This list could climb into the triple digits without giving the classic horror movie genre its due, so consider these five films less of a conclusive summation, and more as a solid starting point. From quintessential black-and-white creature fests to movies that have spawned countless imitators (much like one infected zombie leads to 1,000-strong hordes), these are the movies that scared us then (and now), along with the ideal drinks to fortify your nerve.
Long before the Twilight franchise was an annoying scratch in the collective crotches of young adults everywhere, this black-and-white silent masterpiece defined much of the vampire genre that would come—at least until vampires were allowed to peacefully walk around in the daylight. It took its source material, Dracula, and gave birth to all the moody iconography, the pale skin, wide eyes, fangs, dark shadows, and tentacle-like, predatory fingers. Pay homage to the groundbreaking experience of this still-chilling classic by sipping on Great Lakes’ Nosferatu, an imperial red with a big 8% ABV, with rich maltiness paired with a nice balance of hops.
Since their introduction, zombies have matured from their original staggering, slow-moving selves into Carl Lewis-style sprinters stricken with rabies—and then back again. They’ve inspired countless video games, comic takes on the genre, love stories, a WWII-era franchise, and enough TV series to almost justify a 24-7 Zombie Network. But nothing beats Romero’s original, from its brave decision to cast a black actor as the lead to the whole idea of zombies in the first place. Parts are cheesy now—but in a good way. And nothing will rid you of the sound of the zombie hordes munching on flesh. We say toast this milestone with a glass of Alesmith Evil Dead Red, whose ABV measures in at an appropriate 6.66%.
Based loosely on actual events (read: enough to haunt away rationalization late at night when the movie keeps you up), The Exorcist still ranks as one of the most profitable movies ever made. Muscle your courage with a few doses of Monk’s Blood, a Belgian strong ale from San Fran-based 21st Amendment Brewery. Maybe bathing your taste buds with the influence of holy men will help keep the devil at bay…
Tobe Hooper’s classic film felt like found footage recovered from some horrible alternate reality, one you never want to visit, but one you can’t stop watching. Unlike the other films on this list, here the horrors are wholly human, and thus harder to dismiss—and the movie is better because of it. Find the steely resolve you need to see this nightmare to the end by downing a few shots of white whiskey, like High West’s Silver Whiskey—Western Oat, taken neat.
Filled with arguably more iconic horror moments than almost any other horror film of the 1980s (Jack’s face peering through a freshly-hatcheted bathroom door, the spider web of blood covering a man in a tuxedo raising his glass, elevator doors opening to a flood of blood, the relentless spin of a big wheel in the cavernous hallways of the Overlook Hotel), Stanley Kubric’s masterpiece still reigns as one of the pinnacles of the genre, and gets under your skin no matter how many times you’ve seen it—or how many conspiracy theories you support from the documentary Room 237. Pay respect to another of the movie’s haunting images—the two twins holding hands in the hallway—by downing your choice of beer from Evil Twin Brewing, like their 10+% ABV Big Bang Lager.