Here are five films, in honor of Halloween, that have truly scared me. Not just disturbed me, like The Exorcist or The Shining, but scared me to the point that it was hard to sleep that night.
1. Alien (1979)
I'm a little claustrophobic. I don't freak out when I'm in close or crowded spaces, but I do get very uncomfortable. And watching Alien, in which a terrifying creature called a xenomorph ends up on a delivery ship, did not help at all. Director Ridley Scott gets a lot of mileage out of the cramped space, ratcheting up the tension and suspense. And it's not enough that the xenomorph is hunting the crew; it was incubated, and then disgustingly and infamously "hatched," from inside John Hurt's unfortunate Kane. To this day I still have trouble watching the Alien movies; even the terrible Alien vs. Predator monstrosities get under my skin. Hopefully they won't literally get under my skin.
2. Final Destination (2000)
The Final Destination movies are by no means good movies. Character and plot development are next to meaningless, and the movies choose instead to focus on staging one outrageous death scene after another. The first film is the only one I've seen all the way through, and that's namely because I have no interest in seeing the others. The deaths were highly improbable, it's true, but I've never gotten over the fact that they're not completely impossible (I also saw it a week before flying to New York....not a good idea). And that "it could happen to you at any moment" setup really bothers me. Sometimes I'll find myself noticing how things could possibly kill me because of this film. It's the last film I would have expected to make me aware of and fear my own mortality.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
I've never really seen much of interest in the slasher genre; it's basically just a formula with interchangeable, boring characters being hacked up by a killer. And though I've seen several now by this point, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the one that's made a lasting impression on me. I saw this at a Halloween party I went to a few years back. Granted, it's not the ultra-violent schlockfest everyone makes it out to be, but there are plenty of creepy and frightening things about the film. Also, I live way back in the backwoods at the time, and there was a house that looked exactly like Leatherface's not too far away. That didn't help ease my fears. Whenever someone says something about houses being broken into or anything like that, even if it has nothing to do with serial killers, I always imagine it being Leatherface.
4. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I like zombies. And I've discovered that most zombie films don't bother me at all; in fact, they're probably my favorite horror subgenre. I haven't seen the original Dawn of the Dead (yet), but I sure hope it's nothing like this one. I thought it was a fine movie, better than most horror films, but there was so much that creeped me out here. Starting with the opening scene, where a zombie child attacks her parents. Then there's the zombie birthing scene. Honestly, that scene alone lands it on this list. Watch at your own risk:
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This goes back to the claustrophobia thing I was talking about earlier. I'm one of this film's biggest supporters; I think it's one of the best horror movies ever made as well as being one of my favorite films in general. Even though the film takes place in the wide-open woods, directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez create a closed-in atmosphere by having the three main characters wander around in search of a way out, only to discover that the map isn't helping and they're only passing the same things over and over. What really seals the deal, scare-wise, is the fact that you never actually see what's happening; surely there is some sort of supernatural element (the last shot solidifying it), but you never actually see what it is. There's only darkness and empty space, with a few stacks of rocks and bundles of sticks to imply otherwise. This makes it genuinely terrifying. And let me reiterate: I lived in the middle of the woods. Enough said. (PS: This movie is not a true story. Please stop thinking it is.)
What movies scare you the most? Discuss!