Now that we’ve talked about scary books in the days up to Halloween, it’s time to move on to movies. We all have that one movie that scared The. Living. Hell out of us, regardless of when we saw it. It doesn’t matter if we were pre-teens or adults, it stuck with us and made us afraid of the dark, the ocean, the neighbors, the phones, dark oceans, etc.
Entertainment Weekly has a pretty good list. You can read the write-up here; I’ve listed the movie titles below.
- The ShiningThe Exorcist
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 version)
- The Silence of the Lambs
- The Ring
- Rosemary’s Baby
- 28 Days Later
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
- The Thing
- The Evil Dead (1982 version)
- Night of the Living Dead
- The Omen
- An American Werewolf in London
- Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer
I’m not going to debate most of the movies on this list. My own personal five:
1. The Excorcist: Holy shit, did this movie scare me. Still does. I only watched it once, because that was enough. Being raised in a Southern Baptist church probably didn’t help, because that much churchin’ makes you believe the devil is for real, sho ’nuff. The movie was out for a few years before I finally summoned up the nerve to watch it. Saw it in college — not even in a theater, but at some dorm function (probably a Halloween scary movie party). Even then, it made me want to sleep with the light on. For, like, ever. I have avoided this movie ever since. I even live in the greater DC area now, not far away from Georgetown, where the infamous stairs scene was shot. Nope, never seen it. At least not up close.
2. Halloween: That Michael Myers is one persistent dude. A lot of movies have come and gone since this came out in the late ’70s and, sadly, its legacy is tarnished by a seemingly endless line of bad sequels, but Halloween is scary as all get out. When it first hit HBO, friends told me not to watch it alone. So, naturally, I watched it alone. In the dark. I was 17. I must have jumped off the couch a dozen times. John Carpenter has a knack for these kinds of horror flicks (he also directed 1982’s The Thing, Christine, The Eyes of Laura Mars and a bunch of other films), but he was never better than in Jamie Lee Curtis’ debut starring role. And she did her share of screaming in this one, but she also did her share of dishing it out to Michael. Carpenter starts this one at “chilling” and never lets up. That last scene …
3. The Silence of the Lambs: Love Thomas Harris’ novels. Love Jodie Foster. Love Anthony Hopkins. TSOTL is not only scary as hell, it’s an excellently crafted movie that won five Oscars. Yes, it’s loaded with all the elements of a crime and horror film: suspense, gore, mystery, creepy characters, and a cannibalistic psychopath. And Jodie Foster, as neophyte FBI agent Clarice Starling is superb. But, to me anyway, the scariest moment of the movie is the first time we lay eyes on Hannibal. He is simply standing serenely in the center of his cell, dressed in white, faint smile lighting up his face, but I shuddered. In some ways, I found that one scene a lot more terrifying than any of the decidedly creeped-out scary scenes with Buffalo Bill. That was scary.
4. Jaws: Yeah, I know, it’s not really a horror movie. It’s really not even a “scary” movie. And the most quotable line is “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” But tell me you didn’t jump out of your skin when the guy’s head pops out of the hull of the boat. I bet I cleared three rows of seats in the theater. Of course, I was in junior high at the time. Jaws was a little like The Exorcist in that it played on a psychological fear more than just visually scaring you to death. And it worked. Nobody that I know of will say, “Nah, sharks don’t scare me.” Watching it today, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when Steven Spielberg wasn’t The Steven Speilberg. Even back in 1975, when Jaws was released, you could see his ability as a director.
5. Wait Until Dark: This little-known suspense tale was directed by Terence Young (he also directed three Bond movies) in the ’70s. It stars Audrey Hepburn as a blind Montreal apartment dweller besieged by drug dealers (Richard Crenna and Alan Arkin) intent on retrieving a doll stuffed with heroin. (The husband of Hepburn’s character innocently came into possession of the doll on a recent trip.) If you love suspense, you have to see this movie. I first watched it when I was pretty young, and I didn’t move for the entire length of the movie. It’s an intelligently written movie, using darkness (as both a weakness and strength of the blind character) to maximum effect. And the last scene will damn near give you a heart attack.
But wait, there’s more! Here’s a reader list (in no particular order) of favorite scary movies from the Deep Blood Facebook page (link follows the list):
- Salem’s Lot
- Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
- Evil Dead
- The Shining
- The Silence of the Lambs
- Under Siege
- The Exorcist
- The Ring
- The Omen
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Facebook link here.
Did I miss one? List it in the Comments section