Last week we faced our fears. This week we decided to stay with the Halloween spirit and shout-out the flicks that have us locking our bedroom doors at night, sleeping with the lights on, and checking under the bed before we go to sleep.
I have a high threshold for fear. My grandmother once took away my copy of The Amityville Horror because she didn’t think it was appropriate reading for a 12-year-old. (I found it in her desk after she went to sleep and read it by flashlight in the dead of night.) So needless to say, I love scary movies. The scarier, the better. I’m not talking cheap scares, like the serial killer suddenly jumping out from behind a bush in his clown mask. I love the kind that sinks deep into your psyche and haunts you for days.
That’s why my two favorites are The Shining and The Others. (Apparently I prefer two word, noun-driven titles, too.) The Others is a classic ghost story and just pure, spooky fun. And The Shining — well, you’ve probably seen it already, but if not, please go do that right now. My least favorite supposed-to-be scary movie? Feardotcom, in which a dead person sets up a website instructing visitors to solve their murder or they’ll die in three days, to which I say: If you can code a website from beyond the grave, why not just put up a splash page that says, “Joe did it”?
I have the world’s most overactive imagination so I’m not normally one for scary movies. I still have nightmares from one of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels that I saw as a kid. I don’t remember which one it was. I do remember that it had me scared to use the bathroom because I had a sneaking suspicion that Freddie Krueger was going to come out of the toilet while I was minding my own business doing a number 1. Like I said, overactive imagination.
I especially try to avoid the torture porn that was so prevalent in the early 2000s. (There’s a blow-torch scene in Hostel that still makes me shudder 10 years later. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday but I can tell you every detail about that scene. Every. Single. One.) If I have to sit through a horror movie, I want it as unrealistic as possible. Because there’s no way that Michael Myers or Jason is going to be shot, stabbed, run over, run over again, drowned, gutted, set on fire and still be alive to kill me within the first five minutes of our meeting. (Everyone knows the black chick dies first.) Right?
Sharing my favorite scary movie is easy peasy because being a coward (see last week’s group post), there’s only one scary movie I dare to watch…over and over and over again. And that’s 1963’s The Haunting.
I am such a fan of this movie that I went to a fiftieth anniversary screening where star Russ Tamblyn was interviewed. (He’s the only living cast member, which seems to happen a lot to poor Russ who, in a polar opposite career move, was one of the seven brothers in another way-less-scary favorite movie of mine, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.) Julie Harris plays a repressed spinster (perhaps an oxymoron?) on the verge of a nervous breakdown who ends up at a purportedly haunted house as part of a study of psychic phenomena. What makes the movie terrifying is that you’re never sure what’s truly a paranormal occurrence and what’s a figment of the woman’s imagination.
Robert Wise, who directed the movie, supposedly shot every scene on an angle to give the viewer a sense of being off-balance. Tamblyn told us that Julie Harris didn’t socialize with the actors or crew as a way of maintaining her character. Much of the movie was shot at an old estate in England, and there were moments when he genuinely felt like the place might be haunted. What I love is when I make other people watch this movie – and I do – even the most jaded teen admits that it scared the bejesus out of them. Scary movie mission accomplished!
Lisa Q. Mathews
I avoid scary movies, as I tend to over-identify with the stalkees—even those baby-sitters who feel compelled to check out dark basements alone because they are TDTL (too dumb to live). I learned at an early age, when I was petrified by the afternoon soap Dark Shadows and the classic TV comedy The Munsters, to block both my eyes and ears. That way I wouldn’t be awake all night making up alternate endings in an attempt to avoid vivid nightmares. But my top three terrifying picks, from what I have seen? Some 1954 sci fi flick called Them!, which involved giant mutated ants that made horrible sounds. Also, The Shining, based on Stephen King’s book (which I could only read in bright sunshine), and the black-and-white, fake-documentary The Blair Witch Project. That last one I actually had to watch for work, as I edited the young adult book series of spin-off novels. My boss at the time, a lovely woman who happens to be married to R.L. Stine, thought my trepidation was just hilarious (in my defense, I worked on Mary-Kate and Ashley). “You do know it’s not real, right?” she asked. “Don’t worry, you’ll love it.” Nuh-uh.
Okay, readers, let’s hear your favorites so we can add them to our watch list!
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2 thoughts on “Scream Queens: Our favorite scary movies”
The Uninvited, which was apparently the first Hollywood film that took the subjects of ghosts seriously. It’s gothic, and in spite of the low quality effects, totally eerie!
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I haven’t seen that one! Adding it to the list…