I used to love scary movies. As a child, my favorite was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (I was a strange kid). In junior high, there was nothing better than binging on Dr. Pepper and tubes of Pringles while watching a Sleepaway Camp marathon. At some point, I saw The Ring in theaters and had trouble sleeping. Then, The Blair Witch Project made me too freaked out to be in any area with more than six trees. What Lies Beneath brought on nightmares and made mucky lakes even creepier. The last scary movie I remember watching was the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (starring Mrs. Timberlake). I’m convinced I only made it home in one piece that night because I broke into a full on sprint while trekking back to my car. Since then, it’s all rom-coms, dramedies and documentaries. Clearly, scary movies needed to be a part of this project.
I asked my Facebook and Twitter pals for their best scary movie recommendations. I selected a few of the most mentioned, plus some that were On Demandable. From gory to campy, there’s bound to be a horror flick that’s up your dimly lit, creepy alley.
The Purge (2013)
Premise, courtesy of IMDB: “In the future, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized. ”
The Lowdown: I liked the premise, but the execution (no pun intended) was really lame. First of all, it’s hard to buy Ethan Hawke as a conservative, wealthy suburban dad/hubby. He’ll always be Troy Dyer in my mind, which makes him unbelievable in any non-slacker/hipster roles (save Jesse Wallace in Before [insert general time of day here]). Then there was the cliche bad guys in their cliche bad guy masks (see above). The whole point is that these masks are intended to be creepy, which is why a version of them is used in every horror flick. Boring. I did have a few good startles.
Full Disclosure: I watched this on a plane (so, basically a one-by-one-inch screen), during the daytime, which probably made it a million times less scary. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the freaky movie end of the pool, plane viewing is a safe bet.
Verdict: Call me crazy, but I only want to see Ethan Hawke in a dirty white t-shirt, smoking a cig, anxiously running his hand over his long, lightly greasy hair. I’d skip this and just go for the Hunger Games.
The Exorcist (1973)
Premise, courtesy of IMDB: “When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.”
The Lowdown: When I polled my Facebook and Twitter friends, this was the second most mentioned flick (after The Shining and It, naturally). I demanded this movie from Comcast, and settled in at home, after dark, all alone… a much scarier setting. Though special effects have come a long way in the last 40(!) years, The Exorcist is still a fantastic story. You may not know that it won two Academy Awards (nominated for 10) and took home the Golden Globe for Best Drama. When was the last time a horror movie was even mentioned on the red carpet? I’m guessing 1973. Though watching a child etch “Help Me” on her stomach from the inside of her body made me queasy, I quickly deduced most people probably have not experienced Regan MacNeil’s exorcism since their teenage years. Watching the movie at 31 in the era of CGI made the infamous head spinnin’ and pea soup pukin’ aspects feel a wee bit cheesy. The plot line did have me considering converting to Catholicism for the first time.
Verdict: A film classic, every movie buff ought to check this one off their list. If you still think this movie will be too scary for you, I suggest watching Repossessed, staring Leslie Nielsen and Linda Blair–the same actress who played Regan in the original Exorcist.
Premise, courtesy of IMDB: “Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them.”
The Lowdown: To my mind, the only thing less appealing than gore porn is Al Gore porn. So when Hostel came out (the same year I spent a month and a half backpacking through Europe), I skipped it. I’ve always been too afraid to watch this movie, as well as any film with word “Saw” in it. Luckily, Josh watched it with me– an easy sell as there were lots of boobs in the first five minutes. It was actually fairly light and fluffy, then we got to the part where a hostel in eastern Europe sells their occupants to tourists who pay top dollar to torture and kill them. Such a creepy premise, and the most effed up part is I honestly believe this could be happening somewhere. With an executive producer like Quentin Tarantino onboard, the bloody torture scenes should’ve been expected. They were, but we still closed our eyes.
Verdict: Creepy premise, and not for the faint of heart. This movie will make you never want to stay in a hostel again, though I’m sure you probably have felt that way all on your own since your 26th birthday.
Last House on the Left (1972)
Premise, courtesy of IMDB: “A pair of teenage girls are headed to a rock concert for one’s birthday. While trying to score marijuana in the city, the girls are kidnapped by a gang of psychotic convicts.”
The Lowdown: A family friend recommended this via Facebook. Five seconds in, I realized he was being facetious. Though it’s a Wes Craven film, it’s one of his first, shot on a camera similar to the one my dad brought with us to the Bahamas, circa 1986. No notable actors, weird dialog (in the first scene, the dad tells his 17-year-old daughter that he can tell she’s not wearing a bra and can see her areolas, but then doesn’t make a big stink about it at all… cause that happens in real life!), and some really bad acting. I decided to wait it out because it was only 84 minutes long. A full hour into the movie, there was one of the most disturbing sexual assault scenes I have ever seen. Josh and I literally fast-forwarded through it. Later in the movie, the victim’s mother bites the wang off one of the perpetrators, which was also unbelievable, but totally awesome.
Verdict: Campy, with a dash of disturbing. Apparently Wes Craven remade this movie in 2009, with the big budget he felt the story required to fully tell the story. This version stars Aaron Paul (pre-Breaking Bad), which is enough for me to check it. Eventually.
The Conjuring (2013)
Premise, courtesy of IMDB: “Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.”
The Lowdown: My friends Lynn and Kris love scary movies (actually, I think Lynn loves them, & Kris loves Lynn). We made a date to watch The Conjuring– what I heard from my cousin Alex, THE scary movie buff, is the scariest movie of all time– the week of Halloween. I have one rule about scary movies: I will not watch one if I have to sleep alone that night. Fortunately, Josh is in town. Unfortunately, he couldn’t watch the movie with us at Kris & Lynn’s house… which meant I’d have to drive home alone around 11pm. Eek! Just anticipating that made me uneasy. Without giving too much away, I will tell you this is one of the scariest movies I have ever watched. The movie’s pace was pretty slow, which always intensifies the suspense, plus the color palate leaned heavily on neutral, pallid tones… eww! There are creepy dolls, evil demons, dark basements and imagery so horrifying it hurts to think about. While the children in the movie slept, their exposed limbs were yanked by some being (precisely why I never, ever, ever-ever-ever (!) sleep with a leg outside the covers). But the kicker: It’s based on a true story.
Verdict: I’ve decided that trying to scare yourself is much like trying to tickle yourself: it barely works. So naturally, I was not scared at all on my drive home. Alone. In the dark, with a light drizzle and dense fog blanketing the ground. I wasn’t hunched forward in my car seat because I feared something would grab me from behind. I totally did not run from my car into my house, and then I definitely didn’t turn on all of the lights once I got inside. I would never be so rude as to wake up Josh when I got home, just to make sure he was a person and not a demon. I didn’t jump at all during the night when I felt a hand brush against my head (it was Josh’s, of course). The next morning, my heart did not skip a beat when I saw something move behind me in our bathroom mirror (phew… it was a cat). And even though the clothes I wanted to wear to work today were in the dryer in our basement, the reason I didn’t go down there had nothing to do with me being too scared.
So if you don’t want to be scared at all, watch The Conjuring. I promise you’ll have no trouble at all falling asleep, wondering what’s lurking in your closet… what’s waiting in your basement… and where that new bruise you don’t remember getting came from…
UPDATE: I’m sharing the scare! Tell me your favorite scary movie in the comments below & I’ll send you a copy of one these horror flicks (it’s a surprise!). Deadline is Sun., Nov. 3 @ 11:59pm. Best of luck…. bwahaha!