31 Films That Give Me the Willies

Top: House with Laughing Windows (1976), Deep Red (1975)
Middle: The Seventh Victim (1942)
Bottom: Black Sabbath (1963), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

I wasn’t going to participate in Ed Hardy’s 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies List due to suffering massive list-making burnout following the recent Favorite Foreign Language Film poll (which I still want to write about in more detail), but at the last minute I decided to send him a list of nominees. As I’ve mentioned before, horror is far and away my favorite film genre so I had an incredibly hard time narrowing down my list of favorite films to a mere 31.

I will confess that I cheated a bit since I deliberately left off any film that I knew had already gotten 3 votes and wouldn’t need mine to make the final list of nominees. Some of those films included Suspiria (1977), Martin (1977), The Wicker Man (1973), Dellamorte Dellamore aka Cemetery Man (1994), The Shining (1980), The Exorcist (1973), Psycho (1960), Alien (1979) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). With that confession out of the way, here are the . . .

31 FILMS THAT GIVE ME THE WILLIES (Listed by release date)

1. Frankenstein (1931; James Whale)
2. The Seventh Victim (1942; Mark Robson)
3. The Uninvited (1944; Lewis Allen)
4. Night of the Demon (1957; Jacques Tourner)
5. Blood and Roses (1960; Roger Vadim)
6. The Brides of Dracula (1960; Terence Fisher)
7. The Innocents (1961; Jack Clayton)
8. Night Tide (1961; Curtis Harrington)
9. Carnival of Souls (1962; Herk Harvey)
10. The Haunted Palace (1963; Roger Corman)
11. Black Sabbath (1963; Mario Bava)
12. The Haunting (1963; Robert Wise)
13. Castle of Blood (1964; Antonio Margheriti)
14. Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971; Piers Haggard)
15. Daughters of Darkness (1971; Harry Kumel)
16. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971; Lucio Fulci)
17. Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971; Aldo Lado)
18. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971; Armando de Ossorio)
19. All the Colors of the Dark (1972; Sergio Martino)
20. Don’t Look Now (1973; Nicolas Roeg)
21. Deep Red (1975; Dario Argento)
22. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975; Peter Weir)
23. The Tenant (1976; Roman Polanski)
24. House with Laughing Windows (1976; Pupi Avati)
25. Full Circle (aka The Haunting of Julia, 1977; Richard Loncraine)
26. The Brood (1979; David Cronenberg)
27. Possession (1981; Andrzej Zulawski)
28. Zeder (1983; Pupi Avati)
29. The Reflecting Skin (1990; Philip Ridley)
30. Cure (1997; Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
31. Audition (1999; Takashi Miike)

After sending Ed my list I was surprised and annoyed with myself because I managed to forget to include films like Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1960) as well as my favorite horror anthology, Spirits of the Dead (1968) and lots of early Japanese and Spanish horror films that I love. I also neglected to include any films with Peter Lorre, Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski who all appeared in some of my favorite thrillers. Where did my head go? I have no idea.

Some conclusions I came to after making my list:

1. Sexually repressed women, ghosts, the supernatural, vampires and devil worshipers/cults give me the willies. Since I’m not a religious person, I find it extremely amusing that so many satanic horror films made my list but I think it’s more about the esoteric elements of these films and the constant mystery of the unknown than the actual “devil” that gives these types of movies their edge. I’m also just plain frightened by cults or large masses of of people with a ‘group think’ mentality that causes them to harm others.

2. Only four American directors made my list. British and Italian directors dominate it. This isn’t a surprise since I really don’t care for American horror films all that much.

3. 1960 and 1971 were two of the most amazing years for horror cinema. At some point during the list making process I had six or eight films from each of those years on my list.

4. The only director that has more than one film on my list is the greatly under-appreciated Italian director Pupi Avati who makes some of the most fascinating and chilling films I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I’m clearly in the minority when it comes to my affection for Avati since none of his movies made it on the final list of 180 Nominees. And as far as I know I’m the only person who even bothered to nominate any of his films for inclusion.

Last but not least…

I hope to write about some of the lessor seen films mentioned above that didn’t make the Official Nominee List in the future.

35 thoughts on “31 Films That Give Me the Willies

  1. Oooh, I forgot about “Picnic at Hanging Rock” for my list, that one definitely scared me. Great list, for someone who is catching up on his horror viewing, you gave me a lot of ideas.

  2. What a great list. I’m glad you decided to play!

    I have to admit I’ve somehow missed Pupi Avati’s work, which I now will go about rectifying. Thanks!

  3. Adam – It’s nice to come across another fan of Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s such a beautiful and haunting film. It might not be a typical horror movie, but it sure gives me the willies! Most of the movies I listed should be available on DVD with only a few exceptions, so I hope you discover some new viewing ideas.

    Neil – Since you enjoy Italian horror films so much, I think you would really like Avati’s movies so I hope you give them a look soon. I can almost guarantee that at least one of the Avati films I listed above will give you the willies!

  4. Sadly, Kimberly, you are correct that no one else voted for any Avati films. As you expected, there were few lists that were as eclectic as yours–but how did you feel about the result? Were you as disappointed by the number of films on your own list that were nominated as you were with EddieOnFilm’s foreign film list?

  5. It’s a great list and we share a lot of titles. A full eight of mine didn’t make the final cut and after submitting it I of course thought of scores I left off but like you, I figured they’d be covered anyway and they were. However, one film I left off (after debating with myself about it) was The Uninvited. Since this film has never come up in comments between us before let me just say that I am absolutely thrilled to see it on your list. I think it is one of the best films of the forties in any genre and have seen it (I’m not making this up) three times in the last year alone. The reason I didn’t include it was because despite the presence of ghosts (and I love the effect of the ghost on the steps in the penultimate scene) I felt it was more of a mystery than a horror film. Either way it is a fantastic film and I had no idea you were a fan. I also think the fact that SPOILERS the upright and uptight Mary Meredith is the villain and the Hispanic lover Carmel having Stella out of wedlock is the good guy was an amazingly progressive stance to take in a movie in 1944. END SPOILERS What a great film! Thanks for putting it on your list. You made my day.

  6. I think the results were really interesting Ed! I had planed on commenting over at your blog, but I’ll also post here too.

    I thought both your poll and Edward’s poll (it’s the Eddie show!) had surprisingly good results actually. Naturally there’s a lot of crap (totally my opinion of course and completely subjective) on both lists, but that’s to be expected with these types of things.

    The best part about participating in these polls is learning more about yourself in the process and there are 4 or 5 films that I haven’t seen from the list (and people’s individual lists) so I’ve got some new viewing to look forward to as well.

  7. Thanks Jonathan! Even though 10 or 11 films I selected didn’t make the final cut, I think I got more of my original picks on the Willies list than on the Foreign film list oddly enough.

    Three cheers for The Uninvited! I’m a sucker for good spooky haunted house films, plus the movie also has all that really creepy hospital stuff in it and a very young and absolutely gorgeous Ray Milland. It seems very progressive for its time and I like the lesbian undercurrent which is really smartly done for 1944! I almost didn’t include it myself, but it gave me the willies the first time I saw it as a kid and it’s just stuck with me ever since.

  8. My list has ten movies on it that didn’t make it, but when I made my list, I only voted for things I didn’t think would get many votes from other people. And, to be honest, I put THE BURBS on there under the auspices that it’s a horror-comedy and it scared me when I was like nine… but I can never resist the opportunity to plug THE BURBS. I don’t know why. I just like it, is all.

  9. Chris – Who are you and why are you asking? But seriously… Why does anyone like chocolate? Rainy days? Kittens? Sushi? The color blue? Or horror films? They just do. I was raised on them, so I suppose some might say it’s in my blood. Otherwise, I just like the thrills and the mystery horror films provide. I also like fantasy/surreal aspect of cinema fantastique. If you spend some time reading my blog you’ll probably learn a bit more about me and what makes me tick.

    Ed – It’s impossible to explain why we all enjoy different stuff. I think some of it can be traced back to childhood, but we’re really all individuals and different things effect all of us in different ways. Even the concept of “fear” and “horror” is different to everyone. I personally didn’t put any horror comedies on my list because they don’t give me what I consider to be “the willies.” Others like yourself obviously did so you’re not alone. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will find films on my own list silly or just plain bad.

  10. I’m just a guy without a blog who enjoys reading your blog.

    What are your thoughts on Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s CURE? For some strange reason, I left the film feeling kind of fatigued. I think I waited 30 seconds or a minute before I lifted myself from the couch.

  11. Chris – I’m glad you enjoy my blog! I hope my sense of humor was obvious in my response above.

    I think Kurosawa’s Cure is a really draining experience. I know that I felt emotionally drained after I watched the film myself. A lot of films on my list would probably qualify as “emotionally draining” since they demand a lot from the viewer.

    I’m rather surprised that Cure didn’t make the list of 180 nominees. I think it’s Kurosawa’s most fascinating and adult film (from the 5 I’ve seen), and one of the best Asian horror films made in the last 10 years. The movie seems to frustrate a lot of viewers who expect (or want) films to provide them with easy answers and explanations for everything they see on screen. I tend to prefer much more ambiguous films myself, which is probably why Kurosawa’s work appeals to me so much.

  12. Awesome Kimberly,
    So glad you decided to post your list. I really admire you were able to go so far back and still keep it at 31. My God, how did I leave THE TENANT off my list…damn that should have been on there.
    I like Avati a lot and nearly included one of his films but finally couldn’t because of space…
    Great to see FULL CIRCLE on here and among the final nominees. I am very pleased by that.
    PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK is one of my favorite films and I didn’t think to include it on this list, but you are right, it really is a chilling film.
    It is interesting that you don’t care much for American horror…the Italian’s are far and away my favorite but I do love a lot of American horror from the sixties and seventies…
    Anyway, great list…I am looking forward to seeing the final results…

  13. Hey Kimberly. Great blog. I really enjoyed reading your top 31 list. There are many movies up there that I love, including Frankenstein, The Brides of Dracula, Carnival of Souls, The Haunted Palace, Black Sabbath, and many more. It’s a great list. You’ve made a wonderful selection. It is quite amusing that as a non-religious person you had so many movies on your list that have an occultic them, but I don’t think someone has to be religious to enjoy such films. I tend to favorite British, Italian, and Spanish horror over American. My favorite horror films generally came out in the 60’s and 70’s. I really enjoyed reading this. With your blog on this and Jeremy’s, I’m really leaning to doing one of my own at my MySpace blog.

  14. Thanks Jeremy! Have you seen all the films I mentioned? I was hoping you would get some viewing suggestions from my list as I did from yours.

    It was hard picking only one Polanski film, but I knew Rosemary’s Baby would make the list without my vote and The Tenant is probably my favorite Polanski movie.

    We’ve chatted a lot about Full Circle recently thanks to your recent blog posts on it so it was fresh on my mind and I love that film. I was surprised and happy it made the final nominee list.

    Glad to see another fan of Picnic at Hanging Rock! It’s such a terrific film. I also considered adding Weir’s The Last Wave to my list since I really love that movie as well.

    I find that a lot of post ’60s American horror just isn’t my bag. Of course there are occasional exceptions like some of Romero’s early films, some of Tobe Hooper’s early films and Curtis Harrington who’s also made a lot of movies I like, but generally speaking, I don’t care for it all that much. It tends to lack the supernatural/occult elements that appeal to me in Euro/British/Asian horror. The direction is also often dull as dishwater and lacks style.

  15. Keith – Thanks a lot! I look forward to checking out your own list whenever you post it. It’s nice to see someone mention The Haunted Palace since I think it’s probably Corman’s best film and it contains my personal favorite Vincent Price performance. For some reason the film is often overlooked in favor of Corman’s Poe films. I wish he had made more films based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

  16. A very interesting list, and I can tell you from recent experience, THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS is truly creepy. Watched it again this weekend in an empty house with all the lights out…the first time in years I`ve been seriously spooked by a film! The growing sense of dread in HWLW is genuinely oppressive. I discover another creepy little detail everytime I see it too. And that final shot of a hand leaning on the tree suggests all sorts of disturbing possibilities. One final thought, I think the longer, more tongue-tripping title that I first heard of it under is creepier too:THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS THAT LAUGH.

    I love THE UNINVITED as well(seriously, where`s the dvd?!), one of my favorite haunted house films. Recently saw an English ghost picture that`d make a nice double feature with it: A PLACE OF ONE`S OWN (1945).

    Love your blog, one of my regular stops.

  17. I think Picnic at Hanging Rock is an excellent film, it just didn’t occur to me. Looking at the final nominees I realized that a good fifty or so didn’t occur to me. I’ll vote for the final list but I hate ranking movies. I much prefer alphabetical order but I understand that ranking helps better sort out the list in the end. I especially hate ranking once you get to the teens and have to rationalize to yourself why Movie A should be 16 and Movie B should be 17. That’s usually why by around six or seven I just revert to alphabetical order for the rest of my list. I can reasonably tell what I think the top two or three of any set of films is to my liking but after that it just becomes a mess.

    Also looking at some of the blogs of people that participated I feel a little in over my head. Even though I love the genre I’ve always gravitated to the James Whale/Roger Corman/Hammer variety of Horror and don’t have a lot of expertise once you get past the seventies.

  18. All of a sudden a bunch of folks are talking about Full Circle/Haunting of Julia and you’re all killin’ me; it’s not on DVD! It is still available on videotape, but how quickly I am to disparage it–I don’t want to dig that old behemoth VCR out again, but what choice do I have? I saw The Uninvited last year, but found I preferred both The Haunting and The Innocents. I’ve got Pupi Avati’s movies Netflix’d up and ready to go, however.

  19. I forgot about Miike and Kurosawa when I made my list. I have seen the two Avati films and since then have been watching his more recent, non-horror work.

  20. I agree with Jonathan regarding ranking. It’s all bogus. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t post my ranked Foreign Films ballot and don’t plan to post this one either. I don’t expect mine will even be accurate, since I’ll undoubtedly weighing many choices toward things I think are less likely to get as many votes… but then I’m also left, in this case, wondering which titles can I most benefit with my weighted vote and which might be lost causes in terms of ranking in the final 31…

    Aaagh! These are the things I sit around thinking about and then give myself a headache.

    But then I don’t actually sit around debating which movie I actually officially rank slightly higher than the other, for some reason, which I’m quite sure would drive me even crazier.

    Dang-nabbed lists!

  21. Andrew – Thanks a lot for your terrific comment! I’m glad I’m not the only person who finds Avati’s films so effective. I can’t imagine how anyone could not include one of his movies on any kind of “willies” list once you’ve seen them, but I suppose we all get disturbed by different things.

    And where is a DVD for The Uninvited? You’d think that a classic film like that, which is good and obviously influential, would be more easily available. I think it was Ray Milland’s first starring role in a thriller too, so that must count for something?

    Jonathan – I feel you’re pain about ranking them. That’s just one aspect of this whole list making process that I really don’t enjoy. I wouldn’t worry about including the types of films that interest you on your own list. I tend to like a lot of classic gothic horror films and Universal monster movies myself, and I love just about every movie Hammer released. Many of the films on my own list have absolutely no gore and not one drop of blood is spilled.

    Will – Sadly Full Circle, as well as a lot of other great films that made the list of 181 nominees such as Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Reflecting Skin are not available on DVD in the US, so you’ll have to track down VHS copies if you want to see them. Good luck and I hope you enjoy Avati’s movies!

    Peter – I managed to totally forget all the pre-90s early Japanese horror films I love. I have no idea what happened, but my brain just sort of farted out on me. I really wish Kurosawa’s Cure had made the final cut and I’m really surprised it didn’t get 3 votes. Personally I think it’s superior to a LOT of the modern Asian horror films that made the nominee list.

    Neil – Yep, this ranking crap is just that… crap! No one can convince me that a movie like The Decent is superior to Martin. But anyway… I plan to do what I did on the foreign film list and totally weigh my ranking as well. I suppose that’s cheating again. Oh well! As far as I know Ed hasn’t complained about my cheating yet. 😉

  22. Ha! You’re totally busted Kimberly! Actually, the weighted list is the single most interesting part of the ranking process, as far as I’m concerned, and the only thing that didn’t hold me back from holding just a one-round let’s-all-nominate-our-favorite-movies list. I hijacked this whole format from Copeland and it was that element of the ranking, the weighting, that intrigued me. Tallying the votes has been fascinating because I know most people are putting their pet obscurity at number one and ranking acknowledged classics much lower. “Utilizing your knowledge of the judging process is not cheating, it’s playing the game using your head, not just your heart and your body.” If my Little League coach didn’t actually say that, he should’ve.

    Oh, and CURE, like 80 other poor orphaned flicks, only needed one more vote to make it on the list.

  23. I hated Full Circle/The Haunting of Julia. I find it tedious (same with Mia’s other other horror movie, See No Evil. Mia Farrow spends like 2 hours running to get people to see what she’s seen… but then it isn’t there. Still, I loved the deluxe treatment it got recently in the blogosphere… what a great way to pay tribute to a favorite film. I was pissed I’d left Carnival of Souls off my list and then I remembered The Frozen Dead with Dana Andrews… and that blue head! Chills!

    But I digress.

  24. There’s no accounting for taste Arbogast. I love Corruption and Incense for the Damned, which I believe you recently called “sparkling abortions” in your own blog. One persons trash is another persons treasure.

  25. Way late on finally getting around to reading some of the nominee posts…

    Kimberly, it looks it was just you and I voting for “Cure”. I knew “Pulse” would make it, but really thought “Cure” had a chance as well…Disturbing as all get out.

    I certainly regretted not nominating a few other films and already regret my final vote from the list of 180 (I’m debating whether I should’ve have played with the weightings in order to skew towards lesser titles). Oh well, like with the foreign titles list, the main goal of these lists is to find new stuff to watch and expand our viewing scope. Your list alone has done that plenty.

  26. Thanks for the recent comments Helena! Blood on Satan’s Claw is a terrific and very creepy film and my favorite Tigon production. I first saw it when I was a young teen in the early 80s on Elvira’s Movie Macabre show and it scarred me silly.It’s nice to come across someone else who likes it too.

  27. The Film Society of Lincoln Center had an inspired program 2 years ago which included “Blood on Satan’s Claw;”(I was so happy becuase I thought that I would never see it again!), and a bunch of other horror cult films including some Hammer Productions. Just a note to Your NYC fans — The Film Society of Lincoln Center which shows films at The Walter Reade Theater is a good spot to check out.

  28. I know I’m almost two months late but I think it’s great that you put “The Reflecting Skin” on that list. I don’t know very many people that have seen it. There is a Japanese DVD release of it actually, although it is expensive and region coded. Websites like http://www.xploitedcinema.com carry it, and if you search for VHS titles on Amazon or Ebay it isn’t hard to find copies of films like that and they’re much cheaper than the imported dvds.

    Also I really enjoyed “Cure”. The first time I saw it I wasn’t into it at all, but upon a second viewing I found it to be very effective and subtle. The ending is amazing too, although I can see someone getting pissed and going “What happened? this sucks.”

    I must admit that I really did enjoy “The Descent”

  29. if you haven’t seen it, pick up the UK disc of ‘ten rillington place’ (1970) :

    as it’s astonishingly unsettling, thought feels entirely everyday.

  30. Jesse – I’ve got the LD version of The Reflecting Skin and I hope a region-1 DVD will be released sometime, but I may end up picking up that Japanese DVD since I love the film so much so thanks for pointing it out. I’m also glad you gave Cure another look. I think it’s a terrific film and I really it’s ambiguity.

    logboy – Many thanks for the film rec! I love British horror films but 10 Rellington Place is one film I haven’t had the chance to see and it sounds like something I’d really enjoy.

  31. Great list, with some uncommon picks, but howzabout the film that has been giving ME the willies ever since I was about 5 years old (and that’s a looooooooooong time ago!): 1959’s “House on Haunted Hill”? Every time I think of Carol Ohmart in that film, noose around her neck and floating in the window…well, it gives me the bejeebers even now as an adult. Brrrrrrr!

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