Article by: Anthony Florez
All sorts of people like scary movies. I accept that. Some of the most normal people I know are way into them and I’m not implying there is something abnormal about liking horror or passing judgement on you if you’re a fan. I just think you’re a little bit insane. I’ve never really understood intentionally sitting down for two hours of dread, revulsion, or tension. It’s just not in my blood (spooky!) to root for character deaths or sadistic serial killers and the whole torture-porn genre finally pushed me over the edge, I drew a line in the sand. If you are hardcore into the Saw or Hostel franchises or their ilk, I am judging you, there is no artistic value or redemptive qualities in those movies, your choices are bad and you should feel bad.
Okay, that’s a little harsh, I apologize. I just don’t believe in filmmaking that has to be endured. I am, however, a big fan of psychological horror, some of it can be pretty intelligent and entertaining while still making my skin crawl a little bit. As much as I avoid the genre I do have a few examples that I throw out there as a kind of peace offering when I encounter folks that are but that’s not what this is. Instead, I’m reaching out to my fellow wimps and softies with a simple message: there are some really good films out there that happen to be scary. Suck it up and dabble because if I can sit through these movies, anyone can and I’m recommending them because I genuinely love these flicks and there’s some great things to be found here if you don’t mind, occasionally, losing control of basic bodily functions in front of whatever friend or loved one you watch movies with.
Some spoilers, nothing that isn’t in the trailers provided….
Pretty high. If blood grosses you out, maybe cover your eyes in a few places. It’s probably just corn syrup. Probably.
Claustrophobia. Usually not something that bothers me too much but here it’s so well used you’re going to have a few gut churning moments. Scotophobia (fear of the dark), a lot of this. I learned a new word today! Horrible-mutanted-human-monster- aphobia. There isn’t a word for that one.
This is a rough first entry. If you’re already averse to scary movies this is not a good place to start, maybe skip down the list a little bit. If horror is already your thing you’ve probably scoffed at me for calling this movie rough but, as stated above, it does hit you on a few fronts over the course of its run. Beyond that, however, this is just a really well made film. The primary conflict is obvious, women trapped in cave, women trying to escape thingies, but the whole story is really revolving around the fractured psyche of one of the main characters who was already struggling to recover from a pretty serious trauma that occurs at the beginning of the movie. Her descent (GET IT) into insanity adds a layer of psychological horror cheese on to the already loaded chimichanga of what-the-shit-is-going-on.
Besides those things The Descent gets bonus points for being an excellent grl pwr flick and also for only using that thing I hate so much, the jump scare, ever so fleetingly. That technique is a cheap trick that is abused in lesser films but here it’s only utilized enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, rather than flinching constantly from loud noises. If the opportunity arises, watch the original cut of the film, not the stunted American edit that ends on a slightly less morbid tone. Because they think we are stupid.
HA! Yes. Just yes.
Diseases maybe? Zambies? This is a goddamn gross movie, particularly when they throw in what is clearly actual footage of STDs as a sort of visual gag. Which is also the appropriate reaction.
I was one of the few folks who actually trucked out to theaters to see Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino masturbate all over 70s exploitation cinema and I have to say Grindhouse was worth the trip. It was an experience I’ve never had at the movies, there was laughter, there was tension, there were hilarious fake trailers (except for Eli Roth’s contribution that idiotic sick fuck). I was exhausted after the fact and in hindsight I realized that while Death Proof is widely thought to be Tarantino’s weakest film, the first half of the feature, Planet Terror was a pretty entertaining in its own right. Rodriguez, as a filmmaker, is not really talked about in serious circles anymore unless you run in that Spy Kids crowd (I do not) but I really thought Terror showcased all his talents in one go. There’s humor, a machine gun-leg, weird wall-running action from the guy from Six Feet Under and also, it’s fucking gross. Like, amusingly gross most of the time, way too gross others.
But it succeeds in doing what I thought was the most important thing about the Grindhouse experiment, which was entertain. This looked like a fun thing to be a part of and the whole movie was overshadowed by the pall of Death Proof which was also entertaining except when it had the most nauseatingly horrifying car crash sequence I’ve ever seen on film. That sequence, by the way, is why the whole back-to-back combo is not on this list, just the first half and why I drive practically on the shoulder on every two-lane freeway I’ve been on since.
Cabin in the Woods
Not too bad. Occasionally a little graphic with some pretty icky monster effects, but I could probably eat dinner with this on in the background.
All of them? I don’t know, this movie is cheating in that regard.
A no-brainer. This is less a horror film than it is a deconstruction of the horror genre. I’d argue that even though the monsters are largely treated like tropes they are still pretty damn creepy on the whole. If you have not already seen this movie I’m not going to give away the clever approach it has to your typical haunted house meets college students formula. That would be stupid and, contrary to what the studio heads who released The Descent would have you believe, I am not that.
The product of Drew Goddard, the most successful Joss Whedon alum so far and the one who hews the closest to his particular brand of dialogue heavy clever storytelling, this movie is the one that I think is the most fitting for this particular article. It’s the one film that I think pretty much anyone can watch and enjoy without being a fan of the horror genre and even more so if you are. Not much more to add here without spoiling it, except watch out for that Merman.
You’re going to want to keep the kids out of the room for this one. And elderly people or folks with heart conditions. And people with souls/eyeballs. It’s pretty off-putting is what I’m saying.
Uh. Scary shit? Yes, this movie’s main targeted phobia is shit that is scary.
Here’s a fun story. When I was about 8 years old it was still socially acceptable to let children run around the neighborhood without active supervision. A few basic rules: stay on our side of the street, don’t get in random cars, be home by dinner and we were good to go. At an older child’s house the particular band of street urchins I ran with were introduced to some scenes in Hellraiser without really knowing the context or what we were looking at. Nudity was a horrifying concept, sexuality, practically quantum physics in the flesh (so to speak). So I saw a few parts of this film that so terrified me that it wasn’t until I was a 28 year old man that I found the courage to finally pick this film up at a Blockbuster and sit down with it where I discovered something fascinating: it’s a damn good movie.
Just objectively it’s Clive Barker telling what is essentially a morality fable that also happens to have some truly distressing horror creations in the form of the Cenobites. And at literal face value these fuckers are pretty frightening but Barker is smart enough to know that the audience’s imagination is a far more powerful storytelling tool than what he can put on screen. Aside from the reasonable amount of violence and gore more is left to be filled in with the imagination than is shown outright and the effect is the same you would get from a well made science fiction film; the expansion of that imagination. Granted, it is also gory as fuck but the effects are slightly dated, which makes it a little easier to get through that stuff. Okay, I’m lying, this movie scores pretty high on the pants-shitting Richter scale which is totally a real thing.
Surprisingly low, actually. There is a lot of blood and off-screen or suggested violence but there’s nothing really shown that is all that disturbing except some dead folks.
Phil Collins. Yuppies.
I went into this film expecting what I think everyone else did when it came out. It looks like some incredibly misogynistic murder porn starring a hyper sexy Christian Bale but it’s actually pretty far in the other direction. Instead, it’s kind of a paean to how comical the idea of status and masculinity is, it’s a punchline about the excess and materialism of the 80s and it’s way funnier than it should be. Granted, his inferred abuse of prostitutes and murder of a homeless person is not funny at all, but when you get to end which I won’t spoil, you realize that it actually might be.
If you need any more evidence check out the business card scene that is filmed like a showdown at the OK Corral. The only film fans that actually should be offended by American Psycho are misogynists, director Mary Harron and writer Guinevere Turner subvert the entire genre by turning this supposedly terrifying serial killer and predator of women into a vapid, vainglorious, man-child with no actual identity. It’s hilarious, hash-tag ThisIsWhatAFeministLooksLike. Now if you’ll excuse me. I have to return some videotapes.
Let The Right One In
Low. There are some icky parts but nothing too bad.
I don’t know. Loneliness? The Swedish winter? Cats.
I don’t know if this even qualifies as a scary movie. There are some unsettling moments and it’s ultimately about vampires. Kind of. I’m mostly recommending it because I think everyone should see it. It’s one of those movies that captures a story and a feeling so well it stays with you afterwards. There was an American remake but it’s largely unnecessary and undeniably inferior to the original, no disrespect to Matt Reeves and company at all for attempting the impossible: replicating the atmosphere and tenderness of a brilliant foreign film while catering to the attention spans of the American viewing public. Okay, we can be a little stupid sometimes.
No, Let the Right One In falls in a lot of categories, even as a coming-of-age story but ultimately it’s about love. Weird, virginal, inexplicable love between two enormously lonely souls and the hijinks that follow. And by hijinks I mean there is not really any humor or levity present at all, just a quiet, steady progression of events, some supernatural, some violent that lead to lovely conclusion. Doesn’t sound scary does it? Well. It is sometimes but although this is a list of recommendations, this is the only film on here I insist be seen, alone or with a good viewing partner who has a decent attention span and doesn’t talk too much during movies, if at all. L-O-V-E-Y-O-U.
An American Werewolf in London
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil
The Fly (just kidding, do not watch)
28 Days/Weeks Later
So that’s the list. There are probably some good ones I still haven’t seen yet. Sinister should probably be on there but that one I talked all the way through which is my Geiger counter for how scary something is. Too many words coming out of my mouth, it’s probably too creepy for me to actually enjoy. I’d also recommend The Shining but that movie is old af and if you haven’t seen that already I can do nothing for you. Anyway, with the scariest day of the year coming up, it behooves us to get in the mood with some good ol’ spooky stories. I’m talking about November 8th, by the way (TOPICAL!). Just kidding. I mean Halloween. Cheers.