Top 13 Scariest Movies (for first time viewers)

UPDATE: A co-worker pointed out that I should include clips from the shows but since I don’t want that much revealed I have instead included the official movie trailers. Enjoy a taster of each!

Hello everybody, today I am going to present my list of the top 13 scariest movies. But before I begin I want those that have seen these movies to realize that a horror movie is only scary once (maybe twice …rarely). After that you know how the plot and story will play out so you can enjoy the atmosphere but won’t be on the edge of your seat like that first time in a darkened theatre. This made for an intriguing mental exercise since I had to remember the movie-going experience that I went through as much as the movie quality itself. There is a long list of good and great movies that I did not include because they simply weren’t scary enough the first time I viewed them (sorry American Werewolf in London, The Fly, The Howling, Poltergeist, Saw, TCM, etc etc etc).

I like to use PMS symptoms to determine if a movie was scary enough to be memorable. PMS (which stands for Post-Movie Stress btw) usually consists of one of 2 reactions for me: a profound state of confusion (i.e.WTF did I just watch?!) mixed with just a hint of dread, or I exit the theatre with an excess of nervous energy (i.e. “Anybody else feel like a brisk walk home…from downtown?”) and a strong urge to talk constantly about the movie. In my younger self it would also include nightmares the same night (I shall point out the 2 on my list that did that).

Since I am recommending these for people that want to get scared or haven’t seen them I will be very very spare on details so not to spoil the fun for you guys. Oh and why 13 and not 10? Well I was looking for a Halloween-related number and 7 (as in the Deadly Sins) was too short  while 666 (do I really have to explain that one?) was wayyyyy too long. Now on to the festivities!
13. (3-way tie) Event Horizon / Prince of Darkness / In The Mouth of Madness

All 3 of these movies deal with what is called Lovecraftian or Cosmic Horror. For those that don’t know, that is the concept that there are things that exist in (and sometimes outside) our universe that are mind-explodingly beyond our comprehension and they are all EVIL. Not to give anything away but they all look at this concept from different (non-Euclidian) angles so if you see one of them you definitely have not seen them all. And yeah this entry should be a clue that I really think John Carpenter is the bees knees when it comes to Horror movies

12. The Shining

To my surprise this is the only Stephen King adaptation on the list (though arguably the best of the lot) and also the only haunted house movie on the list (though an argument can be made for the next entry…). Even if you aren’t into horror movies the fact that Stanley Kubrick directed this should scratch your cinephile itch.

11. (Tie) Alien / Aliens

To be honest I simply couldn’t decide which is better. The first is a haunted house (in SPAAACCCEE) and the second is the best action-horror hybrid ever made. But what clinches their spot on the list is the body-horror/omni-rape subtext of the titular creature(s). Yeah, I seem to be a self-control freak so body horror is the perfect way for a movie to get under my skin (yeah I can’t help the pun so sue me). Because of that it does show up quite often here.

10. Trilogy of Terror (Zuni Fetish Doll sequence)

The first movie to give me nightmares, I watched this on TV when I was 7-years old one Sunday afternoon (I do believe it was rainy too). To be honest I simply don’t remember the other 2 parts AT ALL but I will never forget that final image of Karen Black. And then some sick bastard at Blizzard that was as scarred by it as I was went and put the little chattering freaks into Diablo II. By far the MOST ANNOYING MOB in the whole damn game! I couldn’t find a trailer since this is a TV movie from 1975 so here is the first 10 minutes instead:

9. Halloween

This really is a good movie…really. It’s just that after millions of rip-offs and homages and remakes and reboots it seems soo played out, but if you can go into it with new eyes you won’t be disappointed.

8. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Don’t let the NC-17 rating in Canada deceive you, the violence is minimal at best. This is a deeply disturbed and disturbing movie, and if you want to maximize your fear level watch it at home, in the dark, after midnight…with all the doors unlocked. My wife and I watched it like that (well ok we locked our doors) and she couldn’t get to sleep for hours afterwards where as I was just damn paranoid until I fell asleep. Fun fact #1: Based on the real serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas. Fun Fact #2: Michael Rooker plays Henry and now he’s Merle on The Walking Dead (does that count as typecasting?).

7. Cube

Hmm, think of it as a combination of 10 Little Indians and the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don’t want to give much more away but I do want to point out one thing: That laser hallway from Resident Evil I is a direct lift from this movie NOT vice versa.

6. Hellraiser

The only entry for Clive Barker on my list but it’s a damn (heh) good one. This is a combo of body horror and cosmic horror to very good effect. Fun Fact about me #1: I once spent 2 days making a Pinhead mask for a Halloween costume party with real nails that I filed off the points. Fun Fact about me #2: I owned and drove an RX-7 at the time, which was unwise on a bumpy road. I ended up with a wonderful series of little round bruises all over my scalp for a week afterwards.

5. Se7en

Serial killers show up on my list so much because they can and do exist and thus the horror derives from the plausibility of these movies as much as it is the movie itself. Some people don’t think of this as a horror movie and insist it’s a crime procedural but to them I have only 2 words: POLAROID PHOTO. Just those 2 words prove beyond a shadow of a doubt why David Fincher is one of the greatest directors working today. I was pretty much fine until I saw that, but Fincher presents it in such a way that…well I best not say more without ruining it.

4. 28 Days Later

Even though I love zombie movies this has been the only one that had me on the edge of my seat. Another 2 words: FAST ZOMBIES (yeah I know they aren’t really zombies but still…). I thought about Dawn of the Dead (2004) but that wasn’t quite as freaky because when they bit you in that movie you at least had time.

3. The Thing (1982)

The ultimate body horror movie, since you can’t tell who is a monster and it’s questionable whether the monster knows its a monster until its revealed. The recent prequel was great but it didn’t have the heightened paranoia of the original.

2. Jaws

An oldie but a goodie, this movie still works after all these years. An early sign that Spielberg would make a career of directing is probably one of the scariest scenes in the movie and yet it doesn’t involve anything but talking; the USS Indianapolis monologue.

1. The Exorcist

Yeah, I know its the standard answer to the scariest movie ever made but the reason for that is BECAUSE IT IS. I saw this for the first time on NBC when I was a 12-years old. You would think that a broadcast edit from the early 80’s would be safe but you would be soooo wrong. Everything was cool until she spun her head, then I watched another half hour through my fingers before finally giving up and going to bed. Where I spent the rest of the night waking up from nightmare after nightmare. I did finally see the entire thing 4 years later but it still deeply disturbed me. I cannot recommend this movie enough to scare the bejeezus off of anyone no matter how tough they think they are, it is a truly gruelling movie experience.

Well that’s it. I hope I gave you guys some ideas for movies to watch this Halloween. If they scare you then my mission was a success :).
Happy Halloween everyone!


(Bad) Batman Jokes

To commemorate the release of Dark Knight Rises this weekend I have come up with 2 truly heinous jokes (on the plus side they are both kid-safe) so use them at your own risk:

Q: What do you call a storefront display of the Caped Crusader?

A: A Batmannequin!

Q: What do you call a nerd in a Batman costume?

A: The Dork Knight


Feel free to provide your own (much better) jokes in the comments.

A much better dissection of Prometheus

MMorse examined the philosophical underpinnings to LOST in a fantastic fashion that fueled my love for that show and now he has actually converted me using his detailed examination of Prometheus. I urge anyone that loved and/or hated that film or anyone that loves philosophical discussions to read his take on it at…


Prometheus – First Impressions

Well, just came back from seeing Prometheus with my son. And it was OK, not great, just OK. The ideas were good, the visuals were stunning (no surprise there with Ridley Scott at the helm). The annoying thing was that it asked more questions than it answered, but not in a way that left me intrigued, just frustrated. Michael Fassbender was fantastic as usual. I could watch a whole film of just David discovering his self-awareness.

SPOILER: The one glaring flaw for me in this movie was the scene with the biologist and the snake-oid. HE. IS. A. BIOLOGIST. How does he not know what a threat display is? ARGH

Lost, The Thing Prequel and Expectations vs Objectivity

This is something I have been meaning to get off my chest for a long time now (as you can tell by the shows I reference). I still see comments on message boards and forums about the betrayal and/or epic failure of both to this day so I am not too out-dated. The expectations of the fans of these franchises were for something different than the end results that they were given. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE BAD! It simply means you didn’t get what you wanted.

I have never understood this way of thinking, its as if the fans should be the final arbiters of quality and that’s not the way the world works. Let me just say I am not an art critic or even took those courses in University but it should be bloody obvious that there is nothing wrong with either of them from a purely artistic perspective, they are what they are, nothing more and nothing less. Expectations can be a terrible thing to build up because when they aren’t fulfilled that can lead to hatred, sort of like a spurned lover. To make a rather dark connection, most murder victims know their killers… intimately. Love can so easily turn to hatred because we humans are horrible at taking rejection.

In the case of Lost it is especially ironic because they did indeed get what they asked for … sort of. One of the wild theories about the show during the first couple seasons was the castaways were actually dead and in purgatory. As it turned out that was true for the flash-sideways in the final season. They were also told by the show runners for the last 3 seasons that the show wasn’t about the island or its mysteries but about the characters and how their experiences affected them. And yet when it did turn out to be true about both points there was a huge fan backlash. To truly enjoy a work of art one must open up to letting the experience carry you along. Just like a roller-coaster ride you let it take you through all its twists and turns and you don’t get to steer, that is how good entertainment should always work. If you, as a fan, get to dictate the story then all the excitement of discovery goes away. If you read the end of a book you have undermined the experience completely, so why would fans of Lost want the expected to happen? The writing was solid, the acting was solid, the cinematography (does that work for TV shows?) was beautiful, there is nothing objectively wrong with this series. So what if all the mysteries weren’t answered? (But to be honest if you go back and watch the show carefully roughly 90% of those mysteries were answered.)

Now THE THING 2011 had a different problem related to expectations and this actually has made me angry because I hear this cry of betrayal from people that I highly respect and they should know better (I am looking at you Spoony One). Many genre nerds were ticked off that this one wasn’t exactly the same as the first and thus pointless. I ask why? Why would you want exactly the same movie? That would indeed make it pointless. I thought the director and writers were brilliant because they made exactly the right sort of prequel. Allow me to explain; the first movie was at its core about paranoia, you didn’t know who to trust because the Thing was stealthy and smart enough to hide until it could thingify you alone (yes I made that word up). In this it was very similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Everyone assumed that the prequel would be exactly the same but the creators asked the right question that no one else seemed to notice: how did it learn to be so damn sneaky? The prequel gave us that answer, it learned from its mistakes. At the Norwegian station the Thing’s arrogance led to its downfall. It presumed that humans would be easy prey and so it was a balls-out monster attack! The mistake the creators seem to have made was assuming the audience would be receptive and perceptive enough to understand this without it being spelled out to them. That is what shocked me about Spoony’s reaction, he is damn smart and should have known better. I also like to think of it as the reverse Alien dualogy, in that series the monster was subtle and stealthy in the first movie and then went for the throat with massive numbers after that in Aliens. I have yet to see Prometheus and I have tried to keep myself fairly spoiler-free but I get the sense from word-of-mouth that the same thing (heh-heh) may be happening. I hope I am wrong and it is just mediocre and not a case of over-hyped expectations.

In conclusion, tone down your expectations and instead of getting what you want you may just get what you need (yeah I know I just ripped off the Stones).

PS: You can lead a man to reason, but you cannot make him think!