1. The Shining
directed by Stanley Kubrick
There’s a reason cinephiles flock to Stanley Kubrick’s unsolvable 1980 puzzle film as the greatest entry into the horror genre – it uses purely the instruments of cinema to inflict its terror. Twin girls, kindly old men, bartenders, lavish parties, and a series of brightly-lit rooms are not subjects of fear. Yet somehow, by putting everything out in the open and twisting the behavior of his characters juuuuuust so, Kubrick takes the welcoming and makes it absolutely repulsive, if only we weren’t so damn taken in by the whole thing. Sure, it might not be the alcoholic analogy Stephen King wrote about, or even a meditation on domestic abuse – by asking Jack Nicholson to go so overboard with his performance, his contribution to our fear is actually diminished, but Kubrick’s fears are much greater than any of that. His forces far exceed ghosts or insanity or isolation or any of that. It’s within us, it’s completely outside of us; it can be readily identified yet remains completely intangible. There’s no defeating the evil at its core. It’s an elevator full of blood, but it’s also a zoom on a smile. It’s the quiet voice that whispers that all is not right with this world, and never will be.