I love movies because they can make you laugh, they can make you cry, they can educate people, bring people together and even inspire people. However, I will not be talking about those kinds of movies today. This blog is dedicated to my least favorite kind of movie experience: getting scared.
Movies with absorbing stories have the ability to suspend your disbelief, which means you can experience whatever is happening on the screen as if it were real. Based on this logic it is no surprise that great horror movies are so good at scaring us. But in order to understand this list I need to make something clear: this is about more than just scares. Scaring people is easy. The following movies have gotten under my skin days after the movies are over. In other words, these films have not scared me – they have traumatized me.
This list is unique because I have not divided it by movie – I have divided it specifically by what made watching the movie so scary. Enjoy!
Technology Is Scary
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is really frightening. The moment HAL disobeys the humans is like a prequel to The Terminator. What if technology becomes so advanced that it uses its own free will to force you to obey it? I rely on technology as much as anyone else. The thought of it turning on us may be the scariest scenario of the modern age.
Reality Is Scary
Sometimes the reason why horror films are scary is because they remind us of reality. Jordan Peele reminded people of the racism present in our culture and he used the anxiety and fears about the subject and exaggerated them to excellent effect to create a chilling race-themed movie called Get Out. But oftentimes the scariest movies have no supernatiral elements. Everything that happened in the movie Deliverance could easily have happened in real life. See if you still want to go rafting in the backwoods after seeing that one. Jeez!
Someone‘s Following You
Many of the scariest movies are the ones that are the least violent. The possibility and anticipation of something happening is even scarier than seeing something actually happen. John Carpenter did this with Hitchcockian skill in the movie Halloween when he brought Michael Myers to the screen to stalk Jamie Lee Curtis. Of course, this doesn’t mean that movies with a clear and present threat coming after you can’t be equallly terrifying. One of the scariest (and my vote for greatest TV movie in history) is Steven Spielberg’s Duel. This one is creepier than Jaws in my opinion. Just who exactly is the psycho driving that truck??
There are a lot of scary movies about animals (The Birds, Cujo) and there are a lot of scary animated films as well (Pinocchio, Fantasia) but one of the movies that has resonated with me the most is one that combines both animals and animation. 1954 British import Animal Farm is very eerie but its Disney-like visuals combined with its Orwellian source material make watching the film an even creepier experience than reading the book.
Worst Nightmare Come True
Movies where something happens to the main character that you would not want to have happen to you are an easy way to get a scare, but it is effective nonetheless. Rosemary‘s Baby for instance was the perfect nightmare scenario. What could be a worse situation for a mother-to-be than giving birth to the devil? However, the number one nightmare scenario for me took place in Kevin Smith’s under-the-radar indie horror film from 2014 Tusk. I honestly couldn’t think of a worse thing that has happened to someone on film, which is why I had to include it. Whether you love or hate this divisive film, you can’t argue with the horror Justin Long’s character endures.
They Seem Nice
Even scarier than the stalker is when you meet someone who starts out nice but gradually reveals their dark side. Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho gets my vote for creepiest character in film history. However, Hitchcock’s direction was the real star of that film. Kathy Bates in Misery stole every scene in that film as Annie Wilkes. I mostly couldn’t take my eyes off of her because I was afraid of what psychotic thing she was going to do next. She won an Oscar for that film and I’m not surpised because she legitimately scared the hell out of me playing someone who was supposed to be scary.
No. 1 Scariest Film
All those films were creepy, but Paranormal Activity, my favorite horror film of all time, was next level. One of the most brilliant things Oren Peli did when creating this movie was make it as realistic as possible by giving it the documentary treatment, making all the scares seem all the more real. How much did this movie creep me out? You would have to pay me to watch it again.