I'm either the least fun person to watch a horror movie with, or the most.
When deciding what movie to watch amongst friends, if somebody suggests a horror movie, I'm always game. Doesn't matter if it's "Piñata: Survival Island" -- worst titled horror movie, maybe ever, with terrible storyline to boot -- or "The Orphange," which is one of my favorites. If there's a sliver of a chance that I might have to "30 Rock" myself to sleep (my go-to afraid of the dark antidote), I'm all in. Plus, terrible horror movies can be HI-LARIOUS.
There's isn't a horror movie I won't watch. (Well except "Cannibal Holocaust." Real torture? No thank you.) I think I have taste, it just ranges far and wide.
The problem is, after a lifetime of watching horror movies, I've become a bit immune. Very often the movies that make my husband jump (he's a recent scary movie convert), leave me feeling at best curious about "how they did that," or at worst sleepy.
Don't get me wrong, I have a healthy respect for "old timey" slasher films. I'm watching watching the laughable "Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives" right this very second, and am loving the cheesy, screamy, goodness. Stuff like this gets me in the Halloween spirit, the same way having "A Christmas Story" playing 24 hours straight in the background gets me in the Christmas spirit.
But really, the reason we watch scary movies is for the thrill of The Fear right? There's nothing finer than a movie that makes you question every dark corner, every creak in the night, every scratch in your cat's litter box.
So here's my short list of movies that have actually scared me at one point or another. I don't claim that all of them are high art, but sometimes the right camera angle, sound effect, or timing of a "jump scare" is all you need.
I love all the Japanese "Ju-On" or "The Grudge" movies. Now I don't want to be one of those people who say all Asian horror movies are superior to American horror movies, but in this case I kind of am.
The Sarah Michelle Gellar "The Grudge" just can't compare to "Ju-On". I don't know if it's the intense seriousness that director Takashi Shimizu imbues throughout the entire film, the feeling that you need to watch every corner of every frame for a ghost that might sweep past, or the overall darkness and dread that pervades this movie and and it's sequels (check out the 2009 "Ju-On: White Ghost/Black Ghost"), but this movie, and the ongoing timeline of terror it creates tricks me into thinking, "THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING SOMEWHERE IN JAPAN."
One more reason to LEAVE THE MURDER HOUSE ALONE.
This was the first movie I ever actually jumped and screamed in.
I hate caves, I hate the idea of being stalked in a cave (who doesn't?), and I hate humanity for creating angry, mutant, cave-dwellers.
I went into this movie skeptical. Monsters and murder aren't really my thing, I veer more towards ghosts, possession, and home invasion, for my scares. But HOLY SHIT, after I saw "The Descent," every time I looked in the mirror at night, I was convinced that milky white humanoid was going to be standing behind me.
Plus having to kill a friend because death at the hands of the angry mutant humanoids is worse, is right up there on my list of greatest fears in life.
I'm a sucker for prequels.
Alright, I know a lot of people find these movies laughable. I admit there is a certain amount of silliness to them, especially after all the hype of the first one. Doors opening and closing, objects moving around, possessed women tossing men like rag dolls -- yes all of that can be spooky, but I admit it starts to get predictable.
Yet something about "3" gives me the heebie jeebies. Maybe it's the 80s, but really I think it has to do primarily with small children and ghosts. Ghosts and kids. Kids and ghosts. Nothing spookier.
This "Paranormal Activity" in particular makes me worry about all the "things" that are just out of sight.
The fact that these already creepy kids are in cahoots with a demon, piss off the demon, THEN demand to play Bloody Mary with a well-meaning 80s hipster, with disastrous consequences, gives me more than a little pause about one day babysitting my niece in her giant old house in Maine.
And the scene with the panning "fan cam" and the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't ghost under the sheet? SHUT UP.
"Black Christmas" is one of those campy, 70's horror movies that was probably the predecessor to so many TERRIBLE horror movies, but for me, this one works.
It feeds on one of my biggest fears, that there's some maniac hiding in my house, unbeknownst to me, just WAITING to get me and all the sorority sisters I may or may not live with.
It's nothing amazingly original, but the "killer cam" POV, along with some serious respiratory issues, make this murder/home invasion movie glance-over-your-shoulder, lock your bedroom door, scary.
BONUS: Mysterious, taunting, creepy voiced phone calls! If you have a land line, take it off the hook when you watch this movie.
A horror movie with a kind of happy ending that doesn't detract from the scares? And what did I say about children and ghosts? This spanish language film does scary good.
"The Orphanage" has all the ingredients for a great scary movie -- big old house, questionable past, devoted mother, missing children, imaginary friends, bag-headed child -- but it goes one step further and it's actually a heartbreaking story wrapped up in real frights.
When a woman returns to the orphanage where she was raised in order to continue to care for children in need, as well as her own sick adopted son, strange things begin to happen, and eventually her son disappears.
By employing various spooky sleuthing means, not the least of which is playing a sort of ghostly "Red Light, Green Light" game with house's unseen inhabitants, the woman, Laura, discovers the "incendiary" secret of the house and former orphanage.
"The Orphanage" makes you want to hold your little ones close, while at the same time never turning your back to the empty room.
I didn't find this movie especially terrifying, but it certainly is unsettling.
Zombie baby. That's all you really need to know.
These are just a few of my favorites. What are yours?
I know I've missed a bunch here ("The Strangers," Hideo Nakata's "Dark Water," "A Tale of Two Sisters"), what are you watching this Halloween?