Movies That Scared Us for Life
Several weeks ago I did a column on the top ten movies that scared me for life. Since this is such a subjective topic and unique to the individual being scared, I also sent out an invitation to anyone reading my list to send in there own. As fellow PCR columnist Mike Smith so aptly put it, “ask and ye shall receive”. In addition to Mr. Smith, I received several very well thought out and personal submissions on the subject that I would like to share with you now in the order they were received.
First up is Growing Up Fanboy author Chris Woods. Chris is more a child of the 80’s than the rest of the contributors so it is interesting to see the films on his list that would have been current in his formative years. Some of the earlier films would have just been reaching television via cable and syndication around this time.
10.) The Deliberate Stranger (1986) – This film based on Ted Bundy, scared me when I was younger because I knew it was a true story and the murder scenes were very creepy.
9.) Squirm (1976) – When I saw this as a kid, it freaked me out when the worms were coming through the showerhead and squirming around in a plate of spaghetti.
8.) Kiss of the Tarantula (1976) – I hate spiders, ‘nuff said!
7.) The Thing (1982) – A very scary movie where the thing could be anyone. The scene where the doc gets his hands chopped off always freaked me out.
6.) Black Christmas (1974) – The scary thing about this film is you never see the killer and they’re in the house the whole time. This is a very scary movie to watch when you’re alone.
5.) Poltergeist (1982) – This especially scared me as a kid because I had a big tree outside my window and my family had just started putting in an in ground pool when I first saw this movie.
4.) Dementia 13 (1963) – Haunting music, an old scary castle, creepy atmosphere, black and white photography, and a madman wielding an ax, make this one of the all time scary flick.
3.) Night of the Living Dead (1968) – My favorite horror film that has great scary moments through out. Just the fact the dead is returning to life and eating the flesh of their victims is scary enough for me.
2.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Everything about this film creeps me out. Just when you see Leatherface come out from nowhere and whack that guy in the head with a hammer made me jump when I first saw it.
1.) The Shining (1980) – As a kid, my Uncle use to tell me about this film, and when I finally saw it when I was about ten it scared the hell out of me. It still scares me to this day. Many great scary moments through out, from Jack just being, well, Jack, Wendy at the end seeing something creepy every time she turns, the chase in the maze, the old lady in the bathtub, but the most scary thing for me is those twin girls that flash up on the screen when Danny is having haunting visions.
I first saw The Shining on HBO when it premiered one Sunday night in 1981. I was in the process of reading the book when I saw the advertisement and I rushed to finish it so I could see how the movie compared. As much as many people loved this film, I hated the fact that Kubrick abandoned the heart of the story, a weak man trying desperately not to kill the one thing he loves – his son, in favor of the Jack Nicholson goes bat sh*t crazy motif instead. Over the years my opinions on the film have softened and I can finally enjoy Jack’s performance but I still think this movie did a major disservice to a very good book.
The next submission comes from David “Our Man in Tampa” Polk, a particularly dubious title these days considering he has resided in Nashville for many years! David has some interesting and very personal choices for his films.
10.) Zombie (1980) – Scary and gross at the same time.
9.) It Came From Outer Space (1953) -Very atmospheric and those glowing eyes!
8.) The Angry Red Planet (1959) – It was the Bat-Spider and the rotating eye-blob-thing that made me watch between my fingers!
7.) Alien (1979) – To me one of the scariest movies I have seen! The editing made me jump more than once.
6.) Kingdom of the Spiders (1976) – William Shatner scared me! Just kidding! It was the spiders!
5.) Dawn of the Dead-(1979) – Very brutal and gross and tense!
4.) The Flesh Eaters (1964) – Just the way the people die and the music did it for me!
3.) Psycho (1960) – Hitchcock! Need I say more? The scene where Martin Balsam walks in and turns the chair around with Norman’s mother’s skeletal remains scared me.
2.) Mission to Mars (1968) – It was the tense music and the sphere opening up and Darren McGavin slowly walking in and dies that scared me. It was also filmed in Miami.
1.) The Incredible Melting Man (1977) – Seeing a man melting and attacking people scared the #$%& out of me!
At least half of the films on David’s list aired on the 44 Creature Feature at one time or another. I had almost forgotten about The Flesh Eaters. Watching a film from the safety of the family couch on a bright Saturday afternoon normally gave me a strong since of reassurance that could nullify most of the films Dr. Paul Bearer dished out. Flesh Eaters, with its radioactive blobs and mad Nazi scientist, always seemed like one of those films that maybe they SHOULDN’T be showing on Creature Feature. The scene that always got me was the one where the scientist slips the beatnik guy a flesh eating mickey in his drink. As the poor guy’s insides are being devoured, his shirt soaks through with blood that looks jet black in this black and white movie. Somehow that always made this already gross scene particularly awful for me.
Our next submission comes from our own resident movie reviewer, Mike Smith. Mike has more of a professional association with movies than our other contributors and many of his choices are amusingly linked to the theaters they were seen in.
10.) Suspiria (1977) – We played this for EVER at Twin Bays. My first taste of Dario Argento.
9.) Arachnophobia (1990) – I HATE SPIDERS!!
8.) Alien (1979) – Yep, to me this is a horror film. And a damn good one. If you were part of the “gang” you saw this at the screening at the Tyrone Theatre in St. Pete. And you’ll also remember Ben Gregory (who had read the novelization before hand) getting up when John Hurt started choking, working his way down the aisle because “I don’t want to see that thing blow out of his chest.” Those of us who let him by missed the chest-burster scene. Thanks buddy! I still have the “You Are My Lucky Star” button that they gave out that night.
7.) The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) – To some Vincent Price is the guy on Thriller. To me, when given the right material, he could scare the be-jesus out of you!
6.) Tales from the Crypt (1972) – Not the show on HBO but the 1972 film. Caught this as a youngster visiting my grandfather in St. Petersburg one summer. The killer dressed as Santa Claus. The woman with three wishes asking for the impossible. And the landlord who wanted the kindly old man gone. I can still remember the poem, written in blood…”You were bad right from the start. Now you really have no…” with the bad guys heart wrapped in the prose. Ewwwww.
5.) Carrie (1976) – “Carrie White Burns In Hell” reads the simple crucifix marking the burnt remains of the White home. When Sue Snell kneels down to place flowers at the marker she’s greeted rudely by her former classmate. I was working at Twin Bays opening night and we had a woman topple out of her seat into the aisle when the hand popped out!
4.) I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – As a young theatre manager I used to have to pull duty at the all night horror shows. This is one that stayed with me. Trust me, you’ll never take a bath with a beautiful woman again after seeing this.
3.) Dawn of the Dead (1979) – I can’t remember who it was (maybe Scott Gilbert) but one of my high school pals had a friend that worked at the Hillsborough Theatre and had been told that they were having a studio sneak preview of Dawn of the Dead. I’m sure those of us that went still remember the evening. This was the first film I had seen that was so graphically horrific. I can still see the biker (Tom Savini?) being pulled apart and his entrails tossed around like confetti. Yikes!
2.) The Exorcist (1973) – Here’s a little tip to “directors” like Eli Roth, et all: a dismembered head does not equal scary. The ultimate horror film that preyed on our fear of the devil and then made it worse by involving a 12 year old girl. Not wanting to sound like an old man here, but when the film was re-issued (with the infamous “spider walk” scene added) I was dismayed to hear the teenagers in the theatre giggle. Damn kids these days don’t know what horror is!
1.) Jaws (1975) – Not only is this the film that has affected my life the most but also the one where I judge all other “scares” by. Like most people, I sat quietly in my seat as Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper explored the bottom of Ben Gardner’s fishing boat. BOOM! As the head of the fisherman pokes it’s way through a hole in the hull of the boat I proceed to shower people 10 rows behind me with popcorn.
Mike’s comments regarding The Exorcist are a perfect example of why lists like this are so subjective. I remember seeing the preview for the revised version of The Exorcist and just the haunting sounds of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells in a darkened theater creeped me out all over again. When I saw the new film, the “spider walk” scene scared me even though I knew it was coming and a lot of the subliminal touches that were added in made this classic even more disturbing.
The final entry for our top ten lists comes all the way from Korea where Donovan “Poster Man” Johnson is currently stationed in service of our country. His list shares a few common threads with the others but displays some really interesting personal choices.
10.) Grizzly (1976) – Even though I never saw a bear in the woods where I lived, I thought that the next time I was playing in the woods I was going to see one 18 feet tall like the bear in the movie.
9.) Cruise into Terror (1978) – This little known made for TV film starring Dirk Benedict also scared the crap out of me. I can’t really say why, but just being trapped on board a ship with the son of Satan just makes for a scary feature.
8.) The Omen (1976) – This film comes up strong in my top ten because I always thought that maybe one of my friends might be the devil since Damien was about the same age as me in 1976.
7.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – I was told this happened after these people strayed off of interstate 10 in Texas. When I saw this film, I lived in Tallahassee right next I-10. So in my head leather face could just hop in a car and come to my house with ease. Maybe my exit would be were he decided to stop for coffee and a slice of toe pie on his way to Miami.
6.) The Year without a Santa Claus (1974) – Ah, now this is a Christmas special that won’t make anyone’s top ten scariest list but mine. I’m still afraid of the Heat and the Snow Misers to this very day. The way those things moved all herky-jerky scared the crap out of me.
5.) Gargoyles (1972) – Things that could fly around in pitch dark skies and grab you before you could even see it, now that was scary.
4.) The Amityville Horror (1979) – I was paralyzed for hours after watching that film. Add together those bleeding walls and red eyes in the window, along with the haunting soundtrack, this film was able to chill me to the bone.
3.) The Exorcist (1973) – This film makes my list as well as everyone else, so I don’t need to go into to much detail here. Let’s just say that every time I heard a noise in the attic. I thought the devil was running amuck and ready to enter my body.
2.) Jaws (1975) – I’m an avid fisherman, mostly salt water. So you can imagine that Jaws would be scary for me to this very day. As soon as I board an ocean going vessel or my feet touch the water the music starts in my head. I still think in the back of my mind, that while I’m fishing, a giant shark is going to jump out of the water and gobble me down just like Quint.
1.) Helter Skelter (1976) – This made for TV movie debuted when I was 7 years old. This movie was so scary to me because it was a true story or at least based in fact. I remember my mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law talking about this made for TV event the night before it came on. So I was already scared of some people breaking into the house and killing me in my sleep. Needless to say I had nightmares of Manson’s face that night from the previews they were showing, it was really Steve Railsback the actor playing Manson. So after watching the show the next night, I had even more intense dreams.
In all fairness to Donovan, I was a little older than he was when The Year without a Santa Claus premiered but I was a little unsettled by the Miser brothers myself. There was always something a little creepy looking to me about the Rankin / Bass stop motion animated characters and these two were a couple of the scariest. I first saw the Helter Skelter miniseries as a late night movie around 1981 when I was spending the night at a friend’s house. We were both into the Beatles so we couldn’t pass up a chance to see anything even tangently related to them. Around midnight in a dark, quiet house, Steve Railsback’s piercing Manson stare got pretty unnerving!
A big thanks to everyone who shared their fears with the Crazed Fanboy community. If anyone else would like to submit a list for consideration in a future column, please feel free to E-mail me in care of this website.