Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

Is this the scariest movie ever?

Is this the scariest movie ever?

I don’t consider myself a horror fan by any definition. Yet, as I read through Entertainment Weekly’s “20 Scariest Movies of All Time,” I suddenly realized that I’d seen 18 of the 20. I was as surprised as I was when the creature appeared for the first time in Alien.

The link above is worth checking out, but if you’re too lazy to do that, here’s the list, along with my own two cents:

The Shining: One of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen — and not just because Shelly Duvall is in it. Jack Nicholson at his Nicholsonest.

The Excorcist: This one would lead my list. Watched it once. That was enough. Maybe because I was raised in the God-fearin’ Deep South, this movie just plain scared the living hell out of me. I don’t even like to think about this movie.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Gore, chainsaws, violent death and Leatherface. Hell yeah, it’s scary.

Silence of the Lambs: I love this movie. To me, the scariest moment of the entire film is the very first time we lay eyes on Hannibal. He’s just standing in his cell, serene in white, and I damn near jumped out of my skin. Creeeeeeeepy.

Jaws: I was surprised to see this one on the list. I never considered it a “scary” movie. I mean other than big-ass sharks eating people and severed heads popping out of boat hulls and all. But there were moments of sheer terror. Spielberg wasn’t a household name when he made this, but he showed true editorial brilliance.

The Ring: OK, I watched it only because of Naomi Watts.  And I ended up totally creeped out by the time it was over. The entire movie is one big session of extreme unease. Good stuff.

Halloween: No. 2 on my list. Probably my favorite “scary” movie of all time. Owing a debt to Hitchcock’s Psycho (with a family connection, no less), this one ruined more than one night’s decent sleep for me. The soundtrack is just plain scary, too.

Psycho: Groundbreaking, ooky and scary. If you saw this as a teenager, you probably still lock the door behind you when you take a shower.

Seven: Arguably, one of Brad Pitt’s best performances. If you don’t know what the seven deadly sins are, this is a hell of a way to learn. Can’t say I was “scared” watching it, but the suspense was suffocating.

Rosemary’s Baby: Mia Farrow puts new meaning into the saying, “The Devil made me do it.” Satan worship, devil sex, human sacrifice and weird neighbors all add up to one super-spooky movie.

Poltergeist: Didn’t scare me one bit, but I did find myself entertained when I first saw it in the ’80s. Recently watched it again. It doesn’t hold up.

28 Days Later: Zombies! This is one of my favorite zombie flicks. Plenty of suspense and “gotcha” moments. This is a truly scary movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: I think there are two classes of horror fans: the Michael Myers crowd (Halloween) and the Freddie Krueger crowd (Nightmare). I’m in the former, so this movie didn’t really entertain me at all.

The Thing (1982 version): John Carpenter knows how to make a scary movie. The guy who brought you Halloween scared the hell out of you again with this one. There’s hardly a comfortable minute in the whole thing.

The Evil Dead: I know this is a seminal film in the horror genre, but I hated it. It wasn’t scary at all to me. Disturbing, yes. Cheesy, oh hell yeah. But not scary. At all.

Carrie: Damn right, that’s a scary movie. Glad I’d already been to my prom before I saw it.

Night of the Living Dead: More zombies! By the time I saw this, I’d already seen some of the others on this list, so the scare factor was pretty low for me. But you can see how the zombie genre became instantly fascinating with this one, the original.

The Omen: I hated that kid (or was that the point?). Especially after The Exorcist. The last thing I wanted to have was the shit scared out of me (again) by some other devil-spawn child.

An American Werewolf in London: Seriously, this is a scary movie? I enjoyed it. The F/X at the time were avant garde and it was actually a funny movie.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Somehow, I missed a Michael Rooker film.

Dead-Alive: Didn’t see it.

One that should have been on this list: Wait Until Dark.

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