By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)
Just like comedies, I find horror movies easy to judge. For comedies, the question is, “Did the movie make me laugh?” If yes, it was a good comedy. The more laughs, the better. For horror movies, the question is, “Did the movie scare me?” If it is yes, then it is a good horror movie. Now, there are “horror” movies that are good but aren’t scary. In this category are some of the greats by Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds and Psycho come immediately to mind) as well as fun movies (Scream, Dawn of the Dead (the original and the remake) and Shaun of the Dead) that are enjoyable, but don’t raise the goose flesh on my arms or the back of my neck.
For me, the scare is usually not found in physical entities. Zombies, well, you can devise a plan for zombies. A lot of time it will fail, but you can come up with a plan. Sit on a rooftop with boxes of ammunition. Create distractions. Run or drive really fast and don’t trip or crash into a tree. Same for crazy people and homicidal maniacs like Jason Voorhees, Leatherface or Michael Myers.
However, what in the name of H.P. Lovecraft do you do about supernatural entities? What can you do about things that are already dead and have no corporeal form so that you can at least shoot them in the head? What can you do with things that can’t be touched but can hold you in the air by your own head of hair?
Well, you die and it’s not pretty when it happens. But, before you die, your mind is filled with all the possible ways you could die, and dread lies around every corner. You don’t want to move. You don’t want to look around. You want to sit, with your eyes closed and hope that all the bad things will go away. They rarely do.
Of course, you can’t help but have exceptions in life and I’m sure you’ll figure out which movie it is in my list of my ten scariest horror movies.
10. Drag Me to Hell
This movie is a bit different than most of the movies on my list. In it, there are the supernatural dangers like most of the rest, but in this movie they come from an old crone. Old crones are always trouble and they seem to like to curse people. But, this kind of danger is easily avoidable. Don’t talk to old people.
9. Let Me In
Forgive me. I have yet to see Let the Right One In, but I know that I liked this one and I can tell you why. There’s something about creepy little girls that want to eat your soul that make me want to run and hide. I think I just came up with the name of a movie I plan to write, “There’s Something About Creepy Little Girls.” It will be a comedy/horror/romance for the tween crowd.
8. The Exorcist 3
One of the best scare moments ever in a movie happened in this one before it got talky. As viewers, we were just looking at one of the characters with a hallway leading to a room in the background when all of the sudden, something dark spider-walks across the ceiling. That image still makes me shudder.
You found the exception! You win the fear of going into the deep end of a swimming pool where of course the sharks lurk. I mean, they can’t survive in the shallow end of a pool, that would be silly. As an added bonus, you get to wear a mask whenever you go snorkeling in the ocean that blocks your peripheral vision! So, you’ll always want to look where you can’t see because that’s where the 50-foot shark will be.
Oh, Steven Spielberg, you’ve made swimmers afraid of any water for thirty-five years now. Congratulations?
6. Paranormal Activity
I think you either love these movies or hate them because they don’t offer much in the way of production quality. But, when you spend only $15,000 on a movie, you don’t get much in the way of special effects. That’s what makes this movie so beautiful. Your imagination does all the work. A couple of cameras filming different parts of the house and the filmmakers cut to one, cut to another, cut back to one and there is something changed. It’s so subtle but immediately you question your senses. Did I see that right? How did that just happen? Then you start to feel that something is off, the hairs on your neck start to rise and you wait. The waiting allows the tension build and you scan every inch of the video to make sure you see everything and then a door creaks open. The sound and motion of such an ordinary action all of the sudden fills you with such dread and even after the movie ends, that sound still makes you look around as you tell yourself that ghosts and demons don’t exist. Do they?
5. The Exorcist
The original creepy girl horror movie as Linda Blair talks like a demon, spider-walks across ceilings and hurls bile. I would like to posit a theory: Chinese families subject to the one-child policy that the Chinese government enacted in 1978 wanted their one child to be male because they all saw this movie.
4. Paranormal Activity 3
How do you improve on Paranormal Activity? You set up a camera that oscillates. So, it moves in a direction, everything is fine and then moves back and OHMYGOSH there’s something weird. Then, every time that darn camera angle appears on screen you expect it to find scary stuff in the background. When it doesn’t you can’t relax because you know it will the next time or the next time or the time after that. Add on top of that two little daughters that like to talk to demons and say “Bloody Mary” three times in dark bathrooms and you have another movie with especially creepy girls.
3. Paranormal Activity 2
How does the second Paranormal Activity top my list? Well, the first just has a couple. Adults generally should have enough sense to leave the house. The third, as much as I liked it and as it added new tricks and creepy girls, still has a bit of the novelty gone. That leaves the middle movie and the presence of a toddler that can’t talk and a dog. My tip to you: if you ever see a dog freaking out at a closet, you’re probably royally screwed and you should just curl up in a ball and start crying.
2. The Shining
The basis of my fear of creepy little girls is this Stanley Kubrick movie based on the Stephen King novel. After I saw it, I dreamed of those damn twin girls asking Danny to come play. So, when I hear guys with their scantily clad twin girl fantasies I nod and smile and try to keep myself from running out of the room screaming. I also don’t know if I can really ever fully trust a bartender.
1. The Blair Witch Project
Easily the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Why? It’s the only movie that made me question every skeptical bone in my body. I went to see this movie at a theater in Denver, Colorado. The Mayan, I believe. I had heard just a little about it and I saw it in a packed theater with a bunch of other people hanging on the edge of their seats. I left the theater a bit scared and happy that I had a fantastic movie going experience. I climbed into my car and started to drive. Then it hit me. I had planned to go camping that night in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I was going to go and drive up there in the dark, find a secluded campsite, strap on my head lamp, set up my tent and somehow go to sleep all by myself as the sounds of the night closed in around me. I thought about it. I thought about it again. Ghosts don’t exist. I kept telling myself there is no such thing as the Blair Witch. Then, instead of driving for an hour and a half, I drove four hours to just go home and sleep behind four walls, making sure that no one was in my apartment standing in a corner.
So, the moral of the story: don’t plan on camping after watching scary movies and for the love of all that is holy, avoid creepy little girls like the plague. How can you tell if they’re creepy? I don’t know. Just avoid them all.