Okay, I LOVE a good scary movie. With Halloween rapidly approaching (by my personal standards, the countdown to Hallowe’en begins November 1st), it seems almost a little more acceptable. The horror genre, which most of the time is mocked at least as much as it is taken seriously, gets a little bit of a break this time of year, and a lot of horror fans like me can sort of “Come out of the closet”. Of course, in this case, the closet isn’t filled with shoes and coats, a nice safe hiding place, this one is the scary ass closet where the monster hides while he’s figuring out the best way to get under the bed.
So this year I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of Netflix, and found a few new gems, and rediscovered a few old favorites.
What I am talking about when I say “Scary Movie”
For the purposes of our discussion, I feel it’s important to really define what I’m talking about when I talk about a “Scary Movie”. What I’m talking about is a movie that creates tension, then builds and builds and builds and builds. The kind experience that, no matter how badly you have to pee, you will just sit there, terrified, unable to look away from the screen simply because the darkness around you is completely filled with the dread and fear you’re seeing in front of you. The kind of story and vision that sucks you in, and that makes a completely smooth transition between the world of our own experience and the alternate universe of extreme stress and pressure. A true Scary Movie has as the source of it’s power the skillful manipulation of our emotions, the ability to transport us into a world where we actually believe that the terrifying and intense are completely possible. This does not in any way mean that the premises of the film have to be mundane, or originate in our own neighborhood. The characters and situations just have to be plausible.
What I am NOT talking about:
This part is pretty basic, but I really think it deserves mention. I do not find “splatterfest” films to be scary. blood and gore for their own sake do very little for me. The serial films of the 70’s and 80’s in which we get to watch the same monster/psychotic misanthrope dismember teenagers at a rate of a dozen or so per movie, multiplied by a ridiculous number of sequels are not scary to me, nor are they even memorable. Now don’t get me wrong, blood and guts can certainly drive a story when their used in their proper context; who can forget the scene from “Silence of the Lambs” in which Hannibal Lector, starting with just a piece of a ball-point pen, ends up flaying and crucifying his guard! (if I’ve spoiled something for you, I’m sorry, but if you haven’t seen Silence of the Lambs, then there’s not really much I can do for you)
I am also not talking about movies that simply rely on jumping out and saying “Boo!”. That’s cheap and cheesy, and doesn’t require any skill. The visual vocabulary for this gag is really remarkably limited, and after seeing only a few films, even the most gullible viewer can see the telltale signs that something is about to make a lot of noise all of a sudden. Once again, a surprising moment, even when telegraphed, can be very effective, usually when the tone has already been set, and is getting ready to be resolved.
Okay, there you have it, my definition of what a Scary Movie is and is not. Now, in the spirit of the season, here are some of the movies that scare the hell out of me: