There is a lot to consider when one is asked to write up a list of the 13 scariest movies. What does one consider scary?
The acting in “Titanic” is horrifying, but I can hardly consider it a scary movie. Tim Curry in a teddy is terrifying in “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the idea of Tom Green in another movie is scary, “Gremlins” was scary as a kid, “Fatal Attraction” scared the hell out of any man that ever had an affair and the idea of midget colonies in the foothills, like in “Willow,” just creeps me out. But none of those are “scary” films.
There are many good films from the past years that I do not include for numerous reasons. “Rosemary’s Baby” is not on my list, nor is “The Omen.” So with all the films considered, and believe me I’ve watched a lot of scary films, I came to the conclusion that these represent either jump-out-and-get-you scares, Hitchcock-like suspense scares or the psychological scares.
13) Final Destination (1999) – There are enough moments of anticipation and thrilling moments to squeak this one in at the bottom of my list. Although I pondered several others to round off the list, this one haunts me while I lie in bed at night.
12) Psycho (1960) – This one still frightens me, if not while I’m on road trips and pass old motels, it frightens me to think a man kept his dead mother in the basement while he parades in her clothes. And that shower scene is classic.
11) House on Haunted Hill (2000) – This was a terrible movie. The premise and the conclusion were simply ridiculous and written poorly, but there were enough “jumping” scenes and haunting images to make my list. Especially the scene where the doctor is operating on a live person and stops to stare at her video camera.
10) Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – This films hallucinogenic feel and Tim Robbins’ performance are still in my head and I haven’t seen this film for years. Adrian Lyne (the director) is an incredible visionary.
9) Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter did right with the first film, but everything else afterward was horrid. Michael Myers has gone down as one of the most frightening horror villains of all time.
8) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – First, and what should have been the only, chapter to Freddy Kruger’s legacy. One of Johnny Depp’s first films and the scariest film directed by Wes Craven… it will be part of your nightmares.
7) Alien (1979) – An astounding piece of filmmaking and a revolutionary moment for director Ridley Scott. Although I do not care for Sigourney Weaver, “Alien” is masterful in every element of a frightening film.
6) Candyman (1992) – Has there ever been a more terrifyingly deep and haunting voice than that of Tony Todd? I don’t think so. With gore and folklore I have been scared out of ever saying his name into a mirror or even looking into a mirror in a dark room.
5) Poltergeist (1982) – Not only was the story idea unnerving to think about, but the clown in the little kids room and the cast were frightening to even look at… especially that damned scary Zelda Rubinstein (the 4 foot tall woman with the shrill voice). Watch this movie, then lie in bed at night and think about it.
4) The Exorcist (1973) – Rated X when it was first put before the Motion Picture Association of America, which swore nobody would ever see the film, it was released and scared some people so badly in the theaters it is said that paramedics had to come treat people. This has stood the test of time, not by scaring people with flashing moments of “jumping” scares, but by getting into the head of those in the audience and staying there (like the horrible scene with the little girl and a crucifix).
3) Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Sweeping the Academy Awards with best picture, best actor, best actress, best director and best screenplay adapted, this is the most intense psychological thriller of all time. Hannibal Lecture’s voice and demeanor disturbs me and yet intrigues me. Everything down to the last scene in a darkened basement with hands sweeping Foster’s hair, this movie had me on edge.
2) The Ring (2002) – This film is a new one, one some may not have been able to go see yet, and I am still placing this high on my list. There was too much edge-of-my-seat anticipation, arm-grabbing suspense and heart pounding “jumps” to disregard this film. It includes every element needed to make a solid scary movie and it is in theaters just in time for Halloween. This, as last week’s review stated, had images that are still in my dreams… and I hate it and love it at the same time.
1) The Shining (1980) – The scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Stanley Kubrick’s direction and Jack Nicholson’s acting combine to form the only movie that resounds over all others in this category. From the twins at the end of the hall, the old woman in the bathtub, the chase in the maze and Jack’s raves down the hall while dragging an axe, I was mortified. Just look at that face… tell me that is not scary.