What better time to run off a best of the best Horror film list than on Friday the 13th? And there's a full-moon tonight.

This may not be everybody’s choice but I tried to put together a definitive collection of memories. Horror movies are designed to send a shiver down the spine and although we like to be scared by this genre, deep down we know that there are no such things as monsters. But a psycho with a damaged mind and a shiny kitchen knife could actually get you in a dark alley or worse still, when you are home alone.

Also, we tend to find anything to do with the Devil really disturbing because at the end of the day you’re never really sure. Maybe he does exist?

10. The Omen (1976)
Talk of the Devil…

Richmond and Twickenham Times: The American Ambassador to Britain (Gregory Peck) and his wife (Lee Remick) are given the gift of a lovely baby boy who they name Damien. What the couple are unaware of is that a creepy servant of the dark forces under the guise of a nanny (Billie Whitelaw) switches babies at the hospital.

Having a Father as a politician is the ideal environment for the little devil to grow up in and prosper. Damien is guarded by an assortment of guardians and anyone who is seen as a threat to the boy ends up dying a very gruesome death.
There are some great memorable scenes and as a teenager it was a great talking point at school and once again a film about the devil caused controversy in the media and it was claimed that sales of bibles went up. This was also the first time that many of us were introduced to the sign of the Devil 666. 

Apart from Gregory Peck who gave gravitas to the movie with his reputation as a Hollywood legend. However most of the cast was made up by Brits that were all known more as popular TV stars of the time. David Warner played the photographer who could see a red streak across his recently developed photos of the deceased that highlighted the cause of death. Needless to say his departure from the world was by far the most graphic.

It was the shock ending that upset the audience the most and the evil smile on little Damien’s face made you believe that he really was the Devil. Damien was played by young English actor Harvey Stephens who apparently is now a property developer in Kent (so not much change there then).

9. Psycho (1960)
We go all the way back to the swinging sixties.
Richmond and Twickenham Times:

A Phoenix secretary (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man (Anthony Perkins) under the domination of his mother. After her long journey in a hot car the woman decides to take a shower…and the rest is history.

This is Hitchcock at his very best and spawned many imitations. This is a master class in how to build suspense. I’m sure we all know by now that the blood used in the shower scene was actually chocolate syrup because Hitch thought that syrup had the consistency that looked more like blood in black and white than blood.

There was a remake in 1998 starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche (Why?) and there is now a new TV series called Bates Motel with the grown up British actor Freddie Highmore in a prequel which shows what led Norman Bates to lose his marbles. Worth a look.

8. Friday the 13th (1980)
Staying with the psycho theme.
Richmond and Twickenham Times:

I think it is fair to say that this is probably the forerunner to the teenage slasher movie dominated the genre in the 1980’s and 90’s. Although some will say it was John Carpenter’s Halloween in the seventies.

Camp counsellors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp that was the site of a child's drowning. However, somebody doesn’t want the camp reopened and the body count stacks up. The cast is pretty much made up of unknown actors who never really hit the big time except a very young teenage Kevin Bacon pre Footloose and the phone adverts.
The grim killer in this movie known as Jason chose to wear a hockey mask which was a godsend for people stuck for ideas what to wear at a Halloween party. This proved popular enough for a string of sequels proving that psycho’s can be a bugger to kill.

7. Halloween (1978)
Richmond and Twickenham Times:

A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl (Jamie Lee Curtis daughter of Tony Curtis and Psycho victim Janet Lee) and her friends while his doctor (Donald Pleasance) chases him through the streets.

This John Carpenter thrilling horror story was highly praised by critics at the time and the late great US film reviewer Roger Ebert quoted it as being “A really terrifying experience!”. I agree that this was a very scary movie but there were around 10 sequels produced with Halloween in the title and level of violence with very little build-up of suspense and story has watered down the effect of the original.
Carpenter picked up from where Hitchcock left off as the master of great storytelling and uses the camera to best effect.

6. Scream (1996)

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Another film that didn’t need a run of sequels. I liked the way Scream took apart the structure of well-known slasher movies knowing full well that the audience would be aware of all the trade-marks of the classic “do’s and don’ts” if you want to stay alive.

The film was very much tongue in cheek but at the same time the opening scene was really shocking. We see a cute and lovely girl-next-door teenager and realise that ‘Hey! Isn’t that Drew Barrymore?’ and then…Whoa!

This was a clever take on the horror / thriller and was it produced another iconic fancy dress accessory with the popular Scream mask. Despite having its own sequels there was a series of spoofs which started with Scary Movie and was actually quite popular which was a little odd as Scream was already a parody of the slasher movie. Courtney Cox did a good job and her character was far removed from Monica. The film was also the big break for Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich and David Arquette, who as we know married one of his co-stars.

Number 5. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
This is the first Monster horror to appear on my list.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

I just love this film. Director John Landis also mixed comedy with horror going for the traditional Werewolf story without the use of CGI (which I might add can be overdone these days and there’s nothing worse than poorly designed obvious computer graphics).

Basically it’s the tale of two American college students on a walking tour of Britain who are attacked by a beast on the moors that none of the locals will admit exists. One of them Jack (Griffin Dunne) is brutally killed and the other, David (David McNaughton) is bitten but survives. John Landis who also wrote the story throws in a clever twist with the deceased Jack randomly visiting David and warning him that he will turn into a Werewolf on the next full moon and the only action he can take to prevent a body count is to kill himself. Griffin Dunne as Jack delivers some very comical lines in the film and with each visit to David we see him at a more advanced stage of decay.

David befriends Alex the nurse (Jenny Agutter) who looked after him in hospital and he moves in with her. He tells her of his predicament and although she sees this as part of his traumatised experience. The only person who follows up David’s story is the Doctor (John Woodvine) who visits the scene of the attack and investigates the local pub ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ where we see a cross section of very unfriendly locals, including the late Rick Mayall in small part.
I recommend you see this film for the award winning Werewolf transformation scene alone.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In the dreams of his victims, a spectral child murderer stalks the children of the members of the lynch mob that killed him.
Richmond and Twickenham Times: Directed by Wes Craven who made a living out of making horror movies starting with the original Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) plus many episodes of The Twilight Zone TV series. Then he brought us Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in A Nightmare on Elm Street which became an absolute cult hit and once again went on to have a number of sequels. Most people of my age who saw the first 1984 movie were absolutely scared out of their skin. And who would have thought that a child killer would become such a popular villain. Freddy Krueger will forever be part of horror film culture and the actor Robert Englund made a career out of playing the murderous undead Nightmare character with razor fingers. Not forgetting it was also Johnny Depp’s debut movie.

3. Poltergeist (1982)

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

This film was fortunate in having a creative Director with Tobe Hooper Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and the brilliant TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1979) and Steven Spielberg as screenwriter.

There was also a good cast with Craig T Nelson as the Dad and Jo Beth Williams as the Mum who embraces the weird ghostly apparitions but then they start to turn nasty. This results in the disappearance of their youngest of three children who gets sucked into the TV screen by an unfriendly Poltergeist. Great story and great character development. It has a high scary rating of 9/10.

Some people believe that the film was cursed due to the untimely death of some of the cast members. In particular Heather O’Rouke who played the young Carol Anne who spoke those immortal words “They’re Here…” died in 1988 of a septic infection. Dominique Dunne who played the eldest child in the film was murdered by her boyfriend in the same year of the film’s release and Native American actor Will Sampson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975) died in 1987 following a complication during lung surgery operation.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Richmond and Twickenham Times:
I place this film high up in my list of scary horror movies because at the time this film was so disturbing that it stayed with me for quite a while. I’m not sure what made it so uncomfortable to watch. Maybe it was a cast of completely unknown actors who were just ordinary twenty-something’s who didn’t seem like actors and the film had an almost documentary quality?

I don’t remember a great deal of blood but I do remember the craziness of an in-bred family that has been copied many times over in subsequent horror / slasher films.
There’s no background story of the characters they just end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The film was loosely based on the true events of infamous murderer Ed Gein.

At number 1. The Exorcist (1973)

Richmond and Twickenham Times: From a novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair as the possessed Regan.
A simple story of a teenage girl Regan possessed by a mysterious entity, thought to be the Devil. Her mother seeks the help of two priests to perform an exorcism. One priest Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is old-school and the other Father Karras (Jason Miller) is the new young idealist priest trying his best to save her daughter and his faith.

This was probably one of the most controversial films of the 70’s. it affected a great deal of people who went to see it and the shock value was like nothing ever seen before. There was also controversy over a 14-year old actress losing control to an evil force and performing some unsavoury acts to the camera.
The sad thing is that it may now seem quite tame with all of the recent torture porn movies that they churn out. But everybody remembers this film as a true classic horror.

Let me know if you agree with my top 10. Or maybe you have your own totally different choice of 10 best scary movies?