For me, it’s one you probably have never heard of. It’s called THE 27th DAY, and it was a low-budget black-and-white film made in 1957. I saw it a few years later during a Saturday afternoon kiddie matinee at the Stadium Theater on Pico Blvd. near Robertson in Los Angeles. It was on a double-bill with a film about giant ants threatening civilization and picnics.
THE 27TH DAY had hardly any special effects and there were no hideous monsters. Gene Barry and no one else I recognized starred. The storyline was utterly confusing and the movie was very talky. I didn’t scream even once. And yet, it scared the shit out of me.
If these five people can go 27 days without blowing up the world then the Alien would either leave or the five people would get a space-age home tanning salon, or something – I forget.
You’re probably going, “Gee. People have capsules. That’s waaay more scary than a psychopath who cuts out your boyfriend’s entrails and then makes you eat them.”
But it was.
Remember, this was the ‘50s during the height of the Cold War. We lived in fear every day of worldwide nuclear obliteration. This little movie tapped right into our visceral panic and paranoia that we were all going to die. Eating your boyfriend’s entrails would be really gross but seriously, what are the chances that was going to happen to you? But this! The capsules were a metaphor for “the button” and at any moment some guy who looks like a Russian Howie Mandell could hit it and blow us all to kingdom come. Oh yeah, and then there was an Alien from outer space. Those don’t tend to sit well with little kids.
I was traumatized for about a month.
Did not see it again for a long time. It never showed up in old TV movie packages. And then about fifteen years ago TBS had a weekly sci-fi feature and I saw that it was going to be on. Excited, I stayed up to watch it.
Here’s the weird part: I’m sitting with my wife and saying, “Okay, now they’re going to go to the space ship” then “Now they’re going to Gene Barry at a race track”, etc. I hadn’t seen the movie in like a gazillion years and had previously only seen it once and yet I was able to call out scene-by-scene in order. That’s how much it made an impression on me.
Watching it again, I could see why it unnerved me so. The notion of paranoia and leaving the fate of the world to potential idiots is fucking SCARY! Real fucking SCARY!
So that's the movie I found the most frightening. I doubt if Wes Craven will ever do a remake. I don’t think the original print will be re-mastered for 3D and IMAX. But these movies have a lasting effect on you. Some people are scared of birds, or showers, or chainsaws. I see Benadryl capsules encased in clear plastic and I have to leave the room.
So what’s your scariest movie?