Thursday, October 29, 2009

Five Scary Movies

It's not Halloween without some scary movies. These are five that still scare me, and I admit that some of the choices are obvious. Leave your own recommendations in the comments section.

1. "Blue Velvet" (1986). I don't know whether this falls into the "horror" category, but it is one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. It begins with the discovery of a severed ear in a field, and culminates in Isabella Rossellini humiliated, naked and sobbing on a lawn in the middle of the night. In between we have Dennis Hopper as one of the most frightening villains of all time, and a tragic Dean Stockwell (whom I admit to a major crush on, normally) ruining Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" for me forever.

2. "Carrie" (1976). Sissy Spacek plays a persecuted high school student with powers that unleash themselves at the prom. For me, the scariest parts of this movie happen before the violence of the prom: Carrie's humiliation in the locker room; Carrie's insane mother (Piper Laurie) telling her, "They're all gonna laugh at you;" Betty Buckley as the gym teacher, facing down Nancy Allen's high-school sociopath. If you ever feel nostalgic for your own teenaged years, watch this movie and get over yourself.

3. "The Exorcist" (1973). This remarkably faithful adaptation of the novel is just as scary, if not more so. Someone told me that the theme music, Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," was originally supposed to be Christmas music, and the whole movie is that way: pleasant things that turn terrifying. Linda Blair is remembered most for her performance as the possessed Regan, but the true stars of the film are Jason Miller, as the doomed Father Damian Karras, and Ellen Burstyn, as Regan's frantic mother.

4. "The Haunting" (1963). The Haunting does several things movies aren't supposed to do — playing with points of view and giving us an extended voiceover from Julie Harris' character, Eleanor Lance, among other things — but it all works. Eleanor (Nell) serves as the film's unreliable narrator; is Hill House haunted, or is it just Nell?

5. "Poltergeist" (1982). The best horror films are about outsiders trying to get in. Five-year-old Carol Anne Freeling, watching TV in the middle of the night, announces, "They're here . . ." and the Freeling home is invaded by malevolent spirits who want everything they have, starting with Carol Anne. Poltergeist is not only a horror film but a social satire and a cautionary tale about everyday suburban isolation and greed. The Freelings battle the forces of hell in their tract mansion, and although their neighbors are close enough to interfere with the TV's remote control, no one even notices.

10 comments:

Kevin Wignall said...

I wonder if the truly scary movies are those you see in your formative years.

I agree with number 4, but wasn't much troubled by Carrie, The Exorcist, Blue Velvet or Poltergeist.

I'd add "The Shining" and "Don't Look Now".

AnswerGirl said...

Oh, I was definitely most impressionable between the ages of about 9 and 22.

At the risk of heresy, I don't love the film version of "The Shining." I find the pacing too slow, and don't buy Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall as a couple. The book scared me more.

But I'll agree about "Don't Look Now," which I saw for the first time three or four years ago. A rare instance of the movie being creepier than the story, which I read in high school and didn't completely understand.

Karen Olson said...

Although not a horror movie, JAWS scared the daylights out of me, especially since my friends and I went straight from the movie theater to the beach afterward. We did not swim.

Anonymous said...

Alien scared me, or at least made me very tense for 2 hours

RBo

Anonymous said...

One of my favroite moments in film watching. Sitting in a dark living room watching a VHS of THE HAUNTING with someone who had never seen it. Halfway through the movie she stops the tape, looks at me and says, "Is it like this all the way through?" I say, "Yes." She gets up, turns on all the lights in the apartment... CHECKS THE LOCKS ON THE DOORS... sits back down, picks up the remote and says... "Okay," and we watched the rest of the film.

Richard B.

AnswerGirl said...

As if locks would keep the demons out . . .

Peggy & Scott said...

Has anyone ever see "The Cat and the Canary"? with I was probably 10ish when I watched it on tv. Oooh it scared me! I probably wasn't supposed to watch it but it was on in the daytime-no cable then of course. I looked it up in my twenties and found it under horror. I should try to get it through Netflix. It might be really bad but did the trick on a ten year old!

AnswerGirl said...

Never saw "The Cat and the Canary," but those daytime movies could be deadly. I saw one called "The Shuttered Room," starring Gig Young and Carol Lynley, when I was about nine, and it scared me silly. No memory of the details, though, and I was sick at home, so maybe I was feverish.

Kevin Wignall said...

"The Cat and the Canary" is a great film, a comedy but yes, it would scare a young child. Has a great line near the beginning when Bob Hope is in his apartment in New York, there's a clap of thunder and the lights flicker. Bob says, "Basil Rathbone must be throwing a party".

sarirose said...

The two I remember were the House of Wax when it first came out and Daddy took all of us to the Chicago theater to see it for my birthday and The Birds. I almost left in the middle of that one. Later in Coronado I had those Mocking Birds diving at my head every time I walked past them to my door.
Sally