Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Top 10 Scariest Movies

As Halloween fast approaches bloggers everywhere come together with a blogger's seeming favorite pastime: List making.

There's the ever popular 'Top 10' lists, the 'Top 50' lists and of course other variations for people who seem averse to nice round numbers. Me, I am a nice round number person and because there aren't all that many movies out there that I would consider truly frightening I compiled a list of my personal favorites. I'll start with least scary and move up from there and try to explain why I think they deserve that place on my list. There aren't any specific spoilers, but if you don't know the general storyline you may not see my point of view.

10. Zombieland (2009)

If you've ever seen this movie then you know what I'm talking about, if you haven't, then shame on you. I realize this usually gets filed under comedy rather than horror, but the first time I saw this movie in theaters it had me jumping in my seat and laughing. I've already seen it numerous times, but each time it just seems to get better even though, like with most horror movies, I'm prepared for the worst of the scary parts. Though it's fun to watch with people who have never seen it before and watch them jump in all the same places I did the first time.

9. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I think I'd be slightly remiss if I didn't mention this one. This one makes sense if you're as much a movie buff as a horror/scary movie buff. I watched this one for the first time last year when I still attended the University of Vermont and had my own room. I picked a weekend, closed my curtains and kept my light off and enjoyed it very much. Sure it lacks all the gore that most Hollywood movies have in abundance nowadays, but what it lacks in outright gore it makes up for in story, character development and originality. "They're coming to get you, Barbara."

8. 30 Days of Night (2007)

With the addition of this movie to my list we enter the now typical realm of gory scary movie. Except I don't think this would qualify as a typical gory movie. That's because it actually has this thing known as a 'story'. I know that's a shocking thing, but it's true. It has it's gore moments but it does manage to hold down a good story.

7. 28 Days Later (2002)

The first time I watched this movie I wasn't overly a fan of it. Then last year I watched it again with some friends and I had a much better appreciation for it. And to top it off, it frightened me more the second time around even though I had seen it and remembered the basics of the story. I think part of what makes this movie so frightening is that it really shows some of the worse aspects of humanity during a crisis.

6. Quarantine (2008)

It may sound weird, but I think seeing a movie with a group of people affects the experience you have when watching it. I saw this movie with a small group of friends who all liked scary movies, and I have to admit that it scared me more than I thought it was going to. It's based on a movie called Rec which I'd like to see although I have to admit that it was a good movie even if it's a ripoff of another movie.

5. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Here's another movie that definitely needs to be watched in the dark. It surprised me that a movie from '59 could actually be as scary as this one. It all comes down to story. I think because this movie is so old that for us younger folk it actually has a fresh seeming story. Even so, though, it was probably a very original movie for that time. It manages to mix very nicely the scary aspects of the unknown, the paranormal and the worst that humanity has to offer. I wanted to turn my lights on after watching this movie.

4. The Exorcist (1973)

Talk about a classic movie. I watched this movie last night right before bed and it was almost a bad idea. I'm not usually affected by bad dreams and last night was no different, but I didn't want to turn off my light when I went to bed and when I woke up in the morning I wanted to turn all the lights on. (Fortunately my dog was around) The first time I saw this movie I was about 16 and I think I missed a lot of what is truly terrifying about this movie. It's not the fact that we're watching a 12 year old be possessed by a demon, it's the fact that absolutely no one seems to have a clue how to help her. Being that I'm right there with the mother and not believing in God the fact that she had to turn to a priest to for help is terrifying all in itself. If you're familiar with the '73 version and would like to see it again, I'd recommend the 2000 director's cut edition for some new and extra creepy scenes.

3. Saw (2004)

I think it's safe to say that anyone who is over 17 or 18 now has likely seen Saw. For those of my age this series is to us what Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th or Halloween is to people who grew up in the 70s and 80s. I stopped watching them after Saw III and doubt I'll see Saw 3D, but the first one deserves its due credit. I think it kind of created its own genre because I think it's hard to stick it in the slasher category. Any where you put it, though, it has to be admitted that it was extremely creative and original and after 6 years still holds its own with the other classic horror movies.

2. The Ring (2002)

I had to think very carefully when I put The Ring in my number 2 position on my list. In all fairness I've only seen it once when I was 13 when it came out. I was still a chicken back then (my idea of a scary movie was The Mummy Returns) though when I think about this movie I have to admit that what I remember of it still scares me. I'm sorry, but the idea of a super creepy little girl crawling out of my tv to turn me into a sucked dry zombie is probably enough to give me nightmares. If I get up the courage to watch it again to reassess its scariness I'll put up a revised list, but for now I'll leave it at its number 2 position.

1. The Grudge (2004)

Here's another movie that I only saw once because I lacked the courage to see it again. I rented it at home with my best friend and we watched it with the lights on and started on opposite ends of the couch and by the end of the movie were sharing one couch cushion. I wasn't overall a huge fan of the story, but I think I was too traumatized by fear to really be bothered by that and that is why The Grudge wins top billing on my scariest movie list. It hasn't escaped my notice that both The Grudge and The Ring are based on other Japanese movies. I've heard that the Japanese versions are better and scarier than the American versions but I have yet to confirm that. It'll take a huge surge of courage on my part to bring myself to watch those if I can't even watch The Grudge again. The sound that that creepy thing makes in that movie haunts me still to this day.
"When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage... a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death. Those who encouter it will be consumed by its fury."

Movies that didn't quite make the cut:

I had thought about listing these from least disappointing (scariest) to most disappointing (least scary) but I have some on here that I felt obligated to add because I had seen them on other 'Top Scary Movie' lists and didn't feel they belonged there. Plus, some of these movies I actually enjoyed while others I simply couldn't believe I wasted my time watching. In other words, there's really no rhyme or reason to the order of this list.

Cloverfield (2008) - First of all let me say that J. J. Abrams did a very good job with this movie and it's one of my favorites. I saw this one listed on a 'Top 50 Scary Movies' list and I don't really agree. I think it was exciting and thrilling, but I wouldn't put it on my list of movies to watch at Halloween time. But I'll happily watch it after I'm done with my other Halloween movies.

The Shining (1980) - I respect this movie for what it is: a classic Stanley Kubrick film but I can't in good conscience count it among my scariest movies. I've seen it twice and neither time did it really do much for me. I enjoy it mostly for the inside references (REDRUM!) but aside from that I'm not really a fan of the movie.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - Another prime example of a classic movie that didn't retain as much scariness as others from the time. I haven't seen the new version though I'd certainly like to. As I said with The Shining, I appreciate it for it being a classic movie, but I wasn't overly moved to include it in my list.

Scream (1996) - Now here is a movie I just don't consider scary or even good. I understand the stage it set for other teen horror movies where pretty much everyone gets together, does something stupid, they have some sex and then people start dying. Without Scream we wouldn't have I Know What You Did Last Summer, which I disliked so much I couldn't even bring myself to list it.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - I saw this version in theaters. I wasn't impressed then and I can't think of a reason to see the original. That's about all I have to say on this movie.

The Others (2001) - This was one of the first real horror movies I ever saw as a kid (The Mummy Returns taking that title) and it scared the daylights out of me at the time. 12 year old me slept in my parent's room for 4 months after this. I watched it again a few years ago and was extremely underwhelmed. It not only lacked everything I had initially been afraid of, but the story itself wasn't even that good. For being a Nicole Kidman movie, it could have been better.

The Omen (1976) - Another movie that is considered a classic horror movie that I just don't get. An original idea to be sure with plenty of iconic scenes. It really only made this list because I felt bad for it and figured that out of respect to its status as a classic that it should get a mention.

Alien (1979) - I've heard this gets categorized as 'gothic horror'. I would probably stick it into some kind of scifi thriller category but I'm not sure I really care enough about this movie to think too hard on it.

Cursed (2005) - One of the few movies on here that I actually really enjoy. It's corny and lacks some things in the special effects department but the story is sound and it's about werewolves. I'm not a vampire person and think that good werewolf movies are hard to come by. I didn't consider it scary and I think Wes Craven could have done a better job in that area, but he finally came up with a watchable story and for that I'll give him some credit.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Even though I didn't bother putting much of an order to this second list of scary movies that fall short of their mark, I specifically saved this one for last because of how much I really dislike this movie. I'm glad that it started a new way of filming and I think that at the time it was an original and extremely cheap way to film a movie but what it had in creativity of filming it lacked in actual story. I had fairly high hopes for this movie because all I had heard about it growing up was how amazing it was. I watched it when I was about 15 and, well, I fell asleep on the floor for about 20 minutes while watching it. In broad daylight. That about sums up how much it held my interest.

Honorable Mention:

The Evil Dead (1981) - I just watched this movie for the first time while I finished up the last touches to this post. I'm a huge Burn Notice fan so this was sitting in my Netflix queue for quite some time and I figured today would be an appropriate day to watch it. All I have to say is: wtf? Sam Raimi, were you on drugs when you wrote this? I get that it's a classic in its own right and I'm glad that it helped Bruce Campbell pay his bills, but I honestly think there were drugs involved during the production of this film. It was extremely ridiculous even for an 80s horror film. 

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