Monday, December 6, 2010

Top Horror/Suspense Films

I began an early love of scary books and movies, thrillers, suspense, edge of my seat, keep me up all night experiences. I love a gripping story. It is one reason why I never wanted to put myself as a writer in a box. I want to write romantic comedies, dramas, thrillers. And I have always loved what scares me, what thrills me. It's kind of like a roller coaster, you know that you're going up for the terror, and you're disappointed if you don't get a good scare.
That must be where my risky behavior lies. For me, early terror was sneaking out of the house. Heart pounding as I stood on the stairs, going down extra slowly so I would not get caught. The suspense of getting out of the house carefully. It took me a good twenty minutes to sneak all the way out. I knew where every creak in the house was and I choreographed every single move. I carefully lowered my toe down the next stair, and tested it, if it began to creak, I pulled back- wait, wait, count to thirty, try was excruciating, and when I made it out the back door, I ran, adrenalin screaming in my ears- go now!
Recently I caved in and let Marissa watch The Exorcist. I knew she would find a way to do it with or without me. That kid is determined, so I decided to let her watch it with me. I think it scared her but I don't think it scared her nearly as much as it scared me every time I watched it. I think she admired the craft. I certainly did. This movie is a careful study in suspense and contains almost no special effects- most things are done in camera and with makeup and it still to this day holds up as the scariest movie of all time. The amazing thing about that movie is that it doesn't look dated, it doesn't look old and although Ellen Burstyn screeches hysterically a great deal, that doesn't even bother me. Some movies, you can tell they were made in the 70's- this one has actually achieved a timelessness about it.
I mean, sure, the fact that there is an actual phone cord sort of stands out but for the most part, it only adds to the terror. The hospital scenes are as horrifying as the head spinning. This movie is a masterclass in suspense and terror. It's always going to be number one on my list. The bit at the end when the demon is staring at the dead body of the priest- chilling, the lighting is brilliant, that blank and satisfied expression... that is what I love about the craft, when I see those genius moments.
So, here are the scary movies that changed my life. In no particular order, just as they came to me-
But let us just say for reasons I just listed- the top of my list will probably always be:
The Exorcist I cannot imagine any movie scaring me more than this one did.

Poltergeist- because it invaded your mind as much as it invaded your house. It started out all fun when the kids were sliding across the floor and stacking chairs on the table but you moved the headstones and not the bodies!!
A Nightmare on Elm Street the original, of course. This guy could invade your dreams, there was a back story and a score to settle. When Johnny Depp gets sucked into the mattress, it was wicked scary! Don't fall asleep!
Carrie I spent a lot of time feeling like a misfit and a freak, I've always related to this character. And enough is enough, she gave them plenty of chances! Putting evil Mom in the cross position was just the icing on the cake. Didn't we all kind of feel sorry for her? We should have learned that bullying lesson early on. Carrie spoke in class today, she said, you people suck!
The Sixth Sense Don't you love a good twist? How many people went back and re-watched that movie to make sure he did it right. This movie was pretty terrifying because of Haley Joel Osment. The kid looked certifiably frightened a lot of the time. The suspense was built beautifully. I don't think M. Night has managed to equal this story. I've liked some of his other movies but none of them were as well crafted as this one. He grounded it in character- which is where it really shone.
Jurassic Park Come on, you know you were all hanging on to the edge of your seat when those dinosaurs were attacking! Which leads me to...
JAWS The first one, of course! That first scene was completely terrifying. Didn't we all think midnight swims were great before that? Oh Spielberg, I want to be you. You can direct in all genres and no one tells you that you can't do it or puts you in a box!
Psycho and I would have to say a lot of Hitchcock films go with this one but again, the craft in this film is brilliant. I love the ending. This isn't at all what you would expect. The heart pounding drive away with the money is just as scary as the shower scene...
Rosemary's Baby just creepy and suspenseful and so freaky!! Just the thought of giving birth to the spawn of Satan gives me the chills!
Shadow of the Vampire This movie is so brilliant and just gives you the creeps in a major way- I love that genius that came up with this!
Seven and not just because of the hotness that is Brad Pitt. it's suspenseful and gritty. And that brings me to-
Silence of the Lambs Oh My God! It puts the lotion in the basket... I ate his liver with some favra beans and a nice Chianti- could that have been scarier? The scene in the dark with the green light? The intercutting? Ahhhhh!!! Masterclass in terror!
The Omen/ Damien Omen 2 Okay, clearly the devil scares the crap out of me!
The Ring Really, seriously, that girl climbing out of the television scared the hell out of me- and it had a plot that kept you going...
And last I am going to say these three Friday the 13th , Halloween and The Amityville Horror- needless to say, the originals of all of them. Because they were all a 70's kind of horror film that I appreciated- I'm sure there are many more.
Marissa has always inherently understood my love of scary movies, she exhibited very early on the desire to watch scary film. She would see a commercial and beg to watch the movie, even though it was clearly too mature and R rated for her. There is something deeply satisfying for me surviving a scary movie or finishing a scary book. When Marissa was five, she was begging to watch The X Files- I get it. I never would expose the other kids to scary movies but this one has always gravitated towards it. I actually can't wait to make more.


Julie W said...

I agree with your list. I haven't ever seen "Nightmare on Elm Street" (believe it or not!) or "Jaws" (I know,not having seen that by this point in my life is just sad. I'm on it!), but I think you've got the right idea about what makes a scary story. I never saw "The Ring" because someone told me the plot and I said, "NO WAY." : I knew it would mess with my head. Isn't that what makes the scariest stories? They get into your head more than they show horror, at least for me. (ps: Go see "Let The Right One In" - or it's Swedish original, "Let Me In." I loved it but I totally cried in the parking lot after I saw it. Not out of fear, just...I felt bad for the suffering of the 2 main people involved. That's a seriously scary story, when it can make you feel like that.)

VanessaMRR said...

Let the right one in is in my queue!