Camiele’s 100 Favorite Frightening Films of All Time: 100-81
93. Wicked City (妖獣都市)
When I first saw this film back in high school, my first thought was, “What in the holy f*ck did I just see?!” Truly, Wicked City is one of those films you see and you never forget it. This science-fiction horror had a style and sensuality about it that at the time I’d not quite seen before. And its making my list shows how much of an impact it had on me. It’s sexy, sleek, trippy as all hell. There’s a great deal of dirty humor and even dirtier interactions with the protagonists. However, the story is intriguing and the visuals are so incredibly striking. As entertaining as it is bizarre in a way that really screws with the mind. Of course, when within the first twenty minutes of the film a woman tries to consume a man through her vagina after having sex, you may as well throw away any expectations you have and just roll with it.
92. The Conjuring
Another from the director of Sinister. The thing that’s so marvelous yet at the same time so incredibly frustrating about James Wan is that he does so damn much with atmosphere, does wonders with lighting and shadow, and creates the most overbearing sense of impending doom that the payoff in the end usually just doesn’t deliver. The Conjuring did a better job of giving us the ending the film deserved, but there were still moments that felt like a cop-out for the sake of getting the cheap scare. However, where Sinister failed in terms of leaving the viewer with something to take with them as they left the theater, The Conjuring at least made up for it with just how much style it had. It truly was one of the most competent, well-executed possession stories the US has released in the past ten years. Honestly, it came close to creating the same fervor and preemptive fear it’s predecessor The Exorcist created over forty years ago.
91. Keeper of Darkness (陀地驅魔人)
I had to give this one a couple looks to really appreciate it for what it was. Hong Kong horror is really hit or miss, mostly because of the films I’ve seen (and granted it’s been only a few in the last year or two) the focus has always been on making the special effects the star of the story as opposed to the story itself. Hong Kong loves its cinematic toys to the point that so much atmosphere and emotion can get lost, a big mistake in horror, a genre in which the story is what makes the horror stick. However, Keeper of the Darkness manages to sprinkle in enough atmosphere to let this complex story of a man dealing with his own demons concerning his mother really shine through. It’s as emotional as anything I’ve seen, if for nothing else the care the director takes to really paint the picture of suffering so many of the characters have had to deal with.
90. [Rec] (2007)
There are a limited number of zombie movies that actually get the job done right. [Rec] is one such film that manages to create just the right amount of fear to keep viewers invested in the outcome. Though the American remake of this Spanish zombie flick did essentially match it frame for frame, so much of the creep factor was lost in translation. What does it for me always is the eyes. Close-ups of Angela (played by the stunning Manuela Velasco) as she tries to temper her breathing or any sounds she makes to avoid notice by the infected shows just how palpable the terror of not knowing if you’ll actually make it out of a situation alive really is. I was holding my breath as she did, every sound around me zeroing in on one point. If there’s ever an indication a film is doing its job, it’s when the audience feels just as trapped as the actors on the screen.
89. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Many will and have touted this film as nothing but shameless torture porn. And in a way, it really is. However, from my standpoint this is horror that really gets under the skin, particularly because of just how real it is. It’s horror on two levels: first for the victim, then for those who tore her apart and relished in the act over and over again. Though many may see the film’s culmination as a bit over-the-top, in my mind it was divine retribution, justice of the highest order. The absolute terror of being gang raped and then taunted for it, being told it’s absolutely your fault (spoiler alert: it’s not, you fucktwits!) is a pain and betrayal by humanity I’ve only felt secondhand and I would never wish upon anyone. I Spit on Your Grave is graphic and unapologetic, sure. But when the eventual outcome is what it was for Jennifer (powerfully portrayed by Camille Keaton), it’s exactly what I needed.
88. The Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage)
Though technically not horror, this is one of those animated films that was so twisted and so incredibly gorgeous I couldn’t pass it up. Humans as pets to a far superior intelligent race? Yeah, that’s a bit freaky. In this 1970s science-fiction masterpiece, humans are nothing more than animals to be tamed or otherwise slaughtered in the wild. The manner in which we see the humans attempt to break away from their bondage and rise up against their oppressors not only strikes a very obvious allegory about human beings themselves, it also interrupts the mind, if only for about an hour, from allowing us to believe we the epitome of creation. There are beings out there watching, waiting for us to screw up irreparably and take us back to their respective planets and keep us captive for the rest of humanity’s existence. If that doesn’t strike fear in you, you’re not paying attention.
87. Death Bell (고사: 피의 중간고사)
South Korean directors and writers just love to make its social commentary painfully obvious. But they do it in such a stylistic and emotional way you can’t help but get sucked into the story. Death Bell dissects the country’s staunch school system and shows us the lengths to which some people will go to ensure their child, and thus their family name, is higher than anyone else’s. Yes, to the point of murder. While one man takes the fall (in a way that actually took my breath away), all the other parents very willingly stood by and watched it happen–until their children played victim to someone’s revenge. It’s gritty, scary, and so confronting about a culture that takes national pride to levels most of us couldn’t imagine. In fact the only reason it’s so low on the list is because of one scene in particular that made me so mad I couldn’t help but notice the other glaring plot holes. Two words: CATCH HER!