Scary Movies

Like everyone else in the world, I love movies. And while a good drama or comedy is always good, nothing compares to the horror film. This disturbing desire for something to scare the shit out of me is in my blood. My parents went to see The Exorcist at the drive in when I was a baby (I hear my growling back at Linda Blair was creepier for my parents than the actual movie), and snarling monsters, shrieking ghosts, and screaming damnsels in distress were pretty much a staple at my house. As much as I love horror, I’m very rarely frightened. So I spend a lot of time in front of the TV hoping against hope to be scared out of my wits. Every once in a while a movie gives me a start. So since Halloween is around the corner, and becasue I love lists, I give you my top 10 movies that actually managed to give me a case of the willies.

10. The Exorcist – Possession isn’t always creepy, but when it’s a little girl who says things like, “Your mother sucks cock in hell” to a priest – it’s just unsettling. I know most people pick the head-spinning scene as the scariest, but personally the image of the vandalized statue in the church sets the stage for the whole movie – it also makes me feel super uneasy.
9. Flatliners – This isn’t a great movie, but luckily, greatness isn’t a criteria for establishing horror. This movie has a few jumps, but it also tends to stick with you for a while, especially when you go to bed. The movie has great atmosphere, which puts you in the right mood to be a little nervous during Kiefer Sutherland’s nightmares of a vengeful child he tortured in his youth. Julia Robert’s dead dad is pretty eerie too.
8. Dementia 13 – I’m betting not too many people have seen this movie. This was Francis Ford Coppola’s first film and it’s a decent story. A woman spends time with her husband’s family in Ireland and attempts to work the death of her husband’s little sister to her advantage. It has two pretty terrifying moments. (1) The discovery of the underwater grave (water is scary to me all by itself). (2) The younger brother tells the doctor about a dream he’s had since childhood. In his dream he’s standing next to his mother while there’s a man who is insane in the room with them. The man says that someone else in the room is also insane and when he nods his head, the other insane person will nod their head back. When he nods his head, the younger brother looks up and his mother for comfort and sees that she is nodding too.
7. Nosferatu – The original dracula is still the best. Black and white does well for horror and combined with it being a silent film, you just can’t watch this without feeling some serious unrest. What makes it so great is Max Schreck’s portrayal of Count Orlock (aka Dracula). He was so convincing there are actually rumors that he really was a vampire. But what really gets me are all the scenes of him floating across the rooms – which I’m sure was just the actor on roller skates of some kind being pulled across the room – and the wonderful use of shadow. The shots of the shadows of the vampire’s fingernails and hands reaching out to an unsuspecting victim have been the inspiration for images in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
6. The Ring – Most modern horror movies rely on gore to frighten the audience, and usually at the cost of decent story and atmosphere. But not this one. There is some gore, but it’s well placed and isn’t intended to be the main gimmick. The plot is laughable, but it works. The best scene is the final scene where we finally get to see Samara in action. I hear the original is scarier. I’ve got it on my Netflix rental queue so I’ll know soon enough.
5. Halloween – Another classic, but it really does stand the test of time. I don’t know how dangerous a man that could be easily outrun by my grandmother could be, but he sure seems to create a good amount of havoc. Everyone’s got their favorite scene, but for me it’s the hanging sheets scene. You know, where Jamie Lee Curtis looks out her window to catch a glimpse of him between the billowing sheets on a clothesline? Super creepy.
4. Suspiria – Off all the movies on this list, this one is probably my favorite. I love, love, love this film. The plot is insanely lame, but the visuals and the soundtrack more than make up for it. The acting is also pretty bad, though I think this can mostly be blamed on the fact that the film was originally intended to feature a cast of girls under the age of 12. Due to it’s graphic nature, this was changed to older girls, but the dialog was never re-written. It makes the coversations akward at best – and ridiculous at worst. Basically the plot is an American dancer (ballet) travels to Europe to train at a famous school where she uncovers a devious secret. The visuals are amazing – the sets are all vibrant reds and blues, the school is breathtaking, and the music makes you a little uneasy right from the beginning. The music is mostly one track that sounds like a music box, but it’s spooky. The opening murder scene is, in my opinion, the most gruesome and fantastic murder scene in the history of horror.
3. Night of the Living Dead(1968) – This is the only movie that creeped me out as a kid and can still make me check the locks twice and run quickly across the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night. This is also the only zombie movie I think is worth a shit. Zombie movies just don’t do it for me. Low budget at it’s finest, this movie has some truly terrifying moments. When I was a kid the dead body dripping blood from the upstairs landing was about as scary as scary could get – and I’m happy to say that even as I type this, I’m not looking forward to going upstairs. But what will keep me from going outside for one last cig is the opening scene in the cemetary. “They’re coming for you Barbara, they’re coming for you.”
2. The Exorcist III – Ahh, here we are at the one movie that makes me curl into a ball on the sofa, hug my pillow tight, and whisper with fearful delight, “it’s coming, it’s coming.” The “it” to which I refer is the one scene that scares every person I’ve ever met – the hospital hallway scene. If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t worry about it being ruined, knowning what’s going to happen doesn’t take away any of the scare. I don’t know why this scene is so damn frightening, but it is . When I watch that nurse walk around, performing various tasks while every other person in the area walks away, I’m never prepared for the genuine terror I feel when she walks down a hall I can’t see and that “thing” dressed in a sheet carrying garden shears follows her down that hall. That scene lasts maybe 5 seconds, but it is 5 seconds of pure terror.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) – Scoff if you will, but for keeping me in a state of true anxeity, my money’s on this one. Leatherface is pretty damn spooky on his own, but combined with the cruelness of this film, nothing could be more horrific. I know I’m reusing my adjectives, but cruel is the only word that really fits the mood. The actors in this film aren’t the best, but because they were truly afraid during the filming (most of the blood on Sally is real) you forget it’s only a story. Contrary to popular belief, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not based on a true story. The discovery of the room full of bones is taken from descriptions of real-life killer Ed Gein’s home, and while Gein did wear the skins of his victims, his story is very different. Some of the characters are so annoying, Franklin in particular, that you root for them to face the chainsaw, but this just adds to the horror. The fact that you identify with the monster makes it hard to decide what to be afraid of. And you have to feel some sympathy for anyone who was rasied in that family. The scene where they decide to let grandpa take a crack at Sally is pathetic, shocking, and oh so cruel. If you can get all those feelings rolled into one package, you deserve the number 1 spot on my list of scariest movies.
So there it is, I know there are tons of movies that give others a big ‘ol case of the willies, and some of them I’m sure I haven’t seen. So if you also don’t scare easy, and know a movie that wasn’t listed but scares the shit out of you, let me know. I’ll pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and snuggle up close with a cat (because my husband is way too much of a weenie to watch them with me – I can make him squeal like a little girl by saying “Danny….. come play with us Danny… forever and ever”) and give it a chance.

Happy Halloween

One Comment on “Scary Movies”

  1. Vicki says:

    It makes a Mother’s heart sing when her child grows up to embrace the important values: a love of the macabre and the desire to lie awake at night with a case of the shivers. While your list misses a few of my personal favorites, I agree with you in spirit. Remember, Melanie my daughter, although horror is my favorite genre, IT ISN’T NICE TO PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS.

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