"Horror is dead." "They don't make 'em like they used to." I disagree with the former, agree with the latter, but to me it doesn't matter. Horror, like anything else, evolves. I remember watching a Universal horror with my dad when he bemoaned how the spooky castle where Frankenstein was creating his creature was far more terrifying than anything in the 80s films I was watching. "Horror is dead." "They don't make 'em like they used to." I disagree with the former, concur with the latter, but to me it doesn't matter. Horror, like anything else, evolves. I remember watching a Universal horror with my dad when he bemoaned how the spooky castle where Frankenstein was creating his creature was far more terrifying than anything in the 80s films I was watching. I don't think it's better or worse, it's just different. As for the supposed demise of horror, we hear that all the time. Find an issue of Fangoria from the early 80s, the last supposed "golden age" of horror, and you'll see fans on the letters page (the equivalent of an internet message board in those days) talking about how bad the current slate of films was. The point is, there's always good, and always bad horror films in any era. You just have to sort them out. Time allows us to cherry pick the best of a bygone era, conveniently forgetting when a film is hyped to be "the ultimate terrifying experience" only to be totally let down at the theater (which happened quite often in the 80s, trust me). And even if you don't like the current films being made, there's always a ton of older films you can discover. That's the theme of my 2014 top ten list; finding older movies that I'd never seen before and enjoying the hell out of them, and films released in the last couple of years that are just as entertaining as many of the "classic" films we've loved for so many years. Some of these you may have seen, some you may not (there's one I can pretty much guarantee you haven't), so let's all revel in the experience of watching a great horror film for the first time. 10. Phantom of the Paradise(1974) Anyone who's seen my previous lists knows I usually start with something light-hearted; a comedy or animated film. This year we'll begin with a musical. I reviewed Phantom for this site more than ten years ago here, where I complained about the dull mono sound mix and lack of extras, and it looks like someone was listening. Well, I'd like to think so, at least. This past summer, Shout Factory released Phantom of the Paradise on Blu-Ray, and it's a fantastic disc. The sound has been cleaned up, and we can finally enjoy the songs in stereo. The picture quality is amazing, and there's a ton of extra features I haven't even scratched the surface of. But aside from Shout's disc, the best thing about Phantom is the movie itself. Every single thing about it is so over-the-top, it's just a movie where you have a smile on your face from the opening titles till the closing credits. A perfect film for October. 9. Werewolf Woman (1976) This is one of the older movies I've "discovered" in recent months. It's not as easy to recommend, as it takes a little time to get going. The opening is a mish-mash of werewolf legends, psychiatric evaluations, nudity o'plenty, bad dubbing, and bad acting. I'll admit to being totally uninterested. But as the movie progresses, it gets more grounded, and oddly morphs into a rape/revenge tale. I know that's a divisive sub-genre amongst horror fans (like, is it even technically horror?), but I think it's effective in this case as we've gotten to know the character at this point. Also, since the rape/revenge angle is not added till well into the movie's running time, it doesn't belabor the point like so many other films of its ilk do. No matter what, Werewolf Woman is a very unique film, and I believe a Blu-Ray is coming soon. Give it a try. 8. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) The concept of "shelved" horror movies, completed movies that stay unreleased for a significant amount of time, is an interesting one. Sometimes, the filmmakers will try to use that status to their advantage, claiming the reason for the ongoing delay is because distributors are "scared" to release the film because it's "too intense" (Rob Zombie, I'm looking at you). More often though, shelved films become disappointments. The lure of "forbidden fruit" builds our level of excitement, only to eventually find that the actual film could never match the hype built up over so many years. Unfortunately, that's what's happened with Jonathan Levine's All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. It got positive reviews at film festivals in 2006, but then went unreleased as the Weinsteins decided to stay away from horror after the disastrous box office flop of Rodriguez and Tarantino's Grindhouse. People have now waited seven years to finally see it, and even I'll admit it would be disappointing if I had to wait that long after hearing about it. Luckily, I barely gave it any notice or read much about it, so I was quite pleasantly surprised when I watched the Blu-Ray late last year. It does not re-invent horror, but it's certainly a good slasher film that harks back to those "golden age" 80s films I mentioned above. Don't pay attention to the fact that you've been unable to see it for so long, just go in fresh, and you'll have a great time. 7. We Are What We Are (2013) Anyone who's read my posts on this site knows how much I hate remakes, especially if it's a remake of a foreign film that is simply made because Americans don't like movies that aren't in English. This isn't the case here, as to be honest, the orginal Mexican film was rather dull. Director Jim Mickle, who's building a solid horror resume with Stake Land (2010) and Mulberry St (2006), really improves upon the original. Some of the details are reversed (sisters instead of brothers, the mother dying in the opening instead of the father, etc), and aside from the basic concept of the film it's completely different. Mickle creates a good family dynamic with characters we really get to know, and that makes us extremely invested when the mayhem finally hits in the later scenes of the film. I admit to not being too impressed with Mulberry St., but everything Mickle has done since (including the crime thriller Cold in July) has been gold in my book. One of my favorite current filmmakers. 6. Excision (2012) Richard Bates Jr. did one of these top ten lists in 2012, and I'll fully admit to watching his film because of it. Why not? I like this site, and if a filmmaker takes the time to contribute content, the least I can do is watch his/her film. And in the case of Excision, I'm so glad I did! This is just a really bizarre and unique film, with a memorable lead character played by AnnaLynne McCord. Of course, it's all the better that her Pauline is completely batshit insane. In many films featuring the "misunderstood" outcast loser high school student, we know that deep down inside he/she is really good and we wait for the tormentors and bullies to get their ultimate comeuppance. But the more we get to know Pauline, the less we actually like her, and McCord's portrayal is sheer brilliance. I don't know if I would have seen this film had it not been for Horrordigital.com, and that's why I still come here on a daily basis even if the traffic and conversation is not what it was back in the 2000s. 5. House of Whipcord (1974) I chose to watch this film for a unique reason: I bought an orginal poster from a vendor at a convention this summer for just $10, solely due to the lurid artwork. I hadn't even seen the film! After purchasing the poster, I thought it would only be right to actually see the movie, at least before I spent more money to frame it and eventually hang it on my walls. Luckily for me, House of Whipcord is a fantastic film. A young woman goes away on a weekend trip with a new boyfriend, only to find he's delivered her to a sadistic prison for "immoral" girls. While director Pete Walker does seem to be influenced by the "women in prison" films that were popular at the time, this is probably the only film in that genre that truly qualifies as horror. Since the "prison" is unsanctioned and unknown, it's highly unlikely that any of the female inmates will ever be freed and it seems much more plausible that they'll die a violent death inside the prison. Even better is that the pre-credits opening sequence shows a potentially successful escape, so there's hope that someone will survive this hellish situation. But if you want to see the resolution to this sequence, well, ya just gotta keep watching. 4. The Shrine (2010) Horror films have always had bogeymen, whether it's the escaped lunatic or the mad scientist. But locations have an effect as well. Universal and Hammer used the old spooky castle, and we all know how summer camps were depicted in the 80s. In the 21st century, we've seen a lot of movies with American tourists in remote European countries, with the implication that these are lawless nations and it's up to the protagonists to save themselves. The Shrine takes this exact approach, but uses the cultural difference to its advantage. What are the villagers doing? We just don't know. I won't give it away here, but The Shrine takes a vastly different turn midway through the movie that sets it apart from so many recent films (Hostel, The Chernobyl Diaries) that feature American tourists in remote European countries. Just watch it and enjoy. 3. I Am a Ghost (2012) I'll fully admit to not being impartial on this title. I work in the projection booth for an Asian Film Festival, and in 2012 we had H.P. Mendoza's I Am a Ghost on the schedule. I met Mendoza at one of the after-parties, probably close to 2 or 3 AM. We started talking about horror movies until the wee hours of the morning, long after the booze had run out. I felt I owed it to him to see his movie, and I was luckily able to attend the second sold-out screening. It ended up being one of the most original and refreshing horror movies I've seen in years, and the audience was quite enthusiastic as well. The story is of Emily, a young woman alone in a house. She begins to hear a disembodied voice of a woman named Sylvia. Emily actually died many years ago, and Sylvia is the medium hired by the current owners of the house to rid Emily's spirit. But first she must come to grips with what happened to her. While we've seen other films that are from the perspective of a dead character, it's almost always used as a "stinger" at the end of the film. Here, we know early on that Emily is already dead. It's a daring concept, as how can we be fearful for a character we know to be dead? And for that revolutionary perspective, director Mendoza deserves a ton of credit. The movie is slow at first (deliberately), but builds to a fever pitch that resulted in women behind me shrieking "I don't want to see this!" at the screening I attended. I Am a Ghost is not available from any major distributors, you'll have to go to the film's website to get a DVD copy. But I highly suggest you do, and I think there's still time to get it before Halloween. 2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) OK, this doesn't entirely fit my theme. It's an old classic, I've seen it several times, and I'd bet that an overwhelming majority of HorrorDigital.com's readers have as well. So why is it on here? Well, the film has recently been restored (again) and released on Blu-Ray. But even more importantly, it's making the rounds of independent theaters for one-night screenings. I get to view it on October 18, a midnight screening at one of the last single-screen theaters in my town. A theater that dates back to the early 20th century (there's a little bit of local debate as to the actual establishment of the building as a movie theater...some have it as being 1913, others say it was a little closer to World War II). Really, can you think of a better way to see this classic film? I realize I'm not saying much about the film itself here, but I don't think I really need to, either. All I'll say is that everyone should get the recently released Blu-Ray, but also check to see if you're getting a local theatrical screening. And by all means, go see it! 1. The Blair Witch Project (1999) Ha! I tricked you, didn't I? The Blair Witch Project is certainly not a "discovery" of an old nor new film, based on my chosen theme. It's been #1 on my list for well over ten years now, so obviously I'm quite familiar with it. So are most of the readers of this site. However, it's also well known that a lot of people here absolutely despise this movie, and probably have not watched it in the last 15 years since being thoroughly disappointed with their first viewing. A lot has changed since then, however, in that we regularly see "found footage" films in the horror genre (like the recent Ti West film The Sacrament). Not to mention, almost any newscast will show events taken from witnesses using their cell phone cameras. We've become used to seeing tragic events from the viewpoint of those who were there. You already see where I'm going with this. The Blair Witch Project shows the demise of three filmmakers, from their own point of view, and quite realistically I might add. I can think of few things more horrific than that, and even though I say this every year, I really hope that some of the people who hate this film so much will one day see just how revolutionary and unsettling it truly is.