It can be hard to pick scary movies for a group of adults to enjoy -- unless you go the family film route, and who wants that? Some people can watch an eye be plucked form a skull, or a slow, terrifying scene scored with creepy music and be in heaven; others will squeeze their eyes shut and plug their ears to escape what they consider hell. While brainstorming ideas for Cinematical's month-long tribute to all things creepy, scary, and gory, I had the bright idea to cover scary flicks for the wimpy -- those people who squeeze, plug, and hate to be scared.
I didn't quite think about how antithetical this idea was. If it's scary, the wimpy won't like it, and if it is too watered down, it isn't scary any more. To make things even more difficult, everyone has different ideas about what is scary. For example, I consider Psycho to be scary for its time and not-so-scary now. Chilling, yes. Nail-biting or hair-raising? No. My friend, however, just looked at me like I was insane for including it on this list. Where in the heck do you go from there?
Comedy always works. The funnier the gore, the less scary it is. But this isn't a comedy list, so there has to be some sort of variety, and this is how it will work: the following is a list of movies you can watch with your more wimpy friends, but still have those ever-loved Halloween themes, and at least a little gore or a few jumps. They are listed from wimpiest to least-wimpy -- all of which should fall well below the truly scary films out there. If anyone finds the lower-rated ones too much to bear, you should probably stay away from anything scary, the evening news, and the absolutely frightening Showgirls.
Fido is full of zombies, but it shouldn't keep you up at night. A sci-fi comedy, it centers on a young boy named Timmy who lives in a world after the zombie wars. It's much like the world of Lassie, but in color, and with the undead. The zombies wear collars that keep them from eating flesh, and that makes them the perfect servants. In Timmy's case, a zombie-rific Billy Connolly is his perfect zombidog, Fido. However, beyond the walls of the town live the flesheaters, eager to break through the barriers and feast on the locals. For the most part, life is pristine, but since we're talking about zombies, there's a little bit of gore and a few jumps, which makes it only mildly scary.
Yeah, Ghostbusters isn't that scary either, but we're talking about wimpy people, right? So, there's nothing like ghosts, gluttony, and a way-larger-than-life marshmallow man. But if that's not enough of a scare for you, there's also Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver getting it on. That's still not enough? Okay, how about some poltergeisty action and ghostly possession? There are some thrills and lots of laughs to make you quickly forget about brief creepy bits. And really, I've never looked at gargoyles the same again.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
While some older horror films can seem tame thanks to their black and white visions and dated technique, there's nothing like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Forget the upcoming remake; this is all about the classic. An expedition heads to the Amazon to find the rest of a skeleton whose webbed hand was previously discovered. Instead of lots of bones, they find "gill man," a creature with gills and webbed appendages who is shaped like a man. He's a tough killer, but he also has a thing for the pretty lady, stalking her from the depths of the sea while she swims above. It's not too scary on its own, but it might be downright creepy if you watch the film in the dark, in water. (A raft, some beer, and a classic movie on the water. That would be nice... someone should look into that.)
Bubba Ho-tep (2002)
Elvis is still alive, JFK is now a black man, and the undead Bubba Ho-tep is wreaking deadly havoc on a rest home in Texas. Since they're all old folks, no one thinks anything of it, except for Presley and Kennedy, who fight scarabs and vow to bring the Egyptian mummy down. There are a few jumps, some gory mummy business, and some pecker boils to keep things creepy, plus lots of conniving between Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis to keep things light. Of course, if you want even more of the undead, Army of Darkness also works.
It has been almost 50 years since this film has come out, and it still gives chills to those who watch it. By the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho is the film that made showers deathtraps, and crossdressing lethal. We all know the story by now -- woman steals money, woman goes to hotel, woman dies. It's creepy, it's a classic, and for the love of God, please ignore the remake. There's only room for one Psycho in this world -- well, one plus a few sequels.
Fully into the creepier fare comes the Steven Spielberg classic, Poltergeist. It has scared the pants off people for many years, but impressively did so with a PG rating. Luckily, enough time has passed that the story looks a little dated, which makes it more palatable to the average viewer. But still, there's ghosts, terror, and the scariest little girl to set the road for scary children -- Heather O'Rourke's Carol Anne. To creep things up some more, there's always the story of the Poltergeist curse, and all the deaths and strangeness that came from the productions.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
On the whole, this flick is far from the scariest of the bunch, which is good for the wimpy. However, it does contain the one scene from a movie that never, ever leaves my mind. Every time I'm on a plane at night, this movie pops into my head, and it still gives me shivers. It's the perfect flick for some chills, and then just one good fright. The fourth story, from George Miller, was a remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. John Lithgow is a tired man on a plane at night. The music is eerie, the lightning is cracking, and he lifts the blind to see a creepy creature in the window! Alas, no one will believe him, and he's stuck in an engine-failing plane with no way out and no one to help.