HitFix

Post-Mortem: Breaking down our Ultimate Horror Movie Poll

HitFix's Ultimate Horror Movie Poll, which highlights the 100 greatest horror films of all time as voted on by over 100 genre filmmakers and experts, not only showcased the enduring power of No. 1 finisher “The Exorcist,” it also cemented the status of the '70s and '80s as a Golden Age of horror (films released during those decades took up nearly half of available slots).

The '70s and '80s, incidentally, saw the artistic rise and mainstream breakthroughs of both Wes Craven and David Cronenberg, horror icons who placed more films in the Top 100 than any other director (four titles each). Meanwhile, the list revealed one undeniably bleak statistic: only one movie in the Top 100 was directed by a woman. 

For me, the most gratifying moment of our Ultimate Horror Poll came when compiling the data was finally over, and I could take a step back and fully appreciate, as a reader, what my colleague Emily Rome and I had painstakingly compiled over so many weeks. Doing so has allowed me the distance to see patterns and make observations that I didn't pick up on when I was in the thick of it — some undeniable, some puzzling, and one even borderline infuriating. Here are a few insights I've gathered in the 48 hours since we first launched.

1. Only one film in the Top 100 was directed by a woman.

The topic of representation behind the camera has been a hot topic as of late (see: Matt Damon's now-notorious “Project Greenlight” moment), and the problem is depressingly prevalent in our Top 100, which features — tellingly — only a single film directed by a woman: Kathryn Bigelow's cult 1987 vampire-western “Near Dark.” It's a shame, albeit not reflective of the survey participants themselves; rather, it speaks to an ongoing, systemic problem the continues to plague not only the horror genre but the film industry as a whole. Indeed, there are few great horror films directed by women because few women have ever been given the opportunity (or felt empowered) to make horror films in the first place.

Not that there aren't any rays of hope. Bubbling just under the Top 100 was Jennifer Kent's masterful 2014 horror film “The Babadook,” which around the time of its release racked up an endorsement from none other than “The Exorcist” director William Friedkin (who happens to know a thing or two about horror). 

2. I can't get over some of these omissions.

While the Top 100 certainly contains its share of welcome surprises — Adrian Lyne's “Jacob's Ladder,” Jonathan Glazer's “Under the Skin” and Brad Anderson's “Session 9” are a few that immediately spring to mind — it's hard as a fan to accept the absence of such stone-cold classics as Stuart Gordon's perfect '80s thrillogy (“Re-Animator” and “From Beyond” received a single mention each, while the underrated “Dolls” was absent completely), Bernard Rose's elegant, sophisticated 1992 Clive Barker adaptation “Candyman” (one mention) and Frank Darabont's unrepentantly dreary 2007 Stephen King chiller “The Mist” (zero mentions). 

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