5. Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)
Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film isn’t going to top anyone’s ranking of the director’s greatest works, but unlike his overall final movie, the 1976 odd dark comedy Family Plot, this one at least features many of the classic flourishes and motifs that the Master of Suspense is known for. Doomed blondes, strange compulsions, complicated mix-ups, and meaningful clues abound in this England-set crime thriller.
It’s also one of Hitch’s most outright explorations of the kink and compulsion that underscore so many of his works, as it follows a serial killer who rapes women and strangles them with neckties. With a vein of morbid humor and an ever-rising body count, Frenzy is an ugly story in a pretty package thanks to Hitch’s sure hand behind the camera. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes (Jack Clayton, 1983)
In the 1980s, Disney lost its mind and made dark movies for children. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest move from a business standpoint, but the studio produced some of its best movies during that era. Something Wicked This Way Comes, based on Ray Bradbury’s story of the same name, is a terrifying movie even by grown-up person standards. The plot revolves around an evil carnival that arrives in a small town and grants wishes to the residents for a damning price. It’s up to some kids to save the day. Something Wicked This Way Comes oozes atmosphere and boasts some tremendous set-pieces, including one nightmare-inducing scene involving spiders. It’ll give you the heebie-jeebies. (Kieran Fisher)
3. Scream 4 (Wes Craven, 2011)
Wes Craven‘s Scream movies may vary in quality from one installment to the next, but it remains one of the all-time great horror franchises. Gory kills, sharp writing, and a smart deconstruction of the slasher genre make for some endlessly entertaining horror movies, and Craven goes out on top by delivering the second-best entry in the series with Scream 4. Yeah, I said that.
The kills are bloody, and Kevin Williamson’s script has fun dissecting the horrors through a more modern media-savvy lens. Cast regulars return once again, but the newcomers shine equally bright, with fun turns from Lucy Hale, Alison Brie, and a never-been-better Hayden Panettiere. There’s really only a single misstep in the film, and that’s the dull, charisma-sucking presence of Emma Roberts, but not even she can drag this gem down. (Rob Hunter)
2. Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
James Whale is arguably horror’s first great director. His vision and talent helped bring life to the Universal Classic Monsters and in doing so created a generation of little horror fans the world over. In 1935, he directed not his final movie but his last work of horror with Bride of Frankenstein, a direct sequel to his 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein. Amazingly, Whale managed to improve on everything he accomplished the first time around. Bride of Frankenstein is a gorgeous film that holds up remarkably well. It’s classic horror that feels modern. And the film’s story about a relationship that society doesn’t deem natural couldn’t be more relevant. (Chris Coffel)
1. The Exorcist III (William Peter Blatty, 1990)
The only thing left to do once you’ve written a groundbreaking horror novel and its award-winning adaptation is go back nearly two decades later and knock it out of the park with a threequel. William Peter Blatty’s second and final movie as a director resulted in a work of horror that’s got it all: the classic struggle of good vs evil, a Zodiac-inspired serial killer, and an all-time great jump scare. Personally, I’d even dare to say this might be more frightening than the original Exorcist. Either way, it’s effective, shocking, and thoroughly creepy from start to finish. Everyone else better learn from Blatty: this is how you make your mark and go out on a high note. (Anna Swanson)