Since today is Halloween, it’s the perfect day to talk about my love of scary movies. I came to this affinity later in life and my enjoyment of them is always a bit perplexing as they don’t actually scare me. I may jump or otherwise react during the movie, but there doesn’t seem to be any lasting impact after the fact; I can watch something like The Strangers or The Ring and have it not even phase me in the slightest. Back in the day a roommate and I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and she was so freaked out that she had to go stay at her boyfriend’s house, leaving me in the house all alone. Not only did I sleep like a baby that night, I had just learned how to get the place to myself. Don’t think that I didn’t use that to my advantage as much as possible.
The problem with liking scary movies is that you have to sit through an lot of bad movies; while the horror genre has plenty of good film, the sheer rate at which they are cranking these movies out means that that there are going to be a lot of clunkers in the bunch, especially for people who don’t scare easily. Because I’m not watching these movies behind splayed hands or covering in the corner, I can actually objectively judge these movies and a lot come up lacking. Horror movies tend to be a little formulaic and fall prey to heavy reliance on sequels, so you often have to wade through plenty of crap before you find a horror movie that is actually decent. Even if the movie doesn’t deliver for me on the scares front, I can still enjoy the movie as a whole. I tend to like films that are creative or that are somewhat grounded in real life more than movies like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street. Anything with a creepy kid usually gets extra points in my book, as does the presence of an English accent. The presence of actual character development or a cohesive narrative aren’t givens in many horror movies, but when they are there they make for a much better experience. So with these caveats in place, here are my five of my favorite scary movies….
- The Cabin in the Woods:
I’m a fan of the self-aware horror film that poke fun at the tropes and clichés that tend to dominate the genre. Much like Scream, The Cabin in the Woods knowingly winks at the audience while still providing some legitimately scary moments as well as unexpected plot twists. The Cabin in the Woods is not the same movie at the end that it starts out as and I think it’s all the better for that. This movie is also legitimately funny.
- The Others
Creepy kids AND British accents. This is a Heather horror movie twofer! I figured this movie out pretty quickly, but still enjoyed it despite seeing the big reveal coming. That’s saying something, as usually in horror movies once you know the twist, the whole thing kind of falls apart.
- The Exorcist:
Going old-school with this pick, but though I didn’t find The Exorcist all that scary, it certainly did create a mood. And that mood was unsettling; if the scene with the crucifix didn’t make you extremely uncomfortable, I don’t want to know you. Great score, beautiful cinematography, and quite daring for being made in the 70s. The sequels and remakes that followed were garbage, but the original is still a solid film.
The early 2010s were a glorious time for creepy kid movies that were actually well executed. Between Insidious and the slightly lesser Sinister, I don’t feel so bad about not having offspring. Children seem to be ready vessels for some evil stuff. It doesn’t quite stick the landing, but overall Insidious does enough stuff that I do like to make it watchable.
- The Descent:
The chills in the The Descent are provided not only by the creatures lurking in the cave but from the claustrophobic conditions that the women find themselves in. It’s full on tension and the film does spend a little bit of time developing the all-female cast beyond the most rudimentary stock characters. As someone who is always a little suspicious of nature, this movie only reinforced that heading into caves is never a good idea.
Now it’s your turn – what scary movies are your favorites or keep you up at night? Let us know in the comments. Based on family and friend recommendations, I plan to try and watch The Babadook tonight. Happy Halloween!