Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Movies, Movies, Movies.. Another list.. Favourite, er, scariest horror movies

OK, I blame this list - making habit on my oldest daughter, Jennifer. I'm sure I never made lists as a kid, but she was born making lists. Pencil in one hand, sheet of paper in the other. Amazing!

Anyway, I was looking through an old notebook that I carry around in my briefcase; both are well used. I used the book to list (there's that word again), email addresses, my snail- mail address book, occasional meeting minutes and, lo and behold, there were a few pages where I had attempted to put down my favourite movies by various genres.

I know the purpose of this Blog was to talk mainly about books, but I have been finding that many times when I've discussed favourite books, I've also gone on to refer to related movies, TV shows and that sort of thing.

So I thought I'd dust off these lists and include them periodically in the Blog.

Nikki on the deck
My next thought was which genre to discuss first. Well, it's late at night, the house is dark, we're watching scary movies.. well, OK, actually, we're watching Parenthood, but the mood is almost there. So, voila, my topic is Top Ten Scary Movies. Funnily enough, a few minutes ago, I was taking Nikki for her late night walk. While we were puttering around the cul-de-sac, I was thinking of this Blog. It must have put me in the mood because as I was lifting her onto the front porch to bring her back inside, I was sure I heard footsteps running behind me. *Shudder!* Of course there was nothing there, but that's always the effect that scary movies have on me.

The first scary movie I can recall ever seeing was a Japanese B movie called the Mysterians. It was made in 1957, but I didn't see it until a few years later in Chatham, N.B. I seem to recall my dad taking me to it along with my older brother and sister. It was a typical B movie, but during the movie, the aliens start abducting women. In one case, the alien floats down from the sky, enters a lady's apartment through the window and takes her away. Well, I tell you, I definitely had trouble that night. When we got home, I kept waiting for that alien to come through my window. I think I even got dressed in my pyjamas at the top of the stairs that night. (Remember! I was only a youngster!)

There was another I remember watching on the television with my sister one afternoon (in Chatham again). Darned if I can remember the name of it now, but it involved a group of knights on a mission to get a princess back from an evil witch (I think). They had various challenges to go through, like the cyclops, the bubbling mud, etc. Scary, scary.. I spent most of that time either behind the couch or flying my toy plane out of the living room into the dining room during scary moments.

Finally, another Saturday matinee in Chatham, with my buddies. I don't think I stayed for the end of this one, Phantom of the Rue Morgue, based on the Edgar Allen Poe short story. I spent most of the movie with my face behind my fingers or looking down to make sure my shoes were tied properly. When the hand fell from the chimney, it was time to go home. Well, actually time to leave the cinema, wait outside for my friends to come out and then go home with them so nobody at home would know I left early. :0)

There is something about scary movies, 'you can't live with them, you can't live without them'. That adrenalin rush is pretty heady, but the after effects of making sure the doors are locked, that you turn on all the lights in the house before you go to bed, that's just something you have to deal with.

So what made my list of the ten movies that scared me the most? In no particular order, let's start with -

13 Ghosts - I've never seen the original movie from 1960. When the 2001 movie with Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz and Matthew Lillard came out, I braved all and went to see it by myself. I don't know if it was terrifyingly scary. Matthew Lillard provided some excellent comic relief as did Tony Shalhoub, but the effects were excellent and the sudden views through the special glasses did add quite a bit of tension. You could see what the people in the house couldn't. It was quite neat. I think they may have tried a bit too hard with the special effects, but all in all, it was well worth watching. It's a movie that I don't mind turning on when it shows up on Space or TBS or whatever station might be showing it.

The Birds - This is the Alfred Hitchcock from 1963. It starred Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren. The scariest thing about it was trying to figure out why the heck the birds were flocking together in swarms and attacking humans!! There is a scene in the bedroom of Rod Taylor's house when Tippi Hedren is pressed against the door while the birds swarm her that was very frightening. And the ending, well, just spooky. I won't ruin the ending for you.

Alien - I drove down to Edmonton from Cold Lake Alberta with a buddy, partly just to see Alien. By then I was 24 years old so I felt I had now put that old bugaboo of being affected by scary movies behind me. Nope. I've enjoyed all the Alien movies and the second is probably my favourite. But as the first in the series, this one was excellent! At one point, to try and calm my nerves, I had to go out to the concession stand for another drink. (I had learned that this was a better idea than just going home.) Mind you, during the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I went to see by myself at University of Toronto, I left after about 10 minutes. Somebody had explained the story to me in gruesome detail and I kept waiting for the next thing to happen and couldn't take it anymore. Another scary space horror tale was Event Horizon, starring Sam Neill and Lawrence Fishburn. Try it, you'll like it.

The Shining - I can't remember which I did first, go to the movie (1980) or read the book, which is by Stephen King. Either way, both were scary and excellent. I think the movie was a little over the top, maybe not surprising as it was a Stanley Kubrick movie. Jack Nicholson definitely made the most of his role as Jack Torrance, really hamming it up. But it was tense and breath -taking from beginning to end. The scenes in the maze were excellent and the twins who kept trying to get Danny to 'play' with them. Enough, enough!! There was an attempt at a TV remake in 1997 with Steven Weber as Jack Torrance and it was also pretty good. I think I prefer the original movie.

Night of the Living Dead - George Romero's first zombie classic came out in 1968. Continuing a trend of mine, I went to see it on my own. Why did none of my friends want to go see these movies with me? No matter, I'll haunt them in a future life! This was a great movie, the grainy film quality, the tension as the people trapped in the house try to survive this invasion of zombies. It left you sitting on the end of your seat. Just this moment I got a chill down my spine. I'm not looking forward to my dreams tonight! There have been many really good zombie movies and TV shows. I've just finished watching a BBC mini-series called Dead Set, twinning the Big Brother show idea with zombies. Cool! The AMC network is showing a new series called The Walking Dead, that I watch upstairs Sunday nights while Jo does anything else downstairs. George Romero has made a career of zombie movies. Another excellent one was Day of the Dead (1978), where the survivors hole up in a shopping mall. Funny and scary both. 28 Days Later and Dog Soldiers are two other excellent British entries in this genre.

Psycho - I watched this Alfred Hitchcock classic in my film class at university (and yes, I took many 'bird' courses at university). The movie came out in 1960 but I had never seen it until my film class presented it. I had heard about the famous shower scene and when it came up, was mildly scared. But from that point on, the tension built. The movie is excellently paced; each sequence would start slowly, then build up to a climax that had you on the edge of your seat. It was a very tense thriller and a favourite of mine. Don't watch the remake with Vince Vaughn. It's not worth watching! Why remake a classic?

The Ring - This was another one I went to on my own. Jo had returned to England to sell her flat in the Fall of 2002 prior to moving back to Comox to be with me permanently. So bored one evening, I decided to go see The Ring at the local theater.  Based on the Japanese movie, Ringu, this one starred Naomi Watts as a woman who is investigating how a mysterious tape seems to be causing the deaths of anyone who has watched it. This is critical as she and her son and best friend have watched the tape and they now have one week to live. It's a very stylized film, but also very scary. Especially scary was the scene where the girl comes out of the TV. I won't say anymore, as I don't want to ruin it for anyone else who may not have seen it. (OK, definitely becoming creeped out now)

Black Xmas - This is an old favourite of mine for a few reasons. It was filmed at University of Toronto and came out in 1974, the year I went to U of T. There were many familiar landmarks; the sorority house was down the road from our residence. I lived at University College, near Hart House where much of the action took place. It was a Canadian film, with Canadian stars Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin, amongst others. There is something about it, very Canadian; sort of sloppy, humorous, but at the same time, very, very scary. What a way to spend a Xmas night!

OK, now onto the big two.... the two movies that scared me the very most.

The Exorcist -  Before I actually went out to see this movie, I read the book. I would get so scared that I couldn't read it by myself downstairs after everybody else in the family went upstairs to bed. The part of the book I remember most was the scene where the priest is alone in his cell at the seminary, listening to a tape of  Regan (Linda Blair in the movie). It sounds like a foreign language, but as the priest rewinds the tape to listen again, he realizes that in fact Regan has in fact been speaking 'BACKWARDS'! Gad!

That summer I had a job cleaning out a daycare after it closed for the night. I would bring my radio with me to keep me company as I was the only person in the school. When the theme for The Exorcist by Mike Oldfield would come up, well, let's just say, cleaning didn't take too much longer.

Then the crowning glory when my friend, Alain, and I went to the movie. It was kind of a graduation present for us, we were now old enough to go to an adult movie.

How scary! That's all I can say. It was sometimes over the top (pea soup vomit), but it was such a dark movie and built such tension. For weeks after that, if I had to babysit my brother and if he happened to call out in his sleep with a bad dream, I was convinced that he was possessed. lol.. Yes, I do have a great imagination.

And number one in my book.......

John Carpenter's...

Halloween - It came out in 1978, my first year in Cold Lake, Alberta. A buddy and I went to see it at the Base Theater. The theater was full and I was sitting beside a young lady. Tension built. When the music would sound most threatening and you would think something was going to happen, Carpenter would trick you and let nothing happen. Then out of the blue.. 'stab'.. shriek!! The last half hour was so intense. The girl beside me would scream; I'd scream. The nice thing, if it can be called a nice thing for a horror movie, it was just scary, not gory.

To top it off, when I returned to my rooms that night, the lights were off in the hallway, just the red emergency lights were on. I kicked open the door to my room, turned on my light, checked under the bed.. I only did that for a couple of weeks mind you. I did eventually get over it. :0) Many years later, I tried to watch it with my daughter, but the atmosphere was all wrong. Daytime, at home. You need the full audience reaction for this one, or a dark and stormy night.

Some honourable mentions

Poltergeist, The Thing, Rosemary's Baby, Jaws, The Haunting (original), Exorcist III, The Changeling, Scream, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Entity and The Pyx.

Sleep well!


  1. Ha ha! You make me smile! I can imagine you as a child, when you had watched "The Mysterians", jumping in your pyjamas and running in to your bed and hiding under the covers faster than the speed of lightning! Personally I don’t watch scary movies - simply because it takes me years to recover!! I think my nervous system can’t handle scary movies.. It’s like my body goes into shock. Reading your post was like looking back at my own experience with scary movies. “The shining” (I’ll never forget that lady in the bathtub!) and “The Exorcist” (Did you know it is based on a true story?) are both super scary!! I think the last scary movie I watched was “Gothika” with Halle Berry in the lead role. OMG that was one scary movie!!!!! Halle did an excellent job there!! Such a good job that I was totally convinced by her role – and never saw a scary movie afterwards… I think I even cried!! But seriously – I get frightened very easily… I actually jumped up in the couch when I saw that animated movie “Finding Nemo” and that huge shark appeared! ;D

  2. My philosophy as a child, when I was in bed, was that as long as my eyes were closed nothing could happen to me. lol.

    Jo says if you are afraid of Finding Nemo, you are just sad.. ;0)


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