I’ve seen a lot of horror movies since I started getting into the genre around the age of 16. Like a lot of horror fans, I feel like I’ve become somewhat jaded over the years. Once you see enough of these things, you can see the Matrix a little bit and know when a scare is coming — if you can tell the difference between an impending jump scare and a legit one, you’ve got the super scardar. And yet, there are still the scenes that scared us when we started out and even though they’re fewer and farther between these days, the new films that still give us the willies or come out of nowhere to spook us. I figured with Halloween still in the air — and inspired by awesome horror blogger Stacie Ponder doing something similar over on her excellent Final Girl blog — I’d run down the ten movies that scared me over the years. I’m sure there’s more out there in the world, but these are the ones that came to mind, either because they entered my life at just the right time, scared me for a moment or created an atmosphere that still ooks me out to this day. So, in no particular order, here’s the ten movies the still spook me in no particular order. Consider yourself warned, spoilers abound after the jump!
THE RING (2002)
The Ring is a creepy movie. I don’t think anyone will disagree with that, from the basic concept of media that kills to those jump cut scenes of Samara. But, I more so remember the experience of watching this movie than I do the film itself. It was a date event through my fraternity and we rented out the smallest screening room at our local theater. So, it was basically a bunch of friends watching a spooky movie and less inhibited than normal when it came to letting out freaked-out screams and shouts. It’s the best theater-going experience of my life, hands down.
Steven Spielberg created an intense masterpiece of paranoia when he made Jaws. The shark acted as slasher and monster, creating a foreboding atmosphere that permeates the entire film. But, the one scene that still gets me every single time is actually one that doesn’t even involve the shark. Remember when Brody and Hooper go out to check out Ben Gardner’s boat? And that head pops out of nowhere? That gets me every time. I have a weird thing about being underwater with any kind of sunken boat and am also not a fan of heads appearing as if out of nowhere attached to nothing.
Much like the Jaws scene above, there’s one in Halloween — another atmospheric masterpiece of horror — that gets me every single time. And that’s when Michael sits up at the very end of the film. It’s one of the few scenes that I can always tap into the first time I saw it and relive that original fear, though in smaller doses. How can this seemingly human thing take all that punishment and get back up? What makes this scene all the better is that it happens in the blurry background with Laurie finally feeling somewhat safe in the foreground. He’s an unkillable thing and he’s right there. He’s always just right there.
WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000)
Every time I watch What Lies Beneath, the Robert Zemeckis suspense thriller starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, I get spooked. This movie mixes all kinds of horror elements from distrust of a partner to actual supernatural elements. I’m working on a review that will probably go up next week, but Zemeckis and company hit so many different fears and elements that it’s got to hit you on some level. It just so happens that it did that for me on almost every single one of my fears.
THE STRANGERS (2008)
I liked The Strangers, a home invasion movie from 2008 pretty well. It did a few new things with that subgenre that I hadn’t seen. But, the part that scared me was the gut wrenching scream at the end from Liv Tyler. Sure, it’s a bit of a cheat and and a jump scare of sorts, but it’s so primal that it tingled my spine.
THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
I first watched The Sixth Sense in my high school bedroom alone and in the dark. The film was creepy enough as is, but the once scene that made me turn my lights on was the quick one where the kid’s walking through the school and casually looks up the stairs at his school to see a bunch of witches hanging (you can see a bit of it in the above trialer). It just came out of nowhere and was so subtle and creepy that it still makes me cringe just thinking about it.
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
The only non-horror entry on the list is also the most recent one. While sitting in the theater watching The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker made me very uncomfortable, like I was actually watching a killer captured on screen instead of a person playing a role. I haven’t felt that as much on later viewings, but I still remember that vague primal fear and was surprised a movie could make me feel that way.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
Everything about Texas Chainsaw Massacre is creepy you guys. This film owns real estate in my brain to the point where I don’t ever want to go to Texas (except maybe Austin). Between being shot on what looks like a home video camera to the scenes that just linger over awfulness, Tobe Hooper’s classic horror film does what few others do and actually creates an atmosphere around itself that gets thicker with repeated viewings. As much as I like this movie, it’s the one I shy away from the most even though I own it.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)
Sleepaway Camp was another movie I watched in my bedroom with the lights off in high school. A friend had told me the ending was bonkers and I remember thinking the movie was a pretty silly-slash-weird camp movie (which it is). And then BAM, that ending happens and both everything and nothing makes sense. The part that really got me, though, is how the film freezes on Angela’s gaping maw and then turns green and runs credits over it. I couldn’t scramble for my light switch fast enough, you guys.
Holy nards, you guys. I just watched Sinister the other day and it was super creepy. I was clutching my remote during the one crazy scene in the middle of the night and just felt all around freaked out for a while. Beyond that, though, the whole film just builds up this eerie head of steam that finally explodes at the ending. No spoilers here, just go see Sinister if you haven’t yet.