It’s that special time of year again, and to kick off the most frightening month on the calendar, I thought I’d list and share my thoughts on my favorite scary movies. (Notice I said ‘scary’ and not horror. There’s a reason for that which will be revealed shortly.)
Now, at the end of this list, before you go sticking me on a spit and summoning Eli Roth for omitting your favorite, keep in mind that there are literally thousands of scary movies out there. I’m only listing ten. So if I don’t happen to include The Conjuring in this list (which I don’t), it doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it (which I did).
So without further ado, or any more introductory blabbering, let’s get down to it, shall we? The clock’s ticking and we have movies to watch…
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way first and foremost: you can debate until the ghouls come home as to whether or not Jaws is a horror film. In my humble opinion, whether it is or not makes no difference. The film is scary as hell. When Chief Brody and Hooper are out on the boat at night and Hooper says he’s going into the water to check out the hull of Ben Gardner’s abandoned boat, your head instantly starts working back and forth. Your gut is murmuring, no no no no no. You grip your armrest/drink/date a little tighter. In fact, I would argue that Jaws holds more tense and scary scenes than some of the popular ‘horror’ films everyone clamors about. It’s much better made as well. So yeah, Jaws is on my list of my favorite scary movies. In fact, it’s on my list of favorite movies period.
The Orphanage is to scary movies what Pan’s Labrynth is to fantasy. It sets the bar stylistically, and most other films in the genre don’t have a prayer in reaching it. Does it have subtitles? Sure. Does it take away from the tension? Hell, no. During the most suspenseful parts, nobody is talking anyway! So DO NOT shy away from this one just because it’s not in English. The atmosphere this film creates is simple, yet enthralling and should be enjoyed by anyone who likes their horror on the cerebral side.
Candyman is the only film I’ve seen that has affected me for days afterward. For a week after walking out of that theater, I pulled the shower curtain back just to make sure I was showering alone. At times I would look in the mirror and try to say his name five times, but never brought myself to do it. It’s just a freakin’ movie, right? It can’t be real. Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll never find out.
Quarantine left me shaking. Literally. For one thing, I sat too damn close to the screen. For another, I was practically alone. I stopped into a theater to watch this film on a cold, rainy weeknight. Can’t remember why, but I do know that I wanted to see it pretty bad and no one else did. So I collected a few hours of me time and took it in. There were only one other guy and two ladies in the entire theater. And they were all behind me. Big mistake. The screen and everything happening on it was larger than life, louder than hell and with no one else in sight, I felt like I was in that apartment building with everything happening around me. It was such a powerful and tense film/experience, that when the lights came up and the four of us started making our way to the exit, I was literally shaking (quite literally), the two women were crying and nobody said a word. I even sat in my car for about 10 minutes trying to calm down before heading home. When a film affects you in that way, it definitely goes on the list.
The Exorcist is by far my favorite horror film. Almost every year around this time I find a theater that’s showing it and I buy a ticket. And it gets me every time. After seeing this movie at least 15 times, it still gets my heart racing. There is so much going on in the (dare I say) epic film, that it goes way beyond a splash of pea soup and some tricky head rotation. Questions of faith, both gaining it and losing it, are filtered all throughout its 122 minutes. The best thing about this one (and many from that decade) is that it doesn’t just drop you in the middle of things. It starts early on in the story and strings you along until, by the time the shit starts hitting the fan, you’re invested. Not only do you care what happens to the characters, but you dread the inevitable.
Honorable mentions: Jeepers Creepers (the scene at the well is the true definition of ‘We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge’ terrifying), The Thing (the original, not the remake. It even holds up better), 30 Days of Night (the viciousness of these vampires makes you question the way we used to glamorize these beings), Paranormal Activity (the one that started it all is without a doubt, some scary shit), and finally, The Strangers (because nothing happening has never been so scary).
So there you have it. My list of my favorite scary movies. Are any of these on your list? If not, that’s okay. I’m not going to pull a Donald Trump and call you ugly or stupid. Feel free to share some of your favorite scary movies with us. And by all means, celebrate the month of October the way it was intended…with friends that go bump in the night!