Sunday, October 11, 2009

The scariest movie you've ever seen? Cast your vote

I'm one of those people who compulsively votes on polls when I find them on the internet so I've been throwing a few up here on The Silver Key. The latest is over to the left and is pretty self-explanatory. It's October and Halloween is creeping up, so I'm starting to get the horror film itch again.

If you selected "other," please post the name of your scariest film here in the comments section, and explain the reason why the film scared you or left you unsettled. If I haven't seen it, I'll add it to my Netflix queue.


G. Benedicto said...

While "Gigli" is pretty high up on my list, I think my fav horror flick has to be "Jacob's Ladder" -- it cultivates a really nice atmosphere of nameless dread. Definitely a "What is going on here?" sort of scary movie, which I prefer to the really gruesome stuff. Specifically, the film-effect that is used for the demons -- the film is sped-up so that they appear to be twitching at an unnatural rate -- is simple but effectively creepy.

Jayson said...

For me, it's got to be "Communion". Something about the concept and the imagery really got to me.

R. Lawrence Blake said...

Wow, Jayson has it right! Communion gave me many sleepless nights. The imagery is terrifying, and when those critters simply peek around the door, I about wet myself.

Two others I must mention that really got under my skin as a kid were two different John Carpenter movies: The Thing and Prince of Darkness. The Thing for its unrelenting gore and claustrophobic atmosphere and Prince of Darkness for the scene that is broadcast from the future into the characters' dreams. *shudder*

Falze said...

I voted for The Shining, but I think it's due to the age I first saw it at. Halloween might be right up there for that reason, too, but The Shining is the only one I distinctly recall having nightmares after. I don't know that adult 'scary movies' can really scare you as much as when you're a kid. They certainly have to try harder. If you take that element out, a child's susceptibility, I probably would have to give it some thought between Blair Witch and Event Horizon...psychological horrors where you never really know what is going on and not just 'don't open that door or something will jump out and startle you'. Maybe Stay Alive, too. That ripple of static/sound effects - I've heard random things making noises that sound like it and it sends chills up my spine, still.

S. S., CFA said...

Communion was definitely creepy ...

... but The Omen (the original) doesn't even make the list?!?!

Verhaden said...

You know what movie really terrified me--if only for part of the movie? Signs.

It's the scene where Mel Gibson is in the corn field and his flashlight starts going in and out. When he finally gets the flashlight to work, he sees that leg moving out of sight into the corn.

Barring that, most "horror" films make me yawn. Most fall into the creature-feature category and ruin themselves by actually showing the creature, instead of letting our imaginations run wild with paranoia.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. A few comments:

Jacob's Ladder: Awesome movie with some very terrifying/unsettling scenes. Should have made the list.

The Omen/The Thing/Blair Witch: Ditto, also good, I should have included them on the poll.

While I enjoyed Event Horizon and Prince of Darkness, I can't say I was really scared by either. The former was more of a gross-out film, while the latter had some cool imagery but also was choppy in places and rather nonsensical.

I enjoyed Signs, up to the point where they actually showed the aliens. That was a jump the shark moment for me and the film went rapidly south. Again, IMO.

As for Communion, that's actually one I've never seen. With two convincing votes, I will add it to my "must see" list.

Falze said...

Gross out? Not sure what you mean by that, there weren't many disgusting scenes that I recall and even the vivisected crew scene was more of a 'WTF happened here?!' moment than gore-porn, I usually don't go for that. Maybe I'm just not remembering it. What got me, despite its obvious flaws, was the characters' inability to figure out what the hell was going on around them. That's why Blair Witch creeped me out, too. It's surely a psychological thing, I like order and knowing what's going on around me and get distressed sometimes during periods of chaos...hearing a noise at night and not being able to sleep until I figure out what made it, etc. So, naturally, Event Horizon, Blair Witch, and Stay Alive are the types of movies that freak me out more than slasher flicks or monster movies. I would imagine people that are horrified by spiders would be most creeped out by monster spider movies.

Anonymous said...


sriddle415 said...


I would say that either the original _The Haunting_ or _The Innocents_.


Brian Murphy said...

Falze: Maybe I'm (to quote Roger Clemens) misremembering Event Horizon. I do remember the crewmembers who looked like they exploded from the inside out, but I know there was a lot more to the movie than that.

Steven: The original Haunting was very good, completely goreless while remaining scary, a rare feat. I've never seen The Innocents.

So far our two co-leaders are The Exorcist and Alien with six votes each... 10 votes for other, but there's no one consensus vote there.

Falze said...

I curious what people found scary about The Exorcist. Anybody care to chip in?

Mike in MN said...

I voted "Other" for the original Terminator. The first time I saw this as a little kid in the mid-1980s, it really creeped me out. The idea of an unstoppable, single-minded killing machine was terrifying. The fear of World War III was manipulated to full effect, too. Not always thought of as a horror film, but the horror of it all is what I always remember first.

Brian Murphy said...

Falze: Two words: Captain Howdy (click at own risk).

Mike: Good choice, my dreams were haunted by WWIII/nuclear annihilation for many years.

Anonymous said...

It's a toss up for me. I think Freaks is a pretty damn scary movie, although I often feel bad about thinking so (it's kind of like the very first exploitation flick if you think about it).

I found A Clockwork Orange to also be pretty scary (although it's not a horror film per se, the torture stuck with me afterwards). Another non-horror with scary-ass torture: Marathon Man.

The original Friday the 13th has what I consider to be the greatest jump scare scene of all-time (but the rest is pretty campy if you'll pardon the pun).

Arch Hall Jr. in The Sadist is probably the scariest performance I've ever seen. He puts all the other big-screen slashers and psychos to shame (and unlike the others, you DON'T want to cheer for this guy).

A Nightmare on Elm Street was the scariest movie I saw as a kid. Naturally, I had some difficulty sleeping after seeing that one...

An American Werewolf in London has some of the scariest effects I've ever seen (I'm talking the transformation scene here, natch).

But, for overall scares, tension, and eventual horror, I have to go with Jaws. Part of what makes it so good (amazing ominous musical cues aside), is the fact that you never really get a good glimpse of the beastie until the climax - you just have the terrified reactions of the characters to the carnage this roided up shark is causing. I've always preferred horror films that leave something up to the imagination (because, really - does anyone out there think a pure gore-fest movie is actually scary?).

noisms said...

Of this list, The Silence of the Lambs. The ending to that film, where Starling is trapped in Buffalo Bill's basement, is unbearably tense. The other films on that list are spooky, but for sheer visceral terror only Jaws comes close to The Silence of the Lambs for me.

It's also at least somewhat plausible - serial killers do exist after all - and that adds another dimension of fear to proceedings.

Can't believe you didn't include John Carpenter's The Thing in there. Not only brilliantly scary but with the most dementedly bleak ending to a horror film ever (barring The Mist maybe).

Falze said...

OIC. Been WAY too many years since I saw The Exorcist, didn't even recall that...and after reading the book I had no desire to rewatch the movie, figuring there's no way they could make anything that disturbing.


I read Matthew's comment too fast, too, and thought he was applauding the scariness of the original Freaky Friday. Oops.

R. Lawrence Blake said...

All this talk reminds me of William Peter Blatty's "Exorcist III".

I thought this was a fantastic movie (based on the Blatty novel "Legion"), and except for a bit of Hollywood craziness at the end, it stands as a classic horror flick in my DVD collection.

Exorcist II was terrible, tho.

Ian M. Davison said...

I've been a pretty dedicated horror fan for many years and I've seen my fair share of "scary" movies down the line, none of which manage to to freak me out any more. With on exception: Event Horizon. I don't know what it is but the combination of space and hell really strikes a nerve with me. I've seen the film at least 5 times in an attempt to conquer the chills it gives me, but the damned thing still manages to creep me out.

And hey if we extend the criteria to "most disturbing movie" I've ever seen, I'm going to have to suggest Salo, A Flower of Flesh and Blood, or August Underground. Suggested only for those possesing an iron constitution or a damaged brain.

Falze said...

I knew it wasn't just me, Ian.

Scott said...


I think for outright creepiness, Eraserhead is one of the top freaky films.

Ian M. Davison said...

Falze: Indeed, though again I'm still not sure why Event Horizon continues to mess with my head. I've seen film exploring similar themes (The Exorcist, Hellraiser) and locales (Alien) but none of those films manage to evoke any dread in me. Entertainment certainly, but not dread.

Falze said...

I did the same thing, tried watching it again because I figured it wouldn't be as creepy the second time around. No such luck. Dread's a great word for it, even when you know what's coming, it doesn't help.

I've never been able to win Brian over on Event Horizon, though, not from the first time I made him watch it :)

Brian Murphy said...

Wow, lots of great comments here. To address a few:

R. Lawrence Blake: The Exorcist III is indeed highly underrated, and in addition it contains a jump-scare scene to rival the legendary girl-in-the-canoe scene from Friday the 13th. If you've seen the film, you know the one.

Ian/Falze: Okay, maybe it's time to give Event Horizon another try.

Ian, I made a conscious decision to stay away from films like Salo. I wrote a post about those types of movies a while back. They leave me feeling empty instead of entertained.

Matthew: Great selections. Jaws could easily be no. 1 on my list too--I still refuse to swim in the ocean over my head after that one. In addition, it's just a brilliantly written, acted, and executed film.

Noisms: Yup, Carpenter's The Thing belongs here too. My poll is a little flawed.

Scott:Somehow I've managed to avoid seeing Eraserhead. I'll get around to it one of these days, just not when my wife wants to share the TV :)

Falze said...

Not necessarily re: EH, Brian. If it doesn't do it for, or rather to you, then it doesn't. Some people are scared by Alien. Me? Not so much. Or slasher flicks. Not generally so scary. I just watched Dawn of the Dead and laughed through the whole thing. My wife was spooked by the zombies in I Am Legend. I thought they were pretty lame. That's the beauty of a discussion like this, you get to see that different things scare different people, it's unlikely that all of a sudden you'd start being scared by something. It either 'hits the spot' in you...or it doesn't. You can grow to respect a film if it's well made, but that doesn't mean it'll be scary. And, in the case of EH, well, while I find it scary I'll certainly not argue that it's a great piece of cinematic art :)

Ian M. Davison said...

Brian: I can appreciate your response to film like Salo. Truth be told I do consider movies like that to be draining as well. Yet I keep seeking them out, keep trying to define that "line in the sand" you spoke of. To coin a phrase from John Carpenter's catalogue, I'm always looking for my "La Fin Absolue du Monde."

Eric D. Lehman said...

Although I was creeped out by "The Thing" and had a bad relationship with "Sleepaway Camp" when a boy, I'd have to agree that the film that stuck with me the most was Jaws. Every time you swim in the ocean you can see those POV scenes coming up on the swimmer's legs! Right? I mean, The Exorcist was creepy, but when in ordinary life am I worried about running into a little girl possessed by the devil?

The other film that comes close to that, interestingly enough, is the Blair Witch Project. Not scary at all while watching it...but I hike alot, and run into some weird stuff quite often.

Bill Teschek said...

What about Pet Sematary? That one creeped me out. I'd vote for The Exorcist as the scariest though.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Bill, Pet Sematary was good, though it can't compare to the book, which for my money is Stephen King's scariest.

To close out this poll, it looks like our winner is The Exorcist, with eight votes, which narrowly edged out Alien. Here's the final tabulation, based on the poll and what I was able to piece together from the comments:

1. The Exorcist (8)
2. Alien (7)
3. Silence of the Lambs (3)
4. (tie) The Shining, Jaws, Night of the Living Dead, Event Horizon, Communion (2)

Honorable mention: Gigli.

Bill Teschek said...

I have to say I'm not surprised that The Exorcist won. The thing that I thought made it so scary was that it actually gives the viewer the frightening feeling that just by WATCHING the movie, the Devil, if he exists, may decide that you should be his next victim. It's one thing to see creepy or scary things that make you jump and give you nightmares, but when you worry that those things might actually happen to you because you watched the movie, well, that's pure horror.