Holman’s Halloween Picks: Joe’s Top 40 Most Horrifying Movies, Part IV

#10. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Director: Adrian Lyne
Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello
Grade: A+ (4 stars)

Vietnam vets return from the war, but they aren’t the same. They’re seeing hellish things, demons everywhere, and the horror is only just beginning—a truly amazing film, one of the all-time horror greats. Trailer

#9. SAW (2004)
Director: James Wan
Starring: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover
Grade: A- (4 stars)

What men will do when pushed beyond limits can take a horror movie and make it into something even better. This film began what sadly became a cheap, teen-thrill-based franchise that long since lost its way and came to an end in shame, but that can’t be said of the first film – which was, is, and will always be – an unbeatable horror film of knee-deep gore, spawned from the lowermost bowels of dire desperation. I never will forget how I felt the first time I saw it. Trailer

#8. Misery (1990)
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth
Grade: A+ (4 stars)

Author “Paul Sheldon” (James Caan) is a famous novelist. While promoting his book, he has an accident and is “rescued” (kidnapped) by an obsessed, emotionally disturbed fan, “Annie Wilkes” (Kathy Bates). Masterfully acted and seamlessly written, this near-perfect film is one of the best movies of its decade, a true horror pearl that will uplift and let down its audience in soul-rending fashion. Trailer

#7. The Shining (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Grade: A+ (4 stars)

Jack Nicholson is “Jack Torrance.” He and his family head to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences him into a hellish rage while his psychic son, “Danny” (Danny Lloyd) sees horrific forebodings from the past and future. It’s a classic and one of the biggest reasons why this author and so, so many others ran into mom and dad’s room in the middle of the night so, so many times. It will not fail to terrify. Trailer

#6. Cube (1997)
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Nicole de Boer, Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett
Grade: A+ (4 stars)

Suppose one day you wake up with strangers trapped inside a large, steel cube. One cube leads to another and nearly all are lethally boobie-trapped. Everyone with you begins to die—that is, if they don’t come unglued and kill you and each other first!

Welcome to Cube. You have no idea why you’re there, but getting out will be very hard, if not impossible. The nightmare begins, especially if you are claustrophobic or just need some fresh air. This is a superb film, one of the most unnerving mind-torturers ever produced. Trailer

#5. Poltergeist (1982)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
Grade: A+ (4 stars)

No horror flick has been more respected and parodied than Poltergeist. If you weren’t scared watching this one, you must have been dead!

Poltergeist is a one-of-a-kind horror movie that will scare again and again and is powerfully in the running for greatest horror movie of all time. Trailer 

#4. Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Starring:  Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
Grade: B+ (3 1/2 stars)

Ah, little kids and demons—two polar opposites that we love to see put together in film. Possession horrors are a favorite, especially when that horror is Exorcist, the greatest of the great possession movies, empowered by a script that rattles its audience into fits of hair-raising fright that stay with them long, long, long after the viewing experience ends. This classic still has people talking about it, and rightly so.

Just watching the trailer gives chills. The acting is awesome. The atmosphere is petrifying. This would be in the number one spot were it not for the fact that I feel that transformation/disfigurement horrors outrank supernaturals due to the fact that they can actually happen, but that’s my bias. Make no mistake about it, however; this is the scariest supernatural-themed film ever. Trailer

#3. The Thing (1982)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
Grade: B- (3 stars)

In The Thing, a shape-shifting alien lifeform on Antartica with the ability to mimic its hosts is killing members of an expedition team in untoucbably horrifying ways. The Thing surpasses most films in sheer, unforgiving gruesomeness. It is considered by many reviewers and horror fans to be THE most disturbing movie ever made and virtually guaranteed to rape your soul. Despite new CGI and the advanced computer-generated special affects of our age, this film is as disturbing in its transformations as it needs to be to send uncontrollable chills down our spines.

To say that it is one of the strongest runner-ups for the number one spot is an understatement. Trailer

#2. Audition (1999)
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)

Audition is a barely passable Japanese film about a movie producer who loses his wife and begins holding auditions for a non-existent program to look for a new companion. He meets “Asami Yamazaki” (Eihi Shiina) who has him love-stricken instantly, but as his business partner and friend soon discovers, this woman’s story isn’t exactly checking out and coming back with green lights. Blinded by love, he will soon see her darker-than-dark side for himself.

The film is exceedingly slow and it’s hard to endure reading English subtitles for the entire two hours. The acting can also be a problem on a few occasions, but it is the wide range of this independent film that gives it its superb power; it can be looked at as a warped feminist revenge, a run-down on the lower-than-lows of a mid-life crisis, or a moral message about the consequences of white lies, but either way, this is ONE SICK FILM!

Only the truly twisted can appreciate all that is done here. And as with our number one selection, it’s the symbolism of the film and what it often doesn’t show that can be as disturbing as what it does. This is for serious horror fans only, but be warned: it may scar you for life! Trailer

#1. The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009)
Director: Tom Six
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie
Grade: A- (4 stars)

Sometimes a movie goes too far beyond the mark to be missed—even when that movie is touched with troublesome acting on the part of some and a very low budget. Our winner is The Human Centipede, an independent film that does something that puts it in the winner’s seat by doing what no other film has ever dared or thought of doing.

The Human Centipede is about an insane doctor who uses his surgical skills at separating Siamese twins to join together kidnapped human beings from anus to mouth, slitting their knee ligaments to make them hobble across his house on the floor to his amusement.

Performances in the film range from bad to brilliant. The film’s star, Deiter Laser, puts on an Oscar-worthy performance as “Dr. Heiter.”

Read my review of the movie and decide for yourself if you are among those few who would even attempt to watch it (85% of audiences can’t finish it). If you do watch it, you won’t be able to eat afterwards, probably not for a day or more. Critics have rightfully called it “The Most Disturbing Movie Ever Made” and for good reason. Trailer

NOTE: Tom Six is now releasing The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence (2011), a film said by director Six to make his first work look like (his words): “My Little Pony.”

Happy Halloween.