I would have to say that F. W. Murnaus Nosferatu (1922) would be my favorite film in terms of horror/fantasy. It was a film that really set the whole genre in motion. It was one of the first films to use stop motion as a stylistic choice to create a mood and landscape and setting, and it is a beautiful piece of work. Its an inspiration because its the kind of film that I can imagine scared the hell out of audiences then, and even today when I screen the film for friends or people who havent seen the film, it strikes a note of unsettled fear and fascination, and there arent a lot of films that do that.
E. Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire)
To me, the scariest film Ive ever seen is The Exorcist (1973) . Even the documentary on the making of it on the special edition DVD scares the hell out of me. There are just so many things that make that movie horrifying: the fact that it was shot in the 70s gives it that creepy look that film stocks of today just dont have; the reserved sound design and the modest use of music, which makes that theme stand out so much more; the marvelous improv between Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair. I could go on, but basically The Exorcist exemplifies the use of naturalism in horror the key, in my opinion, to making a really scary movie. Also, I think that William Friedkin and the rest of the crew captured something else on that film. I dont know how to explain it, but every frame in that movie gives me an evil feeling. Its almost like you could strip away some of the emulsion or run the negative through some kind of filter and see something else there, something supernatural. Every single part of this film scares the shit out of me. Even writing this has given me the creeps.
Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project)
Its odd, but we always love the movie that terrifies us the most. So my favorite horror film would have to be William Castles The Tingler (1959). Starring Vincent Price as a mad scientist who discovers the title internal organism that creates fear until you scream, the film was presented in Percepto "Better than 3-D!" which meant that some of the seats had been wired to emit small electrical shocks during the scary moments. I was 12 at the time, and when my chair started to rock n roll, I was out of there. I ran all the way home (about five miles) leaving my younger brother behind. I had nightmares for three years after that, and my brother still gives me shit about it. Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator)
When trying to think of my favorite horror movie it was simple it was a choice between Robert Wises The Haunting starring Julie Harris and Richard Johnson and James Whaless Frankenstein. But for me it is The Haunting; I saw it when it was first released and I was in Dallas, Texas. It was the first horror movie that floored me. I really felt what the characters were going through. There is one scene where some of the characters have locked themselves in a room in the house and there are strange sounds and the walls start moving. My imagination ran wild, and it left an indelible impression on me. This film inspired me to make a ghost story, and I went on to make Poltergeist.
Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
For pure horror I'll cite Romeros Night of the Living Dead (1969). It was terrifying to me when I was young. No one is spared the relentless onslaught of the zombies, creating a hopeless claustrophobia that transcends formula to this day. The crude black-and-white photography and use of wide lenses give it a powerful immediacy, and the opening self-referencing of the horror genre ("Theyre coming to get you, Martha!") anticipates movies like Scream. Having a black protagonist without racial commentary gives it a hipness thats still fresh today, and of course it was produced for $100,000, making it an indie triumph. As for impossible-to-find gems, theres a foreign film called Angst [shot by Zbigniew Rybczynski] thats a masterpiece of the serial killer genre, giving Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Man Bites Dog a run for their money. Its director disowned Angst, but connoisseurs should seek it out.
Larry Fessenden (Habit)
Robin Hardys 1973 British movie The Wicker Man has long been a favorite of mine. This supernatural thriller manages to frighten through its seductively unsettling tone rather than the use of traditional genre scare tactics. After the films shocking climax its not quite clear if youve just seen a cheap horror flick or a disturbing meditation on religious dogmatism. The incredibly cheesy musical sequences are a great time capsule but caused the movie to be widely misunderstood at the box office.
Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost, Blair Witch 2)