Friday, October 26, 2007

My ideal scary movie

As Halloweekend is upon us, I have, naturally, been thinking a fair amount about horror flicks – which might also have something to do with the fact that I’ve been watching plenty of Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments” – and what I like about some, dislike about others, etc. I won’t bother ruminating over why this may be (unresolved childhood issues?), but whether it’s roller coasters or vampires, skydiving or haunted houses, many of us enjoy the adrenaline rush of being scared.

For lots of folks, nothing gets those endorphins pumping like a good ol’ horrible scary movie. Here are a few essential elements:


Some sort of ghost or demon from beyond
This is pretty much a given, but for me, the “otherworld” has to be involved somehow. Call me a prude, but torture porn and slashers generally just aren’t fun for me. Nope, I need the reassurance that the evil presence close by is more than just a socially dysfunctional stalker...an uncontrollable, restless spirit is good, but demonic possession is ideal. And, of course, a creepy little kid should be a part of this.

Unnatural movement
You know what demonic possession leads to…spider-walking down the stairs, 360 degree head rotation, climbing on the ceiling, all that good stuff. Something about humans making nonhuman movements is really awful, as evidenced in the jerkiness of the girl’s walk in The Ring (through the TV into your house! to kill you!), the back-and-forth head shaking of Jacob’s Ladder, and lots of other movies since.

Closed-in spaces
I’m not a claustrophobe, but The Descent, about a spelunking trip gone terribly wrong, nearly turned me into one. It’s what makes scenes in The Shining (trapped in a hotel with your deranged dad), Alien (trapped on a spaceship with a deranged monster), 2001 (trapped on a spaceship with a deranged computer), and countless ghost and zombie movies (trapped in a house with deranged baddies after you) so effective. And, if you haven’t seen the ultimate example, The Vanishing, don’t worry – I won’t ruin the traumatic surprise.

Something deserted

In a similar vein, places that were once (especially recently) inhabited, but are now abandoned, are good. This has been used a lot – empty carnivals, old mental institutions or factories, ghost towns, am-I-the-last-person-alive? scenarios – but there’s a reason.

Clowns
Gotta have a clown in there. It and Poltergeist scarred me for life as a kid.

Not an exhaustive list, but a good start. So, what would be included in your ultimate horror film? Let me know what I’m missing.

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