Poll: Are Horror Movies Actually Scary?

The month of October is the perfect time to watch a bunch of horror movies in the lead-up to Halloween. With that in mind, we have a question for all you horror fans out there: Do you actually find horror movies scary? When was the last time you found yourself genuinely scared watching a movie?

Honestly, I haven’t been truly scared by a movie since I was a young kid, and back then I was scared by lots of odd things. As I mentioned in our last Roundtable, the Stay Puft Mashmallow Man scared the hell out of me when I was 10. A couple years after that, the little furball monsters in ‘Critters’ put a big knot in my stomach. Looking back on the latter years later, it’s of course an embarrassingly schlocky and cheesy horror flick, but when I was 12, it shook me pretty badly. I was convince that those little beasties would slip in under my bedroom door and eat me alive.

In my teenage years, however, my fear of movies dissipated pretty quickly, and I can’t think of a time I’ve been scared by a movie since. Sure, I can appreciate the entertainment value (or the artistry, in the best examples) of a good horror movie. I might get startled by a stinger shock effect or grossed out by gruesome gore. But really scared by the content of a movie? Nah, I’m far too jaded for that anymore.

Where do you fall on this? What movies have scared you?

Do You Really Find Horror Movies Scary?

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  1. rahjelli

    The last movie that truly scared me was the first Child’s Play. I saw it in the theatres when I was 13 and I literally was scared to go to sleep that night in the dark.

    Nowadays most of the scary movies are the same so you know what to expect and what to look for, and when for the most part. Like everything else we’ve become desensitized to these types of films.

    • NJScorpio

      ‘Child’s Play’ freaked me out as a kid. So did ‘Children of the Corn’.

      To this day, I’m afraid of having a red headed child.

  2. I never watch horror films (for I am a scaredy-cat). Very creeped out by ‘The Woman In Black’ recently.

    Then again, I saw ‘The Haunting’ (1963) yesterday (for the first time) and I wasn’t scared at all. In fact, I was a little underwhelmed. It’s a classic, right? I found it mostly funny.

  3. I voted depends on the movie, but if I was aloud to vote twice, I would of also voted the first option. The Grudge still scares me, to the point I won’t watch it alone. The Exorcist, particularly Eileen Dietz and her demonic Captain Howdy face still freak me out. The first Paranormal Activity movie genuinely scared me. The little things, like when the lights went on and off downstairs. When the medium wouldn’t come into the house because of the evil he sensed and was like, ” I can’t be here, I gotta go”. Those were the types of things that scared me about that movie. The fact that it was a normal looking house and not a spooky mansion also made it feel like it could happen to anyone. One of the last things that really scared the piss out of me was in The Devils’s Advocate when the topless lady is changing her shirt and out of nowhere her face morphs into that hideous creature. At that point in my life, when I first saw it, I would’ve easily said that was the scariest and most hideous face I’d ever seen. That image haunted me for weeks. I was afraid to look at the medicine cabinet mirror when I was showering for fear of seeing it. Every time I see that actress in any movie or role, I think of her ugly Devil’s Advocate face. It has lost a lot of its impact nowadays and looks kind of cgi-ish, but that first impression still haunts me. The sister from Pet Sematary also still creeps me out. I think her name was Zelda, played by a dude.

  4. Chris B

    Hell yes movies can still scare me, I think both Insidious flicks are scary, The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose are acray as hell. I think in the case if Emily Rose it’s partly becuase the movie is a courtroom drama with horror elements mixed in so it seems so much more grounded in reality. Plus, the story is based on an actual case of possession from a German girl in the 1960’s (you can actually go on YouTube and listen to the real recordings during the exorcism…scary shit).

  5. Markus

    It depends on the movie. The original Halloween scares me a bit because I live out in middle of nowhere, and the fact that it could be possible for someone to be standing in the shadows/treeline just out of my peripheral vision is very scary to me.

    Sinister creeps me out as well. Those types of movies are much worse than say, Friday the 13th types of slashers.

  6. William Henley

    Wow there is actually an option this week that fits me. 🙂

    I chose Depends on the Movie. I really do not care to be scared. I like Monster and Suspense movies alright – I loved The Woman in Black, but that is really more suspense than horror. I loved The Others. But I don’t care for seeing half the stuff that comes out now. You won’t see me watching The Grudge, Paranormal Activities, Saw, etc. I don’t know if they would scare me, but I have no intrest in seeing htem.

    I know a lot of people who have issues with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but it doesn’t bother me.

    Now last HORROR movie I saw that scared the hell out of me was The Cube. I saw it in 1999, and I still have nightmares from it. I am very claustrophobic, so this movie unsettled me worse than anything I could imagine

    Now there are movies that unsettle me that are not horror. Man on Fire did that to me. Stuff like that bothers me, the concept of someone taking or hurting someone that you care about very much. What really unsettled me about Man on Fire is you didn’t know if she was alive or dead, you did not know if she was being tortured, raped, sold into slavery or sex-slavery, or whatever. THOSE are the type of movies that really scare me, because they really play on my fears. The idea that someone does something to someone you care about and you are powerless to stop it.

      • William Henley

        Well, technically, The Others also had a ghost in it. 🙂 “I” wouldn’t classify either as Horror, but I wouldn’t fault people who do.

        Of course, if all movies with ghosts qualify as Horror movies, then you have to add Ghostbusters, Harry Potter and Ghost to the Horror genera.

          • EM

            Genre is pronounced “ZHAHN-ruh”, whereas genera is pronounced “JEN-er-uh” (please excuse the crude eye-spellings). The pronunciation of genre is adapted from its French source, whose pronunciation is…well, a lot to explain in text for this particular audience. C’est la vie.

        • Josh Zyber

          The Woman in Black is about a vengeful ghost that haunts a house, terrorizes a village, and murders children. When the main character investigates, it does everything possible to scare him into committing suicide.

          It’s a horror movie. There’s really no way it could ever be classified as anything other than a horror movie.

  7. I picked very rarely. For the most part I dont have any issues with watching just about anything. I’ve watched stuff that would disturb a lot of people (like A Serbian Film) and other stuff that wouldnt disturb anyone, so I’ve run the gamut on horror, it is my favorite genre. But only a few have “scared” me and even then only ONE really gave me trouble when I tried to sleep that night and that was the Blair Witch. Going in with full on hype to that movie had me so invested in that screen that I still vividly remember everything about that night. Then my friends decided to drive us all out in the woods (some of them were in on the prank, others like myself, were not) and fake a breakdown and that didnt help me at all, I’m not fond of the Woods at night, in movies they dont bother me at all but in real life I cant walk through when its night time.

    A couple others like the Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Grudge had me creeped out more than scared, that girl in the grudge making that awful noise with her head just appearing around corners and shit messed with me, same with the scenes of Jennifer Carpenter all bent on the floor just staring in to the camera….

    But the Blair Witch was the only movie that made me stay awake when it was time to sleep, I was up for 4 some hours just replaying the end of that movie in my head, pretty freaked out. Otherwise, nothing has kept me awake and I dont ever have dreams I remember, no nightmares, nothing like that. So it takes something special (which of course is dumb sometimes for other people) to make me have an issue with it.

    • C.C. 95

      Problem is: Horror has SO MANY Sub-Genres within it. I love ‘creepy, mind-bending’ stuff like DON’T LOOK NOW, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE SHINING, etc. I don’t care AT ALL for gratuitous gore and shock like SERBIAN FILM, THANATOMORPHOSE, etc. In the middle is some great stuff with a bit of gross and shock, but lots of drama and suspense like EXORCIST, SE7EN, etc.
      Hell, I love the ones that are really comedic and gross like EVIL DEAD 2 (classic), DEAD ALIVE, and UNDEAD(underrated). Then there’s FOREIGN existential horror shows like TROUBLE EVERY DAY, and FUNNY GAMES…
      then there’s MASH-UPs of the genres… It’s just NOT an easy question.
      But, some films do scare me, because when I watch a film I give myself over ENTIRELY to that reality for its running time. Thank God I still can do that.

  8. I hate most horror movies because of the redundant blood and gore and because of how exploitative of women they can be (or at least used to be, I realize that’s changed a bit). So most ‘good’ horror movies I don’t catch up with until years later. I’ll take a good thriller over a good horror movie any day, as at least those tend to focus on characters and story before getting to the bloodletting.

    The scariest movie I ever saw was The Blair Witch Project…and that’s because it doesn’t show ANYTHING…it uses the viewer’s imagination for its fear.

    • William Henley

      Wow, really, you and Chaz both! I just find that strange, as a lady-friend and I went and pretty much ended up heckling the entire film. But to each his own, I have people who are shocked when I say that I was bothered by The Cube.

  9. cardpetree

    I usually think I’m going to be scared and the movie ends up not scaring me at all. But it definitely depends on the movie. The Exorcist doesn’t really scare me anymore, just because I’ve seen it probably 10 or so times but when I first saw it when I was like 13, it scared the absolute shit out of me. I was actually sick to my stomach after watching it. I also remember watching The Ring at the movie theater and not expecting that girl to walk through the TV, I might of jumped a little bit. Blair Witch scared me a little and the first Paranormal Activity was pretty good, I remember being spooked slightly. I still like a good horror movie though, like Insidious, Sinister or The Conjuring.

  10. Lord Bowler

    I love creature features, and while they’re scary, I’m able to let it go after the movie ends.

    I really dislike the “Torture-Porn” horror films with excessive blood and torture devices like the Saw franchise and Hills Have Eyes.

    The movies that I generally avoid are the religious horror movies as I’m unable to put them out of my mind after the movie ends. Movies like The Conjuring, Exorcism of Emily ?something, etc.

    I can more easily discount that I’ll probably never be attacked by a Xenomorph than a demonic spirit from hell.

    Witchboard from the 80’s scared me enough that I’ve only seen it once, and I’m now leery of Ouija.

  11. NJScorpio

    What a person finds scary, in real life, seems to impact what movies they actually find scary. Blood, to me, isn’t scary. Psychological stuff can be. Movies that play with the victim’s and the viewer’s perception of what is real. Examples (that have ‘freaked me out’ when first watched) are ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’, ‘Halloween’, ‘The Thing’, and most recently ‘Oculus’.

  12. Chris B

    Some people seem to also be mentioning movies that disturbed them in addition to scaring them. On that note I have to mention that I saw Full Metal Jacket when I was about 10 years old and the scene in which Gomer is beaten with bars of soap really bothered me. However, that was just a warm-up for the bathshit insanity of the bathroom scene where he goes nuts and greases his drill seargant and himself.The movie messed with me for weeks.

    Also, Silence of the lambs when I was about 12, Hopkins didn’t scare me half as much as Buffalo Bill and that creepy basment…

    Oh an that alien abduction movie Fire in the Sky. The sequence towards the end when D.B. Sweeney is aboard the alien ship and is subjected to medical experiments is so unnerving I almost had a panic attack the first time I saw it.

  13. Chapz Kilud

    The one movie that really scared the heck out of me in theater was Sinister. I might have something to do with the way they created the atmosphere, I don’t know. The ones that I have no problem watching second time are the jump scare movies. You know what’s coming you don’t get scared anymore.

  14. itjustWoRX

    As an adult, only two movies (off the top of my head) have frightened me. One was “The Exorcist,” and I don’t know what it is but it just gives me the willies.

    The other isn’t even a “horror” movie, but given the subject matter and the way it was filmed/edited, “Requiem for a Dream” absolutely terrifies me.

  15. I grew up being unfazed by horror films up until the night I saw both Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead at the age of 10. I wasn’t terrified but those two films did get to me.

  16. Clemery

    I find the term ‘Horror movie” to be wildly misused. To me, there is a very clear difference between a horror movie and a scary movie, and they should be used independently. I hate hearing gore-less scary movies referred to as horror, because they don’t necessarily fit that description.

    A horror film is meant to horrify, not necessarily scare. The use of gore and repulsive acts are indicative of a true horror movie… the recent remake of Maniac with Elijah Wood is a great example of a horror movie (IMO), as that truly horrified me.

    Scary movies, on the other hand, nay not even include a single frame of gore, but manipulate us through sound and editing to generate fear. Paranormal Activity is a great example to me… minimal horror, but very effective in its use of camera, lighting, sound and pacing to create multiple moments of true fear in this particular viewer.

  17. I’ve always been a huge fan of all kinds of horror movies, and as well as I can recall I don’t think any ever actually scared me. Maybe a quick jump-scare or something but that doesn’t really count. I remember once as a kid having a “nightmare” about Freddy Krueger crawling out of something in my kitchen and chasing me down and my reaction when I woke up was that that was AWESOME!

  18. Jim

    These reviews were terrific to read. `Seen lots of horror films here….yet, the last time I was genuinely petrified from a horror presentation was Discovery Channel’s 2002’s low-budget, drama-documentary, “A Haunting in Connecticut” – this has been redone into a film and other documentaries – forget those.

    Allured by the title, I recorded it & I later saw it cold. Not knowing anything. I saw this in my theater room – in pitch black, surround sound cranked, and by myself (gulp). It’s not perfect, but increasingly oppressive, if you semi-believe in the supernatural – if you don’t it’s not for you. Story:

    A family’s eldest son has cancer, so the whole family moves closer to the treatment center in Connecticut. In a tight rental market, they move into a large house that had been a funeral parlor…corpses’ preparations were in the basement. Yeah. Eldest son and bro’s bedroom is IN the basement. Yeah. Evil isolates & preys on the weak, and that’s what happens with the eldest son and many other things happen that escalate.

    It’s actually really well-rated, and often compelling, while being made for TV. Anyway, then I started watching a lot of “Forensics Files,” and after getting extremely disturbed by them & stopping, horror movies aren’t as scary…as what ferocious, real people do to other people. ie “Paranormal Activity” did nothing for me when I saw it in the theater. “The Exorcist” has a slow burn and is grand. “The Conjuring” was well done, fun, with a few jolts despite a cliche ending…but. Well. ….anyway, again, while it’s not perfect and low-budget, still if you can find 2002’s “A Haunting in Connecticut,” check it out! Anybody see it?

  19. They’re just movies to me. As far as what is happening on screen, nothing really scares me. Every so often you will get used to the volume level and something super loud happens causing you to startle, but that’s normal reaction. Notice people in the theater laugh after this happens? No after nightmares, no deep thought afterwards, am not affected by em.

    Watched many a movie that is critically acclaimed to scare or disturb, but not the case with me.

  20. Boston007

    Under The Skin scared the shit out of me. When that movie finished I was afraid to go to sleep. I had to watch some light tv show for a bit to get my mind off that movie. Awesome movie by the way and not even characterized as horror!

    But in general horror movies scare the shit out of my. I’m known to JUMP many times during scary/horror movies.

    I’m with others who state the exploitive use of blood and gore. Maybe I am more sensitive in my old age but also, it looks more real today.

    I feel bad for people who are not scared anymore who have been desensitized to it.

      • EM

        I attended a screening of the Bigfoot-horror Willow Creek at which its director, Bobcat Goldthwait, made a quip about the movie containing some particularly horrifying visuals (brief ones, thank goodness): another man’s penis (horrifying for heterosexual males, anyway) and a nude woman who looks like your mother.

  21. Jon

    The first “Descent” movie made me jump a few times, so did the remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”. And of course the clown doll from Poltergeist. Aside from that, nothing has been really ‘scary’ in movies I’ve seen.

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