Good morning, everyone. Last night I finally got around to watching Sinister, which I found very enjoyable. Perhaps not as frightening as one was hoping/expecting, but a well made film about obsessions and the dangers of giving in to them, which is always a favorite theme of mine. It got me thinking – during one or two of the actual creepy parts – about movies that actually terrified me, that left me not wanting to head back to my room – being a trifle nyctophobic and for some reason hardly ever actually owning a lamp, which is certainly an odd combination, I know – for fear that something would be waiting there for me. There haven’t been all that many – despite my belief in all manner of paranormal/supernatural things and my slightly-more-rational phobias and mental issues – but some of them find just the right combination of elements, pressing the buttons that all of us have somewhere deep down and leaving me to brood on the deadly possibilities long after the film is over. I thought I’d share a few with you folks today.
So, in no particular order, here’s the list and the reasons why they bug me. Keep in mind, most of these are going to be recent ones, not because there aren’t older movies that scare the hell out of me but just because they’re easier to find and left more recent scars; also I tried to pick lesser known/less successful films, in an effort to expose folks to some stuff they might not have seen or heard of before. Enjoy! (Oh, and there’s probably some spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.)
Mirrors (2008) – Since my earliest childhood, mirrors have freaked me out. I can’t stand looking at them for any length of time. I don’t own one other than the mandatory bathroom wall mirror, and try to avoid going anywhere near it when I don’t have to. There’s nothing that I can point at as being the specific cause of this fear; I just don’t like ’em. Effective use of mirrors in horror media is sadly lacking. Sure, there’s plenty of those “you can see it in the mirror” moments, plenty of the “it came through the mirror” scenes, but they just don’t tend to push it as far as I think they could. Those scenes may bother me for a minute or two, but they don’t stick with me for long. Mirrors said “Hey, what if instead of using a mirror for a jump scare or a background element, we put them center stage?” Yeah, it was a terrible idea for me to watch this movie. The messages being scrawled from the “other side,” the “therapy” that they subject the possessed individuals to – and the results thereof – have permanently been branded on my psyche. And the building itself? Nope. Sorry. Wouldn’t go anywhere near anything like that in real life.
What Lies Beneath (2000) – I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve seen this who are now saying “Oh, come on, that’s not so scary.” To each their own. This one has it’s share of “mirror moments” but then adds in my second big fear: water. There’s drowning, there’s possessions coming from the tap. These ideas bother me. I blame drowning three times – and the ensuing entertainment of being forcibly resuscitated followed with family/friend fallout that was none to pleasant – for my instinctive terror of anything regarding water. Plus add in the excellent presentation, where you can almost think Harrison Ford is an innocent victim until the big reveal and the nagging paranoia inspired in me by moments where you’re not quite sure you’re dealing with who you think you are (I can’t believe I’m the only person who had to pause the movie and take a few long, deep breaths following the “I think she’s starting to suspect something…” scene.)
The Woman in Black (2012) – Subtle horror is something that just seems to have been left by the wayside these days. Everyone wants blood, guts and monsters, leaving the old English style ghost story behind. While most of the viewers of this movie seem to have missed the point, the critics and a small handful of devotees apparently still remember the old ways and like them. This movie was all about atmosphere, all about pacing, buildup, payoffs and cerebral scares with creeping terror. It also had timing nailed damn near perfectly; get you nice and amped up, wait for it, wait for it, and just as you determine that they’ve been hyping nothing at all and start to relax… *BAM* Plus, the final shot is just plain creepy and her eyes stayed with me for a long time after the movie was over.
Thir13en Ghosts (2001) – Yes, it’s a little hokey… okay, maybe a lot hokey. But this one punched me quite a few times. From Matthew Lillard’s character suffering from headaches due to spectral exposure and psychic overload, which I can sympathize with unfortunately all too well, to the absolutely gruesome presentation of the spirits themselves – including some just plain excellent scenes where characters lacking the proper means of perception are utterly unaware while the spooks are doing something disturbing nearby – and the above average display from Tony Shaloub, I find it hard to dislike anything about this movie… but it still kept me up at night, and I still have to look away when the Angry Princess or Jackal are on screen.
Poltergeist (1982) – For the final entry in my list, I’m breaking both the “recent” and “unknown or unappreciated” rules, but oh well. I mean, who can forget “They’re heeeeeere!” or any of the hundred other just plain terrifying moments in this one? Sure, the sequels aren’t so hot – though I think I was permanently scarred by the Tequila-induced rebirth scene – but something that has inspired nightmares for thirty years, contributed heavily to the creation of the PG-13 rating system and is perhaps the most publicized “haunted” film property must have something going for it, right? Plus… the tree. I mean. The freakin’ tree. You know it bothered you, too. Or the face-peeling bit. Or maybe the clown-strangling. Everyone has something from this moment that freaks them out.
Hopefully you enjoyed that little list, and if there’s any of those you haven’t seen, you should give them a rip. Just do it with the lights on. 😉 So what’s your stance? What scares the bejesus out of you? What movies do you think got it right, and why? Drop a note below!