By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is one great sign of a great scary movie, and it involves one specific feeling.
That feeling of “I cannot look, but I cannot turn this off.” Scary movies are that extra beer, or that extra slice of pizza that you know you’re going to regret, but you just can’t help it.
It’s definitely the season for scary movies, as almost every trailer on television for a new movie involves some combination of jump cuts, high pitched screaming, a child whose head is down but eyes are looking up, and a family who lives in a house that is quite obviously haunted and sure to kill them, but they wait until the very last minute to leave. Some sort of nightmarish person without a face is often times present as well.
Because it’s the season for scary, I’ve decided to put together my list for the top five scariest movies I’ve ever seen.
Some things to note: I’m not scared of zombies, though I enjoy zombie movies. I’m not scared of mass murder in the woods movies (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House Of 1,000 Corpses), though I enjoy those movies. Finally, I’m never scared at slasher movies (Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street), though I enjoy those as well.
These are not the best five scary movies, they are the five I find the most scary.
Final somewhat important to note is that I’m 36 years old, and I guess that just matters for context purposes.
5) Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer
In some lower budget horror movies, the “lower budget” looks makes the movie look cheesy, and a little less scary (see almost every zombie movie that’s for free On Demand). In the case of Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer, it actually adds to the grimy nature of the story, and works well.
The movie is sort of based on a true story, that off serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. It’s basically just the story of a serial killer, who could very well be the quiet guy who lives in the apartment across the hall. It’s the combination of how gruesome the killings are, and entirely plausible it seemed that had me thinking twice any time I passed a strange looking guy on the sidewalk.
4) The Strangers
The cabin in the woods setup is not a new one in horror, and I imagine we’ll see several more movies that use this setting. From Evil Dead (and the far superior Evil Dead 2), to the aptly named Cabin In The Woods. Of all of them, The Strangers scared me most because it seemed most plausible.
The Strangers sets a horror movie record for “what’s behind this door, nothing, nothing, nothing, A KILLER IN A MASK!” moments. The one criticism I have of this movie is that there are too many of them, and I actually got tired of being so scared during the final 30 minutes of the movie.
Extra points for a fantastic final scene.
3) Paranormal Activity
I was torn with this one, because I really enjoyed Paranormal Activity 3 as well. In the end, I decided that I was probably slightly more scared by 3 because I saw it alone, in an empty theater (don’t judge), as well, it didn’t have the lasting effect on me that the first one did.
I remember my brother telling me he saw Paranormal Activity, and was frightened to sleep alone at night. I laughed at him. I teased him.
About a week later, I saw Paranormal Activity. I laid down that night, and turned off the lights. Then as I looked over at my bedroom door, I realized I was just waiting for it to slam shut. That if I fell asleep, I fully expected to wake up and see someone standing motionless over me. I was ruined for about a week.
2) The Ring
Cabin in the woods? Check. Creepy kid with her head down, while she looks up? Check. Taking every day activities like watching a video tape and answering the phone, and turning them into a reason that you’re going to die? Check, check.
I had already seen this movie twice, when I decided to watch it in my apartment alone one Friday night (don’t judge). I finished the movie, looked around, and decided to drive a half hour to my parents house to sleep over there.
1) The Shining
I saw The Shining for the first time when I was about 13 years old. Over 20 years later, the movie scares me just as much, if not more than the first time.
For me, The Shining is the ultimate instance of, “I must cover my eyes, but I must not turn the movie off.” The few times I have turned it off, I was scared just knowing in the back of my mind that it was playing on a different channel.
Forever, the image of those twin girls, along with blood flowing from the walls will be burned into my brain.
Tony is the little boy who lives in Danny’s mouth, and The Shining is the movie that lives inside of my head.
I’m pretty excited to see Room 237, a documentary about five theories regarding an underlying meaning behind the movie. It includes a theory that details the notion that The Shining was basically a confession from Stanley Kubrick that he faked the USA’s moon landing.
What’s your top five? Let us know in the comments.
Follow Spike on Twitter @spikeeskin.