Sunday, October 30, 2011

Your scariest movies

Thanks to everyone for chiming in with your scariest movie of all-time.

A number of you made a good point -- there are movies that scared us as kids and movies that caused permanent psychic damage as adults. The motherlode is when the same movie can do both.

Reader Zirbert also suggested that it’s not so much the blood and gore but “creepiness” that really causes our skin to crawl. Bottom line seems to be films that can elicit the most visceral reactions. Just tap into deep-rooted primal fears and let the fun begin!

A lot of you cited POLTERGEIST. The illusion of that movie was spoiled for me because I was there when they filmed it. It was on the MGM lot when I had an office there. For days I would see pieces of a giant twisted tree outside a soundstage. When told they were for a horror picture called POLTERGEIST I wandered onto the stage. Somehow seeing crew people sitting around eating their lunch on the scary sets took a bit of the menace out of them. I imagine if you saw all the disfigured zombies from WALKING DEAD hanging around the craft services table eating donuts you’d be less unnerved.

Another movie that worked for you but not for me was THE SHINING. Nicholson’s character was so over-the-top I just found him amusing. I always thought Kubrick screened the first few days dailies, took Jack aside and said, “This thing just ain’t clickin’, babe. Go to town.”

If you check your local listings, I bet a number of the movies you all nominated will be shown this weekend for Halloween. I’ve never seen THE THING and a lot of you really recommend it (recommend being another term for scarred forever). If that’s on and I can borrow some Xanex I’ll check it out.

I agree with you guys about THE BIRDS, DON’T LOOK NOW, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and THE VANISHING (the only other thing I've ever seen Nancy Travis in that was more frightening was THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW).

I’m kind of surprised that BLUE VELVET only made one person's list.  Just when you thought no one could be as strange as Dennis Hopper, along came Dean Stockwell.

For TV creep-o-rama, check out the CSI written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. You’ll want to avoid being buried alive after watching that.

Among my favorite facetious entries: JESUS CAMP,  SHOWGIRLS, YENTL, MEET DAVE, and IT’S COMPLICATED.

My heart goes out to the reader who was traumatized as a child by THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.

And I applaud you all. Not one person selected BOXING HELENA.

Some movies transcend time while others were only effective in context. Some of those old Frankenstein-type movies that terrified audiences in the ‘30s and ‘40s are almost comical today. But I don’t know a single woman who would take a shower in a Best Western or Super 8 motel today without checking to see that Norman Bates isn’t peaking through a peephole. And I guess you gotta be at a drive-in theater stoned, drunk, and alone to fully appreciate THE BLOB.

I would love to write a horror movie someday. I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but just as a writer, I would like to see if I could create situations strong enough to cause an audience to scream, or gasp, or the ultimate compliment for an artist – wet themselves. I thought I had achieved that with MANNEQUIN 2 but apparently not.  Maybe next year.  Or lifetime.  Or afterlifetime. 

Happy Halloween.

23 comments:

Mac said...

I've never seen Tarantino's CSI and I never will. I can handle any amount of blood 'n gore, but the idea of being buried alive is way beyond all that. Even a crowded lift gets me a bit nervy. And I believe Tarantino did it brilliantly.

I reckon you'd love THE THING. Although if you've got a dog, you might start looking at it with suspicion.

Joseph Finn said...

All due respect to Nancy Travis, but the 1993 remake of The Vanishing is a disaster. Be a snob and rent the 1988 original from the Netherlands (there's an excellent Criterion Collection edition). That'll seriously give you the chills.

Cleaner on the Couch said...

I vote Nick Tomnay's "The Perfect Host." It's creepy, funny and has the amazingly talented David Hyde Pierce as its star. What's better than seeing DHP waving his freak flag to the world!

Cap'n Bob said...

All those Universal flicks from the '30s and '40s scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. As an adult, I rarely watch a horror or slasher movie and they mostly disgust or bore me. If I had to name names I'd pick one from the '50s I saw in a theater, THE CRAWLING EYE.

WV: torbus--a large vehicle full of badly-dressed people with cameras.

BruceB said...

You say you'd like to write a horror movie someday, and that reminds me that some of the scariest were written by truly gifted comedy writers. Ira Levin was famous for the Andy Griffith breakout comedy, "No Time for Sargeants," before he wrote "Rosemary's Baby," and of course William Peter Blatty wrote all those Pink Panther films (my favorite is "A Shot in the Dark) with Blake Edwards before he wrote "The Exorcist." There must be something similar about writing to get laughs and scares.

Steey Dan said...

I was in Paris last week. Any idea why your site is blocked in France?

Rochelle R. said...

The scariest movie I've ever seen is the 1971 "Johnny Got His Gun," about a WW1 soldier who is severely injured on the last day of the war. The film takes place in his hospital room, where he's lying with his limbs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose gone, but he's able to think and feel. His struggle is how to figure out if he's alive or dead, whether anyone is out there, and if so, how to let them know that his mind is intact and make his wishes about life and death known and honored. The film was very hard to watch, and I was traumatized by it. It was intended to be an anti-war piece rather than a horror film, but there is no greater horror than what is presented in this movie. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067277/plotsummary

cshel said...

I was really disappointed by the the movie, "THE SHINING", also, Ken. I was super scared by the book, which was great. But the movie, aside from a couple of creepy scares and some cool visuals, was wrecked for me by the casting/acting choices. Shelly Duvall was so annoying that if I had been locked up with her, I'd have tried to kill her, too. And Jack went from normal to whack job zany in zero to sixty, instead of a slower, more menacing build-up.

And I also agree with you about "THE BLOB" being scary, now that I think of it. I didn't see it at a drive-in, but on TV late at night when I was a kid. In retrospect, it seems so silly, but back then : o

Happy Halloween to all!

Pat Reeder said...

I'm so glad to hear someone else had the same reaction I did to "The Shining." I had to see that during a time when I was reviewing movies, and it left me as cold as it did Nicholson at the end. Normally, I'm a real wuss about horror movies, but that one didn't scare me at all. I thought it was beautifully photographed but boring as hell, and Nicholson was horribly miscast. It's supposed to be about a normal family man driven by the haunted hotel and its isolation into being a homicidal maniac. Nicholson comes across as a maniac from frame one, so there's nowhere for him to go and no suspense other than sitting around wondering how long it will take him to go "full Nicholson."

I recently saw it near the top of a list of the greatest horror films ever made and got the same feeling I get when I see movies that I think aren't funny listed as the greatest comedies ever made.

Pat Reeder said...

To cshel:

Wow, are our minds on the same track! Your post wasn't there when I wrote mine. You must've hit the button just a few seconds before I did.

Chas Cunningham said...

The jungle and native village sequences on Skull Island in the original KING KONG.

Ed D. said...

Ok... didn't get in on this and am not a big fan of horror flix. But the 1954 French movie "Diabolique" scared my pants off.

Wes Parker in Iowa said...

...And they even used Bon Ami!
The Ghost and Mr C. still cracks me up. If I remember correctly, Ken Berry was in that..."Atta boy, Luther!

Naz said...

When I was a kid mid 1960's) I saw Two On A Guillitine and at the time I was very scared. Somehow I always remembered the title but not the movie.

D. McEwan said...

I'm also one who LOVES the novel The Shining (I have a signed first edition), but who loathed Kubrick's movie of it. He missed the heart, the core of the novel, which is the moment at the climax when Jack's love for his son breaks through the hotel's bullshit, and he sacrifices his own life to save his son. Where was that? Stephen King is also not a fan of the Kubrick movie, pointing out that, in Kubrick's picture, Jack arrives at the hotel pretty much already insane.

So, odd as it seems, I very much prefer the TV movie remake with Stephen Webber, that sticks much closer to the novel, and was actually shot at the hotel that inspired the book in the first place.

That said, I do not need TV movie remakes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doctor Strangelove or A Clockwork Orange.

D. McEwan said...

I'm also one who LOVES the novel The Shining (I have a signed first edition), but who loathed Kubrick's movie of it. He missed the heart, the core of the novel, which is the moment at the climax when Jack's love for his son breaks through the hotel's bullshit, and he sacrifices his own life to save his son. Where was that? Stephen King is also not a fan of the Kubrick movie, pointing out that, in Kubrick's picture, Jack arrives at the hotel pretty much already insane.

So, odd as it seems, I very much prefer the TV movie remake with Stephen Webber, that sticks much closer to the novel, and was actually shot at the hotel that inspired the book in the first place.

That said, I do not need TV movie remakes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doctor Strangelove or A Clockwork Orange.

Anonymous said...

D. McEwan, I also have a signed first edition for The Shining. I was offered $300 for it by a dealer. I told him he would have to pry it out of my cold dead hands...and then I would haunt him. :-) (do you know the trick to whether it is a true first edition/first printing? sisterzip73@yahoo.com)

I was fortunate to meet Mr. King and have him sign my copy of The Shining and a first edition/second printing of Dark Tower I. It was in the early 90s when he was on a tour for Insomnia and helping independant bookstores. Great time, great fun.

Pam aka SisterZip

D. McEwan said...

Pam, $300 is about 1/10th what a signed first edition of The Shining sells for. I have signed first editions of Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, and The Stand.

I was lucky enough to meet King several times. I have a picture of he and I taken on 9/11/79. He also read, and laughed out loud at, a comedy sketch I'd written which a comedy troup I was in used to perform on stage and radio, called The Whining

The Whining was The Shining as the last episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, with Rob, Laura, and Richie Petrie staying alone for a winter in The Overlook hotel. The titular whining was Laura's "Rooob!" At the end, when Rob, Richie, and "Scatman Cruthers," are all dead, Laura picks up the phone and calls Rhoda to tell her to get her apartment ready. The last line was: "Minneapolis, here I come!"

I vividly remember King laughing at, and then reading aloud Rob's line: "Richie, you're annoying daddy. You don't want Daddy to have to get out his axe now, do you?" To which Richie replies: "No, Daddy." And one jibe at Kubrick was Rob;s line: "Laura, just look at this hotel. Isn't it beautifully photographed?" (Larry Matthews, who used to play Richie, also read and enjoyed the sketch.)

Ref said...

Gotta be "Wait Until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn. Hat-tip to "The Ghost And Mr. Chicken."

Kirk said...

I read The Shining first (I think it's Kings best book) and, like a number of others here in the comment section, was disappointed in the movie. I wonder if I would have liked the movie if I hadn't read the book first? It certainly seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people. I was just at Facebook, and saw a few people quoting from the movie, though I think one of the quotes--REDRUM--was in the book as well. I still think Carrie was the best movie adaptation of King, with Cujo a close second.

Just saw the 1940s version of Cat People again this past weekend. Amazing how eerie that movie is, given the special-effects are close to non-existent.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I don't really do horror movies - but the movie that scared the bejesus out of a friend (who was in her early 20s and married 2-3 years at the time) was The Stepford Wives. Not for the effects, but for the *concept* behind it.

wg

Cap'n Bob said...

My sister-in-law died a few days ago and today we went to the nursing home she'd been in for the past 3 1/2 years to remove her belongings. Walking in and seeing those poor old ladies was scarier than any movie I've ever seen.

tales from the pole said...

just to let you know-some insane people in my hometown wrote a musical version of blue velvet (it was filmed here). though my brother and i wanted to go for what he deemed "the potential for train-wreck factor" to occur we could not score tix. SOLD OUT! and it was only being workshopped. one day i suppose i'll learn to stop writing original material. "event horizon" and "blair witch" terrified me. as did any of the HALLOWEEN (unwatchable all, but two is especially nightmare-inducing) and the "it's a good life" section of "twilight-zone, the movie" --don't quote me though, i'm a pretty easy scare. if it has jump cuts and creepy music and a masked antagonist i'll be crouching under the covers with fingers in my ears, begging you to turn i off! turn it off! ;-)