I love Halloween! Maybe a little more than I should. And probably my favorite thing about it? Halloween gives me an excuse to watch a few dozen truly scary horror movies! I don’t really seek out scary movies during the rest of the year. But hey…it’s Halloween! So let’s get scared! With that in mind, it’s time for my annual “Dr. Black’s Scariest Movies” list.
In my opinion, there are two types of so-called “Horror Movies”: There are movies that merely startle us, and then there are movies that are legitimately scary! The second type…the flicks that are actually frightening…are the kind that make you scream when the cat jumps up on the couch, or cause you to flip on a light as you get ready for bed.
So forget the slasher films. The shadow outside the window will be a tree branch, while the guy with the big knife winds up shuffling slowly down Elm street and (somehow) catching the ill-behaved teens. The ‘Startle Movies’ aren’t particularly scary. They can make you feel uncomfortable. This list contains the titles of 13 VERY scary movies. *These movies are NOT for kids!!*
1. V/H/S/– Probably my favorite scary movie to come out in the last 5 years, and a pretty original concept. A group of young thieves break into a house to retrieve a video tape, and wind up watching a half-dozen videos in the process. We the viewers get to watch each 15-minute tape along with the robbers, and they’re all pretty creepy. It’s also a cool vehicle for several up-and-coming young directors to showcase their work. And the horrific goings-on in the house winds up being the icing on the cake. There are 2 sequels (V/H/S/ 2 and 3) which both use the same storytelling mechanics, making them pretty cool as far as sequels go. (available on Netflix)
2. The Shining – Stanley Kubrick knows where all of our sensitive psycho-neurosis spots are, and he goes after them in almost every one of his movies. In “The Shining” he shows no mercy. I’ve probably watched it 30 times, and it scares me every time! There’s something about being isolated on a snow-bound mountain with a crazy Jack Nicholson that just works.
3. The Haunting of Hill House – Something new for Netflix…a scary movie that is legitimately FRIGHTENING! This scare-fest is based on the Shirley Jackson novel of the same name. It’s laid out in 10 one-hour episodes, so we really get to flesh out these characters. This could be called “This Is Us …In A Haunted House” since it concerns the development of a family over many years, and they all lived in a haunted house at one time. Or – imagine a show about what happens to the characters in a scary movie AFTER the credits roll.
4. 28 Days Later – This post-apocalyptic horror movie single-handedly revived the Zombie Legend in 2003. After a group of Animal Rights Activists releases a virus which takes out most of humanity (“Helloooo! Hello?”) Jim (Cillian Murphy) goes on the run with a small group of survivors to seek “safety” or whatever non-zombie territory they can find. These zombies don’t shuffle with their arms out. They can MOVE! (see World War Z). This one is legitimately scary.
5. Nosferatu – Released in 1922, nobody had heard the term “found footage” but that’s how this creepy vampire flick comes across! It seems less like a movie and more like a reel of film someone found that shows actual blood-suckers doing their blood-sucky thang. Being a German Expressionist film, it’s gritty and grainy and very real-looking.
6. The Exorcist – Okay…two things really scary me. Insanity, and The Devil. Mostly because I can’t control either one. And this movie scared millions of people in 1973, and if you watch it tonight it’ll scare you, too! A good small-town Methodist boy like me gets chills just thinking about it.
7. Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock is like Stanley Kubrick. He knows where all the buttons are, and he loves to push them all! He could scare a bowling ball. I’m sure of it.
8. Silence of the Lambs – “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” When I first saw this movie, I had no idea what a fava bean was! I just knew that Anthony Hopkins scared the beejeebies out of me. (see above: Insanity and the Devil) Did you ever see the prequels, where Lechter explains WHY he ate the guys liver? It was because he played wrong note in the symphony. As a musician, that’s pretty terrifying.
9. 1408 – Based on a Stephen King short story, “1408” stars John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormick and Tony Shaloub, and follows many of Stephen King’s story staples: It involves a writer (Cusack) who writes about haunted places. Sam Jackson tells him “Don’t go into Room 1408! Anyone who has stayed in that room for more than an hour winds up dead!” (cue more ominous tones) Theses somewhat cliche plot devices actually work in this flick, and it’ll make you nervous to be alone. Enjoy!
10. World War Z – Mel Brooks’ son make s zombie flick? You bet! And it’s a good one. These are the “28 Days” type of zombie…they can run like the wind and chew your face off. Also, these zombies have this strange Red Ant Skill, where they can pile on top of one another and climb walls and stuff.
11. Evil Dead (2013) – Okay, before all the Sam Raimi purists start making angry memes, I gotta say that I’m a Deadite Fan and 100% love the original Evil Dead Franchise. It’s just that, as far as SCARY flicks, this 2013 re-do has Jane Levy (from ‘Suburbia’) breaking out of her Wholesome Girl Image with tar-vomit and knife-blade-licking abandon! And, just to modernize it a little more, she’s a heroin addict who goes out into the woods (!!) with her friends, who are sworn to keep her there until she’s off The Stuff. Well..of COURSE…one of ’em finds The Naturum Demonto book. The book that propels the plots of all things Evil Dead. Yay! And before you can say “Klaatu barada nikto” everything gets wicked and scary. Love it!
12. Rosemary’s Baby – Wow. I re-watched this one over the weekend (Oct. 5th, 2019). This 1968 horror staple has everything a scary movie needs. All our Inner City Horror Dreams come true! Yes, the neighbors really ARE involved in a Satanic Cult. Yup, your new baby IS evil. And Ralph Bellamy is as creepy as you always suspected he was. This one gives me that cold afraid-to-be-alone feeling. I love movies like this!
13. Hereditary – This is the scariest movie I’ve seen in years. Maybe because I didn’t even know it WAS a scary movie until it had gotten underway, and I realized, “Oh! I think I know what’s going on here!” And just like “Shining” and a few others, this movie finds those secret places where your mind and soul stash all the sensitive stuff, and it gets inside and scrambles it all! You’ve been warned.
14. Get Out – This was all the rage last year, and for good reason. There are moments of sheer terror scattered throughout wall-to-wall tension for 103 minutes! And it’s the directorial debut of Jordan Peele (“Key & Peele”). This one will have you wondering “What the heck is going ON?” until you -DO- figure it out, and the it’ll blow your mind. Get ready! (And don’t forget Peele’s latest, “Us“. Very scary!).
15. Cabin In the Woods – It starts a little cliche: Five college friends go to…well…a Cabin In The Woods. But better acting (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth) and a revamped, modern script make this horror movie a legitimately frightening experience! Check it out. I think it’s on Netflix right now.
16. The Conjuring – It’s 1970, because of COURSE it is. ALL scary things happen Back In The Day. Paranormal Investigators and Demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson) are summoned to the home of Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor & Ron Livingston). The Perrons and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. It gets creepier by the minute. And the sequels are VERY worthy! “Annabelle” and “Conjuring 2”, etc.
17. The Omen – Gregory Peck is an ambassador. His wife (Lee Remick) gives birth to a baby, which is switched out for a Child Of Questionable Origin. This kid grows up to be The Beast. This one will scare you more now than it did when it was first released in 1976.
18. Hostel – Now remember, I said these are MY favorite scary movies! And I think these are the flicks most likely to scare you. If you came over to my place and wanted to watch a good scary movie, these are the flicks I’d pick. After I originally posted this blog, I kept thinking about how creepy and frightening “Hostel” was. The helplessness f being trapped in a foreign country, in a place where death and chop-uppery seem to lurk around every corner. Written and directed by Eli Roth, the 2005 “Hostel” is the first (and best) of the Hostel Trilogy.
19. The Rob Zombie Movies – “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects” are pretty dang scary. Both of ’em. And the reason I own them is simply because I was challenged by a girlfriend to come up with some scary movies, and I ran over the Hastings and bought them! Mission accomplished. I picked those because I thought they were movies most likely to frighten a member of the Estrogen Set. Rob Zombie has also done re-makes of the first 2 “Halloween” movie franchise.
20. Donnie Darko – During the presidential election of 1988, a teenager named Donnie Darko sleepwalks out of his house one night and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank. Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days. When Donnie returns home, he finds that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. -AND- There’s a Countdown-to-Halloween going on throughout. That should be enough!
Halloween is closer every day! So get your scary flicks gathered up and get ready for popcorn and trick-or-treating! Oh. And…BOO!!