What's your favorite scary movie? I guarantee you that no one answers that question with "Scream."
To be fair, I'm a bit of a wus. I have never seen exorcist and have no intention of doing so, because I believe it's every bit as scary as advertised. In fact, there are plenty of scary movies I avoid, usually because they seem beyond my scare-o-meter (Paranormal Activity, IT, Chucky) or just gory gross (Saw 2-infinity, Hostel, House of Wax, The Fly). Also, I was exposed to Freddy Kruger young enough to have a permanent fear of that dream-stalking freak.
But, I have a respect for well made movies, and like a few horror flicks well enough to own them in my collection. Among these are some of my top picks for favorite scary movies (these are not ranked, sorry):
Silence of the Lambs -it took me 3 tries to watch this movie all the way through. The first time, it was just after a blackout, and my friend and I made it barely beyond the opening credits. And do you remember early on, when Clarice is checking out that storage space, and finds a man's severed head? I sure do, that was as far as I made it the second time. But the third time I watched the whole movie, and was able to enjoy it. And make sure I keep a flashlight by my bed, just in case. Damn, that scene with the night vision is creepy.
Alien and Aliens -I love these movies, it combines the sci-fi geek in me that fell for The X-Files with the part of me that secretly likes when something jumps out and makes me flinch. Okay, more than flinch, jump out of my seat, whatever. The general consensus is that the original, directed by Ridley Scott, is more of a horror film, and the sequel, directed by James Cameron, true to form, is more of large scale action movie. In both cases, Sigourney Weaver proves herself a badass, even while fighting in nothing but an undershirt and panties.
Seven -I don't know that this is a straight up scary movie, it's certainly a good mindfuck, and horrifying in many ways. Mostly, the contraption made at the leather shop and used to rape the prostitute. AAAAH. But of course it's more than the physical violence, it's the mind of the serial killer, so twisted and convinced that he is meant to mete out justice in this way, so clearly thought out all the way through the end. And then the box, you see just about nothing, but it's enough. Well done, David Fincher.
Now there are a few movies I probably should own in my collection, but haven't picked up just yet. We'll start recent:
28 Days Later -This was the revival that zombie movies needed. Dawn of the Dead is a cult classic, but the remake was nothing great. The Resident Evil movies are a good watch, but more action than horror, and you feel like you're watching a video game. But this movie, right from the beginning, things are eerie and you're drawn in, following along with Jim, trying to figure out what has become of the world. It's a good movie and a good fright (though it looked even scarier on one marque I saw that cut off the name to "28 Days Late")
In the Mouth of Madness -First, Sam Neill is always a treat (I was a big Jurassic Park fan), and watching him slowly descend into madness is done in such a methodical manner, that it's hard not to be sucked into it with him. Yes, Sutter Cain seems like a lame stand in for Stephen King, with Hobb's End just another version of Castle Rock. But it's the ease with which someone can lose their wits, the way John becomes the man with the axe, that brings the real psychological fear to this one.
The Shining -Speaking of Stephen King, a classic. What can I say? Everyone has seen this, right? It's the movie that sets a picture in our minds of Jack Nicholson, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." (also the source if perhaps the best segment ever in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors) I love Red Rum, the creepy twins, the axe, the hedge maze. All good. No more remakes, they are awful and unnecessary.
Poltergeist -Along with exposing me to Star Wars and Jaws early on, my older brother let me watch this one with him. To this day, the maggots are probably the most disturbing part of the movie to me. Sure, little girl hearing voices through the TV, the melting face in the mirror, the skeletons in the unfinished swimming pool. But maggots in your food, ew ew ew!
Also of course Halloween is also a great movie for Halloween. And there are plenty of others ones out there to give you a good scare.
Happy Halloween and happy haunting!