Adorable demonic kids, slimy monsters, Crooked vampires and a few carefully-impaled people. Everything you need to double-lock your door and sleep with the lights on. But this ranking could not have been achieved without a host of neurotics, psychotics, voyeurs, fanatics and serial killers. Time Out Paris presents its ideal collection (and a terrifying touch) of the 60 best horror films in the history of cinema. That being said, If you do not have your heart firmly fixed and you are afraid to be too scared (little nature !), do not hesitate to look at our love film guides, science fiction films or our 100 Best French films. For the others, sit comfortably on your sofa, alone of choice, in the dark and good courage.
- The Exorcist (1973)
If ‘The Exorcist’ was at the top of this list of horror films, it is not only because he is the most cult, endowed with unforgettable replicas (” your mother sucks cock in hell, Karras “). There is no need to recall the scenes of The Exorcism, of the spider on the back, or, of course, that of the crucifix: they are now part of the collective memory, beyond the limited circle of the devotees of the genre. Nor is it because it is one of the most successful horror films – more than 402 million in revenue – or the most award-winning two Oscars (Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay), not to mention six nominations.
But it is above all because William Friedkin’s film is a piece of cinematic horror that reconciles the various branches of the genre, combining the visual beauty of a ‘Suspiria’ with the very concrete monstrosity of the ‘night of the undead’. And what could be more terrifying than the sight of an innocent child so perverted, spitting out obscenities with the conviction of a jailbird, twisting in all directions – including a most disturbing 360° cervical – while projecting gallons of vomit on anyone who dares to approach her?
Favoring unknown actors (except Ellen Burstyn) to celebrities, passing from the souks of Iraq to the quiet streets of Washington, combining personal drama and graphic violence, William Friedkin managed to create a unique film, both brutal and artistic. If it fits perfectly in the line of satanic thrillers like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or ‘The Curse’, ‘The Exorcist’ smells of sulfur, putrefaction, piss and blood like no other.
A movie was so morally and religiously incorrect that the young actress Linda Blair received death threats, and was forced to live under police protection for several months. The fact that even today he manages to provoke the same visceral stupor as in 1973 attests to Friedkin’s powerful aesthetic vision. And quite clearly justifies its position at the top of this ranking.
- Shining (1980)
‘Shining’ is the story of a madman. That of Jack Torrance (a feline Jack Nicholson), a forty-year-old writer in his time, who has just agreed to replace during the winter the keeper of the Overlook Hotel, a labyrinthian palace isolated in the Colorado mountains. With him, his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Little by little, the hotel’s bloody past seemed to take hold of Jack’s spirit; soon, the snow was cutting the lines of communication. And a couple of good ax shots in the bathroom door later.
No need to dwell further on the synopsis, taken from Stephen King’s ultra-famous novel: this ‘Shining’ is above all a story of the atmosphere. A huge part of the book is evacuated by the director, especially the many passages relating to the mafia history of the hotel. Non. In fact, the great strength of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptations of literary works (almost all his films are) is to be able to capture a few scenes, a handful of key elements of the original book to amplify them, to give them the power and density of symbols, mental projections, with purely cinematic means.
As a maniac of symmetry and space games in the composition of the shots, he alternates a cold, imperious staging (the slow travellings on the rooms of the Overlook) and a sinuous, aggressive and swift dynamism – thus, when his camera follows the child in tricycle in the corridors as a prey. Huis clos oppressant in a gigantic environment,’ Shining ‘ slalome between the supernatural (haunted house option) and realism (this guy is just crazy), and take the opportunity to play wonderfully on the hilarious barbarity of Jack Nicholson, who undoubtedly finds there one of the most enjoyable characters of his career.
- Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
There are horror movies that play on mystery, subtlety, psychological tension. And then there’s The Chainsaw Massacre. The film by Tobe Hooper, made with a microscopic budget, and symbol of the do it yourself spirit of horror cinema, shows such a head-on style that it was censored for a long time in several countries, notably in the United Kingdom, where it was not until 1999 that it was screened on a large screen.
As its title indicates, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre ‘ leaves no room for imagination, instead installing a most pure terror, amplified by the total absence of music-with the exception of some threatening timpani. Returning from a road trip in the heart of Texas, five innocent young people – including a blonde and her brother in a wheelchair – run out of gas, and find themselves stuck in a village of rednecks with rather critical mental and dental deficiencies. But perhaps their greatest threat is Leatherface, a huge butcher who wears the skin of his victims as a mask.
In keeping with the radically direct style of the film, no mystery surrounds the identity of this monstrous killer, who appears to us completely – and in full sun – from his first murder. However, if he brutally kills his prey with a hammer or a chainsaw, “leather Face ” turns out to be the most likeable of the characters, whimpering with a guilty air after having cut and frozen his first two victims.
The most frightening is not so much this strange serial killer as the rest of his family, vicious and retarded hustlers who make lamps out of the heads of their victims (rather original, that said). Thus, a bit like an Elephant Man, Leatherface would almost manage to move us, even at the end of the film, during his macabre dance in the middle of the road, bathed by the orange light of the dusk. He is at once grotesque, lyrical, and daring.