Scariest Horror Movies Of All Time

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Psychological terror is one of the main weapons of the horror film
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Psychological terror is one of the main weapons of the horror film

Halloween is approaching fast – like the downward slash of a knife – and many couples and families will avoid the trick and treating and settle down with a good horror flick to enjoy it. If there’s one thing Hollywood has taught us, it’s that it knows how to create a truly terrifying experience at the cinema or in your living room.

Horror types

Some prefer subtle, gradual terror that builds to a crescendo, where surprise is the key ingredient, where kindness turns into cruelty in the blink of a bloodied eye.

Others prefer a Halloween cocktail of bizarre and fantastic creatures designed to kill or maim in spectacular fashion. For example, who can forget the horrendous spider-head abomination in The Thing?

One reason why the John Carpenter classic consistently appears at the top of horror movie charts is the combination of mistrust and deceit among friends in an enclosed space, combined with horrific and unpredictable special effects. The 2012 follow-up doesn’t possess the same level of tension, but is still worth a look.

The Ring actually used the power of television itself, and a cursed videotape, to instil fear in the watcher – thereby creating a paradox for the viewer of the film itself.
Hooper vs Jaws: Jaws wins

Supernatural fear

If those films use things from other galaxies as their nemeses, The Exorcist and The Omen use demonic, spiritual powers as their weapon of fear – through children.

To this day any child called Damien is still viewed with suspicion by certain film fans, while the frightening behaviour of the possessed 12-year-old Regan – particularly the horrendous ‘spiderwalk’ – is unforgettable.

The Omen films are part of a rich, blood-soaked tapestry of movies where unexplained and horrific deaths occur, such as Final Destination.
Drew Barrymore's brief and brutal appearance in Scream

Random killings

When the film Halloween starts no-one really knows why Michael Myers has such a morbid love of killing teenagers and their families.

All we do know is that it is expressed in brutal destruction using knives, spikes and other cruel implements. 

The simplistic uniform of choice, and the distorted elongated mask of the Scream films' main protagonist, can easily be mimicked by the discerning horror fan.


Freddie, Myers and other villains are from the school of horror that demands a memorable lead character.

Jaws used a cold and merciless shark and  The Silence of the Lambs created a creepy but somehow strangely charismatic villain in Hannibal Lecter.

Perhaps the earliest and greatest murderer of the lot was Norman Bates’ Psycho, and that shower scene – it might date back to 1960, but our psyche is still stained by this Alfred Hitchcock classic. 
Norman Bates in Psycho is a classic villain of the horror film genre
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Norman Bates in Psycho is a classic villain of the horror film genre

The undead

Zombies are also popular sources of inspiration for movie makers with a taste for the undead, in films such as Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later and  World War Z.

The star of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, Leatherface, was allegedly inspired by real-life killer Ed Gein – a man who surrounded himself with his dead victims.

Invisible force

Finally, is there anything more crippling than an adversary you cannot even see?

Scientists ripping their faces away and maggots spontaneously erupting from meat are two memorable scenes from Poltergeist, although the movie did also inspire a generation of kids who enjoyed sliding on wooden chairs in their kitchens.

That’s what the true Halloween classic movie should be all about: mind-bending terror, but fun to watch.
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