We are doing a special series in our Young Adult Class right now called “A Theology of Monsters” that was inspired by Dr. Richard Beck’s award winning blog. You can go here to view our Young Adult Blog and see what were up to.
As I’ve been reading books, watching movies, etc, getting geared up this Halloween series, I have been thinking a lot about the “value” of scary movies. I know there is a lot of unattractive qualities too – the hyper-sexuality, the gore, the twisted psyche, the foul language, etc. But there is hidden value, I think. I want to share with you my Top Ten Scary Movies of All Time (as voted on by myself) and why I think they are scary and worth watching. Like beauty, fear is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps my list will reveal what really scares the crap out of me. I acknowledge that none of these may seem scary to you.
Counting down from scary to most scary.
#10 – A Nightmare on Elm Street
Okay… this movie no longers creeps me out, but it is the first movie I remember being afraid of as a kid. Freddy is my first childhood “monster” that I could put a name to and a face with. Those stinking claws scared me so bad! I remember that Will Smith had a rap song out around the hype of this cult classic called “Nightmare on My Street”, and even the music video bothered me! I have since come to realize how ludicrous this show is and unrealistic. But there is still a fear factor in there somewhere. I think the scariest thing about this movie is that Freddy loves to kill so much that he goes to great lengths to invent new ways of torturing and murdering his teenage prey. I have also floated the idea to friends that share this love of scary movies with me, that I think it’s possible that Freddy is a demon and his nightmares are like possessions – which, as you will soon see – is an idea that scares the ever living crap out of me.
# 9 – The Blair Witch Project
I know it’s seems weak to some of you. I have talked to more than a hand-full of people who find this movie to be anything and everything but scary. But let me clue you in on a secret of my past. I have been (and still am) known to be extremely guillable. And when you go to a movie thinking that you are REALLY watching lost footage of something that REALLY happened… well, I didn’t sleep that night. Also, I would add that this movie is incredibly authentic when viewed in a movie theater. I remember being freaked out for so long after seeing this (in high-school), that it wasn’t until I saw the actors recieve an award on stage at some awards show on TV, that I was able to get some closure. I was that scared. So, whatever you do, don’t let the witch put you in the corner!!!
#8 – The Ring
PG-13. In college. One night when I was in college, I went to the movies with my girlfriend (now my wife). We are standing in line contemplating the various teen comedy’s and crude movies. Most were rated R. Shaila turns to me and says, “I don’t want to see trash tonight. I always feel yucky after seeing all the sex and hearing the foul language. I want to feel good after watching a movie.” I replied, “Okay. Then here’s the deal. We can only see PG-13 and under. Look at that one – what is ‘The Ring?’ It’s rated PG-13! Should we see that?” Shaila says, “I don’t know what that is… let’s go see it.” and we buy tickets. Seven days later I was praying that God would spare me a horrifying death from a crazy girl with creepy hair who was sure to climb out of my TV at any moment and steal my soul. Honestly, I can only think of 2 movies that made me climb up into my theater seat while watching the movie. One of them was my #1, and the other one was The Ring. Super-Duper-Make-Your-Skin-Crawl-Creepy! Let’s move on, because I am going to start dreading the sound of my phone ringing if we don’t!
#7 – The Shining
I think the best phrase to describe my feelings after viewing this movie is “wierded out”. What the heck is this? Something about a profound spiritual gift – the ability to communicate across time and space among those who share your gift??? Oh my gosh, that ridiculous kid and his “REDRUM”!!!! I hate this movie. There is a hilarious scene in the sitcom friends where Joey (who is easily frightened) gets scared from reading the Stephen King Novel “The Shining” and he hides the book in the fridge, saying, “That book is evil!” Well, Joey, I would probably burn it if I were you! Better stick to Little Women! This movie has got a little bit of everything. And what’s funny about it is, when you try to describe what it is that scares you… you sort of can’t pin it down. Is it the blood scene? The axe scene? The girls? The old lady? Nope… it’s definitely that creepy kid! The worst scene of all, for me, has really nothing frightening in it at all. It’s just a 3 minute scene of a kid riding his tricycle across the carpets and then the hardwood… across the carpet and then the hardwood…. across the carpet and then the hardwood… I hate that movie.
#6 – Halloween
I am sorry John Carpenter. Your 1978 version was SUPER scary. And among in the sub-category of the horror genre that includes the messed up maniac with super-human strength (Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhies, etc), your little Michael is king of them all. But Rob Zombie flat tells the story better. The background story to the 2007 remake is incredible. Really that most of the movie. Something about knowing why that kid flipped a switch and killed everyone is totally too much information. I prefer to remain in a dream world and pretend that those environments don’t exist. But they do exist. People are raised in unthinkable environs. And what is scary is that it’s altogether plausible that someone could come out of that scenario a crazed and unstoppable killing machine. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best psychopath in cinema history. Michael Freakin Myers. I would be amiss however, if I did not give major props to Jamie Lee Curtis for making me believe that she was really about to die. Her performance in the first one is ridiculously real. I am scared right now thinking about that scream. Jamie… you are the original scream queen. And you scared the crap out of me in 1993 when I saw the movie for the first time.
#5 – When A Stranger Calls
This time I am siding with the original. This movie scared me stiff. You wanna know why? It’s because it is stripped of anything dreamworld. This movie is in your face real. I suppose we all know what is so scary about this movie. It is COMPLETELY PLAUSIBLE. There is not a moment that goes by in this movie when you think to yourself “Is that real?” You are sucked in from the beginning. And the last thing on earth I ever want to hear is a police officer tell me “Sir! We’ve traced the call and it is coming from inside the house!” Oh my…. I am so scared I can’t even type right now.
#4 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Here we go again. Which one do we pick? The original or the remake? Well, they’re both off the charts horrifying. So I’ll pick the remake just because I saw it first. Who thinks this crap up? This scenario is over the top scary. To think you could unknowingly drift into psychoville, USA and never make it out alive in one peice…. And who eats people, seriously. There has never been a community more evil in story history, let alone cinema history. To me the worst scene is actually the first time we see Leatherface. He slides open that door for like 2 seconds just long enough to pop that dude in the head with something and take his convulsing body into the darkeness. What’s scary about that is the force with which he shuts that door. He leaves no doubt in your mind that he can’t be over powered. But my brother has pointed out to me over and over, that the real freak-factor lies in the fact that these events transpire in the middle of the day! It serves to reinforce the fact that you are in enemy territory, and you won’t be finding a road home anytime soon.
#3 – The Exorcist
So what do you do when you are scared to death by something, but you don’t want your college buddies to know that the movie ya’ll just watched together bothered you so badly? Well, you do what I did. You could care less what they think. You just copy down the Lord’s Prayer and tape it above your bed so you can sleep in peace!!! I thought my friends would gig me, but they actually thought it was a good idea and did it themselves! Ha! Now not many movies have that kind of force, to scare a bunch of hormonal 20 something macho men into a religious frenzy. Well, The Exorcist is one of the few. I’m not going to say much about this movie (because I don’t want my computer to become possessed or go up in flames), but the worst scene is in the 25th anniversary edition. They added a scene that they cut from the original 1973 film because it was “far too scary for theater audiences at that time…” In the deleted scene, the possessed girl can be seen running (not walking) down the stairs backwards will doing a back bend. How scary is it? Let’s just say you better have strong faith!
#2 – Paranormal Activity
I have been known to employ hyperbole to describe movies that I am enthusiastic about. But I can say without a doubt that Paranormal Activity was, at the time I viewed it, the single most horrifying experience of my entire life. I have never wanted to walk out on a movie so badly. And not because it offended my moral sensibilities. No. Because it scared me… in my bones! I hated every second of that demon-movie! First of all, I thought I was going to see a movie about ghosts, not demons. The whole demon thing made it a little too real for me. Secondly, I didn’t know it was a lost footage thing, like the Blair Witch Project. I think that got to me too. But what really caught me off guard, was when the God-Forsaken thing screamed at them in the middle of the night!!! I got cold chills so bad, that I almost vomited in the theater. I called my friend Josh Allison (who has shared fear of this movie with me), and said, “Hey man. So I woke up at 3 am last night and my wife was standing over me. I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t respond. So I just sat there while she rocked and stared at me for about 2 hrs. Should I be concerned.” That little joke scared Josh so bad that he threatened to delete me from his contacts. Paranormal Activity is the only movie I know of that scared people so bad that some of them refuse to talk about it – people LITERALLY had to be treated for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome afterwards.
Which brings me to my # 1…
#1 – Paranormal Activity 2
How scary is this movie? Well, I haven’t slept in one week. That’s how scary it is. I can’t say much about it because I don’t want to be a spoiler blog. Let me just say 2 things: First of all, this is really the only sequel in horror movie history that I can say with confidence is far better than the first one. Way better! Way creepier, way freakier, way jumpier, way better. Secondly, both PA and PA2 are incredibly innovative movies. The first one took the “found footage” technique to a whole new level, and basically perfected that sub-genre of horror. But this one is a sequel that is not a sequel or prequel. The director Todd Williams calls it a “Simul-quel” I’ll let you figure out what that is – but it is definitely the first one in cinema history. And I think I’ll quote Movie-Phone to clue you in on how insanely horrifying this movie is “If Paranormal Activity 2 got under your skin, then Paranormal Activity 2 will peel it off!”
These movies almost made the cut:
Silence of the Lambs
So… what scares you? Feel free to comment!