Stephen King never liked Kubrick's adaptation of his novel, which, to be sure, was Kubrickized, and not a faithful translation of words to screen. King would much later have the novel turned into a television miniseries, but the Kubrick film by that time was already so iconic that nothing could replace it as the filmed version of the story.
Come and play with us, Danny!
Okay, so I like The Shining. But I'd probably go with more of a cult film as my "favorite" horror picture. One that became an instant classic in my mind the first time I saw it is Phantasm
Then there's The Wicker Man (1973), starring Edward Woodward as a devout Christian investigating the disappearance of a child in a community of pagans. It too is a favorite of mine, and I might considered it as my top horror title, and it is a great (and under appreciated) film, but, except for the ending, it's more of a mystery or suspense film, and even a musical, than it is a horror movie.
Which leads me to my final choice, Miracle Mile,
Before Miracle Mile was made, its production had been legendary in Hollywood for ten years. In 1983, it had been chosen by American Film magazine as one of the ten best unmade screenplays. Steve De Jarnatt wrote it just out of the American Film Institute for Warner Brothers with the hope of directing it as well. The studio wanted to make it on a bigger scale and did not want to entrust the project with a first-time director like De Jarnatt.
Miracle Mile spent three years in production limbo until De Jarnatt optioned it himself, buying the script for $25,000. He rewrote it and the studio offered him $400,000 to buy it back. He turned them down. When he shopped it around to other studios, they balked at the mix of romance and nuclear war and the film's downbeat ending. This is what drew Anthony Edwards to the script as he remembers, "It scared the hell out of me. It really made me angry too...I just couldn't believe that somebody had written this." John Daly of Hemdale Films gave De Jarnatt $3.7 million to make the film.-Miracle Mile
Like the first Stephen King novel I ever read, Cujo, there is no need of the supernatural to create the terror; it is all too real. The story is about the accidental discovery by an ordinary nobody that a nuclear war is about to begin. War is one of the greatest horrors unleashed on the human race by the state. States murder millions, and our own government in the US has been (and is) guilty of mass murder on an incomprehensible scale. Lincoln started a war that killed more than 600,000 of his fellow citizens (he was without doubt the worst mass murderer in American history), and his evil acts had consequences that reverberate down to our own day.
The prospect of a nuclear exchange has been hanging over us for decades (though much of the underlying anxiety was eased by the end of the cold war) and as long as those weapons exist, it is something that remains in the realm of possibility, and that we can't just dismiss with the comforting words "it's only a movie".
When I played this movie for a friend one night several years ago, the reaction I got when it was over was "Why did you want me to see that?" and I suppose I understood what they meant. It was something you couldn't dismiss as a fairy tale, and it didn't come with a reassuring ending that everything was going to be okay. My friend looked rather depressed for the rest of the evening, not laughing and joking as would have usually been the case after a regular old "scary" movie. That's real horror, and it's why Miracle Mile is my top horror pick.
What's your favorite horror movie? Or, what do you think is the best horror film you've ever seen?