The 100 best horror films: the future of horror?

After Time Out had conducted polls last year to nail down the 100 best British films and comedy movies, horror seemed the obvious next step. For one thing, it’s a genre dear to many people’s hearts: like comedy, it has a huge number of ‘specialists’, those who spend their entire careers directing, appearing in or writing exclusively about horror movies. That’s perfect for a piece guided entirely by polling, and it’s made for a contributors’ list peopled partly by big names – Roger Corman, Simon Pegg, Guillermo del Toro, Clive Barker, even Alice Cooper – and partly by fanatics, from expert writers like Kim Newman and our own Nigel Floyd, to iconic ‘scream queen’ Sybil Danning, movie-obsessed director Joe Dante, Mexican legend Coffin Joe and ‘Human Centipede’ creator Tom Six.

It was fascinating to watch the list come together. We took top ten lists from each of our contributors, and assigned each of the films a points value – we’ll not reveal our secrets here, but rest assured it was entirely democratic. At first, ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ seemed to be taking an unassailable lead, but in the later stages, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Shining’ started to pull alongside. But what was most enjoyable was seeing the real oddball outsiders – the arthouse chillers, the fiendishly inventive lowbrow splatterfests and the genuine underground weirdies – secure their place in the top 100.

The result is a list of films guaranteed to amaze and delight hardcore horror fans and newcomers alike. All of horror is here, from silent spookiness to modern mayhem, from creepy fairy tales to outright grand guignol savagery, with of course the requisite number of vampires, zombies, witches, ghosts, demons, Nazis, aliens, serial killers, possessed kids, redneck maniacs and face-eating tarantulas.

As many have noted, horror is in a bit of a tough spot at the moment: blame the rise of digital video, blame the offputting, exploitative nastiness of torture porn or the disbelief-shattering irony of the postmodern ‘Scream’ cycle (none of which appear on our list, interestingly), or blame our increased awareness of true horror in the real world, but there’s no denying that horror cinema is in need of a shot in the arm.

We hope that by celebrating not just the industry-standard classics but also the most exciting and original oddities from the past century, our list might provide vital inspiration for filmmakers who are considering a move into horror. We also hope that it sparks a furious debate between ourselves, our experts and our audience about exactly why this most divisive of genres should still inspire so much passion, ingenuity and controversy – and so many undoubtedly great movies.

Your horror film pitches

The winner

A British guy discovers he was adopted and goes to America to meet his real family. Upon arrival, he discovers his family are crazed cannibal killers. Can he stop them? Nick Cheek

Kim Henkel says: ‘It should come as no surprise that this one intrigues me. I like its possibilities. I imagine it like “Animal Kingdom”, a tough, real world introduction to the gruesome realities of a cannibal family. The human scale of the story appeals. It seems to offer an opportunity for an intimate portrait of a culture that embraces violating the ultimate taboo. At the same time I think it could have something to say about the larger world.’

Kim's other favourites

Title: Snowblind. A new ski resort has opened in Slovenia, against strong opposition from locals. We follow journalists invited there who get cut off by an avalanche. And then the locals take their revenge. Catherine Fitzpatrick

A film censor experiences stark terror when his work returns to haunt him. Friends are dying horribly, recalling gruesome sequences he excised from the work of a recently deceased director! Neil Jackson

Competition runs high backstage at a drag queen beauty pageant with the last queen standing killing her opponents with killer heels and poisoned lipsticks.Chico Chakavorty

Title: Mother Mary. When Mary went to the abortion clinic she expected protestors, she knew about scans, she was prepared for pain, but she never thought she’d wake with a bomb inside her. Tim Macavoy

Best of the rest

The latest reality TV sensation 'Kill a Killer' features five members of the public devising inventive deaths for unidentified death row inmates. The public votes. But are they really inmates? Nick Cheek

When a zillionaire recluse announces he is looking for replacement, five very different candidates are chosen. What they don’t know is that they are interviewing to become the next Satan. Nick Cheek

Title: Blinding. A vicious gang are stalking the streets of London. To become a member you must blind a man, a woman... and a child. Alan Simmons

Title: Horrorscope. Recipients of horoscopes from a mysterious astrology website start dying in bizarre, gruesome ways related to their predictions. Can they survive an ancient, terrifying evil preying on their own natures? Leigh Singer

Having successfully faked his own death and enveloped the world with his seemingly innocent devices, Steve Jobs activates the secret iKill app on 100 million Apple gadgets! Justin Lynham

To finalise a contract with Satan, a human estate agent must take the underground train from Earth to Hell, packed with demons, vampires, witches, werewolves, ghosts, and all other monsters. Steven Brodie

Title: Fimbulwinter. In medieval Norway, forgotten Viking spirits rise from their graves and bring a fierce winter with them, turning brother against brother amid the insanity and chaos of the apocalypse. Sean Kelly

Title: Hell Can Wait! A terminally ill octogenarian in a care home is a never caught serial killer who goes on a last chance killing spree, starting with the nurses... Christopher Harris

Title: Giant Killer Crabs. A feckless loser in a bleak seaside town must grapple with infantile police & his crazy, gun-toting father; to protect his friends when the town is overrun by murderous crustaceans. Rebecca Hudson

At the Olympic ceremony, ancient spirits disturbed from a burial ground reanimate and infect the audience with a zombie virus. Suddenly 60,000 people want brains! The athletes must escape using whatever equipment they can as weapons! Alex McMeekin

Honourable mention

When Henkel rejected my entry he made the biggest mistake of his life. I was a fan, but a fan with a both a chainsaw and appetite for human flesh... Simon Broadley


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