Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reader Top Ten Horror Films, 1960 - 2000: Edward Erdelac

Author, buddy, and horror enthusiast Edward M. Erdelac starts us off today with our reader top ten greatest horror films, circa 1960 – 2000.

His number one choice is just outside that range (1957), but I think it’s close enough for jazz, especially considering the quality of the film.

Ed writes:

“1.       Night Of The Demon (AKA Curse Of The Demon)– I’m a big fan of occult horror, and this ticking clock ale of skepticism and faith clashing within a paranormal de-bunker when the leader of a witch cult marks him for death at the hands of a demon is my all-time favorite horror movie.  The producers insisted on showing the demon and keboshing the ambiguity, but it’s still a great movie and I love the mechanics of the hex and how it can be passed on to another.

2.       Dawn Of The Dead – As the greatest zombie movie ever made it already stands alone, but add the subtext attack on mindless consumerism and it’s in a class by itself. The scenario of being trapped in a mall at the end of the world and being able to indulge in guiltless, gory killing, is still unsurpassed in terms of dark, apocalyptic fantasy.

3.       The Haunting (1963) – A brilliantly executed haunted house story, where the audience is put into the unbalanced mind of a young woman assailed by insidious forces that perhaps, only she can perceive.

4.       Near Dark – My favorite vampire movie ever, which famously never shows a fang and never uses the word vampire. This is southwestern/shit-kicker gothic, with vampires as they should be – vaguely charming outcast monsters living on the fringe of society behind cheap hotel windows spray painted black and duct taped over.  Bill Paxton plays his vicious part with bombast and relish, and Lance Henriksen as the lead vampire is a standout, as is the infamous blood soaked bar scene and the motel shootout, where bullets don’t hurt but the lances of smoky daylight streaking through the bullet-holes do.

5.       The Shining – One of the few movies that surpass their source material. A bona fide classic from a grandmaster of film language, not just a great ghost movie, but an essential addition to the collective consciousness. The scenes with the kid rolling down the cavernous halls of the hotel on his big wheel only to be confronted by two ominous phantom girls is still harrowing.

6.       The Devil Rides Out – Another great ritual horror movie from Hammer Studios, adapting one of the supernatural James Bond-like Duke de Richeleau novels by Dennis Wheatley, in which the enigmatic, gentlemanly Duke and his chums lock cornutos with Moccata, the leader of a cult that summons up goat-men in the woods and send creeping horrors after their persecutors in the night.  The scene in which Christopher Lee forts up with his fellows in a mystic circle and they are assailed by various supernatural apparitions including death-on-a-horse-itself is worth it alone.

7.       The Lair Of The White Worm – I love odd monsters with strange mechanics, like how silver hurts werewolves and vampires can’t cross water.  This odd movie based on a story by Bram Stoker applies a whole wealth of strange bodyguards against a race of ancient snake worshippers that I just find fascinating.  Amanda Donohoe’s performance as the serpentine Lady Sylvia Marsh is as close as I think I can come to understanding the sensuality Bela Lugosi is said to have brought to Dracula. It's also ridiculously subversive and funny.

8.       The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – I’m not generally a fan of slasher movies, but the technique of TCM is so worthwhile it can’t be dismissed. That end dinner scene and pursuit with its extreme close-ups of bugging, screwing eyeballs filled with terror and its long shots of Leatherface chasing the girl from the house is so unsettling. There’s also a truly hilarious undercurrent throughout it. I love the interaction between the doomed teens and the maniac hitchhiker in the back of the van as that ridiculously incongruous song ‘Sidewalk Café’ plays.

9.       Rosemary’s Baby – The ultimate conspiracy movie with a great occult twist, it just nudges out The Omen for me in terms of 'demonic child' movies. It's the ultimate achievement of American original and storied horror producer William Castle’s career.

10.   The Exorcist – Still, for my money, the most terrifying movie ever made. The first image I ever saw from it is still the most chilling for me.  My dad was watching his in an unlit living room and I wandered in just as Regan’s head cracked around on her neck, leering with that repulsive expression. I looked over at my dad, he looked at me, and raised his eyebrows and grinned, his face illuminated by the set. I ran screaming from the room and dove under the kitchen table.  If it’s so great why is it number 10? Because my inner child still shrieks every few years when I summon up the guts to watch it again.

Ed, you’ve given us another great list.  Like you, I am completely taken with Curse of the Demon. What a terrific and unsettling, cerebral horror film.  I think the appearance of the demon still works, and some of the special-effects surrounding it still look remarkable to this day.  Your other selections are just as unimpeachable. 

The Haunting (1963) is also one of my favorites, and I also love Near Dark and The Shining.

Great list!


  1. Never has a horror film used sound more effectively than in The Haunting.

  2. Anonymous5:45 PM

    I agree! It was so gratifying to show this movie to my wife and (then) teenage son years ago and watch them nearly jump off the couch when Dr. Markway's wife makes an unexpected appearance. That scene in the bedroom with the various murmurs and unexplainable sounds is unmatched.


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