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Top 10 Horror Films that Should be Taught in Film School

Written by Telly Vlachakis Horror movies that are effective in capturing the art of cinema and film as a whole, and would be worthy additions to any film school class. WatchMojo presents the top 10 movies that should be taught in film school. But what will take the top spot on our list? Rosemary's Baby, The Haunting, or The Blair Witch Project? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to telly-v for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Horror+Films+That+Should+be+Taught+in+Film+School

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These genre films are admired and renowned, but are they studied enough? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Horror Movies That Should Be Taught in Film School.

For this list, we’re taking a look at horror movies that are not only great, but also have a deeper layer that should be closely analyzed by film students and teachers alike. Like the already-classic staples of film-school curricula, like “Psycho” and “Nosferatu,” these films should be given a second look, whether it’s for their message, style, relevance, or technique.

#10: “The Omen” (1976)

“The Omen” came out at the peak of Hollywood’s big screen religious horror trend. Although it’s considered a pivotal classic, it does not get the same respect as some of its contemporaries, like “Suspiria” and “The Exorcist.” Using religious imagery and the titular omens to crank up the tension may not be anything new, but it’s put to use with such grace and subtlety in this Richard Donner film that we forget the more gruesome kills and set pieces. The Oscar-winning score alone is a great example of music amplifying the approaching horror and storytelling, instead of just using sharp strings and jump-scare music – something students would definitely pick up on.

#9: “Get Out” (2017)

A newcomer to the horror genre, Jordan Peele surprised the world when he released this shocking masterwork. The film and its premise were immediately applauded, as anyone can see that the filmmaker began with an important and relevant message first, then proceeded to add thrills and laughs. We watch the bizarre story and merciless allegory about racial tension slowly unfold, but Peele does not hesitate to entertain at every level. The balance between the uncomfortable, but sadly all-too-familiar racial issues, and terrifying imagery, is nauseating and shockingly effective. Being a recent film compared to the others on the list, we can only expect that future film students will latch on.

#8: “Under the Skin” (2013)

This Jonathan Glazer film has unfortunately flown under the radar, viewed as too bizarre or art house-y for contemporary audiences. But for fans of strangeness and horror, it’s become an important example of visual storytelling. It may not seem like a horror film on the surface, but the quiet story about an alien who takes human form and preys on innocent men requires close viewing and analysis to dissect its message – even from the average viewer. The payoff is realizing how the feeling of uncomfortable terror and dread can be accomplished with so little dialogue, exposition, action and gore.

#7: “The Babadook” (2014)

How does one make a great monster movie that’s not about the monster? Start by taking a page from “The Babadook,” which is so much more than your average monster movie. The film is lauded for its amazing design, compelling performances, and a lead character whose torment appears to show itself as a terrifying creature that ultimately takes a backseat to the story. Horror has a history of physically manifesting repression and psychological issues into monsters and demons, like in “Repulsion” and “The Innocents,” but it’s rarely seen in today’s hyper-violent horror market.

#6: “The Cabin in the Woods” (2012)

Not only was this one of the most entertaining horror outings of the early 2010s; it also brilliantly dissected the entire modern horror genre. Movies like “Scream” and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” opened the door to such meta-analysis, but these were usually for satirical reasons. The entirety of “The Cabin in the Woods” is a critical mirror held up to the mostly-disappointing Hollywood horror machine, while also offering a hilarious, but bizarrely horrifying, original story. How many strings are studios pulling behind the scenes while they just randomly throw monsters and ghosts at actors, and hope something scary happens?

#5: “It Follows” (2014)

Taking the same cue as some of our other contemporary entries, “It Follows” knows that sometimes the less you show the better. It’s easy to throw some blood and guts at a screen to please horror fans, but it takes great skill to keep the violence and visual terror to a minimum while still scaring audiences. This film takes it to a whole new level, making the monster invisible. Unlike Freddy, Jason, and other slasher villains, the creature here is more of a metaphor for the terror that stays with you and slowly creeps up behind you after watching a scary movie. It’s a topic ripe for discussion in film class.

#4: “The VVitch” (2015)

Are modern horror films too visually bland for your taste? Are you tired of the same old jump-scares and gimmicks? Well lucky for you this game-changer is here to stay. “The Witch” is the definition of a slow burn, and boy does it pay off. Similar to classic non-horror horror films, like “Persona” and “Hour of the Wolf,” “The Witch” plays with our expectations and perfectly utilizes sound design and cinematography to produce an uneasiness that cannot be explained until the film is over. The colonial setting and old English dialogue throws us into uncomfortable, unfamiliar territory, and does not allow us to look away.

#3: “The Haunting” (1963)

If you like haunted houses and ghost stories, trust us that “The Haunting” did it first. It’s one of the earliest horror films to use setting and sound design so effectively; so as to have the audience believe that they’ve been seeing ghosts the entire time. In fact, on top of being an important subject for film students, viewing “The Haunting” should be used as a psychological study. Funnily enough, the movie is about people staying overnight in a haunted house for a psychological study. The characters, comprised of skeptics, scientists and believers, represent the audience who needs to decide if they believe in ghosts while watching the film.

#2: “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

By virtue of it becoming such a huge hit, “The Blair Witch Project” is sometimes dismissed by serious cinephiles as too gimmicky, similar to the great pop song you now hate because you’ve heard it so many times on the radio. From the marketing perspective alone, however, this film deserves praise and needs to be revisited by scholars. While the found-footage structure wasn’t new, and has been improperly rehashed so many times since, it’s important to analyze the how and why it was used: in service to the story, and not as an excuse to skimp on the budget.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Conjuring” (2013)
- “Don’t Look Now” (1973)
- “Eyes Without a Face” (1960)

#1: “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)

Don’t get us wrong: we know that “Rosemary’s Baby” is an award-winning classic of horror cinema, praised and adored by audiences and critics alike. However, this seems to be a film that offered a very unique experience, but one that was never successfully duplicated. This might be because it deserves closer investigation. With a bizarre structure that keeps us guessing until the very end, brilliant music, fleshed-out characters, and a study in trust and reliance, this is a family drama and Cold War-era paranoia thriller disguised as a religious antichrist horror film.

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