Dracula (1931) – Here is a Hollywood icon which would immortalize both the vampire and Bela Lugosi, which will often be thought of synonymously, in the popular culture. One of Universal Pictures’ earliest horror installments, Dracula finds its roots in Bram Stoker’s novel. Thus, like the novel, the film attempts to showcase one of the most disturbing villains in the history of storytelling. Dracula is a predatory being who hides behind a facade of charm, conducting his dark deeds in an existence that holds no opportunity for peace in death. Ultimately, one of the most powerful weapons against the vampire is a crucifix, a symbol of his most terrible foe: Jesus Christ.
Gaslight (1944) – You know those gaslights in old scary movies that are notorious for going out, leaving everyone in a helpless state of total darkness? Well, here is a movie that prominently features the flickering fading of one such gaslight. Starring Ingrid Bergman in one of her early roles, Gaslight relates the story of a wife whose sense of reality is shaken by her husband, who orchestrates one great lie after another in the pursuit of greed. To be sure, the iconic gaslight has a role to play in leading the woman to discover the truth. The following year, Bergman would appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound.
House of Dracula (1945) – This one is another one of Universal’s stellar inclusions in their contribution to the horror genre. Jumble together Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, and a mad scientist into a single film’s plot, and you have yourself a recipe for a sensational monster mash. Several individuals whom the public would label as “monsters” approach Dr. Franz Edlemann for assistance. He consents to assist them. However, things become problematic when a faulty blood transfusion between Dracula and Edlemann takes place. Edlemann devolves into a vampire himself, shocked at seeing his own reflection vanish in the mirror. His character became one of the most ferocious vampires on the silver screen at the time.
The Fly (1958) – Here the audience is thrust into a new kind of mad scientist tale. In this story, the scientist is hardly mad at the beginning of his labors, merely engrossed in the concept of teleportation. He is not meddling in biology or life-generating endeavors. Rather, he sees them as sacred and is uninterested in adding to them. However, an unforeseen predicament befalls the scientist when a fly is in the chamber with him at the moment of teleportation. When he rematerializes, his humanity had been deformed, merged with the anatomy of the grubby pest. Eventually, his wife is asked to make one of the toughest decisions of her life.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) – There have been as many retellings of this classic tale as there have of A Christmas Carol. Yet the 1959 version of Arthur Conan Doyle story is arguably one of the most suspenseful and stellar renditions of that tale. It stars Peter Cushing (Star Wars: A New Hope) as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee, who would later portray Hammer’s Dracula, as Sir Henry Baskerville – the victim of the Baskerville curse. The film takes its audience through an appealing rigamarole of romance, mystery, and looming danger.
House on Haunted Hill (1959) – This Vincent Price horror film is an oldie but a goodie and just one of a number of horror movies Price would star in. (Price also appeared in The Fly, for example.) A group of strangers is invited to a macabre party, the locale of which is a house noted for the murders which have taken place under its roof. These visitors must spend the night there with their host, Frederick Loren, as portrayed by Price. A combo of elements such as suicide, psychological torment, and dripping blood marking potential victims, this movie offers a great introduction to the horror genre of the 1950s and ’60s.
The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Here we go again with Vincent Price. It’s next to impossible to include a good horror film from the sixties without bumping into his grinning, mustached face. However, he isn’t smiling too often in this movie for he plays a broken man who has lost everything and everyone. One of the early cinematic works imagining a post-apocalyptical landscape, The Last Man on Earth was based on the Richard Matheson novel, I Am Legend, which would inspire a later post-apocalyptical film The Omega Man. In the 1964 movie, Price’s character must survive a world overrun by zombie-like undone who can only be destroyed by a stake driven through their heart. But there is yet one other sub-sect of humanity, and they intend to rise against him.
The Thing (1982) – From the director of They Live and Halloween, John Carpenter presents a visionary work within the sci-fi/horror genre. The Thing, despite its being conceived and executed in an age prior to that of CGI, remains one of the most gruesome alien flicks of all time. It stars Kurt Russell, an actor many would come to know for his roles in later sci-fi films such as Stargateand Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With elements of suspicion, shock, and survival of the most cautious, the movie maintains its status as a classic.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) – A sequence of segmented stories, this mini-anthology film retells some of the classic episodes of the series The Twilight Zone. You will ponder what morals you live by, question your loyalties and jealousies, and look over your shoulder half-expecting to see a gremlin outside your window. The movie presents many of the same elements prominent throughout the TV show, giving the audience a sobering and often philosophical takeaway.
Misery (1990) – From the creepily creative mind of Stephen Kingcomes a story about an author at the mercy of his self-proclaimed biggest fan. Trapped inside the woman’s home, the author (played by James Caan) is drugged and has some of his leg bones broken by his “fan,” preventing him from escaping the nightmarish circumstances. The woman becomes irate, displaying fits of rage whenever Caan’s character does something to upset her. The chief element of this film is its escalating suspense, which is maintained for an extended period of time during the second half of the movie. You’re on the edge of your seat, rooting for the author’s escape – even his very life.