The ten best intelligent horror films

HORROR DELIGHTS: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.

HORROR DELIGHTS: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.

Halloween is this Friday. What better time to curl up on the couch with a scary movie? But rather than the latest empty-headed slasher or mindless gorefest, why not check out something with more substance. Here are 10 of the most intelligent horror movies ever made.

Dawn of the Dead

Like vampires, zombies are a cinematic staple who lurch into vogue every few years. Most of the output is like their protagonists, empty headed, but director George A Romero's voyages with the undead usually have something to say. Not only bleak and apocalyptic, this 1978 zombie-romp is also acclaimed for its humour and satirical views on modern society and consumerism and importantly, more than a little scary. Those who find these brain munchers a little slow may find Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later more suited to their pace.

Don't Look Now

Inspiring everyone from Steven Spielberg to Lars Von Trier, Nicolas Roeg's 1973 Venice-set horror is a Bafta-winning powerful study of grief. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are the distraught parents struggling over the death of their daughter in this story by Daphne du Maurier.

This is a film that cares about its characters and story while also delivering some searing images.Along with Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby it's not recommended for the pregnant and new parents.

The Fly

Visceral and visually disturbing, David Cronenberg's 1986 update of a 1950s B-Movie about a scientist who inadvertently turns himself into an insect is the ultimate body horror movie. Although it's made all the more scary by the casting of the eccentric and wild-looking Jeff Goldblum, it's the screenplay (co-written by Cronenberg) and its dissection of scientist Seth Brundle's moral and physical decay that captivates and ensnares.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Hardly a decade goes by without a remake of Don Seigel's 1956 sci-fi shocker. That's probably because its themes of paranoia and loss of humanity keep striking a chord in our constantly changing society.

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Despite the best efforts of Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy in the 1970s, it's the original that remains the best, as Kevin McCarthy tries to warn everyone that humans are being replaced by emotionless pod people. That ending still sends a shiver up the spine.

Let the Right One In

Vampire movies generally come in cycles and we're on the cusp of another onslaught. This 2008 Scandinavian horror might not have the fan base of Twilight but its not just for teens. Creepy, atmospheric and not at all what you'd expect, Right One is the story of a bullied boy who befriends a beautiful but peculiar girl. You don't actually need the subtitles - this is a movie where the visuals speak volumes.

The Nightmare on Elm St

Forget Jason, Michael and Leatherface, Wes Craven's Freddy Krueger was the ultimate cinematic boogeyman. Extra-crispy face, striped sweater and spiked gardening glove, Freddy was literally the stuff of nightmares.

Although the sequels placed a greater emphasis on campy kills and corny one-liners, the 1984 original was disturbing and genuinely creepy (and starred Johnny Depp).

Altogether now: "One, two, Freddy's coming for you . . . nine, 10 never sleep again."

The Others

Ghost stories haven't always made for good horror, but for a brief period at the turn of this century they were all the rage and well made.

M Night Shayamalan's The Sixth Sense might have stolen all the plaudits because of "that twist" but Alejandro Amenabar's film was a more effective and consistent fright fest. A perfect example of how understatement can creep up on you and provide an even bigger payoff.

Psycho

They called him the Master of Suspense and although some of Sir Alfred Hitchcock's other films, such as The Birds, may possess a creepier premise, they don't leave the lasting impression that this 1960 horror does.

From the genre-subverting mid- story twist to the shower scene, Psycho keeps you on edge throughout. For those who can't cope with black and white, don't get Gus Van Sant's 1998 shot-for-shot remake, try Jack Nicholson's descent into madness in The Shining instead.

The Silence of the Lambs

Although it can be blamed for hundreds of copycat serial killer movies and some awful sequels, Jonathan Demme's 1991 thriller is a cut above all of that it inspired.That's thanks largely from two Oscar-winning performances by Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, the latter giving as good as she gets when up against Hopkins' sinister and serpentine Hannibal Lecter.

It also helps that novelist Thomas Harris delivered a cracking story including one of the best audience misdirections in cinematic history.However, if you prefer Brad Pitt and more explicit horrors, there's always David Fincher's deeply unsettling Se7en.

The Thing

Another 1980s update of a 1950s horror, John Carpenter's sci-fi horror brings new meaning to the word chiller. Set in Antarctica, this has a group of grizzled guys being stalked by a shape-shifting alien.

The sense of isolation, no escape and growing fear is palpable. Plus Stan Winston's special-effects are outstanding. For those who prefer a similar story in outer-space, and the sight of Sigourney Weaver in a singlet, Alien is a more than acceptable alternative.

Psycho is screening at 11.40pm on Friday as part of Sky Movies' Halloween Pop-Up Channel (036) which runs from Friday to Monday.

 - Stuff

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