Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Movies

I still haven't written my post(s) on the election. Is it pointless now? Probably not; it's all basically self-expression anyway, as I can't imagine anyone's vote being changed one way or another by what I write here, so why would it matter that I don't throw in my two cents until almost the very last moment? Anyway, would you believe I'm one of the undecided? Well, no, not really; but I am one of the conflicted. Thankfully, I still have the weekend and next Monday to bare my soul in that regard.

But today, something light--or, rather, appropriately enough for the holiday, dark. I surveyed some friends, asking a basic question: what's the most frightened you've ever been by a movie? Not exactly the same as asking what the scariest movie you've ever seen is; it's a little more pointed, and the responses were a little more diverse. Here are some selections:

Invasion of the Saucer-men: just another run-of-the-mill dopey late 50s sci-fi flick, but one of my friends points out the seriously creepy scene from the movie (which he saw on tv as a child) where the aliens pick a fight with--and murder--a cow.

The Wizard of Oz: either the moment where the Wicked Witch appears in the crystal ball, replacing the vision of Auntie Em and terrifying Dorothy, or the first appearance of the flying monkeys.

Wait Until Dark: of course, the climax when the screen goes black, and you have nothing to go off except the bumps and curses and screams issuing from the darkness.

Jaws: the "reveal scene," when Chief Brody is tossing chum into the water, frustrated at his shipmates and his task, and the shark suddenly appears. "You're going to need a bigger boat!"

The Night of the Living Dead (the original black and white version): several truly terrifying and dispiriting memories from this classic--the nerve-wracking attempted escape from the farmhouse, the zombie daughter feeding on her father's flesh in the basement, and of course, the horribly bleak ending.

Alien: very simply, the best haunted house movie ever. And, as such, it's the spooky "where-is-the-alien?" moments which work when Dallas is hunting for the alien in the Nostromo's air shafts, and the alien find him.

The Blair Witch Project: the whole damn final 40 minutes of the film, but particularly the panicked, mad, disorienting, terrifying race through the woods to the abandoned house. I'm a grown man, and I swear, I had to turn on the lights, the movie was freaking me out so much.

The Exorcist: I have never been so believably persuaded of the fear communicated by actors in a film as I was--and still am; just for old time's sake, I rewatched this film last night, and the moment still captivates and terrifies me--when I saw the hunched, driven look on Jason Miller's face as Father Damien Karras joins with Father Merrin in the rite of exorcism. Absolutely haunting, absolutely transporting, and not at all in a good way. "The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!!"

If anyone reads this, feel free to share you favorite moments of personal terror at the movies. It is Halloween, after all.


Kathryn Soper said...

Silence of the Lambs--when the skin-suit guy is cornering Jodie Foster in the basement, with his night goggles on.

The Village--when the blind woman has her hand stretched out. Also, when she's attacked by Adrian Brody at the end.

Kathryn Soper said...

sheesh, how could I forget this?

The Shining. Pretty much the whole movie, but esp. the twins..

MH said...

The Sixth Sense really creeped me out, and I saw it after I had a big hint about the gimmick. But this still wasn't as terrifying as the ending of 1984 (the book, never seen the movie).

Marc said...

The Ring... I still remember the whole theater screaming when that girl came out of the television. Movie does a great job of building up a foreboding sense of dread.

And try the Wizard of Oz paired with Dark Side of the Moon sometime. It's a trip.

Camassia said...

The movie scene that most terrified me was the last one in the original version of The Fly. Just goes to show that primitive special effects don't matter if they still visualize your most primordial fears.

matt b said...

I saw Blair Witch at the first public screening ever, midnight at the Tower in Salt Lake City during the Sundance festival. And nobody knew that it was faked; the festival catalog described the thing as an unnerving documentary. Yes. Yes, it was.

The theatre was utterly silent when the lights came up, and I realized that I had been holding my breath for at least a minute. That's probably the most memorable theatregoing experience I've ever had.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Kathryn: Silence of the Lambs is a good one, but skin-suit guy didn't scare me nearly as much as did Hannibal Lector. His break-out from his cage, especially as he slowly walks up towards the handcuffed guard and slowly pummels him to death is horrifying.

I haven't seen The Village--have you given away the ending to me? As for The Shining, I respected and was intrigued by it more than frightened. Except for the scene where the little boy was peddling his bike down the hallways of the hotel, the camera on his level, showing only what he sees. I was certain something was going to jump him at any moment.

MH: The Sixth Sense worked for me, but the feeling of dread and unease and paranoia which I got from Unbreakable and Signs worked even better. When the alien hand reaches through the ventilator shaft to grab Mel Gibson's child in the, I jumped.

Marc: I guess I really need to see The Ring.

Camassia: Yes, the Fly! Both versions have moments of viscera and disturbing imagery that cut right to the quick.

Matt: What an awesome movie-going memory. But, considering how much Blair Witch scared me playing on our television set in my living room, I don't know if your experience wouldn't have done my soul some serious damage.

Thanks for the comments everybody!

Bobby Rozzell said...

Halloween when it was first shown in theaters freaked me out. Standing in line in the lobby we could hear the screams from the audience at the previous showing. It sounded like a roller coaster ride.
I couldn't sleep that night the movie spooked me so bad.
Good times.

'wela said...

The Grudge--the confusion of it all, and the way the whole story behind the haunting isn't really revealed until near the end of the movie.

And the sound the female ghost made....seriously scary! My husband has bruises where I clutched his arm.

sj said...

The Ring: I can't pinpoint an exact scene, but perhaps the well scene or the horse on the boat. At any rate, at well past 40 years of age, I remember watching it alone in my house one night and feeling a little uneasy.

The Wizard of Oz: In addition to the scenes mentioned the talking trees scared me as a small child. In addition, the Wicked Witch using an hour glass created an association in my mind between hour glasses and evil that lasted for years. A news show in Baltimore in the early 60s used the hourglass as a logo and I remember shuddering as my parents watched the show.

Anonymous said...

Odd scary: Spirted Away. When I first saw it it kind of freaked me out in that child-like Miyazaki way where characters shift from savage to harmless and back. The first time my daughter saw it (7 years old) she wasn't scared in the least.

The Ring is pretty terrifying. I concur with sj that the horse scene is exquisitely scary. Very stylish, too, though.

The movie also hits a second gear of freak-out near the end. You think it's about a child who has been killed, and then you find out it's about some evil horse-terrorizing demon child who was killed and whose spirit has now been set free to do even more mayhem. Yep I think that's when I stopped watching scary movies. Eeee!

Jeremiah J.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad with my three year old yesterday. She was scared by the cyclops dropping Sinbad and his men into the wooden cage. But then when she saw the cyclops pull one of the men out of the cage by his foot and tie him to a spit, licking his lips, and beginning the rotisserie action, there was the additional shock of realization that the cyclops meant to eat the men. I had forgotten how frightening I'd found that moment when I was a kid seeing that movie for the first time.