Alex Pappademas: You can screen all 88 minutes of Don Coscarelli's 1978 barking-madsterpiece Phantasm on YouTube, and you should. From the budget-Kubrick white-marble mausoleum/hellmouth to the badass-1971-Plymouth-'Cuda-vs.-driverless-hearse car chase to the killer dwarves (who scuttle around like Satanic Jawas, or Neil Young's LED-eyed road crew from Rust Never Sleeps), it's a triumph of runaway nightmare-logic over structure and sense, the kind of movie you could imagine the burnout protagonists from a Mountain Goats song conceptualizing in a spiral notebook covered with death-metal band logos made entirely of thorns. But if you don't have 88 minutes, here's the introduction of the movie's breakout star, a flying silver death-orb that burr-holes people's skulls. Watch for the puddle of postmortem pee around 1:50, which almost earned the movie an X rating.
Mark Lisanti: An excellent rule to live by is: "Do not, under any circumstances, take home a creepy puppet once owned by an accused child-killer." Also: "If your mother brings home a creepy puppet once owned by an accused child-killer, do not, under any circumstances, cut the strings on that puppet, no matter how politely he asks you." And finally: "If you cut the strings on the puppet once owned by an accused child-killer, go on a fun murder spree, everyone will definitely blame the puppet, just ask the guy in the electric chair!" Wait, what? That's an awful rule. Or is it, Sally Draper?
Chris Ryan: I have only been scared, like, "Somebody wake me up from this hell and bring me my mother," scared, by two movies: the first time I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Exorcist III. Now, for the most part, Exorcist III is a chance for George C. Scott to do some truly honey-roasted-ham acting. But the above scene is completely terrifying. Something about the silence, the slow, slow build and THE F'ING GARDEN SHEARS.
Tess Lynch: It is like the horror version of The Big Chill. A bunch of dissatisfied 30- and 40-somethings reuniting following the death of a friend (Kevin Costner as Alex in The Big Chill, Richard Masur as Stan in It -- both killed themselves in bathrooms, but only one was driven to it by Tim Curry as a clown wearing palazzo pants), facing their fears. In one corner: generational disillusionment, bats in the attic, responsibility, donating sperm to friends; in the other, being looked at in the shower, pelted with blood balloons in the library, and lured into storm drains. It is scary because there is nothing about it that isn't humiliating: watching a guy, invisible to everyone else, mincing around and making only vaguely insulting jokes about your childhood until he decides to murder you. There's something embarrassing about dying in the clutches of Pennywise, just like there's something embarrassing about reunions in general (because, as Tony Soprano said, "'Remember when' is the lowest form of conversation") -- true horror isn't being pinned to a door with arrows or slowly tortured and then sliced to death by Jason Voorhees, it's finding yourself in a psychological hostage situation with Dr. Frank-N-Furter as he reminds you that you used to be fat. It's being made to feel a fool when you're too old to be a fool. So dark. So silly. There's also a great scene in the book that features flying leeches.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Rafe Bartholomew: This is the Raiders of the Lost Ark sword-versus-gun scene of horror. Julius confronts Jason on a New York rooftop and decides to make a stand. He's floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, strafing Voorhees with hooks and powerful overhand lefts. Then he tries to soften up Jason's undead body and continues driving him back toward the ledge. Unfortunately for Julius, this turns out to be one of the world's all-time greatest rope-a-dope maneuvers. When they finally reach the ledge, Julius is running on fumes. He throws two wild hooks that catch nothing but air, takes a look at his bloody fists, and dares Jason to give him his best shot. Big mistake.
Evil Dead 2
Dan Silver: By nailing a 16mm hand cranked Bolex camera to a 2x4 and running around the woods of Tennessee, Sam Raimi created the genre of horror comedy as we know it today. There is no Cabin in the Woods without the Evil Dead films. And if there ever was a clip which needs no introduction it’s this one. Just click play and enjoy the brilliant (yeah, brilliant) performance by the the man, the myth, the chin, Mr. Bruce Campbell. Hail to the king baby!
Army of Darkness
Jonah Keri: Amidst all the gore of the many, many, many Freddy and Jason sequels, the Evil Dead franchise blazed its own trail...and it was freaking hilarious. The best of the bunch was Army of Darkness, the third installment starring anti-hero-playing Bruce Campbell, written and directed by a fast-rising Sam Raimi. Campbell's character Ash goes back in time to battle all manner of dark forces. But it's his endless barrage of one-liners that makes the movie. All through college, my go-to joke with buddies in any tough situation was to scrunch up my face, extend my left hand, and yell "KLAATU...BARADA...N(inaudible gibberish/coughing fit)..." in honor of the key scene where Ash tries to remember the incantation that will zap him back home. A few horror movie franchises have since tried to play up the comedy angle, but no protagonist has matched Ash's combination of charm, snark, and bad-assery. All that, plus the enduring legacy of, "This...is my BOOMSTICK!" -- one of the greatest lines in horror movie history.
Mike Philbrick: I could probably write a thousand-page book on this movie, one page for every time I watched it in the '80s. Instead, you can learn everything there is to know about life at Camp Arawak in these 10 seconds. OK, someone is murdering people at a kids' camp. Now that you're caught up, back to the 10 seconds. We have camp counselor Gene, who based on his whole look absolutely has multiple Jimmy Snuka posters on his wall, announcing to the rest of the camp staff "there's a killer loose." Cue the state trooper rocking the Johnny Lawrence haircut and the fakest Thomas Magnum moustache in cinema history, who gives this sage advice to his unarmed friends that I'm guessing they teach on day one at the police academy: "Everybody out in pairs! Look everywhere you can think of! Even the empty cabins!" I don't want to spoil the ending, but let's just say the producers of this epic should have sued The Crying Game for royalties.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Amos Barshad: Please believe me when I say that I spent 25 fruitless minutes on YouTube trying to find the part where Clooney goes "Alright vampire killers, let's kill some fucking vampires." You're just going to have to settle for Fred "The Hammer" Williamson getting comically and unexpectedly vampire-butchered.
Bill Barnwell: When you're in high school and you don't drink, you and your friends think it's a good idea on Halloween to go see Bats at the movie theater at the mall. It's not a good sign when you go see a horror movie on Halloween and you're literally the only three people in the theater, but that was the case with Bats, whose box office take might have entirely consisted of our three tickets. The movie itself is extremely forgettable, but its trailer is not. Sound reasoning: "This is a scary movie about bats, so let's have CGI bats attack the screen and that will make people terrified and want to see the movie. In fact, let's make that the ENTIRE TRAILER." I don't understand that. Do the trailers for slasher movies consist of the lead villain just stabbing the camera repeatedly? Or do the trailers for action-adventure thrillers consist entirely of explosions happening on a black backdrop? Actually, that might have been an alternate trailer for Starship Troopers.