It's been good chat, good enthusiasm and good discourse. All the best.

Edited by Ipickthiswhiterose
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4 hours ago, Ipickthiswhiterose said:

You potentially thinking it isn't scary (or isn't scary *anymore*) doesn't make it not a horror movie.

I think I find it more distasteful than that, if that makes sense. Almost a cultural relic, the damage done to the image of the ol' Great White by the movie seems to me to put it into the category of movies we should look back on with an air of disgust. That's not to say that the spotlight it brought to GW wasn't all negative (I think a large amount of research funding probably was approved thanks to the popularity of it). I just think that we should stick to demonising monsters, not nature, when it comes to 'horror'.

 

N.B. I totally agree with your overall point though - I just felt the need to clarify my view.

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