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What a list, don't you think? And an interesting one given it comes from the master of horror himself. However, you may notice a certain theme here after reviewing the entire list of horror films, but we won't reveal that until you get to the bottom of the list.
What You WILL Notice Is That King's Cinematic Passions Fit the Profile of a True Master
He truly does love the genre.
We ascertain from this list, however, that his choices are very personal at heart. You may notice that there are some classics missing from the list that would surprise you in not being included. But the fact is Stephen King is his own person with a sensibility about what can curdle his blood and make the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
'The Autopsy of Jane Doe'
Tell me you don't see King in here. Some of his short stories echo the deep character study that's deep in death. Such is the same as The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a visceral look into the afterlife that's both hideous and intimate.
Without a doubt, King is a child of the classics, which is where his passion for horror stems from. He's not necessarily a classic monster lover, per se—although he's not against writing about vampires and demons as Stoker did with Dracula.
But The Changeling? That's King's pastime.
'The Blair Witch Project'
Surprised? Yeah, we are, too. You wouldn't think this would actually be on King's list, but it is, and here's why: the film broke the mold of the horror genre, ushering in a new theme: found footage. In a way, this is a sub-genre grounded in characterization and the realization of what we're afraid of deeply. True horrors, not just simply the supernatural or the incomprehensible.
The Blair Witch Project brought that to the forefront, even if some thought it was dull and drab, because there weren't the familiar "jump scares" we were always so used to. Instead, it was a taut story about how people go mad when lost in the shadows.
Gothic horror: is this something King would ever write about? Not really. A lot of his stories seem to be more modern than this, but here's the thing: Crimson Peak is a masterful throwback by Guillermo del Toro about horrific romance and the ghost stories so prevalent in them.
Again, King is a child of the classics: The Canterville Ghost, Edgar Allan Poe. And those stories are not simply about terror and the shivers up the spine, but the awe and wonder of an ambience wrought with horrifically delightful sensations.
'Dawn of the Dead'
Ask yourself why King doesn't actually include the original Romero classic Night of the Living Dead... (SPOILER: that one isn't in this list). You'd think he would, but he doesn't. Instead his favorite zombie film happens to be this one.
King has a certain edginess to him, which is why this film directed by one Zack Snyder with a certain flavor and style that's slick and wicked rubs him the right way.
'Deep Blue Sea'
No doubt, you're scratching your head on this one.... Sharks? Why not Jaws?? (SPOILER: that film isn't on his list either) Something about the fact that there's a certain techno-thriller deep in this deep blue sea, and there's no doubt that King digs the more modern horror tropes.
He's not a stranger to darkness, delving into the unknown where new monsters lurk. The Descent erupted to great fanfare, reaching farther into shadow than ever before, and King loves it clearly.
Grindhouse, urban horror, steel, heat, the road... When it comes to modern horror, like everything from The Hills Have Eyes to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even Jeepers Creepers, the idea of horror on the road tickles King's fancy, and that should be evident with works like Christine and Maximum Overdrive: two horror works involving, yes you guessed it, haunted vehicles.
Read Misery, and this should make some sense to you. Something about femme fatales ring true in what goes bump in the night for the master of horror. Without a doubt he's a classic lover, and you can't knock the older B&W glories of the old days. Stripping them down to the bare bones of terror makes for a great masterpiece.
By now you should be seeing that he has a wide variety of tastes: from classic to modern, and everything in between. Who knew that this one would be on his list, as many consider the original film to be quite the cheesy B-foray of film, stretching verisimilitude and what makes sense in a story?
Again, though, King did write It about a club of loser kids fighting off a demon clown. So teen horror isn't a strange thing to him.
This one baffles a bit as the film wasn't as favorably received as it could've been. The fact is the very presentation of it left too much to be desired, albeit strong performances from Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Neill. However, there is one reason why King really did love this film: it's science fiction. And science fiction amps up when you inject some good ol' fashioned haunted house horror into it.
Low-key. Grounded. Urban. Very much like those vehicular beast movies, this echoes more of those urban atrocities, like Wrong Turn and Joy Ride where it's all about a chase against death. it's exhilarating.
'The Last House on the Left'
Utterly scary—in a realistic sort of way! The Last House on the Left brought terror simply by removing the "haunted" part and injecting true terror in the form of disdainful and decrepit humanity, the stuff that makes us darker than demons. Think about how horrific it would be if you walked into someone's house as a guest only to find out they're all psychopaths, and you can't escape. Yeah.
'Night of the Demon'
King's this classic? But of course. Remember what age of living he survived through. These were the kinds of films birthed right after the golden age of radio where imagination was king, and King let that bolster and blossom into the kind of horror he enjoys writing about—ideas, deep in the heart and cutting your soul with a jagged edge.
Let's get one thing straight about this one: it's not a horror film TECHNICALLY. The reason being is this was a film directly adapted from a high-octane French thriller novel. So, in short, Sorcerer is a thriller, encompassing just one aspect of the horror genre.
King isn't a stranger to this, however. He digs the increase in blood temperature, the nail-biting and thrills of a wicked chase across towns, buildings and more. In fact, his author alter ego pen name Richard Bachman where those books were very much more like thrillers than classic horror pieces. It makes sense.
Did you notice the one surprising thing here? None of the films you've seen in this list are adaptations of Stephen King's novels! Until this one, of course.
The Mist was adapted from King's novel of the same name. He, however, enjoyed it thoroughly given the creative imagining of the same kind of sci-fi sensibility already prevalent in his passions. Nothing supernatural here at all. Just aliens. Really big and/or deadly aliens.
People are not who they seem to be. That's stuff digging hard into your brain, with the likes of The Good Son and The Omen. Strangely enough, neither of those are on King's list. The latter is particularly surprising. However, adult figures with malicious intent—like in his work The Shining, also adapted by one Stanley Kubrick—seem to be what freaks out King the most, so in a way we're not surprised by this at all. He seems to have a lot of love for children!
One thing's for sure: this now iconic modern horror film scared the bejeezus of many. Yet we may be a bit perplexed as to why this is one of King's favorites. However, he truly enjoyed The Descent, and we know why. This one's no different.
When discovering the unknown—a sinister unknown—there's no doubt trouble ensues, and we're getting very clearly that King loves those kinds of stories.
'Stir of Echoes'
Echoed from the rage that was the modern killer ghost story laced with truly frightening imagery, this one actually does make quite a bit of sense. Merging character study with true terror is King personified. Watch Stir of Echoes for yourself: it's almost like Kevin Bacon is King himself, trying to come to terms with the voices in his head.
Aside from the fact that this film was actually based off of real events, you can't deny the utter mortification of being trapped in your own house. Like The Last House on the Left, this one may amp that level of horror up a notch, and it certainly does for King.
'Village of the Damned'
We know we mentioned just how much King seems to love child characters... Let's just say this is one heck of an exception. After all, the classic Village of the Damned is one scary freaking film.
Lastly, it should come as no surprise that the breakout hit of 2015 truly cut King down to the marrow of his bones for good reason. Think of deep character studies, yet again, like with The Blair Witch Project, and this should make perfect sense. Watching madness unfold between family members in a true period piece makes for great storytelling.
Have You Seen Any of These Films?
If so, what did you think of them? Scary? Not scary? Just remember: King loved these films the most, most likely because they were truly scary to him!