Monday, October 23, 2006

Scary Ass Movies

'Tis the season for watching horror movies, so I thought I would make a list of Scariest Movies Ever, According to Me.

First, let's just say it right now: most horror movies are not scary. They don't get your blood pumping, drive a shot of adrenaline through your veins, and haunt your dreams for a night or more. Horror movies are just that: horrible, filling one with horror, quite horrifying. Slasher flicks are spectacularly goretastic (fun!) but are usually not all that scary. I saw The Grudge 2 this weekend (skip it) and one scene in particular was specifically horrifying to me, even though it made no sense in the context of the film and was custom-fit to freak out me and the 482 or so people with a similar complex. In the scene, a girl drinks a jug of milk then proceeds to vomit it back into the jug. Now, I spent that scene under my coat, groaning, but not because I was scared--it's a stupid, Fear Factor scene. I spent that scene under my coat because of a nightmare I had when I was 8 years old that left me with a permanent complex about the consumption of milk products. I like milk products, but if I start gagging watching you drink or eat them (or, God forbid, sharing them, guh), don't hold it against me. Two people drinking a glass of milk together is HORRIFYING to me.

And to most people, gushing blood, ropes of intestines, drooling brains, popping eyeballs, and severed limbs still flopping all about are also very, very horrifying. You bet. It is hard not to relate to the laundry list of agonies and indignities B-list actors endure year after year in horror movies. After all, someday it might be yooooou. This is probably why we like the Saw movies--as cheesy and badly acted as they have been--because it could be you someday...maybe today, maybe Ooogie boogie.

But scary films are a rare and wonderful treat. Often times you can tell that a director is really trying to scare you...and if you can tell, well, he's blown it already. Usually it is Spooky Music Declaring That Something Is About To Happen. Music can be a great tool, groundbreaking, spine chilling, and getting the job done. A lot of the time it just blows the surprise. There goes your scare.

Another scare killer is bad pacing. This is painful to watch, because usually the director is trying very hard to Create A Mood. Assholes. Worse yet, directors also undermine the scariness of a movie by Developing The Character. This was a fantastic part of Grudge 2 when two characters, "Destined to Die," spent waaaaay too long discussing how neither got along with their siblings. Riveting. I could tell by the deep snore next to me, as BF fell gently to sleep. I had to wake him up with a nudge.

Here are some genuinely Scary Ass Movies...

1. The Grudge -- Great pacing, lots of suspense building to genuine scares. My avoidance of anything with an I Know What You Did Last Summer and It was Fucking Boring-alumnus kept me from seeing this one until recently. I am glad I finally caved because I got some good jolts and thinking about it kept me awake into the wee hours that night.

2. The Descent -- I really cannot say enough about this movie. It also has a rare, high level of gore. It will get your heart racing. I love the horror movies where the people want to visit Nature and do nature-related things and then get hunted, gutted, and eaten. This is what happens in Nature, people.

3. The Ring -- Another scary-Japanese-influenced-ghosty story that actually delivers the goods. I only know one person who hated it (snory snorebear, aforementioned); most people cite the coming-out-of-the-television scene as one of the best shocks in recent years. I do recall yelling a lot and trying to climb out of my chair. Yowza.

4. The Exorcist -- I have to put this on the list for the Catholics. Crybabies.

5. Halloween -- One of the few classics I can still list, honestly. It's kind of like watching Casablanca and thinking, God, this crap is so trite. But that's because so many movies have chimped it over many, many years. It has the unfortunate job of being the "groundbreaker." This is why I do not find movies like Friday the 13th or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre "scary." I know I will get some heat for that, but the truth hurts, kittens. As for Halloween, much of the scare-factor has dissipated, but first-timers will still completely freak during the slow-motion chase scene. Seriously one of the best slow stalks EVER. And the music drives it home (you are hearing it right now, aren't you?)

6. Dawn of the Dead (remake) -- Oh scary, scary, scary. The first scene is shocking, even though you know it is just going to get so much worse. There are several points where you are jumping out of your seat. And the last scene, which is sewn into the end credits, will haunt you and haunt you and haunt you. We saw that one during the day and emerged into bright sunlight, but I carried it with me anyway. The undead make-up is top notch.

7. Aliens -- This is usually listed as an action or sci-fi movie and don't get me wrong, it is, but it is also a scary freakout that deserves mention. The creatures are fantastic and shiny, the hero is Total Bitch Who Will Kick Your Ass, and the pacing is ridiculously perfect. I saw it in the theaters with my mom when I was but a wee teen and we were both screaming and jumping. Freaking brilliant.

8. Alien -- Fantastic direction. You are in the tube with Tom Skeritt. Since I saw them out of order, the dinner-and-a-babyalien scene didn't scare me nearly as much as the Something Is Moving In This Tunnel scene. Lots of good scares and one, long, drawn out, neverending scene of terror where...You...Are...My...Lucky...Star...

9. The Blair Witch Project -- Holy poopypants, Batman. This movie scared the living bejesus out of me. The way that they build the terror over a series of events at night and in broad daylight is absolutely brilliant. The frenzied night shots are particularly freaky because you can't see enough with the shaking camera, bobbing flashlight, and all that useless running around. The last scene is terrifying and upsetting--everything is chaos and screaming and then you are left with that final thump of the camera on the floor. Of course, plenty of people grouch about the movie, saying it isn't scary at all, etc. etc. blah blah blah, but I contend that people with active (or overactive) imaginations were the best audience members for Blair Witch. You don't have to see the witch and you don't have to see the characters just have to let yourself get sucked into the panic, dread, and raw terror of the possibilities.

I will surely think of more before this month is out!


Blogger Adairdevil said...

I think your categorization of Alien as horror is spot-on. It's not sci-fi in terms of giving half a crap about how humankind got into space, how it will change us, etc. That's just the setting. It's partly a haunted house movie (things they can't see sneaking up on them) and largely the ultimate male Freudian nightmare: a revolting female that overpowers them, can devour them, can rape them, and can even make them give birth, essentially transforming them into subjugated women. That sort of genderfuck nightmare? Horror.

10:18 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home