‘Tis the Season For Scares!

Every Halloween season the lists of the scariest movies come out.  So, I thought I’d add a list of the movies that scared me.

I want to preface this with two things.  The first is that I’ve never been a fan of blood and gore.  I think they’re more disgusting that scary.  The only scary part is the moment when the person gets surprised or attacked.  Then it’s screaming, blood, gore, etc.  

The second thing is that all movies listed below are at least 30 years old.  I don’t see horror movies much anymore.  I know they can do a lot more with CGI effects and I’ve heard there are some really scary movies out these days, but I’m just not interested in getting scared watching a movie.

The 5 movies that scared me – in alphabetical order.

Black Christmas (1974) – This movie is one of the first that has a storyline about a psychopath stalking young women when home alone.  Other movies like “When a Stranger Calls” (1979), the first scenes of the original “Scream” (1996), and even the original “Halloween” (1978) used a similar storyline.  When I was young, this was one of the scariest movies I saw.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  Don’t watch the remake, watch the original movie.

Jaws (1975) – This isn’t really a horror movie, but I remember the first time I saw it I was scared.  One of the tag lines for the promotion of the movie was something like “you’ll be afraid to go in the water”.  The first scene where you only see the woman screaming on the surface of the water is scarier than some of the bloodiest scenes I’ve seen.  It’s not the first movie when an animal attacks people (movies like “The Birds” preceded it) but it’s one of the best.  After this there were tons of movies of creatures attacking people from “Orca”, to “Cujo” to “Tremors”, and others.  There’s even more now that they can make scarier creatures with CGI.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Oddly, this movie breaks what I said about not being a fan of blood and gore, although it doesn’t have a lot of it.  The thing that really scared me about this movie is the storyline that you can die in your sleep.  “Never sleep again” as the song says.  The movie gave a whole new outlook to sleeping peacefully in your bed.  The storyline was so good Freddy Kreuger almost instantly became one of the classic movie villains.  However, they ruined him with all the sequel and reboot and spinoff movies.  I once went to a film festival where they showed the original and then the 4 sequels in a row.  The movies got worse and worse as they progressed.

Poltergeist (1982) – There were other movies about ghosts that came before this movie such as “The Amityville Horror” (1979) but those were made for adults and rated R.  Although this movie was directed by Tobe Hooper (director of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) it was rated PG and it was written and produced by Steven Spielberg.  Plus, it came out the same month as “E.T.” came out.  I remember some theaters showed the two movies as a double feature although they are very different.  If it came out today, this movie would be PG-13 for frightening & intense scenes.

Psycho (1960) – I believe Norman Bates is the first and (in my opinion) greatest psycho killer of all time.  Others might say Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs”, but I think if there was no Norman Bates there would be no Hannibal.  There also might not be Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or Michael Myers from “Halloween” without Norman Bates.  There’s a reason that Alfred Hitchcock is known as the “Master of Suspense”.  Years after it came out, I knew all about the shower scene, but it still scared me when I saw it for the first time.  Although I must admit the several other times I saw it I wasn’t as scared.

Honorable Mention:

Exorcist” (1973) – This is a scary movie, but most of it is due to makeup (she looks like a demon), and visual effects (her head spins around), and sound effects (she sounds like a demon) and lighting (including the famous shot of the Exorcist in front of the house).  So, it didn’t scare me as much as the above movies did.  However, it did scare me when I saw it.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) – I really like this movie and I’ve seen it several times, but it never scared me.  I think it’s funny instead of scary.  For example: there’s a scene where a zombie is walking slowly towards a guy standing next to a helicopter.  I was thinking “here it comes…”.  Sure enough, the helicopter blades cut the top of the zombie’s head off.  That’s funny to me, not scary.  Remember how I said that blood and guts didn’t really scare me – this movie has a bunch of that.  Also, I think it’s a cool idea to seal up a shopping mall and live there for a while to hide when the rest of the world is turning into zombies.  Everything you may need is in a shopping mall.  This is one of the only movies on this list that I own on Blu-ray (the others are “Psycho” and “Jaws”) and I recommend it, but I’m not sure if it will scare you.

Every movie listed above has sequels and/or reboots and/or remakes so I guess I’m not the only one who recommends these movies.  Then again, there’s also been sequels/reboots/remakes of dozens of other scary movies from “Halloween” to “Friday the 13th” to “Alien” to “Saw”, etc, etc, etc.  People just love getting scared.