The Black Cat (1934)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Ulmer and Peter Ruric
Ulmer's best movie -- and the best movie to star Karloff and Lugosi together -- isn't just a weird experience and a terrific entertainment. It's an isolationist parable.
Isle of the Dead (1945)
Directed by Mark Robson
Written by Josef Mischel and Ardel Wray
Not merely a good thriller, but a fine illustration of a theorem formulated by the sociologists William and Dorothy Thomas: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences."
Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Nigel Kneale
Horror and science fiction don't always mix well. Here they do.
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Written and Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Bergman isn't usually regarded as a horror director, but several of his efforts might make good Halloween rentals. The Virgin Spring was the acknowledged inspiration for Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left.Persona was an unacknowledged inspiration for Fight Club. (I've also seen it classified as a vampire movie, and while that's an eccentric interpretation, it makes a certain sense.) And then there's this psychologically intense character study, with its chilling images, its surreal narrative, and, yes, its horror.
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Altman and Susannah York
Altman's underrated drama is told from a schizophrenic woman's unreliable point of view. It isn't usually classified as a horror movie, but it's one of the few films that genuinely scared me as I watched it.
Written and Directed by David Cronenberg
My favorite Cronenberg movie. Idea for a (non-Halloween) living-room film festival: start with Network, continue with Being There, and end here.
Written and Directed by Todd Haynes
A parable about an egoless person who consumes her life rather than living it, even -- or especially -- when she turns her back on "consumerism." Like Images, it isn't usually classified as a horror film. But there's more eerieness here -- more honest fear, among both the characters and the viewers -- than in a dozen ordinary suspense flicks put together.