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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre & 9 Other Horror Masterpieces Less Than 90 Minutes Long

While the mood occasionally strikes for a three-hour epic like The Godfather, it’s a lot easier to watch a movie that’ll be over within 90 minutes than one that will take up an entire afternoon. This is good news for horror fans because the need to sustain a sense of dread from beginning to end makes filmmakers economical with their edits.

RELATED: Every Texas Chainsaw Massacre Movie, Ranked (According To IMDb)

Being under 90 minutes long doesn’t automatically result in a great horror movie, but these masterpieces pack a ton of terror into their brief runtimes.

10 The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes sets up its terrifying premise within a couple of minutes. The Carters are on a road trip across the desert when a gas station attendant warns them not to veer from the main road. Of course, moments later, their car screeches off the road and crashes into the nearby hills. As the sun goes down, the family gradually comes to realize that there’s a bunch of cannibals watching them, waiting to pounce.

Craven manages to wrap up the story in a lean 89 minutes, with the horror reaching its peak when the cannibals break into the family’s camper in the dead of night. What makes The Hills Have Eyes work so well is that it’s a terrifyingly plausible scenario.

9 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, about a group of youngsters getting targeted by a chainsaw-wielding cannibal during a road trip across the South, might be the greatest horror movie ever made. It doesn’t waste a second of its runtime by briskly setting up the premise before Leatherface picks off all the protagonists in quick succession.

RELATED: Tobe Hooper's 5 Best & 5 Worst Movies, According to IMDb

Sally Hardesty is one of the most memorable final girls in the history of slashers, and she endures unthinkable terror at the Leatherface family’s dinner party. In just 83 minutes, Hooper also managed to pack in a pro-vegetarian message playing on the irony of a masked killer picking off and eating a bunch of youths.

8 Child’s Play (1988)

Directed and co-written by Tom Holland (not the one who plays Spider-Man), Child’s Play tells the story of a widowed mother giving her son a doll that turns out to be possessed by the soul of a serial killer.

Clocking in at 87 minutes, Child’s Play is the ultimate creepy doll movie. Brad Dourif delightfully hams it up for his turn as both the serial killer and the doll his soul later inhabits. It has since inspired a slew of sequels and there’s even a Chucky-centric TV series on the way, a testament to the movie’s popularity among horror fans.

7 Don’t Breathe (2016)

By the time director Fede Álvarez put his stamp on the home invasion thriller in 2016, the subgenre had become pretty well-worn. But his 88-minute horror gem Don’t Breathe is a sharp subversion of the familiar subgenre. Three small-time crooks hear about a blind war veteran with a big stash of cash and figure it’ll be easy to steal. What they don’t count on is that he’s a well-oiled killing machine hiding some very dark secrets in his basement.

In most home invasion thrillers, the burglars are the villains and the ones being burgled are the protagonists. But in Don’t Breathe, the burglars are the protagonists and the one being burgled turns out to be the villain.

6 Videodrome (1983)

David Cronenberg used his gruesome body horror sensibility to satirize the media in his 89-minute gem Videodrome. James Woods stars as a TV programmer who finds disturbing images of violence and torture hidden in the airwaves. The movie’s “techno-surrealist” tone leads to some pretty unique scares, like getting consumed by an anthropomorphic television screen.

Cronenberg’s groundbreaking work in the body horror subgenre continues to influence filmmakers to this day, with his son Brandon following in his father's footsteps with 2020's disturbing Possessor.  Most recently, the French body horror film Titane won the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, showing that Cronenberg's legacy is alive and well.

5 Frankenstein (1931)

There are a bunch of horror classics in the old black-and-white Universal Monsters series, but arguably the franchise’s greatest entry is James Whale’s pitch-perfect adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The film's hackneyed tale of a deranged scientist stitching together human body parts to create life encapsulates the themes of humanity’s hubris and the dangers of playing God.

Whale races through the story with a lean 71-minute runtime but also is careful to make Boris Karloff’s monster as oddly sympathetic as he is in the book.

4 A Bay Of Blood (1971)

A pioneer of the giallo subgenre, Mario Bava is responsible for some of the greatest horror movies ever made like Black Sabbath and Blood and Black Lace. His 84-minute masterpiece A Bay of Blood revolves around the murder of a wealthy countess, which kicks off a chain reaction of brutal murders.

One of the earliest and most influential slashers ever made, A Bay of Blood is filled with red herrings and, even after years of desensitization, has more than enough gore to please diehard fans of the genre.

3 The Last House On The Left (1972)

An exploitation re-imagining of Ingmar Bergman’s bleak parable The Virgin Spring, The Last House on the Left follows the kidnapping and torture of two teenage girls by a gang of psychotic criminals. After they murder the girls, the criminals find themselves stranded with one of the victim's unsuspecting parents, who eventually discover the guests they are caring for are the monsters that killed their child.

RELATED: 10 Must-See Horror Movies From The '70s

Directed by Scream’s Wes Craven and produced by Friday the 13th’s Sean S. Cunningham, The Last House on the Left clocks in at a brief 84 minutes. It’s not easy viewing, but it’s a classic of horror cinema that has spawned a number of remakes and sequels. The movie is sometimes too demoralizing to be entertaining, but it’s undeniably powerful.

2 REC (2007)

A news reporter covering a local fire department follows some firefighters to an apartment building where an elderly lady can be heard in serious distress. When this lady turns out to be infected with a zombie virus, the reporter, her cameraman, the firefighters, and all the residents of the apartment building are quarantined.

With its brisk 78-minute runtime, REC is one of the most exhilarating found-footage movies ever made, rapidly building to a harrowing finale that hints at the origins of the virus. REC has spawned three sequels and an American remake, Quarantine, which was successful enough to generate its own sequel in 2011.

1 The Evil Dead (1981)

Three years after John Carpenter’s Halloween gave budding horror filmmakers a template they could copy on a low budget, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead did the same with the tale of a group of friends traveling to a cabin in the woods that turns out to be haunted by demonic spirits. They unwittingly awaken those demons using the Book of the Dead, leading to all kinds of blood-soaked carnage.

Raimi included a lot of shocking special effects (which are still pretty impressive today, considering the relatively amateur production) into The Evil Dead’s 85-minute runtime. Once those demons are unleashed, Raimi doesn’t relent with the scares until the end credits roll. Like most horror masterpieces, The Evil Dead has spawned numerous sequels and remakes, with another iteration, Evil Dead Rise, coming to HBO Max in 2022.

NEXT: The Evil Dead & 9 Other Great Low-Budget Horror Movies

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