Note: Thanks Jay for the Halloween banner! One of these days I'll figure out to do this by myself.
We can’t let Halloween go by without talking about scary movies. We could talk about scary books, too, but that’s another post. Some “experts” have made their list of best or favorite scary movies. Because sometimes I’d rather jump on a bandwagon than have an original idea of my own, I’ve made my own list of my favorite scary movies. They aren’t necessarily monster movies or gore-fests—actually, I’m not a big gore fan—but they are scary and suspenseful movies. Many of these films have been remade, but I’m mostly referring to the originals in this list. See what you think:
28 Days Later—Great zombie movie by Danny Boyle. I always say I don’t like zombie movies, but there are at least 3 on this list. Go figure. In this movie, the infected people aren’t the scariest creatures, though. The soldiers are terrifying.
Alien—“In space, no one can hear you scream” *shiver* Sigourney Weaver is awesome in this movie and became my new movie hero.
An American Werewolf in London—the ground-breaking special effect scene when he turns into the werewolf is fantastic.
And Then There Were None (1945)—This is Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians.” Ten strangers are invited by someone they don’t know to a remote mansion on an island. One by one they are killed off. You’ll have to wait ‘til the end to see who’s behind it all because chances are you won’t figure it out before then.
Cape Fear—Holy shit, both productions of this movie scared me to death. When I watched the version with Robert DeNiro, it was on video tape, and about half-way through I started fast forwarding it saying, “Just kill him. Gotta see ya kill him.” Then I watched the last scene so that I could go to sleep that night.
Carrie—Love this movie. Sissy Spacek is amazing. The cruel students, the wacko mother, the revenge on everyone, just great. And the best last shock scene ever.
Don’t Look Now—The movie is so damn eerie. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are parents who have lost their daughter in a drowning accident. While in Venice, a psychic says she sees the little girl and Sutherland begins to see her, too. At the same time, there is a serial killer on the loose. The climax is the stuff of nightmares it is so disturbing.
The Exorcist—Not much else to say about this movie. It’s many critics choice for best horror film. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s up there. Hearing the music is enough to make me shiver.
The Frighteners—If you haven’t seen this early Peter Jackson movie, go out and rent it now. Michael J. Fox can communicate with the dead and uses a couple of ghosts to help with his ghostbusting business. An evil spirit starts killing people, and only Fox can stop it. It’s a great ghost story that scares me every time I watch it, and I know what’s going to happen because I’ve seen it so many times. It helps that there are lots of funny moments and some pretty bizarre characters, too.
Halloween—I hear the theme music every time I think of this movie. This is the only “slasher” movie that I like. I think it’s considered the first of the slasher movie genre, isn’t it? Well, anyway, the suspense is great and Jamie Lee Curtis is great, too.
The Haunting—Based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, this is the black and white version with Julie Harris is about 3 people recruited by a paranormal investigator to study a haunted house. The first time we watched this, we turned out all the lights and snuggled up on the couch. After about 15 minutes I said, “I wanna turn the lights back on.”
House on Haunted Hill—This is the 1958 version with Vincent Price. He invites people to a party at a haunted house. Anyone who survives through the night gets $10,000. This movie is campy creepy at its best.
Jaws—Classic. I still love this movie. The scariest movie in which you don’t see the villain for the first half of the movie. I was an adult before I could watch that head pop out of the bottom of the boat.
Misery—Kathy Bates is phenomenal in this movie. She seems just so nice and sweet and helpful, then she becomes the fan-from-hell. The cat and mouse game has never been done better.
Night of the Living Dead—Classic zombie movie. They move so slowly that it just adds to the suspense and terror. They just keep coming and there are so many of them!
The Omen—Just seeing the title makes me shudder. What a terrifying little boy. And everyone dies a horrible death. It’s just so damn scary!
The Others—My favorite ghost story with one of the best twists ever. If you haven’t see this, you just gotta. Nicole Kidman is a mother of two living in a house where something is very, very wrong.
Poltergeist—“They’re heeerrreee.” I always knew clowns were scary and that you should never build your house on an old graveyard.
Psycho—The scariest movie ever. It’s debatable, but this is the ultimate scary movie for me. A schizophrenic serial killer movie made by the master of horror and suspense. There are many Hitchcock movies that could be on this list, but nothing is better than Psycho.
Rebecca—“I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Another Hitchcock classic that is an adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s gothic tale of love, jealousy, and murder. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine—it doesn’t get much better than that.
The Ring—I watched a lot of this film through my fingers. The story got a little disjointed for me, but then again, I did watch it through my fingers.
Rosemary’s Baby—These devil’s children movies are just terrifying. I saw this first when I was really too young to understand exactly what I was watching; I only knew that it was disturbing and scary.
Scream—A self-parody of horror films that works so well. It’s still scary but it’s oh-so clever.
Se7en—Kevin Spacey is so good at being twisted, isn’t he? Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are homicide detectives searching for a serial killer patterning his kills on the 7 deadly sins. Twisted.
Shallow Grave—Danny Boyle’s first film (I think) and a great study of paranoia and greed. Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, and Christopher Eccleston are roommates in Edinburgh who find their new roommate dead and a suitcase full of money. Hmmmm. What to do, what to do? Why, cut up the body to dispose of it and keep the money for yourself, of course! Then the real fun begins. This film has been described as “tartan noir.” I’m not sure I understand that term, but it sounds good to me.
Silver Bullet—This was panned by critics and audiences, but I don’t care, I liked it. Wheelchair-bound Corey Haim is the only person in town who believes the recent killings are by a werewolf. The moment where the identity of the monster is revealed is chilling. As usual with Stephen King, the build up and anticipation are the best part of the story.
The Shining—I put this movie in, even though I still don’t think it’s as scary as the book. It has many of the elements of the book, but the focus is wrong. It’s on Jack Nicholson, not the little boy. But it’s still a damn scary movie. “Hello, Danny.”
The Silence of the Lambs—One of the few movies that was as good as the book, IMHO. I had read the book and it still scared me to death. Oh, and he’s still out there!
The Sixth Sense—One of the best scary movies ever! Oh my God, who didn’t gasp when the little girl appeared in the tent. Or the little boy said he was going to show him where his dad keeps his gun and turns around to reveal the bloody hole in the back of his head. Or the bodies hanging in the school. Or the moment you understand what the twist is. Plus, it’s a beautifully shot film. Ooooohhh, it’s sooooooo goooood!
Thirteen Ghosts—Another movie generally panned, but I’m a sucker for a ghost story. And I really like Tony Shaloub. It’s pretty over the top, but it’s a cool idea for a story. It’s a remake, but I’ve never seen the original. In this one, widower Shaloub inherits a house from his eccentric uncle. He doesn’t realize there are 12 violent ghosts being held captive in the basement, and someone is waiting for the 13th ghost.
Underworld—Yet another movie generally disliked by the critics, but it has vampires and werewolves fighting a war. How could it go wrong? I love the whole look of this movie and the story of this group of vampires and their histories. Yeah, there are some actors who chew the scenery more than their victims, and Scott Speedman is better with his shirt off and his mouth shut, but still, it’s a cool movie. I liked Underworld:Evolution, too.
Wait Until Dark—Audrey Hepburn is a blind woman terrorized by evil Alan Arkin, who is there to get a doll planted with heroin in it that Hepburn inadvertently got as a gift. The battle between them is terrifying. Really, really good movie.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane—Bette Davis and Joan Crawford classic. You just have to see it.
And, scary subjects can be funny:
The Adventures of Ichabod (the Disney cartoon of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
Army of Darkness
Love at First Bite
Shaun of the Dead
So, what are your favorite scary movies?