Horror Classics Mini Reviews

A lot of new horror movies are coming out this year due to delays because of the pandemic. The majority of them have been inspired by the genre-defining movies that have come before and helped push along different sub-genres of horror, like slasher or psychological horror. Do these classics still hold up with all the new movies with fresh faces?

“Scream” (1996)

“Scream” is one of the movies that people think of first when the horror genre is brought up in conversation. From the moment it came out, it was an instant classic that defined many horror movies that were made because of “Scream.” The movie is set in a fictional town, Woodsboro, California. The movie follows Sidney Prescott as she escapes time after time from a serial killer in a Ghostface mask. Most horror fans believe that this 90’s staple was the movie that revitalized the horror/slasher genre. “Scream” has some of the best acting, line delivery, and memorable characters in cinematic history. Matthew Lillard’s performance as Stu Macher is the best thing to come out of this movie, especially considering the fact that the character was originally supposed to be a more mellow, sidekick type to Billy. All the actors have made a name for themselves out of this movie. Some, like Courtney Cox, just established themselves as more flexible actors that could be in multiple different genres and roles and still be able to give it their all.


“Halloween” (1978)

The original “Halloween” is set in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween 1978. Twenty-one years-old Michael Myers has escaped from Smith’s Grove and stolen a car before being transferred for a court date. There’s a reason that this movie is considered a classic, but there are certain elements, like the many sequels and timelines, that make “Halloween” a horror staple. Without the soundtrack by John Carpenter, this movie would be a bit overrated. Part of the reason “Halloween” has held up over the years is because of the iconic “Halloween Theme.” Because of the many slow moments that are ultimately unimportant to the plot and the repetitive nature of the kills, it’s easy to get distracted from watching it and ultimately be lost when things start to pick up again. The only reason the kills in this movie are seen as “iconic” is because of Laurie Strode’s discovery of the bodies during the climax. What “Halloween” lacks in depth, it makes up for in the actual high points of the movie, like the previously mentioned body discovery, and the chase scene with Laurie, Dr. Loomis, and Michael Myers.


“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is not for the weak-stomached. Set in the fictional town of Newt, Texas. This movie is focused on Sally, who is traveling with her brother Franklin and their friends. They are traveling because they had heard that their grandfather’s grave was robbed. They take a detour and discover the cannibalistic Sawyer family, the most notable member being best known as Leatherface. The set design in this movie brings to life the dead corpses and dismantled body parts seen throughout “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Leatherface continues to live on as one of the main horror icons nearly 50 years later. The chainsaw-wielding maniac has made his way into unexpected places, through direct references, like in sequels and reboots of the series, or through subtle references, like in the new movie “X.”


“Psycho” (1960)

“Psycho” follows strange happenings around the Bates Motel, including murder and disappearances. Norman Bates, the owner of the hotel, is seen as strange and inconsistent by everyone who meets him. This movie is one of the most well-known classics still in black and white, possibly because of the many references in other movies after its release. While some parts are slow and loaded with dialogue, other points, like the shower scene that is often represented in media on shows like “The Simpsons,” are captivating and easy to remember when thinking about “Psycho.”


“The Phantom of the Opera” (1925)

“The Phantom of the Opera” is a timeless, silent film set in Paris at the Palais Garnier Opera House in the 1880s. It is based on the novel by Gaston Leroux and follows the story of Christine, who is being assisted by the entity that is believed to be haunting the opera house, the Phantom of the Opera, or just the Opera Ghost. This movie, though outdated in its styling methods, still holds up in its ability to create suspense and drama. Since the movie is silent, most of the dialogue takes place through interpretable context and words on the screen. The majority of the content holds up in modern media because of the main theme, besides murder, of not judging someone based on looks alone. Christine is appalled by the Phantom at first because of the way he looks without his mask, but also because of the people he had hurt in the scene prior in the opera house.


The horror genre as a whole has had so many hits and misses that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all. However, each movie that can be considered a classic has influence over at least one other movie of the same, or different genre. “Scream” even has many references to “Psycho,” like when Billy Loomis references Norman Bates by saying the well-known line, “We all go a little mad sometimes.” A lot of horror icons even have influence in mainstream television. It’s just a matter of time before another reference, sequel, or reboot revitalizes a series that was thought to be done.