We were perhaps a little too negative about horror movies in last week’s Roundtable topic. Let’s head into the final weekend before Halloween by calling out some horror flicks that actually did their job and scared us.
‘The Ring‘ scared the ever-loving shit out of me! I don’t ever want to see it again. It’s been 14 years, and just the thought of that stupid monster girl with her long hair terrifies me. Yes, I’m ashamed to be so scared, but it’s the truth. I saw that movie while staying at my girlfriend-now-wife’s house for the weekend, and I was so completely freaked out afterward that I was afraid to get up in the middle of the night and cross the hall to the bathroom. I ran. I ran faster than that horse that runs around in the movie and jumps off a ferry boat. Damn, that movie is scary.
I was pretty burned out on horror movies when ‘The Conjuring‘ hit theaters, so I skipped it. Even after hearing great things, it didn’t interest me. When the sequel hit theaters this summer, I plotted a double-feature Friday night with my brother and a buddy. We kicked it off at my place with a loud screening of the first ‘Conjuring’, which sufficiently creeped me out, following by a 9 PM showing of ‘The Conjuring 2‘.
I’m not one to get frightened during scary movies. I’m typically the opposite. I laugh my way through them – not because I think they’re bad, but because like any great entertainment, it puts a huge smile on my face. Needless to say, after nearly four hours of true story horror, I was freaked. When I got home after the double-header, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t suspect that a ghostly nun was going to pop out of the shadows, but I felt a darkness, something truly gross. It affected me so much that, even though I love those two films, I don’t think I want to add them to my Blu-ray collection.
The airplane gremlin from ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie‘ really anchors what remains indelible about the film in my mind. Despite being not-so-great as a full movie, and despite having been sent up again and again on shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Futurama’, the scenarios from that movie are still creepy. When I’m on a plane in bad weather, I wonder who’s looking out the window at the wings. When I’m on the road late at night, I try to avoid being in a car with Dan Aykroyd. Indeed, every scenario in that movie, from playing Kick the Can or backing over a bicycle, to going back to the horrors of Nazi Germany, are all well-worth avoiding. And the tragic events behind the filming happen to make its icky aura even worse.
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
My wife and I watched ‘The Excorcist‘ as adults and it scared the bejeezus out of us. The phone rang in the middle of the movie and we nearly jumped out of our seats. Demonic possession, done well? Still pretty scary.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I subject myself to so many horror flicks that it takes a lot to rattle me. Just to be clear, I’m not bragging. My friends think it’s hysterical that I can watch a movie where someone gets dismembered and cackle all the while, but if someone steps on a nail or gets a nasty paper cut, I get so squeamish that I have to leave the room. There’s definitely an upper limit to that. I do have a visceral response to relentlessly grisly films, such as the original version of ‘Martyrs’, but I’d draw a distinction between being repulsed and being scared. I can’t think of the last time a movie genuinely terrified or haunted me.
The first story along those lines that comes to mind has me on the periphery. My father’s lifelong fascination with horror is why the genre has been such a big part of my life as well. He even directed three no-budget horror movies in the mid-to-late ’90s, none of which ever found distribution. It’s a laugh flipping through family photo albums from around that time: me standing in front of the car I got as a high school graduation gift, he and my sister on a fishing trip, a naked woman’s lifeless corpse drenched in blood and splayed across a bed. Anyway, ten years ago, I took him to see ‘The Descent‘ theatrically. As we were walking out afterwards, I said something like, “That was pretty good. What did you think?” I turned around to see my father white as a sheet, visibly trembling, and shuffling towards my car like Frankenstein’s Monster. Once ‘The Descent’ gets going, it never really lets up, and that coupled with the claustrophobic cinematography was more than he could handle. I’m not sure I’ve watched a straight-ahead horror film with him since.
We did a Roundtable about Movies That Terrified You as a Child in this early days of this blog. I consider that a separate topic. Kids get easily scared by dumb things. For me, it was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in ‘Ghostbusters’. That’s not even a horror movie, yet the monstrous mascot gave me nightmares. I also just about pissed my pants watching ‘Critters’ when I was 12-years-old. Looking back, that movie is cheesy as hell.
As an adult, I’m just not wired to feel scared by movies. I can recognize the craft or artistry in a good horror flick, and I might get startled by a shock effect, but that’s not the same thing. However, one exception might be Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining‘. The ominous atmosphere of that movie, the notion of someone you know and love turning against you, and the relentless suspense of the climax all left me very unnerved during my first viewing. It’s difficult to re-experience that feeling in rewatches, of course.
What horror movies do you consider truly scary? Tell us in the Comments.