is out in theaters, continuing the hook from the first: a teen horror movie told entirely through computer screens. It’s a bold conceit that’s worked out pretty well (both movies are just on either side of Fresh), inspiring this week’s gallery of 24 of the most innovative horror movies ever. Unfriended: Dark Web
(1920, 100%) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The players of cinema’s first truly scary movie wander through sets painted with twisted lines and angles, in valleys of light between suffocating shadows. Cabinet used props, set design, and camera angles to illuminate characters’ inner life, a filmmaking tool with widespread practicality even beyond horror. And the pioneering dutch angles were copied in movies far more scarring.
(1922, 97%) Nosferatu
The original movie monster, and the first surviving depiction of Dracula on-screen. The power of movies to breathe life into make-up–glossed demons and devils gave these roles a kind of prestige, which Universal would take full advantage of a decade later with their stable of monsters, creating the first cinematic universe.
(1932, 94%) Freaks
Tod Browning hired actual deformed carnival performers for Freaks, hopping along the fine line between empathy and exploitation. One of the original embers for the conversation of on-screen representation that burns today.
(1933, 98%) King Kong
Epic in scope, King Kong combines horror, adventure, and romance in a big way not much attempted since.
(1945, 97%) Dead of Night
The first horror anthology to make a lasting impact on filmmakers. Also known for its circular plot — a horror device that has reached as far as Polanski’s The Tenant, Triangle, and current horror anthology champ, Southbound.
(1960, 97%) Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest trick was murdering his leading lady in the first act (if this was a spoiler, please telegram your local internet consulate and report us) and then making us cautiously root for the killer for the next 70 minutes.
(1962, 85%) Carnival of Souls
A large influence on George A. Romero and the first Dead movie, about a woman whose life descends into madness following a car accident. Souls is innovative when it comes to sound design, like when the audio decouples with the image and action on-screen, highlighting the heroine’s nightmarish unreality.
(1963, 96%) The Birds
Up against waves of monsters — who cannot be reasoned or negotiated with, and whose motive is unknown — a motley crew hole up in a house, board the windows, and try to survive the night. The original zombie movie? Hitchcock’s follow-up to Psycho saw him still playfully mucking around with genre expectations: The Birds is a screwball comedy up until a prop bird is thrown from off-screen (by Hitchcock himself, no doubt) at Tippi Hedren’s head.
(1968, 97%) Night of the Living Dead
For less than $115,000, George A. Romero will give you a chilling modern radioactive voodoo spine-tingler, and lay the foundation upon which all zombie movies will be built. And he’ll throw in some social commentary, too, because he’s a nice guy. Independent filmmaking at its best, right?
(1971, 80%) A Bay of Blood
A disparate group, including horny teenagers, converge upon a scenic lake for the weekend, where they’re dismembered one-by-one by a mystery assailant. Sound familiar? A decade before Crystal Lake, Mario Bava set up camp with proto-slasher Bay of Blood, a tableau of gut-carving and strangulation that hilariously gets more baffling as it goes along, building up into a delightfully mordant twist ending. Friday the 13th: Part 2 copies a few kills from this shot-for-shot.
(1973, 86%) The Exorcist
The bedroom possession scenes are well-seared into public consciousness, but anyone viewing The Exorcist now for the first time will be surprised at William Friedkin’s low-exposition, clinical approach to the subject matter. It makes everything leading up to the home vomitbath more true and terrifying.
(1974, 88%) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
When working on a shoestring budget, less is always much, much more. A title like Texas Chainsaw Massacre immediately puts the audience in the right headspace, and if you let them fill in the rest of the horror, it’s a movie that’ll stick around up there forever.
(1975, 97%) Jaws
Alongside Saving Private Ryan and Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg calls it one of his three most difficult movies to make. It’s easy to see why, being a young turbulent filmmaker with a studio breathing down his neck, behind schedule and over-budget, with a broken mechanical shark. But Spielberg transformed chum into caviar, inventively using underwater POV shots and allowing the John Williams score to breathe…or, in this case, suffocate the audience.
(1978, 93%) Halloween
Classic horror says to hide your kids, hide your wife, and definitely hide your villain – around corners, in deep shadows, and behind POV shots inside a bush peeking into the family house. John Carpenter drags Michael Myers into the sunlight, penetrating once-safe neighborhood sidewalks, basking among your laundry. Though nighttime does famously descend upon Haddonfield, Myers’ bold daytime lurching gave him an aura of unstoppability — true, if you look at all the sequels and remakes.
(1980, 65%) Cannibal Holocaust
If you think it perplexing that crowds in 1999 could fall for Blair Witch, imagine 1980 when out came Cannibal Holocaust, whose director, Ruggero Deodato, was dragged into Italian court to present the actors from the film, proving they weren’t actually raped, mutilated, and murdered on-camera. The film still has a repulsive effect (and not just because of the late-’70s fashion), due to the fact it shows something no movie could do today: the slaughter of real animals, heightening the murky interplay between fake and actual death.
(1980, 86%) The Shining
Kubrick popularized the steadicam shot, which t allowed for stabilized hand-held roaming, applied in sequences such as stalking little Danny behind his tricycle, onto the carpet, and into the twins. Afterwards, horror scenes started getting more up-close and intimate.
(1996, 79%) Scream
Having eaten its own guts, Antropophagus-style, through endless sequels and bottomed-out budgets, the horror market dried up by the ’90s, as Hollywood perfected blockbuster filmmaking and golden-age American indies flooded theaters. What to do with people who have become bored with horror movies? In the case of Wes Craven, make a horror movie…about people who have become bored with horror movies, killing them at their most meta-vulnerable. The teen slashers flowed again, this time with Millennium-approaching snark.
(1999, 87%) The Blair Witch Project
Still reeling from the Columbine massacre three months earlier, the American public was then tempted by a movie claiming to contain the raw footage of the final days of three filmmakers looking for a witch’s house in the Maryland hills, and who have never been seen since. It introduced a new kind of voyeurism in theaters (somewhat affected by the birth of reality TV, and live news drama like the O.J. chase), tapping into a a dark vein of the public interest that was already exposed from the school shooting. Blair Witch‘s not regarded so highly these days, but for one summer in 1999, it captured America’s fear.
(2000, 68%) American Psycho
Not the first horror movie written and directed by women ( Slumber Party Massacre, anyone?), but still a compulsive exploration of irresistable sexuality and the kind of sadism, murder, and men it fosters. As horror explodes in recent popularity, the genre has also emerged as a place for women — see Kathryn Kusama, Jennifer Kent, Ana Lily Amirpour, Anna Biller, Coralie Fargeat, Julia Ducournau — to work out their ills, personal and societal.
(2002, 86%) 28 Days Later
To get the shots of Cillian Murphy’s haunting solitude in typically very crowded London, director Danny Boyle was given mere minutes by police each morning to set up and record. This could only done be done by ditching film and using fast-rising digital cameras, which had the bonus of making 28 Days Later look apocalyptically blown-out, like it was found underneath somebody’s boot. Nowadays, entertainment lives fully in a crispy digital era. It just took some very fast zombies to chase us here.
(2004, 49%) Saw
The fetish for complicated traps and plot twists brought on the torture porn subgenre.
(2009, 83%) Paranormal Activity
Found footage goes indoors, unleashing a wave of imitators.
(2017, 99%) Get Out
Whether through laughs or screams, the highest goal of horror and comedy is the same: to leave audiences literally breathless. Jordan Peele appears right at home between the two extremes, who hinted towards this tendency in Key & Peele sketches like “ Continental Breakfast” or “ Family Matters“, and then took it to the next, Oscar-winning level with Get Out. A social polemic disguised as audience rouser, Get Out starts the conversation on how marginalized people tuck away emotion and identity into sunken places deep inside in order to placate society and survive.
(2018, 95%) A Quiet Place
A horror movie that opens to blockbuster numbers with virtually no dialogue and keeps notoriously restless modern moviegoers quiet and enraptured is doing something near miraculous.