Thanks to Jerry of Simple America for this tag. To find ten tales of terror I’ve isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.
I’ve seen very few horror movies when I was younger, and I found out in my late teens that horror doesn’t really affect me as much as I thought it did. Not to say that I’m totally impervious to them. I still do flinch when gore catches me by surprise. But to determine which movie actually causes you to feel horror, to have an unsettling thought form in your mind while watching the movie and stay with you for years on end, now that is something to write about.
I’ve seen a lot of supposedly horror movies, but they just don’t affect me because they’re too focused on gory deaths or has a premise that is clearly too far detached from reality (as opposed to suggesting it, which to me works better).
I will list out each movies as a mini-review with a bit of spoilers.
I saw this when I was 5 or 6. It was about a radioactive monster that terrorized a beach in California. I guess I was just the right age to watch this and have it haunt my nightmares the following couple of years, especially that last scene. Yes, I can still remember the last scene 30 years later. A quick IMDb search yields a result of sorts. Good grief. I wish I can see this again. I’ll probably fall off the chair laughing instead now.
9, 8 and 7 are tied for no movie I can remember.
This dreary tale starts as a cop movie. No hint of a horror element, just violent serial murders (and one really shocking near murder). But as the film progresses the detectives played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt discover the reasoning behind the serial murders. The horror begins when the serial killer includes the life of the family into his plans and his perverted modus operandi, turning the detectives (and their motivations) part of his so-called masterpiece.
But one of the most horrifying part of the movie is when the two detectives speak these lines:
Somerset: I just don’t think I can continue to live in a place that embraces and nurtures apathy as if it was virtue.
Mills: You’re no different. You’re no better.
Somerset: I didn’t say I was different or better. I’m not. Hell, I sympathize; I sympathize completely. Apathy is the solution. I mean, it’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It’s easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it. It’s easier to beat a child than it is to raise it. Hell, love costs: it takes effort and work.
5. 28 Days Later
Zombie movies can be pretty terrifying, but this one with the premise of a biological agent causing the zombification of the United Kingdom invokes horror even more with two elements.
One, you really care for the characters that every zombie attack scene (with the threat of them becoming turned by the virus) becomes doubly intense. Two, the horror is again doubled when you realized that the people in uniform with guns and not zombies are even worse than the zombies.
I have written about this movie elsewhere in this site.
4. The Exorcist
This is another movie that I caught when I was a young lad, and the first movie in this list that uses the supernatural to scare the pants off you. A child possessed by a demon and all the adults around her has to protect her. But how can you do it when the demon is extremely powerful, causes the child to do ungodly things and move in unnerving ways, and can taunt you in ways that will damage your soul?
Ten years ago I caught the Director’s Cut on video and had my guard down because it’s such an old movie and I thought I was immune to it. I saw it on video in the daytime and it still freaked the shit out of me. Also, a glimpse of the inverted spider walk in the deleted scenes really, really freaked the shit out of me.
3. The Thing
One of the first and best movies that has the characters trapped in a claustrophobic location stalked by something so out of this world you’re afraid to discover where the creature is… because you might discover that you’re really dead and the creature is you. And of course the ambiguous ending also made me feel the chills… of Antartica… and other things.
X-Files made a
rip-off homage of the movie in the first season episode “Ice”.
2. The Fog
Another John Carpenter movie like The Thing (and not last year’s version starring Clark Kent) which had me on edge while watching it on Channel 4 at midnight in the UK, alone in the room. Usually I’m not affected by cursed ghost slashers, but then I remember that Sitiawan has fishing villages all around it by the sea… and I’ve stayed overnight in beaches before looking out into the dark waters deep in the night, with nothing but moonlight illuminating the view and fueling my imagination. Who knows what old angry things lie beneath the waves in the seas near our old hometown.
I read the novelization of the movie first. And several months later the movie was shown on TV. Crew of the Nostromo, a tug hauling an automated oil refinery investigates a signal from an alien derelict and discovers lots of eggs. One hatches and latches on to First Officer Kane. Kane is brought aboard the Nostromo with something planted inside him and all hell breaks loose.
Upon reading the novelization, several concepts froze my 13 year old mind at the time. The alien used humans as incubators and their babies erupt out of their victim’s chest. Then the characters in the novel went on to talk about the wasp which laid its eggs on a paralyzed spider’s body. After the eggs hatched, the larvae began to eat the spider alive. That is nature. It exists in real life. That made it all the more horrible.
The other concept (not in the theatrical version, but restored in the Director’s Cut) is featured when a fleeing Ripley meets a cocooned Dallas at the Nostromo‘s landing gear compartment. He begs her to kill him. Also, there is mass of flesh and cloth that used to be Brett which is slowly transforming into one of the eggs that they discovered in the alien derelict. This implied that all the eggs they found might have each been an alien crewman.
I saw the movie alone downstairs on TV3 which extended after midnight. That really crept me out.
And despite the bipedal nature of the alien, it really seemed something alien. It really felt like it killed because it was carrying out its preprogrammed genetic imperative to incessantly breed by using other creatures as hosts. And its egg can lay waiting for a victim indefinitely without dying.
Okay I can talk about Alien forever so I’m going to stop now.