The List (20-16):
20) Carrie (De Palma, 1976)—Brian De Palma’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel is a chilling story about an alienated young girl. The horror of high school and the constant humiliation Carrie suffers at the hands of her peers wakens in her a dormant telekinetic power, which she then unleashes to terrifying effect on her tormenters. At its core, there’s a very relatable story of teenage angst and awkwardness, but it’s transformed into the stuff of nightmares through its supernatural edge and Carrie’s religious zealot and crazed mother, portrayed by Piper Laurie.
Oscar Spotlight: Carrie garnered both Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek (who played the titular character) nominations, in Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress respectively.
19) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)—Brutal and unrelenting. I almost want to leave the blurb with that, because those are really the only two words that accurately describe this film. I’ve seen many horror films, and a lot of them are much gorier than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. And yet almost none of left me with the sense of profound revulsion and lingering dread that this film elicited. One of the most visceral experiences you’ll ever have with a movie.
18) Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983)—A truly bizarre film that explores body horror, the hyperreal, and sadomasochism, Videodrome combines many of Cronenberg’s pet themes. About a television programmer who stumbles upon a mysterious broadcast signal that’s apparently transmitting a snuff show, the film spirals into truly surreal territory by its grim end and features a compelling turn by Blondie legend Deborah Harry.
17) The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)—Carpenter’s adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. novella is a film of immaculate craft. A sense of foreboding and utter dread suffuse the entire film, and you can palpably feel the isolation of these men stranded in a remote Antarctic outpost as they turn against one another, their trust dissolving as they are tormented by an extraterrestrial that can perfectly replicate other life forms. The practical special effects are not to be missed.
16) Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)—The first widely-recognized “blockbuster,” Jaws is a film that all these years later has lost none of its power to thrill. If the scariness of a film were empirically provable, Jaws could probably stake a claim to the title of “Scariest Film Ever.” Beach attendance records after the film’s release would testify. This film has bored its way into our collective imagination, and swimming has never been the same since. Special mention should be given to the fine performances of Shaw, Scheider, and Dreyfuss as well as John Williams’ iconic score which suggested all the terror beneath the surface of the water with only a few deep notes.
Oscar Spotlight: Impressive showing in the tech categories, winning Editing, Sound, and Original Score. Also nominated for Best Picture.
Next up: The List (15-11)