Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Horror by numbers

Another in a series of recent film survey lists, Ed Hardy Jr. is hosting the 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies, with readers asked to submit 31 nominees. I love this idea because it's asking not for the best or favorite, but simply the movies that scare you the most. I can do this -- because a lot of movies scare me.

I tend to write a good amount about horror movies (and that will continue this month), and that's partially due to the fact that for a few years now I've been in horror-catch-up mode, making up for all the years when I avoided horror movies. For the longest time, they weren't me, and there were quite a few I was actually afraid of seeing. Somewhere in college this changed, and I've been going through the genre at a steady pace ever since.

Some of you may not classify all of these as horror, but they all fall into the same category for me: scary.

  1. The Night of the Hunter (1955) -- One of my top 5 favorite movies of all time, and one that will always frighten me. On a personal level, it reminds me of a nightmare I had when I was three years old that I have never forgotten: my parents had left my brother and I with a babysitter who happened to be a witch, but they didn't believe me. Night of the Hunter follows this mode of terror, by putting you inside the mind of a child who can't trust adults. Being helpless is a terrible feeling, and it permeates this movie. It also helps that Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is one of the scariest characters ever put on film.
  2. The Leopard Man (1943) -- I've said before, this is an imperfect movie filled with terrifying scares. It's the Don Larsen of horror movies. When we see the leopard's eyes, then look back and see only darkness -- chills.
  3. The Innocents (1961) -- Hands down the scariest ghost movie ever made. Why is it that ghosts doing nothing but sitting by a pond are scarier than ghosts who jump out of shadows?
  4. Sisters (1973) -- The best case for never entering a hospital again. Or even hinting that you're mentally ill. Or having a twin sister.
  5. Halloween (1978) -- As I hope to say in a post later this month, it's the quiet scenes in this movie that do the most for me. Somehow, John Carpenter manages to make every hedge and tree limb scary.
  6. Invaders from Mars (1953) -- If only for the superb ending, a startling revelation that your worst nightmare is indeed a reality.
  7. The Descent (2005) -- No more hospitals. No more caves.
  8. The Thing (1981) -- The scares start right as we learn that the creature sitting on the operating table isn't dead yet.
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) -- No remake will ever measure up to this one.
  10. Ringu (1998) -- Don't even know where to start with this one.
  11. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) -- I know this isn't a horror movie, but the scene where Laura Palmer enters her room and finds the man behind her dresser scared the hell out of me.
  12. Friday the 13th (1980) -- Another one in the running for scariest ending ever.
  13. Demons (1985) -- Delicious concept of being terrorized while watching a horror movie at a theater. Love it.
  14. Phantasm (1979) -- "You think you go to heaven when you die? You come to us!"
  15. The Evil Dead (1981) -- A story (and budget) stretched to the absolute extreme.
  16. Jeepers Creepers (2001) -- The first half was the only time I considered leaving a theater because of how scared I was.
  17. Candyman (1992) -- Anyone who went to a Catholic school knew the myth of Bloody Mary, and this one hit a little too close to home.
  18. The Other (1972) -- Kids do the darndest things. I mean they really do some goddamn awful things!
  19. Village of the Damned (1960) -- It's the eyes.
  20. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) -- Dr. Pretorious' miniature creations. So creepy.
  21. Gremlins (1984) -- The image of seeing Santa Claus terrorized while cops looked on haunted me for years.
  22. Cat People (1942) -- Amid a bunch of high-class scares, the best may be the subtle opening scene where Irena suddenly looks possessed after that brief encounter with another woman in the restaurant.
  23. The Birds (1963) -- It's basically Hitchcock saying "you wanna see something really scary?"
  24. Don't Look Now (1973) -- Those dark alleys. That photograph. That thing at the end.
  25. Freaks (1932) -- Utterly masterful ending, and chilling as hell.
  26. Return of the Living Dead Part III (1993) -- So much twisted mayhem, it's beautiful.
  27. The Fog (1980) -- The very beginning and ending get the most scares.
  28. Prince of Darkness (1987) -- Wait, the fate of the world is resting on a bunch of college nerds in an urban church? And Alice Cooper plays some sort of hobo witch king? And all they have for weapons are 2x4's? Did you say Victor Wong is in it?
  29. When a Stranger Calls (1979) -- Even scarier than the opening phone conversation is the bar scene where Tony Beckley apparently falls for that absolute hag.
  30. The Haunting (1963) -- I think it's overrated as far as scary movies go, but the final line gave me goosebumps.
  31. Hellraiser (1987) -- Love the mythology that exists in this film.


Anonymous said...

Nice list Adam!

I love that you listed Night of the Hunter, which is an amazing film. That scene in the movie when we see Shelley Winters's lifeless body underwater haunts me and has to be one of the most disturbingly creepy moments ever captured on film.

Gremlins just makes me giggle, but that's probably because I was a lot older when I saw it.

I'm glad you listed the Innocents since frankly, its the first film that comes to my mind when I think of "flicks that give me the willies" but I haven't seen anyone else list it yet besides yourself.

I'm working on my own list now which I hope to share soon.

Eddie Hardy said...

Two things. 1.) Your comment on CANDYMAN rang true for me. When that came out, it felt like someone was making a movie out of the urban legends in MY neighborhood.

2.) I, too, am I really only writing about horror movies so much recently because I'm in "catch-up mode after avoiding them for so long."

Thanks for playing along with yet more list-making.

Stacie Ponder said...

Great list! We've got more than a few titles in common.

Adam Ross said...

Kimberly -- that underwater shot is a showstopper for sure. I'm also fond of the scene where we see the silhouette of Rev. Powell on the hill, singing that hymn.

Ed -- The trailer for Candyman was scary enough for me when it came out. The image of him appearing behind the girls in the mirror seemed to be ripped out of my nightmares.

Rock on, stacie.

Neil Sarver said...

Great list. There are several I picked and quite a few I'd have picked had I not made a criteria in the beginning that eliminated them... first on that list would be Night of the Hunter and Freaks, both of which would be a likely choices if I had to make a list of 31 Great Movies

PIPER said...


You know how I feel about Gremlins but it's what scares you, not me.

But you're right on about Twin Peaks, I recently wrote about that scene scaring the hell out of me. It's all that Lynch does that works for me. The editing, the sound, the scene composition.

And Jeepers Creepers got me as bad as it got you.