Stop what you're doing and dive into one of these terrifying horror classics.
It’s Friday The 13th, and you already know the plan. On a day notorious for bad luck, supernatural occurrences, and Jason motherfuckin’ Vorhees, it only makes sense to spend the better half of your evening watching a few horror flicks. After all, some of ya’ll might not feel up to it on a regular day, so really, there’s no better time to catch up on a classic or two. Whether you prefer the paranormal, slashers, serial killers, demons, hicks, or vampires, Friday the 13th has something for everyone.
Maybe you’re a horror connoisseur, or maybe not. Either way, this list might help you settle on something up your alley, and discover a cinematic classic in the process. After all, we’re in the midst of a horror renaissance, and this decade has spawned several excellent additions to the genre (Get Out, It Follows, The Witch & The Babadook come to mind). Yet the horror genre has been around for a minute, and each decade has brought a more than a few game changers to the table. Therefore, it makes sense to begin in the seventies, when some of the most defining horror films were developed. Afterward, each decade will be represented with one selection, until we’ve reached the two thousand-and-tens.
So stop being a coward, damn it. Shut the lights, and load up one of these timeless and terrifying films, and enjoy your Halloween adjacent Friday The 13th while you still can.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Perhaps you’ve seen the remake with Jessica Biel, a serviceable film in its own right, but still - it has nothing on the original. When Tobe Hooper’s excellent The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit theatres in 1974, people had no idea what they were in for. The film was immediately surrounded in controversy, and many felt that the raw aesthetic and uncomfortable intensity were too realistic to stomach. Even the behind the scenes account from Leatherface star Gunnar Hanson details a feverish and disturbing shoot, in which actors were subjected to rotting food, stifling heat, and non-stop running.
Despite the title, there’s actually very little gore in this movie. Instead, the original Texas Chainsaw relies on atmosphere, tension, and some amazing performances to achieve its terrifying aesthetic. The final dinner scene stands out as one of the finest horror moments in cinematic history, and when it comes to memorable horror villains, can anybody ready fuck with Leatherface?
Friday The 13th (1980)
This one may be the obvious choice, but you can’t go wrong with the origin of Jason Voorhees. Largely seen as the pioneer of the “teenagers in distress” horror movie archetype, Friday The 13th birthed many of the tropes we’ve come to associate with the genre, even now. When this movie came out, esteemed critics like Siskel and Ebert deemed it “misogynistic,” and the film quickly became mired in controversy. Yet, as is so often the case, controversy only made people want to see it more.
In case you haven’t yet experienced a Jason Voorhees movie, there’s generally no better place to start then the original. While not as intense as the bleak, unforgiving Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this film is perfect if you’re in the mood for a classic slasher, with minimal paranormal elements and some dumb, yet endearing protagonists. Plus, Jason has become somewhat of a hip-hop icons, with several artists dropping references to hockey-mask wearing stalker of Camp Crystal Lake.
For whatever reason, Candyman has often flown under the radar, yet it remains a memorable and engaging film with some truly haunting moments. Taking place in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green projects, Candyman follows a graduate student, who begins the film by researching the urban legend “Candyman.” As they say, if you say his name five times in the mirror, he will appear and proceed to murder you with a hook. While the conceit is basically a take on the Bloody Mary legend, Candyman is not afraid to head to some seriously dark places, and lead actress Virginia Lyle delivers a strong performance amidst the misfortune surrounding her character.
While not as iconic as characters like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, or Freddy Kreuger, Candyman remains a formidable addition to the canon. Not to mention, he’s one of the few black horror icons, and actor Tony Todd’s imposing figure and menacing voice will go on to haunt your nightmares. With themes of urban housing, race, and some seriously twisted bee-related deaths, Candy Man still holds up twenty-five years later. Plus, it features an excellent soundtrack from Philip Glass, for all you nerds out there.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Despite the meagre budget of $15,000, Paranormal Activity managed to stand out as an original take on both the paranormal and found-footage genre, which had been treading water for a minute. The beauty of Paranormal Activity is in its simplicity; there is no convoluted plot, nor reliance on computer effects. Instead, the scares are grounded in reality, centering around what lurks beyond visibility. Jump scares are replaced by long takes, in which the protagonists rise from sleep, only to stand ominously, unmoving.
While the film went on to spawn several less than adequate sequels, the original is a fascinating and truly haunting gem. If you enjoy demonic ghost stories, Paranormal Activity is a refreshing take on the genre, reinvigorating some of the classic tropes and inventing new ones in the process. This one is best enjoyed while home alone, with all of the lights off.
The Conjuring (2013)
James Wan’s The Conjuring is one of the best horror films in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot. From the eerie opening shot zooming out on Annabelle face, to the intense final moments, The Conjuring delivers a deft marriage of consistent scares and a compelling, human plot. Unlike some of the other entries, this isn’t a case of bad things happening to unsuspecting victims, thrust into hells from which they are simply incapable of escaping. Instead, The Conjuring spends time developing its characters, and by the time shit starts hitting the fan, it’s hard not to feel personally invested in their fates.
Backed by strong performances from Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who play real-life supernatural investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren, The Conjuring boasts some of the most memorable and innovative scares of the millennium. Not to mention, The Conjuring 2 is one of those rare sequels that actually manages to live up to the original, so if you’re feeling ambitious, maybe you can make it a double feature.