For a good portion of my life I avoided scary movies like the plague. Being a child with an overactive imagination these movies would give me nightmares just from over hearing conversations about them from the other kids in my grammar school. Over time, I have begun to appreciate the fun that a good scary movie can provide. I have sort of taken on a personal quest to familiarize myself with some of the movies that are considered to be the tent poles of the horror genre. One thing that I quickly realized while watching movies such as Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th Part 1 was that for the most part, movies that are considered to be some of the classic horror films contain very little gore and very low body counts. I like this. Gore for the sake of gore always turns me off. Plus, when there are only a few characters to follow you become more attached to them and their demise impacts you more.
Anyways...If I had to compose a list of my favourite scary movies it would look like this:
5) Event Horizon - When I saw this movie in the theatre I was on a date, and practically crawled under my seat. Basically "The Shinning" in space. It was a movie that seeing it once was more then I will ever need. It is creepy from the start. One thing that I always loved about this movie though was the title. An Event Horizon is the point of a black hole where the gravity becomes so strong that light is not able to escape it. It is basically the vanishing point. Pretty cool in respect to this movie. Most of my friends share the opinion that this movie is so scary that they have no intention of seeing it ever again.
4) Alien - This movie, is a masterpiece in terms of how it builds suspense. The most effective horror in my mind always comes not from something happening, but from waiting for it to happen. In Alien all we do is wait. We know, (because the movie is called "Alien") that at some point there is going to be a alien. However, when you consider that you almost watch 2/3rds of the film before the monster appears there must be something to make this movie scary. Allot of horror movies employ a very effect device to grab us and ratchet up the terror. We see these people going about their everyday lives not for once imagining anything is wrong. We know better. Mostly because we decided to sit down and watch a movie called "Alien". Being able to do nothing but watch these people blindly move towards there eventual encounter with the beast is nerve wracking. How many times do you just want to yell "What are you doing? Stop that! Don't you know that thing is going to eat you?" The sad thing is, in movies no one can hear you scream. If you want to imagine why Alien is so scary just suppose for a second, that you show up at work today, power up your computer, make some coffee and then realize that the cute little stuffed animal on your co-workers desk is now running around your office systematically killing your fellow employees. What a crappy day at the office. Now in terms of preference, I tend to favour the second movie in the Alien series. As a movie, I think it is a lot more fun. However, Aliens clearly sits in the sci-fi action genre as opposed to horror. However, since we are talking about horror films Alien is much much scarier and a great movie to boot.
3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - This movie was interesting to me. I enjoyed it, and was happy to discover how little blood was shed in this movie. This movie is scary for two reasons. First it hearkens back to the points I made about Alien. This is a total "Don't go in there!" movie. Second just like Alien, the over all plot again smacks of a real work situation. Instead of a bad day at work, Chainsaw basically features the "vacation gone wrong" plot. The main characters are really just some kids out for a drive who happen to stop at just the wrong place at just the wrong time. The chief antagonists of this film, a family of cannibalistic inbred hicks. (This movie certainly didn't do much for the tourism industry of rural Texas.) Most of the attention has always focused on the Leather Face character and he has indeed become the "hero" of the following sequels. Watching the film for the first time, I was surprised to find that Leather Face is far less of a monster than one might imagine. Yes, he is the character responsible for the deaths of all the teenagers in the film, but the true villain of the movie is Leather Face's father. While being physically intimidating and an efficient killer Leather Face in the few quiet moments he is allowed actually behaves as if he is a five year old child trying to please his father. He even speaks with a very frail sounding high pitched voice. Certainly not what you would expect the guy chasing you with a chainsaw to sound like. (Not that you would ever stop to find out.) The last thing that I want to address regarding this film is the set design. The amount of effort put into dressing the house shared by Leather Face and his clan was brilliant. It is a real life house of horrors with bones and remains strewn all about. It's obviously not the sort of place that mentally stable folks live.
2) Friday the 13th (Part 1)- Of the movies on my list this movie is quite possibly to most graphic in terms of violence and gore. As slasher films grew in popularity the movies appear to become centered around the spectacle of the killing with points awarded for the most creative uses of drinking straws to mutilate a person. Friday the 13th does have a few of these moments, but for the most part the killings are all "very real" and almost believable. Why this movie succeeds is because of the tricks that the maker plays with us with his camera placement. In this installment, the identity of the killer is not revealed until the very end of the movie. one of the reasons why we are kept in the dark for so long, is that for the better part of the movie we experience a good number of scenes from the perspective of the killer in point of view shots, or do we. The director effectively employs both POV shots and establishing shots in a manner that leaves us never truly being sure if we are seeing things from the eyes of our mystery killer or if we are just watching the scene unfold. This generates a feeling of dread in the viewer, because you can never be absolutely certain that you know where the killer is, but you know the killer is there somewhere.
1) Halloween - Not only is Halloween my favourite scary movie, it is very high up on my list of all time favourite movies. I have already written a good deal on why I think this movie is effective. (Look at my profile to hopefully find a link to my full write up of Halloween) This is one of the hands down most effective pieces of movie making I have seen. It sets out with one goal. To scare the tar out of you and it does this in spades! It is note and tone perfect. If you have never seen it I would highly recommend it. Especially if you are like me and want to be scared but don't want to wade through a sea of blood and dead bodies for it. THERE IS ONE SHOT IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE WITH BLOOD IN IT!
Well, those are my favourite scary movies. I hope I make an effective case for them all. See them if you have not. You wont be sorry.