Weekend Roundtable: Movies That Actually Scared You

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.

Mike Attebery

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.

Luke Hickman

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.

Brian Hoss

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.

Josh Zyber

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.


  1. Chris B

    Agreed on The Exorcist, the scene where Linda Blair walks down the stairs all contorted is creepy as hell. I actually think the scariest shot in the whole movie is when the priest enters the room and is looking at the girl on the bed and when it cuts from the priest back to the bed it’s a vision of his dead mother. CHILLS.

    I watched Eraserhead on a 100+ projection screen with the spund WAY up and it made me jump a hell of a lot towards the end. Drag me to hell and Insidious are brutal for jump scares the whole way through.

    One recent horror movie I always thought was underrated and terrifying was The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I always thought it was a way better movie than it got credit for.

    The movie that has scared me the most in probably the last decade or two? The Babadook. Scared the fucking shit out of me. I watched it a year ago and still cant walk down a set of stairs without turning the light at the bottom on. It’s an incredibly effective horror movie…at least for me.

    • Csm101

      Eileen Dietz evil demonic face is what scares me the most about Exorcist. Even knowing it’s a lovely young lady in makeup, it’s still quite effective.

  2. Plissken99

    I liked Josh’s separation of what scares us as kids vs what scares us now. Because as a kid I thought The Exorcist was a joke, total snooze fest, not remotely scary. It wasn’t until I watched it again around 16 or 17, when I understood the themes going on in it. Suddenly it became a truly creepy movie, and remains one.

    Another film that has always raised the hairs on the back of my neck, that is Pet Semetary. I love animals, so that plus the whole thing with her sister Zelda remains unnerving.

  3. David Staschke

    I find horror movies entertaining and fun, not scary. I just know too much about filmmaking to be scared by movies. The only movies that scare me are documentaries. Just to name a few that scared the $hit out of me are Jesus Camp, The 13th, The Act of Killing, Citizenfour, Going Clear, West of Memphis, and Taxi To the Dark Side. All of these are terrifying and kept me up at night after seeing them.

    • Chris B

      Speaking of documentaries that are scary as hell, watch “Collapse” Michael Ruppert, sitting in a warehouse, explaining why and how the human race is doomed. It kept me awake for weeks.

      • David Staschke

        Yep. That one scared me too. I just didn’t list it because I knew someone would whine about it just being conspiracy theory nonsense. I don’t believe that. I think Ruppert’s predictions are “worst case scenario” possibilities, not crackpot ramblings. He’s definitely a hyperbolic pessimist, but not insane.

  4. The first ALIEN film was the best opening night, ever. Great hysterical crowd, motivated science fiction audience, superb theater.

    I also admit THE RING got to me the first time. Not so much when showed it to someone else.

    Finally: ERASERHEAD. When you say “I wish I weren’t watching this, why can’t I get up and leave, oh God what is that stuff piled on his dresser, DON’T DO THAT TO THE BABY!!!” — that’s a horror film.

  5. I hardly ever watch horror movies, because I’m a big pussy. I got dragged into watching ‘The Woman In Black’ and I was afraid for a solid week. Well-made movie, though. But so very scary. Yikes, just thinking about it raises the hairs on my back – and I don’t even have hairs on my back!

    • Chaz

      That was a good one, dripping with atmosphere and tension, my wife and I saw that in the theater and it was tense….shame the sequel sucked so much, really thought this return from Hammer Horror was a good one

  6. The Hitcher, with Rutger Hauer is a movie that really, really got under my skin. It gave me nightmares for a while 🙂

    Another traffic related movie, although not made for cinema, that also kept me up at nights, was Spielberg’s Duel.

  7. Csm101

    I still don’t watch The Exorcist by myself and the only reason I own it is because my brother bought it for my birthday a few years back because he didn’t want it in his house. Because it came from him it cancels out the evil, yeah that’s it. The little belchy Asian girl from The Grudge freaks me the fuck out and I can’t watch that one alone either. The sequence in Pet Sematary with Zelda still gets to me and the book for that gave me one super serious nightmare/ghost encounter kind of like that documentary The Nightmare. The first Paranormal Activity scared my friend and I so much that we snuck in to Law Abiding Citizen afterwards just to watxh something a little more “feel good”.
    I guess I still hold the Exorcist as top of the list. Seeing it with my wife when it was released in the uncut version back in 2000 or so was quite the experience.

    • Chris B

      Lol, the other night I was at walmart and they had The Exorcist box set with all four films in it for only twenty bucks! I was strongly considering buying it but…IM FUCKING SCARED!!! Haha 20 bucks though! Thought it was a pretty good deal.

      • Josh Zyber

        Unless Warner reissued the box set without ‘Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist’, it should have five movies in it. That’s a steal at $20, though be warned that three of the movies are terrible. Only ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Exorcist III’ are any good, and the new Scream Factory Collector’s Edition for III is a much better disc than the one in the box set.

        • Chris B

          Wait, I’m confused. The box set I was looking at had The Exorcist, The Exorcist 2, The Exorcist 3 and Dominion. Are you saying there are two more in the franchise?

          For the record I’ve only ever seen the first one but at such a low price point I was thinking of rolling the dice….

        • Csm101

          Isn’t Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion supposed to be same movie, only one of them is what the original director envisioned (Dominion) and the other one which I believe is the theatrical cut which is Renny Harlin’s?

          • Josh Zyber

            They’re two separate movies. The studio originally hired Paul Schrader to direct Dominion, but they hated what he delivered and shelved it. Then they brought in Renny Harlin, who reshot about 95% of the film working from a new script. The two movies only have a small amount of footage in common, though they both star Stellan Skarsgard and have a similar concept (young Father Merrin playing archaeologist in Africa). After Harlin’s film bombed at the box office, the studio allowed Schrader to complete his version and gave it a limited theatrical release.

            Dominion and The Beginning contradict one another and cannot both be considered canon. Ultimately, they’re both pretty poor movies, just in different ways. Harlin’s is a schlock-fest and Schrader’s is a total snooze.

  8. charles contreras

    The Exorcist gets my vote. When it originally came out in theaters I literally begged my parents to take me to see it. I had read about how they accomplished some of the special effects, so I wanted to see the end results. But no, my parents wouldn’t budge, so I had to wait until it came out on video. I watched it with the lights off, and afterwards I went to bed with the lights on! That gave me the creeps like you wouldn’t believe! So, whenever I talk with someone who hasn’t watched it, that’s how I always recommend that they see it.

  9. Chris B

    I forgot about Fire in the Sky…saw it when I was like 10 or 12 and the whole sequence on the alien ship almost made me have a full blown panic attack. My parents had to spend 2 hours after the movie was over re-assuring me I wasn’t going to be abducted by aliens.

  10. Bill

    Movies don’t scare me simply because I know they are movies. The beginning and end credits see to that by destroying any frightening atmosphere the actual content creates.

  11. Bolo

    ‘Audition’ was quite creepy. Parts of it stuck in my head for days after seeing it. Not that I’m asking for one, but I’m surprised there wasn’t a Hollywood remake of it yet.

  12. Rob Behrens

    Not in any particular order here’s my short list of movies that actually scared me as an adult:
    The Exorcist
    The Entity
    Evil Dead remake
    The Conjuring
    Paranormal Activity
    Insidious (up until the end, showing too much of the red demon took away the fear and mystery).
    As a kid a lot more movies would scare me.

  13. There were a few that got to me as a kid. The first Nightmare On Elm Street was terrifying and I was allowed to watch it WAY too young. Bad Dreams always freaked me out, but my mom liked it so I watched it numerous times with her. Flatliners was another one. Jacob’s Ladder to a degree.
    The only one that still gets me is The Exorcist. Horrifying.

  14. As a kid, I was scared by “The Legend of Boggy Creek” There is a scene where a man is on a toilet and the creature reaches for him through a window right above the throne. But a movie that still give me the chills is “The Changeling” starring George C. Scott. A ghost story not bogged down with wild special effects and light shows. Gets in your brain and stays there.

  15. I watched THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT again last night for the first time in probably more than 5 years. That movie still manages to scare the hell out of me – primarily because I’m a sucker for horror/thriller movies that DON’T show you (or show you very much of) the “monster” (that’s why JAWS always worked so well). It’s a shame that that movie’s concept is pretty much a one-time deal…it’s hard to repeat – which is one of the reasons the reboot/sequel flopped.

    • Chaz

      That one is the one that freaked me out the most in all my years of viewing horror films, went to the theater to see that with a huge group of friends as that was THE movie to see when it came out, everyone in the theater before us came out white as a sheet, not speaking at all to each other, not the normal response coming out of a movie…..

      So needless to say, after that happening and the marketing for it, not fully knowing if it was real or not….I was completely freaked out after seeing this thing, then my friends took us on a round about way home (we were all staying at my buddies new apartment for the weekend on campus for a LAN party) and they fake stalled out the car on the road surrounded by woods, I just wouldnt get out of the car at that point, one of my friends wasnt in on the plan and knew how to fix a stick shift and kind of messed things up for the gag but a couple of us didnt know what was going on and wouldnt leave the vehicles….lol.

      Will definitely go down in infamy as one of the craziest nights I’ve ever had and one of the scariest films I ever saw, after we got back to the apartment, I couldnt sleep, replaying the end of that movie over and over in my head. Nothing has done that since but the couple runner ups that creeped me out pretty big were The Exorcism of Emily Rose (her contorted and staring at the screen bothered me) and It Follows, kept me looking at people for a day or two, haha….loved that movie 🙂

  16. david batarseh

    Little known film that unfortunately shares its name with a Tommie Lee Jones action film from the mid 2000’s; 2013 The Hunted. The true heir to the Blair witch throne in my opinion.

  17. William Henley

    There are few that scared me, but this has to do with the fact that I rarely watch the scary movie genera. Not my thing.

    That said, the movie that has probably messed me up the most is The Cube. I I saw this in 1999, and it still gives me nightmares.

    The Eye and Re-cycle are also pretty freaking scary.

  18. Pedram

    I heard a lot about The Ring being scary, so I decided to go one further and watch the Japanese original, thinking it would be even better. I didn’t really find it scary, unfortunately. After that, I had no interest in watching the American remake and still haven’t to this day. Unless anyone can honestly say that the American one is better (more scary) having seen both.

    • Bolo

      I think I am one of the few people who liked the American remake better. But if you didn’t like the Japanese version at all, then don’t bother.

  19. EM

    The real test is whether one retains the fear well after seeing the movie. I’ve heard of people being frightened of motels or showers or motel showers years after seeing the original Psycho. Sounds like Hitch did something right.

    I’m a little embarrassed to say that Eight Legged Freaks did pass the test, for me. I thought Arachnophobia would have, before I saw it, since I was already creeped out by spiders and living in a shadowy basement apartment where you’d expect creepy-crawlies to readily creep and crawl. But for some reason, Arachnophobia’s (mostly) realistic spiders didn’t stay with me, whereas for weeks after Eight Legged Freaks I for some reason kept expecting to find giant spiders waiting behind furniture or ambling down the road toward me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *