When Fright Films was published in November 2011 an oft received question from prospective readers was whether the seventy films featured in the book were ranked in a countdown format. Deeming that a top seventy countdown of the finest fright films of all time would be an impossible task, the movies in the book were featured chronologically. The question always lingered though; would an accurate chronicle of the best scary movies even be achievable?
The chart seems like a dead concept in 2017. The Sunday evening Top 40 became redundant the moment airplay and downloads coerced their way in to the count. I always use to know what the number one UK single was at any particular moment, but I couldn’t name you one chart topping single from the last ten or so years. Book charts, box office movie standings, the what’s-hot-and-what’s-not lists, they all seemed to matter before the turn of the millennium but seventeen years later they’ve all but disappeared.
The list remains though, the ever intriguing debate about what’s the best, what or who is the greatest, what piece of art is superior to the next. It’s a compartmentalising of our likes and dislikes that provides a little bit of order to those of us who like that sort of thing, and a fantastic springboard for debate and conjecture.
Where to start with the scary movie though? With films encompassing so many different facets a list such as this has to also draw on multiple qualities. When agonising over this countdown we considered all the different sub-genres in the scary movie canon, a film’s influence on the genre, the quality of its production, how much new ground it broke, the acting performances, soundtrack, direction, cinematography, and most importantly of all the movies ability to give the viewer sleepless nights. It was a challenging task. Some films just missed out on the top one hundred, while those that were included jostled for standing, moving up and down the list like pawns on a chessboard.
There were casualties along the way. My own personal top fright film from my childhood fell off the countdown. I first saw The Towering Inferno (1974) in 1990 when I was ten years old. Seeing the film as an adventure classic my Dad thought it would be ok for my sister and me to join him on the sofa for a viewing. After all, if the BBC were airing it at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon how bad could it be? Inferno remains a melodramatic slice of seventies disaster movie mayhem to a lot of people, but to me it will always be two foreboding hours of tension as the Glass Tower inhabitants stumble towards the unknown horrors of burning alive hundreds of feet off the streets of San Francisco or tumbling to their deaths on said sidewalks. There was a horrible desperation amongst the trapped guests which reduced many of them to scrambling animals as their clawed at their only escape options, the smoke, heat and flames climbing ever closer beneath their feet, the ultimate in unstoppable terror.
I had nightmares of being trapped in burning buildings for a week after that. It’s still an unnerving watch today, underlined by the real life high-rise fires and disasters that have haunted twenty four news channels in the last couple of decades. But this countdown isn’t about my personal scary choices. I had to push aside desires to include the likes of The House On Sorority Row (1983) and Urban Legend (1998) because of how underrated I believe they are as horror films; the aim was to create the most objective and unbiased countdown of fright films ever devised.
And that’s what FilmsFilmsFilms presents to you now, one hundred films to fill your nightmares, six thousand minutes of bloodcurdling, heart stopping terror culminating in the scariest movies ever created. Grab your favourite hiding cushion, turn off the lights, and prepare to be terrified.