About ten years ago, I bought the entire DVD collection of the Sleepaway Camp films. This proved to be a mistake. While I remember the second one being entertaining in a bad way, the shocking finale of the first film could never be duplicated.
Lucio Fulci's Zombie (aka Zombi 2)
Frankly, I don't remember much about this film other than a gruesome eye-stabbing, a topless scuba diver, and a zombie vs. shark fight, but do I really need to say more than zombie vs. shark? For real. To this day, I still wonder how they did it. I heard Eli Roth say that he and Tarantino showed the scene to Brad Pitt and it blew his mind.
Night of the Hunter
Do you know how nobody believes you when you're a kid? And, even though you know the reason nobody believes you as a kid is because you're obviously full of shit, you still have that fear nobody's going to believe you when it really matters? That's a fear that's followed me on into adulthood. Another fear of mine is psychotic religious people and how other people tend to trust them. It's the wolf in sheep clothing thing. This film exploits both of the aforementioned fears.
Shaun of the Dead
I don't care what anyone says: with the exception of the Bill Murray scene, this one does absolutely everything better than Zombieland did, not to mention it did it first. Beating a zombie in rhythm with Queen is a stroke of genius.
I've made it known, time and time again, that Barbara Crampton is my absolute favorite scream queen. Another favorite? Barbara Steel. And frankly I'm ashamed I forgot to put Mario Bava on this list sooner. Speaking of movies with "Black" in the title....
Bob Clark's Black Christmas
There was a remake, but I doubt anyone gave a shit. Despite the worrisome lack of blood, this is an example of a proto-slasher film done right. It may not satisfy gore-hounds, but it's a remarkably well made movie with acting that's unusually good for a horror film. It just goes to show Hollywood once took horror seriously.
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
This is not a faithful film adaptation nor is it Stanley Kubrick's confession that he helped fake the moon landing. But if you can divorce yourself from Stephen King's classic novel and get comfortable with the fact the film actually means something (even if it's not what conspiracy theorists think it means), then you've got a helluva horror film here.
Let the Right One In
I've heard the remake is decent, too, but I haven't seen it yet. I was so sick of vampires when this came along, it says a lot that I liked it as much as I did.
Jason Goes to Hell
Okay, I'm stretching here.
Bigger Jason Vorhees fans than I will know this movie should not be picked above the other Jason flicks, but hey, I'm a sucker for this one (and Jason Takes Manhattan) while the other sequels have been much more miss than hit for me... hell, to be perfectly honest I'm not the biggest fan of the original, either. The decision to take Jason out of the bulk of the film and make his appearance a payoff is controversial. Either you like the creative decision or don't. I liked it, but my only complaint was the payoff was a little weak.
Now imagine this: you're ten years old. You're sitting in the theater. You see Freddy's glove come ripping out of the dirt at the end of the movie and grab Jason's hockey mask. Can you even imagine how much that excited us? Now imagine this: they don't actually make a Freddy Vs. Jason movie until it's been far too long for anybody to give a shit anymore.
Dead-Alive (aka Peter Jackson's Braindead)
I hate to say I dug Peter Jackson before he was cool, but I had seen his original feature, Bad Taste, at least three times before I even made it to middle school. When I finally got my hands on an uncut version of Dead-Alive (and if you ever find the R-rated cut, promptly flush it), I couldn't believe it lived up to the hype. This is among the goriest, funniest movies you will ever see. I never thought I could sympathize with guts before.
If you've been keeping up with the rest of the list, you'll know I don't always go for the original. I think you shouldn't call yourself a horror fan if you haven't seen the original Phantasm, but let's face it: it's kind of dull. This one is, too, but it's worth watching with your thumb on the fast forward button for a number of reasons: great practical effects, a great bad guy, a four-barrel shotgun, and Reggie Bannister, who's one of the most refreshing movie faces you can find.
The Stuff was one of those horror movies I loved as a kid, but didn't get around to watching as an adult for a very long time because I didn't think it would live up to my nostalgia for it. I was wrong. It's an interesting horror film with something to say, which is surely due to Larry Cohen's involvement. The guy was pretty consistent at giving us a different breed of films back then. Black Caesar is one of my favorite blacksploitation films and I'm sure It's Alive and God Told Me To would be on this list if only I remembered them a little better.
I know some of my inclusions have been questionable, but I assure you this is real horror. To explain why Freaks is undeniably horror would give away the finale. There has never been a movie like this before and there never will be again.