Halloween is a great time of year if you love horror movies. I'm not what you'd call a horror buff -- I'm way too much of a weenie. I'm the person you see at horror flicks hunched way down in my seat with my jacket ready to hide my face in if it gets overwhelming. Plus, I have a very active imagination, and when I see a really scary movie it stays in my head, and then late at night when I'm taking a relaxing bubble bath after the kids have gone down for the night, I'll hear the voice of Pennywise the Clown giggling in the drain, telling me how "we all float down here." God, I hate clowns.
Nonetheless, there is something shiveringly delicious about being scared just the right amount, isn't there? That rush of adrenaline, that thrill of being in danger, tempered by the knowledge that we are perfectly safe in a theater seat with a bag of popcorn and a box of Whoppers to help see us through. Here are some horror flicks that really scared me, that stayed in my head somewhere to haunt me late at night, to come creeping out of dark shadows. They're scary, but oh so good ...
The Changeling -- This is my favorite horror movie ever. George C. Scott stars as a writer who, after the death of his wife and daughter in a tragic accident, rents a spooky mansion. All by himself. Right away, creepy things start happening -- and I mean creepy. This film is packed with send-a-shiver-up-your-spine moments: The spooky voice of Joseph, a ghost child recorded on tape during a seance, audible only when it's played at the right speed; a ball bouncing down the stairs; visions of a bathtub with a drowned child. Look! I have goosebumps just thinking about it! And yet this is one scary movie I can watch over and over again. Once you've seen this movie, you'll never look at wheelchairs the same way again.
Rosemary's Baby -- A beautiful, innocent young woman, happily married, moving with her new hubby into their first apartment. Ah, young love. What could be sweeter? Unless, of course, the husband you adore just happens to have joined a cult of satanists who want to facilitate the conception and birth of the son of Satan. And guess who they want to be the incubator? Apart from being creeptacular, this is one of those movies that causes women to be mistrustful in their relationships with men and seemingly nice elderly neighbors. After all, if Mia Farrow could be fooled that easily, how do you know your husband isn't secretly a member of some psycho cult? Hmm?
A Nightmare on Elm Street -- Just the original, not the sequels. Creepy dead child murderer with knives for fingers who can invade your dreams and kill you while you sleep? That's a sure-fire recipe to freak out a paranoid person and cause a lengthy bout of Freddy-inspired insomnia. The sequels, though, just got stupider and stupider.
Hellraiser -- Ah, the twisted mind of Clive Barker. This movie scared the crap out of me. I watched most of it peeking out from under a blanket and between fingers hiding my face. I had vivid nightmares about this film, especially Pinhead. The whole concept of this freakish extreme-S&M world that some people were trying to get into rather than out of was bizarre, frightening and ... oddly intriguing. The dead lover growing back his body with human sacrifices? Ewwww. Black latex-wearing, S&M demons? Oh, yeah. And of course, innocent Kirsty, caught up in the middle of it all. Poor Kirsty. I always thought she kind of secretly had a thing for Pinhead, though. And who wouldn't? There's a man who has everything -- dominion over this freakish realm of hell, a wardrobe to make Keanu Reeves insanely jealous -- and if you're ever short a nail, you can count on him. He was probably way more fascinating than the lame white-bread suburban boys Kirsty was used to dating.
The Shining -- The movie was nowhere near as shiver-inducing as the book, true, but Jack Nicholson brought that special something to the role of Jack Torrance, the mentally unstable, alcoholic father who becomes a prime candidate for all the creepies inhabiting the ominous Overlook Hotel to latch onto. Whenever I hear of some bizarre case of a parent going nuts and killing their kids for no explicable reason, I think back to The Shining and to how Jack Torrance, professor and up-and-coming writer and loving father, morphed so easily into the scary monster-father that haunted little Danny's dreams. The Shining was a scary horror book, and Stanley Kubrick did a decent job translating it to film. What scared me the most about the book (and the film) was the idea of a trusted loved one literally becoming the boogie man. What better to tap into our inner scared kid than to show of a vision of Daddy morphed into this evil, roque-mallet bearing monster?
Alien -- I was 11 the year Alien came out, perhaps too young to be taken to such an intense film, but hey, my dad didn't think so. To be fair, he didn't know that it was going to be quite as intense a film as it is. Certainly, he wouldn't have known about the baby alien ripping of the guy's stomach or how scary the creatures were. In fact, I recall that as we were driving home, he was muttering under his breath about how my mom was going to kill him. Anyhow, I had nightmares for months after seeing this movie, and I still have to hide under a cover for at least 2/3 of it when I watch it, but it's still one of my favorite scary films. I actually liked the second film, Aliens, even better (hated Alien Resurrection, though). So I may have been a little young to see Ripley and Co. in retrospect, but I mostly turned out okay. Well, except for the anxiety, depression, panic disorder, claustrophobia and acrophobia. But I'm pretty sure none of that has anything whatsoever to do with being exposed to Alien when I was 11.
The Descent -- Neil Marshall's flick about a group of women trapped in a cave with flesh-eating mutants was one of the scariest films I've seen in a long time. Never mind the flesh-eating mutants. Just the claustrophobia of the narrow passages the women have to crawl through to try to escape freaked me out. During some of those scenes, I nearly had to leave the theater. I know, it's just a movie. And I'm a dork, yes. Thanks.
Your turn to chime in, horror buffs. What movies scare the pants off you?