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Jim Schembri's top 10 creepiest films

Posted by: Jim Schembri | 15 May, 2012 - 4:23 PM

When it comes to horror a film can go one of two ways: the shock route - with blood and gore and entrails all over the place - or the creepy route - where the dread of what might happen next is just as good (or as bad!) as what does happen. Here's a selection of ten atmospheric horror films designed to make your skin crawl.  

10. THE THING (1950): The notion of being terrorised by something you can't see was never done better than in this classic Howard Hawks creepfest about a group of Antarctic scientists who discover a frozen flying saucer. None of the effects-driven remakes have come close to matching this classic for sheer style and class. 
9. PSYCHO (1960): Director Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins turn the concept of the momma's boy inside out using little more than shadows, silence, odd camera angles and the occasional shower. 
8. DELIVERANCE (1972): Going up-river takes on new meaning as four buddies - Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox - do nail-biting battle against gun-wielding rednecks with a penchant for pork. Some 40 years on the film's disturbing power remains undiminished.
7. THE BAD SEED (1956): The bad behaviour of cute, pig-tailed, piano-playing little Rhoda (Patty McCormack) proves two things: (1) creepy kids are ten times more unsettling than creepy adults; (2) naughty girls are ten times scarier than naughty boys. 
6. THE INNOCENTS (1961): Arguably the definitive ghost movie, Deborah Kerr plays the naive governess to two orphan children who have an unnerving way of speaking and staring. This nerve-jangler went on to inspire The Others (2001) and The Sixth Sense (1999).
5. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011): Given the recent spate of gory horror remakes, this low-budget shocker was a refreshing splash of old-school scare tactics. There's even a ghost wearing nothing but a bed sheet.
4. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999): The found-footage tale of three lost film school students searching for a mythical witch inspired many imitators, yet it still stands alone for sheer spook generation. Forests have never looked creepier than when these kids go running from their unseen tormentors in this modern horror classic.
3. DEAD OF NIGHT (1945): While some of Ealing Studio's nightmare-within-a-nightmare classic has dated, time has not touched the final sequence when a ventriloquist's dummy takes on a life of its own and decides to split from his handler.  
2. THE EXORCIST (1973): The body of 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) is possessed by Satan who doesn't want to let her go. As over-the-top and shocking as the lengthy exorcism sequences are, it's the early scenes of Regan slowly being taken over that really send shivers in all directions of your nervous system. Director William Friedkin (The French Connection) put together an excellent extended cut that is well worth checking out. Ellen Burstyn is brilliant as Regan's increasingly horrified mother.
1. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968): Roman Polanski's first American film turned out to be one of cinema's all-time scariest. Naive New York housewife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her actor-husband Guy (John Cassavettes) befriend the lovely elderly couple in the apartment next door, not knowing that they lead a coven of witches. In exchange for success, Guy offers them Rosemary as a one night stand for Satan. However, he neglects to discuss it with her first. Rosemary fights to protect her unborn baby in a film that gets creepier every time you see it.
All these films are available on DVD. 

Movies with Jim Schembri

Jimmy S Jim Schembri is one of Australia's most respected film critics. Find out Jim's thoughts on the latest movies, interviews and more!




Blog comments Your Say

  • Eraserhead Jim...that chicken...!

    mal maiden Wednesday 16 May, 2012 - 8:40 PM
  • I can't give my top ten in detail because of the blog's character limit but here is one of my all-time favourites.

    SUSPIRIA (1977): An American student boarding at a prestigious ballet school in the Black Forest finds herself targeted for death by a coven of homicidal witches. A stunning mix of aural and visual shocks in Dario Argento's bloody homage to Snow White and certain private learning institutions in Europe where black magic is allegedly taught on the sly. The demonic music score by rock group Goblin is the scariest in the history of horror cinema, and the opening ten minutes, with its 100+ decibel shrieks, mesmerising editing, and frenzied murder in a baroque apartment building during a thunderstorm, has never been bettered.

    Robert Traynor Tuesday 15 May, 2012 - 9:01 PM

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