Horror Movie Genre Essentials: We Said, YOU Said...
EW & YOU picked: The Exorcist (1973)
A good horror movie will show viewers something they've never seen before, then make them wish they'd never seen it in the first place—which is exactly what The Exorcist does. The possessed is a young girl named Regan (Linda Blair), whose status makes her situation all the creepier. Little girls should be sweet and innocent, not evil and dangerous. And her exorcism isn't fun or amusing — it's downright disturbing. Although the special effects have aged a bit, The Exorcist remains not just an excellent demon movie but a generally excellent film that challenges audiences' expectations—and, perhaps more notably, their comfort levels. —Ariana Bacle
EW & YOU picked: Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott's masterpiece is not just a great horror film but also a spectacular film in general. Set on the spaceship Nostromo in the far future—even though all the technology looks like it has been preserved since the '70s—Alien takes its time before revealing its Big Bad. Scott allows viewers to get to know the Nostromo crew even as we know danger could strike at any moment. Alien is a masterclass in ''less is more'' filmmaking thanks to the alien's initial absence, which instills an ever-present sense of dread. Whether it's a chestburster or a face hugger, the xenomorph toys with its prey until the seven-foot tall, seemingly indestructible monstrosity begins to hunt. As terrifying (and brilliantly designed) as the alien itself may be, the film remains so unnerving—and frequently spun-off and adapted—because of Scott's measured and impressive direction. —Jonathon Dornbush
EW & YOU picked: The Shining (1980)
The fact that The Shining doesn't have special effects or translucent ghosts only makes the film scarier. Between the grim music cues and the vastness of the fictional Overlook Hotel grounds, Stanley Kubrick creates an atmosphere that transports viewers into the haunted hotel right along with the tormented Torrance family—and even once the movie is over, the story's chill stays with you. Based on Stephen King's novel, The Shining is the subject of much scrutiny—and for good reason: Kubrick was a notoriously detail-orientated director, and he was been criticized for that very fastidiousness by The Shining's exhausted cast. But this isn't just Kubrick's movie—it's also very much Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall's. Nicholson plays a man descending into madness with convincing precision, and Duvall's portrayal of his wife effectively mirrors the audience's shocked reactions to the increasingly violent, increasingly manic Jack (or should we call him Johnny?). —Ariana Bacle
''It Could Happen to You''
EW & YOU picked: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
One of an elite group of horror films anointed by Oscar, Jonathan Demme's psychological thriller is the ''It Could Happen to You'' genre as its peak. Our aggressor could be our psychiatrist, a seemingly helpless stranger with a broken arm, even someone we've known for years. The film presents a number of sick sons-of-guns (some of whom happen to be actual killers), yet the fact that the smartest psychopath of all—Anthony Hopkins' iconic Hannibal Lecter—has been ''safely'' stowed in a glass cage provides scant comfort since his true power is getting inside of his victims' heads. And, in the horror world, what's inside our minds and memories is what's scariest of all. Silence ultimately succeeds by creating a pervasive, gnawing sense of unease rather than delivering sporadic jolts—though the climactic basement scene is a nail-biter for the books. Need something to take the edge off? Try a nice Chianti. —Lanford Beard
EW & YOU picked: Halloween (1978)
Appropriately enough, John Carpenter's Halloween stars a young Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Psycho scream queen Janet Leigh—and Carpenter's Hitchcock-influenced film would itself herald a new generation of slasher movies. The movie also introduced the deranged serial killer Michael Myers (Will Sandin as a young boy, Tony Moran as a man), who is kept locked up after killing his older sister when he was just six years old. (The most evil killers do tend to start young.) Myers escapes the sanitarium, dons a William Shatner mask, and goes on a relentless teenager-killing spree (of course) in pursuit of Curtis' Laurie Strode. Like Psycho, the film's power lies in its skilled use of restraint rather than in overt bloodshed. Thanks to point-of-view shots filmed through Myers' eyes, we also see the world as the villain does, creating an ominous build-up and release. The movie's jerky camera movements, chilling score, and delayed action still stir viewers today—proving that torture porn isn't the only way to provoke an audience. —Teresa Jue
EW & YOU picked: Near Dark (1987)
Released only a few months after The Lost Boys, this Kathryn Bigelow-directed cult hit remains, as EW later proclaimed, ''one of the sharpest, pulpiest bloodsucking flicks most people have never seen.'' The word ''vampire'' is never uttered, but it's clear that's what hot young cowboy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) becomes when he falls for Mae (Jenny Wright), who joins with her family of bloodthirsty outlaws—including Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and a pre-Teen Witch Joshua John Miller—to turn Caleb into a killer. As the merciless Severen, Paxton steals the film using the spur on his boot to slice a bartender's neck and deadpanning lines like, ''Fasten your f---in' seatbelt'' while he's hanging on to the front of a semi with half his face missing. —Mandi Bierly
EW & YOU picked: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Arriving a few months after Joe Dante's The Howling, John Landis' werewolf film is more expensive and more adventurous, with frequent 180-degree shifts in tone that make Evil Dead 2 look straight-faced by comparison. A couple of American backpackers (Jack Goodman and David Naughton) wander through the English moors. A werewolf attacks. One of them dies, although he's not that dead; the other one gets bitten. And then the movie sets off on a series of tangents, including a screamingly funny werewolf-soldier dream sequence and a screamingly horrifying transformation sequence constructed by effects legend Rick Baker. A freaky nighttime attack sequence leads into a farcical scene in which the protagonist, having transformed back into a human, finds himself naked at the zoo. There's an extended interlude set inside of a porno theater; there's an elaborate action scene set in London's busy Piccadilly Circus. Then it ends. Werewolf movies are all about releasing the monster within, and American Werewolf in London is a magnificently energetic mess that feels directed by pure id. —Darren Franich
Read the rest of EW's Werewolf Quintessentials.
EW picked: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
George A. Romero's follow-up to Night of the Living Dead is just as relentless as the first film, with pulse-pounding zombie action and disturbing images around every corner. But the sequel also adds a satirical lens to the story, which it uses to examine American consumerism. When a group of zombie apocalypse survivors gather at a shopping center, the film looks just as closely at them as it does the zombies outside—directly comparing the humans to the flesh-eating monsters. Quite frankly, it seems in the end that perhaps the zombies aren't the most depraved people onscreen. —Samantha Highfill
YOU picked: Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The first film in Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy takes the zombie genre and flips it on its head—and not just because it's a comedy. The zombies in this story take a backseat to the daily drama of a group of friends. The main characters simply have to try to work out their problems?while also fending off the undead, which makes for several unforgettable moments. Take the time they beat a zombie with pool sticks as Queen's ''Don't Stop Me Now'' plays, or when Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) attempt to kill a zombie by throwing records—but only the bad ones—at its head. Just as important, the movie totally sticks its landing: Shaun keeps Zombie Ed as a video game-playing companion. —Samantha Highfill