October 26, 2010
With Halloween just around the corner, I have decided to make a list of the 10 movies that I consider “scary”. However, scary is a relative term. I believe that my selections incorporate many interpretations. There are the “jump out of your seat” scares, the “depravity of man” scares and the deeper…darker…”pure evil” scares. If you are a fan of fright at all, I suggest you see all of these films. I would be surprised if you haven’t seen most of them already. Enjoy…IF YOU DARE!
1. The Exorcist – Ok, this is THE movie that really digs deep and really sticks with you. Demonic possession and the battle of faith touch a lot of nerves.
2. The Omen – Much like The Exorcist, a demonic child is to blame for more than a few sleepless nights. Do not rely on the recent remake of this classic. Go right to the source. It is eerie on a whole other level.
3. Seven – Ok, not a traditional horror movie. This one fits more in that “depravity of man” realm. There are not a lot of scares to be had. But the entire movie is just an exercise in dread. I walked out of the theater with knots in my stomach. The real horror is that all of these ideas were in someone’s head to begin with. And there is the fact that they do not show any scene of the actual violence, merely the seed of thought given to us by the crime scenes.
4. Alien – Sci-Fi, schmi-fi. This is just a classic monster movie at heart. This could have been set underwater, in the jungle or in a Chuck E. Cheese. You do not have to enjoy Star Trek to get the full effect of this treasure.
5. Event Horizon – Much like Alien, this movie gets lumped into Sci-Fi far too easily. Sure it takes place in space, but it is really a story about the decent into madness (a theme that really gives me the creeps…as you will see).
6. The Descent – And on the note of descents… This movie has some creatures in it. But they are not the scariest element. The terror I get from this movie is purely claustrophobic. Not only are the players being pursued, they are being pursued in very tight spaces. Every time they enter a crevice, I lose my breath.
7. Psycho – Madness is a frightening thing. Hitchcock introduced us to a madness like none we had ever seen. It still holds up on so many levels today. This movie has spawned, in some way, nearly every madman-on-the-loose film since.
8. Halloween – Very fitting that I place it just after Psycho. This movie borrowed heavily from the Psycho theme and presented us with an even more terrifying killer. Where Norman Bates was simply dealing with those that entered his web, Michael Myers was on a seek-and-destroy mission. He could have been in any one of thousands of small towns.
9. The Shining – My final look at the descent theme. Jack Nicholson gave us a glimpse of what could lie inside each of us. Put us in seclusion, add some stressful environmental factors and then sprinkle in some existing psychosis. That is a recipe for disaster. And disaster is exactly what befalls that mountain lodge.
10. The Strangers – This movie had me looking over my shoulder for weeks. Every sound was a potential intruder. It didn’t help that I watched this while I was living in Virginia alone for six months. I had no one to tell me the noises were in my head, so I assumed it was a group of deranged sociopaths preparing to pounce.
BONUS: I thought I would throw in one good Horror/Comedy, but had a hard time deciding which of these two deserved the nod. So you get both.
Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland – Here are two hilarious send-ups of the classic zombie flick. Each is far more humorous than frightening. And that is fully intentional (unlike so many unintentionally funny horror movies…I am looking at you “Wrong Turn”!). I suggest watching these two back-to-back with Shaun first.
You will notice my omission of things like “Saw” and “Hostel”. These, to me anyway, are not scary. They can be shocking. They are certainly gross. And, they are usually disturbing. But they are rarely actually scary. They are not always bad movies. They have their appeal. But I would choose a maniacal serial killer, madman or zombie over a gross out or squirm-inducing torture 99% of the time.