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The Dowdle Brothers’ Top 10 Horror Movies

Ready to have the skeleton scared out of your body this Friday in As Above/ So Below? Everything we’ve seen from the Universal and Legendary’s Parisian Catacombs thriller makes it look scarier and scarier. Couple that with the fact that they actually shot it in the actual Catacombs beneath the streets of Paris alongside six million dead bodies and you have a recipe for cowering in your seat. To celebrate our impending adrenaline spikes, we caught up with the film’s directors, John Erick and Drew Dowdle, and had them scare up a list of their top 10 favorite horror films. We’ve rounded up numbers ten through six below, but if you want to see numbers five through one, you’ll have to watch the video above.

10) Silence of the Lambs

This film has been named to the 2011 National Film Registry by the Librarian of Congress.

John Erick Dowdle: Yeah, so, you know, Silence of the Lambs, I mean, it’s one of the greatest character studies especially of serial killers and and yet [Jonathan] Demme did such a great job of bringing the surreal. Like you see the – the cell he’s in. It’s all so weird. They really – it’s a very creatively shot and designed movie and yet it all feels really natural somehow.

Drew Dowdle: The investigative element too is just so well crafted. It’s just one of those really razor sharp investigations.

9) Jaws


JED: Jaws is the most shocking rated-PG movie in the world. It’s so scary. You know, it was such a great step in horror cinema in the idea of not seeing whats scary. When you actually see Jaws, I mean, it just looks ridiculous, but under the water it’s so upsetting to know there’s something around that you can’t see where it is. You almost just have to wait to feel its effects.

DD: Yeah, what not to see. And Jaws, I have to say, is probably the most affecting. I mean, more people have been affected by the movie Jaws than any other film, any other horror film ever made, I would imagine. Everyone who’s seen Jaws has had trouble swimming in the ocean, trouble swimming in swimming pools. I mean it really ruined the water for so many millions of people.

8) Psycho


JED: Psycho is one of those movies I remember we saw pretty young, and I remember seeing that with my mom. That was her scariest movie growing up, and so it was almost a Dowdle coming of age moment when you’d sit down with mom and finally watch Psycho.

And there’s something in that the twist at the end, if you don’t know its coming, its so bizarre and upsetting and especially in my ten year old mind like, “WHAT, he’s, you know – what the hell has just happened?!” It really packs a punch man, it’s really great.

DD: We’re huge Hitchcock fans and he’s made so many great suspense films, and this is one that was true horror to its core. Like John said, that reveal at the end, when you’re a kid and you see that, it breaks your brain and it’s such a lasting impression. And the shower scene is the shower scene, but that reveal is just so powerful.

JED: And killing the lead like ten minutes into the movie – it was such a ballsy movie, and Bernard Herman’s score is just so weird and cool. I mean its really a masterful

DD: Really an innovative film, to say the least.

7) Rosemary’s Baby


JED: And then we have Rosemary’s Baby. Again there’s a question of identity and a question of just trying to figure out what’s going on in her surroundings. And Ruth Gordon ,who you know from Harold and Maud, one of my favorite non-horror films, to see Ruth Gordon be so evil is really delightful.

Some of those surreal moments where you know, like, “This isn’t a dream! I’m not really dreaming!” You’re seeing all this weird shit – like naked old people. You know, really anything with naked old people, I’ll sign up for.

DD: The whole idea that something evil could be growing inside of you is just such an innate human fear in some way that it’s so effective in that way. And Mia Farrow is just so terrific that you get the sense that she might be losing her mind. Like John said, it’s a question about identity and a question of perspective throughout.

6) Repulsion

JED: This movie I saw in the theater in New York when I was in film school. And, literally, my hands were shaking by the end of the movie. If you actually sit and you don’t pause the DVD to go get chips and stuff – if you watch it start to finish, it’s so upsetting. The black and white is so unnerving and the pacing, the way that Polanski builds the tension of this movie, and Catherine Deneuve being crazy and alone…it’s really a masterpiece of surreal weirdo imagery.

DD: As Above/ So Below definitely makes homage to this. We definitely used that as a touchstone for As Above.

As Above/ So Below opens nationwide on Friday, August 29. What are your favorite horror films? Share them with us in the comments below.

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  1. hmmmm, the Haunting(1963) the Changeling(1980) Alien (1979) altho  that could be considered sci-fi. the Decent.yeah that could be there too. sorry but Angel Heart sucked, the Shining was just another horror movie. when Kubrick decided to use an axe because a croquet mallet was too gruesome and changed the ending of the book. not one of the top 5 even imo.

  2. Edgar says:

    I thought The Shining was incredibly scary. For me scary is what you can’t see, or the thing just around the corner. I’m fine with gore & effects, but those things in & of themselves aren’t scary without the psychological punishment leading up to it. My top 10 would look somewhat different from the Dowdle’s as well, but wouldn’t say I disagree with it. In fact, I would most likely include Silence, Jacob’s Ladder & The Shining. I may give Angel Heart another viewing soon. Saw it over 20 years ago and wasn’t that impressed at the time, But think I may have more of an appreciation for it now.

  3. ramon says:

    don’t agree with any of it.. I thought the exorcist was scary  and maybe top five but the shining , really only thing scary was shelly duvalls constant crying. Jaws yes and because you got scared when you heard the music , like a trained dog you heard the music you got scared just with that….Psycho yes that’s scary but I found “the birds” scaryer such a normal every day thing go wrong really quick , everyone in disbelief.  It wasn’t on the radar?? how is that possible , I know people hated the ending but Pennywise is still talked about today and has made many a person scared of clowns.  The first alien when it came out yes very scary now its old hat and you don’t see it but back then the whole row I was in jumped so hard we were almost in the row behind us.

  4. Jerry says:

    I don’t agree with Angel Heart being a great horror movie, but how can Jessica Chobot be a film commentator and have never heard of it.

  5. docpsifi says:

    I’ve seen all but two of their top 10 movies.  The only one I wouldn’t agree with is their number 1.  The Shining was a great book and nice parity on the Simpsons but I though the movie fell flat in the end.  There are a few scenes that were very well done but the movie as a whole fell short of a top 10 list item.

  6. RRP says:

    Nope! They didn’t include “The Descent.” Now I can’t see their movie.