Scary flicks to help you forget about the midterms

By Duganz

Rather than gab about consequential things (taxes), or ongoing gripes (the Russell Street Bridge) I thought I’d promote some scary flicks to watch this weekend. If you’re not into scary movies, may I suggest just turning on FoxNews and watching them continue their debate about NPR firing Juan Williams? It’s not exactly scary in and of itself, but once you think “This is what political talk has come to,” you’ll feel a chill up your spine.

Also, while reading please pay attention to the “Scare Meter,” which rates a film’s scare factor based on Sarah Palins (One Sarah-Scary; Five Sarahs-Scarier than a night alone with the Pope). You’ll thank me later.

Halloween (1978)

Rob Zombie’s remake of this awesome movie is an injustice comparable to the ongoing existence of political talk radio. John Carpenter’s original, however, is a masterpiece.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is pursued by her psychotic half-brother Michael Myers on Halloween night in a quiet Illinois town. That’s the basic plot, and the very beginning of a long line of simple movies that made a sport of killing naked teenagers. It also may have given the phrase “escaped mental patient” a more terrifying than normal connotation, but let’s not get into the PC ramifications here. This film is where the masked killer was born, as were the genre’s clichés (Running upstairs instead of outside, screaming to no one, sex and booze gets you killed, etc.). And even though this masked killer is actual cavorting in a  spray painted William Shatner mask, I dare you not to tense up as Michael, assumed dead after being stabbed, rises.

Pure and simple, pound for pound, this is one of the best “slasher” films of all time.

How Scary?:

Scream (1996)

I was 11 when this movie came out, and, man, I didn’t want to answer the phone for weeks after seeing it.

Teenagers (known in the business of military recruitment and horror slasher film directing as “death fodder”) are terrorized by a masked killer who calls and taunts them first via one of these new-fangled cell phone things. After the first brutal murder the small town of Woodsboro, California (always the small towns…) is left to wonder: “Who’s the killer?” It’s a movie that will make you never forget one important fact: Jason’s mother is the original killer in Friday the 13th, Jason didn’t show up until the sequel. Remember that, and you and your boyfriend get to live.

Forget it, and, well, see included image.

In many ways this movie is a celebration and parody of the slasher genre, but it stand on its one two legs. As an adult viewer, it’s not very scary, though there are some tense moments.

How Scary?:

The Strangers (2008)

Hands down this is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe on repeat viewing it isn’t, but I don’t want to try again. At least without the lights on. And 9-1 dialed.

The film opens at an isolated vacation home, with a standard-order Anglo-Saxon couple as our leads. From there, it’s a doorbell, and an innocent question: “Is Tamara home?” She isn’t, but that wasn’t the point of the question. Three people, a man and two women, are there to harass and terrorize the couple. Some reviewers think the couple acts a little too passive, and just begs to be killed. I think it’s how you would act in real life: you want to run, but you’re scared. This isn’t Saw or Hostel. It’s not some odd torture porn. It is a pretty decent example of something that could happen: a seemingly motiveless murder done in some twisted ritualistic way.

And in a state with so many isolated cabins, well… yeah. Anyway.

Think Helter Skelter (which served as inspiration for the writer). You don’t want to think of how these things happen, but you know they do. And after seeing this movie you’ll find yourself checking the peephole just because… maybe.

The night my wife and I watched it she woke up at 3am and asked me to check the doors again. I did. But I brought a knife.

How Scary?:

Ringu (1998)

The boring, horse suicide “film” The Ring took its plot (kind of) and set up (kind of) from this awesome, awesome Japanese film of similar name. If you like The Ring (and some of you obviously did or it wouldn’t be getting a third film) see this because it’s better. If you didn’t like The Ring then see this because it’s soooooooooo much better.

I can’t really pin down why this movie is better than its remake, though I think the lack of horse suicide plays a role. It could also be that reading subtitles gets you more involved with the characters. It could be that the acting is better, and that the sets are better, and that you don’t have to watch a lame/stupid horse suicide off a boat. I don’t really know.

Okay. I do. It’s all of those things. But see this film for yourself and tell me if you agree that the Japanese can make a better paranormal thriller than their American counterparts. (And I don’t even like paranormal thrillers.)

How Scary?:

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Zombies are more terrifying than anything else. Ever. Writer Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide) describes the fear zombies create in his book World War Z. It’s simply this: when you kill a zombie, there is one less zombie; when zombies kill your friends, there are more zombies. Zombies also don’t sleep, or need warmth. Zombies are motivated only by eating, and you’re what’s for dinner.

George Romero nails that aspect in the original Dawn of the Dead. In it we see a shuffling, slow moving sea of the undead approaching our lowly group of survivors. The living are outnumbered, and low on ammo and supplies. The undead are fine. And while you think that they could just run, run from the slow moving hoard (!), you have to ask… to where?

That said, this movie isn’t all that scary, to me anyway. It’s got too much cheese on top. What is scary is to think that if there were somehow a roving band of the undead, it would be unstoppable. Man would die out. First, the gas tanks would go dry. Then the power. No internet. No phones. Soon no radios. Utter blackness ensues. Winter comes and no one can get warm. Man ends.

Of course Romero’s film just focuses on a single mall in middle America, so you’ll have to get a bottle of wine and spend some of your own time thinking of the end of man some other time.

How Scary?:

How Scary is the Zombiepocalypse? : (Yeah, that’s five Christine O’Donnells.)

Don’t agree? Well then add something in the comments.

  1. lizard19

    every October I watch Donnie Darko. it’s not really a scary movie, but it’s one of my favorite movies, and it’s become a significant part of my personal mythos for a variety of reasons i won’t bore anyone with now. if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the perfect time to watch it. and i suggest watching the Director’s Cut.

  2. You have shamed me, sir. You mention a movie of the genre that I have not seen. Do you understand my embarrassment? A movie of the genre I.Have.Not.Seen!

    Actually, the reason I’ve never seen the strangers is because I expected it to be slasher porn. Honestly that genre, which is NOT HORROR, just fills me with intense sadness for the human animal. Rob Zombie has jaded any faith I have in the continuity of the species. However, on your recommendation, I will seek out the strangers, and watch it.

    Ringu was better than The Ring, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the latter. Or maybe it’s my ongoing lust for Naomi Watts; whatever. Though both have intense moments, I didn’t actually find either one all that scary. Very creepy would be a better description. The Grudge, on the other hand, gave me the total willies, especially when the spook moves down the hall as seen on security camera. Eeesh! (I haven’t seen the Japanese movie that was taken from.)

    As someone more ageded than yourself, I can tell you that my first viewing of Halloween was a full on Five Sarahs, abbreviated as One Speaker Boehner. John Carpenter is one of my true heroes, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as George Romero, hallowed be his name. There were no “slasher films” before this one, and many of my hours have been spent arguing that this film, along with Hitchcock’s Psycho, is simply being maligned if it is seen as a such. This film’s monster wasn’t a ‘slasher’. It was the bogeyman, in all it’s terrible aspects.

    Thank you for this post. It was much enjoyed.

    • Yeah, The Strangers had the bad luck of coming out around the time of all of those OTHER films (the ones we agree are awful). There is a couple of violent scenes in the movie that go kind of far (a shotgun blast to one character, for instance), but the majority of the flick is wondering WHY this is happening, and WHAT will happen next.

      It’s really damn good.

      As for as “Ju-On,” The Grudge over here, is also better than the American version, but only slightly and only because Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t a very good actress.

  3. mr benson

    The Grudge, with its attacks in the daylight in a modern building, is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.

    I have seen The Strangers as well, the one with Liv Tyler? I didn’t quite get the ending.

    I recommend Jacob’s Ladder. It’s a boomer movie, VietNam, drugs, distrust of the government (the good old days, when government was to be distrusted), Elizabeth Pena is hot, especially dancing with the devil, and the descent into hell as horrifying as anything. It’s also sufficiently confusing an unpredictable to hold my interest.

    I love this thread and will try and think of some other unusual additions.

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