This week's Top 5 is of one of my favorite things ever: scary movies. I live for this time of year, because it means I can indulge in my craving for scary movies.
A note before we start. My taste in scary movies is different than other people's. I normally hate movies with fake villain/monster like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. I just don't find them very scary. The kinds of scary movies I prefer are the ones that use psychological fears, especially the fear of the unknown, so you'll see a lot of those on this list. Like with all my Top 5 lists, feel free to comment and disagree.
Let's get started:
Honorable Mention #1 - Cujo
This movie utilizes a personally fear of mine. Ever since an incident I had with a dog when I was a kid, I always get freaked out by dogs that are barking and growling. I mean, I love dogs but something inside of me freaks out when they growl. And this movie features a big, angry, snarling dog. I have a lot of trouble sitting through the whole movie.
Honorable Mention #2 - Final Destination
This movie, like I mentioned earlier, capitolizes on fear of the unknown. An unseen force (Death) is trying to kill the characters in the movie. I think the concept is great for a horror movie. Unfortunately, I don't think they executed the concept as well as they could have. The unseen force is too predictable and the characters can see when it's coming. That took away some of the stength of the concept, but it was still a good idea.
Honorable Mention #3 - Audition
I first heard of this movie from the list BRAVO TV put together of the 100 scariest movie moments. I wish I hadn't. This movie is a build up to the last fifteen minutes, but that scariest moments show spoiled the twist for me. I mean, it was still one of the best, creepiest, most disturbing horror movies I've seen... but I was sad that I knew the twist ahead of time. I suggest going into this movie with no knowledge of the plot. The only thing I'll mention here is that it was made in Japan, so expect subtitles.
Honorable Mention #4 - Kakurenbo
For a cartoon from Japan, this is very good and very scary. I rarely like anime/japanimation, but all of my usual complaints about that style are not present in this movie. It's about a game of hide and seek gone wrong. At certain times, groups of kids get together to play a game of hide and seek in an abandoned part of town, but the kids who play are never seen from again. We follow the current group that's playing. The story is part mystery and it gets more intesne as the movie progresses. I'm not going to spoil some of the twists and turns, but even if you don't like anime movies, I suggest giving this a try. It's only 40 minutes long and when it was over I was sad that it wasn't longer. Also, this is one of the rare horror movies that I think it okay for kids to watch.
5.) Nightmare on Elm Street
This movie is great because it capitolizes on a part of our lives that we probably don't give much thought. We, as humans, need to sleep. And while we're asleep, we're vulnerable. So what happens if someone starts attacking people in their dreams? That's a scary concept. And I love how, throughout these movies, there are parts where the wall between reality and dreams becomes blurred. Like, the main characters are trying to stay awake, but suddenly Freddy attacks and they realize that they fell asleep. It's facinating the think of the psychological aspects of these movies.
I said before that I don't like movies with made-up monsters or villains, but Freddy Krueger is the exception. He's such a great, scary concept. He attacks you when you're most vulnerable and there's not much you can do to defend youself against him. The only way is to stay awake, and that's very difficult for people to do. Plus, Freddy is a great character. He's one of the few horror monsters with a personality and it's a fun personality.
The main concept and Freddy combine for a surprisingly good horror movie.
4.) Blair Witch Project
My friends all laugh when I say this is one of my favorite horror movies, but it's true. Once again, this is a movie that capitolizes on the fear of the unknown. Throughout the movie, you don't know if what's happening is real of if it's just coincidence from the documentary the characters are shooting. Just like Audition, it builds up to the very last moment. It starts off as a nice little documentary and slowly becomes this unknown element messing with these kids. It just gets more and more intense and you're trying to figure out what's going on and suddenly then ending hits you like a ton of bricks. And I love that if you've been paying attention through the movie to the Blair Witch trivia, the ending is a hundred times more powerful. When I first saw that ending, I sat in my chair stunned for about ten minutes.
Also, I have a lot of respect for how this movie was made. The main actors were pretty much given their own cameras and sent off by themselves to improvize the whole time. I saw an interview with the actors where they said they would someimtes wake up in the morning to find notes from the director, and that was the only direction they were given. Not to mention that this movie is one of the biggest success stories in box office history because it was made for nothing and went on to rake in a lot of money.
I love this movie for a lot of reasons. I'm an aspiring writer, so I'm instantly relating to the main character, and also this is a stuation that I could see actually happening to someone. I travel in some nerdy circles and I've met some really fanatical people. I could definately see maybe a Harry Potter fan going crazy and making the author do more than seven books.
And the acting was incredible. James Caan was stuck in a bed and wheelchair most of the movie, but he pulled excelled through subtle acting. And Kathy Bates was one of the scariest horror villains ever. You start off thinking she's this nice, swet lady, and suddenly she snaps. Great, great movie.
2.) The Ring
I think this was one of the best scary movies made in the last 15 years. Its a horror movie rapped around a mystery movie. It's full of twists and turns and frights. And, being a mystery, you don't see the main villain until the very end so it builds up the fear of the unknown.
1.) The Haunting (1963)
For me, this is the best horror movie of all time. It's the only horror movie to truely show how deep our fear of the unknown can go. No guy in a costume. No fake monsters. Just four people in a haunted house. The special effects were pretty much just camera angles and and a few sound effects. And they used those things brilliantly to make it seem like the house was really trying to get at the characters.
For such simple concepts and effects, this is the scariest movie I've ever watched. The pounding and the creaking just makes your heart jump. It feels like you're right there with them in that house.
My favorite moment is the ending, where the characters are trying to run away from the pounding. They have the cameras follow them from above. As silly as it sounds, it actually looks like you're watching through the house's "eyes" as it chases them.
This is what all horror movies should aspire to, but I don't think any have come close to capting what make this movie so scary.
And, just briefly, I want to mention how disappointing the recent remake of this film was. It tried to do with CGI what the orginal did with subtle camera work. To top it all off, there was a CGI ghost at the end. My only thought was, "Are you kidding me?" I mean, had they even watched the original before making this piece of crap? Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen Wilson cldn't make up for how awful it was. Best not to waste your time with it and rent the original instead.
Anyway, these are my picks for Top 5. Do you agree? Disagree? Care to suggest new categories for future columns? Don't be afraid to let me know!