In previous posts, I’ve written about movies and tv shows that have made us cry and made us laugh. Well, I think it’s about time we find out about another emotion.
Let’s find out what scares the crap out of us.
Not to be confused with movies that have scarred me for life, these certain movie moments have accomplished what they set out to do, which is make sure the viewer is totally freaking out at that moment. I’m not one who scares easily, but I sure did when I saw the following scenes.
The Movie: The Exorcist (1973)
The Scream Factor: Flashes of Pazuzu
I think we can all pretty much agree that The Exorcist is a pretty damn scary movie. I know some people who flat-out refuse to watch it. I remember seeing the re-issue of the movie back in college and people actually getting up and walking out because they were scared (I distinctly remember hearing a “Oh, hell no”, followed by quick movement flying by me). Yes, the movie is scary. It’s haunting. It’s the kind of movie that stays with you for a while after you’ve watched it. Especially when you see flashes of the face of Pazuzu, the demon possessing Reagan’s body. These random flashes of a “gaunt-white face with dark rings around his dull, red eyes and brown, crooked, rotting teeth” (Wikipedia) happen so fast throughout the movie that if you blink, you’ll probably miss them. But if you don’t blink, well, you scream instead.
The Movie: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Scream Factor: Sally’s Screaming
Hands down, the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I had the genius idea of having a “Scary Movie Night” one night by myself in college and thought I would give this one a shot. Let’s just say that to this day, no other movie has made me so utterly terrified as this one did. Despite the whole plot of Leatherface killing people and hanging them up in his meat locker, the thing that made this movie so disturbing was the constant screaming. Sally, the heroine of the movie, screams pretty much the entire time. It’s so horrible and realistic that you just feel completely helpless, like no matter how much this girl screams her head off, it’s never enough.
The Movie: Halloween (1978)
The Scream Factor: Michael Is Not Dead Like You Think
What makes Michael Myers so frightening? Is the mask? Is it his willingness to kill everything that gets in his way? No. It’s the fact that he WALKS. Seriously, the guy walks slower than most people, yet still manages to kill whoever he’s after. But he’s at his most frightening when he’s playing dead. In a scene where Laurie thinks she’s killed Michael and he lays behind her while we watch her cry, hell breaks loose when Michael suddenly sits up. I’ve seen the movie a kajillion times, but I still jump every time I see that. Rule of thumb? NEVER ASSUME THE BAD GUY IS DEAD.
The Movie: The Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Scream Factor: The Melting Staircase
There are lots of scary moments in the first (and best) movie of the series, but it’s the moment at the end when heroine Nancy is locked in her house with Freddy Kruger while she’s sleeping and, of course, having a nightmare. Being chased has always frightened me (seriously, people think playing Tag is fun???), so when the central character Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is trying to run from him and she gets stuck in the “melting staircase”, I tend to freak out. I learned recently that they used pancake batter as the melted stairs that encase her feet and slow her down, but…no. Still scary.
The Movie: Scream (1996)
The Scream Factor: The Worst Phone Call Ever
For those of you familiar with the urban legend of the baby-sitter in the house who gets a phone call from someone who basically says “I’m in the house”, you’ll get this one. At the very beginning of the movie, Drew Barrymore’s character is hanging out at home alone, watching movies and making popcorn. Then she gets a phone call from someone who appears to be flirting with her at first – until he tells her that he can see her. Then things get bad. Now, back in 1996, cell phones were still a novelty. Not a lot of people had them. So the idea of someone calling you from a phone that’s not connected to a cord, therefore giving them the opportunity to call you from outside your front door…well, that’s pretty scary stuff. Not only that, but it’s Drew Barrymore. She’s a star! We don’t expect the star of the movie to die at the very beginning! So the whole beginning of that movie just messes with us, and the whole movie changes all the rules about horror movies.
The Movie: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Scream Factor: The Tent
First off, I love this movie. I think the whole premise of the movie – making it seem like a documentary filmed by students and making people actually believe that it’s real via the internet – is genius and something that no other movie will successfully be able to do. Oh, yeah – and the movie is scary as hell, too. Even without the idea of a spooky witch running around, the idea of camping at night in the middle of a forest is creepy. So when we’re watching these students in their tent at night just talking, and then suddenly SOMETHING begins pounding on the side of their tent, HOLY CRAP it scares the poo right out of me every time. And people wonder why I don’t go camping.
The Movie: The Ring (2002)
The Scream Factor: The Video
Okay, if someone told me about a video that if you watched you would die seven days later, I WOULD NOT WATCH IT. But hey, that’s just me. However, we as an audience of the awesome movie The Ring are sort of forced to watch this video through the eyes of the character Rachel (Naomi Watts), and it makes us realize that even if we weren’t going to die in seven days, we wouldn’t want to watch this video anyway! THIS VIDEO IS DISTURBING. Seriously. The images that flash on the screen – the ladder, the window, the scary chick brushing her hair, the FINGERNAILS – horrible. Yet we can’t look away. Which is kind of the point of all horror movies, if you think about. As disturbing as some of them can be, you just can’t look away.
The Movie: Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The Scream Factor: The First Ten Minutes
Normally I don’t find zombie movies scary, at least not to the point of feeling really, really scared like the aforementioned movies do. But then I saw Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and decided that, well, zombies can be f***ing scary. And all it took was the first ten minutes of the movie to make me realize that. The character of Ana (Sarah Polley) is just waking up in the morning when a small, innocent-looking child walks in their bedroom. Of course this child is not innocent because she’s a ZOMBIE, and she kills Ana’s boyfriend, who then immediately turns into a zombie and also tries to kill Ana. Sounds like your basic zombie movie, right? Well, it would be – IF THE ZOMBIES DIDN’T RUN LIKE THIS. That’s right, these are not the “walking” dead – these dead RUN. FAST. If your heart is not pumping like crazy after ten minutes, well, then you just might be a zombie yourself.
The Movie: The Strangers (2008)
The Scream Factor: “Because You Were Home”
This movie is pretty much my worst nightmare wrapped up into a 90-minute movie, and probably a movie I never want to watch again, simply because of the whole “this can happen to you” factor it has going on. Movies with Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers – those aren’t super scary because I know they’re far from real. But you take a movie like The Strangers, which is about a couple who are staying at a vacation home and are terrorized by creepy people wearing even creepier masks who break into the home, it scares you to pieces because it’s horrifyingly realistic. The moment that gets you is when Liv Tyler, while being attacked, screams out “Why are you doing this?” and the creepy doll-face girl answers with, “Because you were home.” Um…yeah. NO.
Maybe we should all stick to watching comedies.