Bust out your dog-eared copy of the DSM-IV (aka the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and pick your favorite (or your own) diagnosis. Chances are there's at least one movie out there that will push a big red button in your brain in a bad way. Lucky for you, I'm not just a movie nerd or the type of person who owns important leather-bound books and can get reservations at Nobu for the same evening, I also dabble in armchair psychology. So I'm here to help you figure out the best movies to avoid based on your own DSM-IV diagnoses. Or maybe mine. I will never tell.
1. Claustrophobia: The Descent 1 & 2
If you're afraid of small, tight spaces and getting stuck in them, you should absolutely avoid these white-knuckle horror films. Why? Because the people are under the effing ground! Not only that, but they're often forced to squeeze through tight spaces while trying to flee grotesque monsters who would like nothing more than to make a snack of these spelunkers. I can only vouch for the first movie, really, because as soon as I sat down, I thought to myself, "Why the hell am I here?" Then I enjoyed the movie. Then I had nightmares.
2. Herpetophobia: Snakes on a Plane
The fear of snakes is rather common, and isn't limited to us plebeians, as we recently saw from an unintentionally hilarious outtake of Selma Hayek freaking out about a snake in her vicinity. I'm sorry we laughed at you, Selma. Snakes are a serious biz! Combine claustrophobia with herpetophobia, and what have you got? Snakes on a Plane. Oh good lord, the snake! It's somewhere, but who knows where? It's slithering beneath your seat, it's hissing its way through your luggage, it's eating up all those $5 bags of pretzels, it's stealing your leg room, and dammit, you are stuck on a mothereffing plane with a mothereffing snake.
Honorable mention: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones' Achilles heel is his phobia of snakes. Hey, herpetophobes, at least you're in good company!
3. Ailurophobia: Too many to mention
Cats are everywhere in the movies. They're in kids' movies (Cats & Dogs, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), they're in horror movies (Hausu, Sleepwalkers, Cat People), and sometimes they're just awesome sidekicks (Alien). But dammit, a cat is a cat, and you never know what those sneaky buggers are thinking. Right now, mine are plotting a coup while I'm trying to figure out if I can write them off as administrative assistants.
4. Coulrophobia: It,Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The fear of clowns is pretty common, although I'm not clear on why. While Killer Klowns from Outer Space is kitsch personified, anyone who read or saw Stephen King's It at an early age still gets a shiver down the spine when they hear the name Pennywise, a monster who often appears in clown form. He lives in the sewers and is suspected by a group of kids -- now adults, who look back on their memories of Pennywise -- for a series of child murders. Tim Curry plays Pennywise The Dancing Clown, and he has big fangs and is generally terrifying.
5. Arachnophobia: Arachnophobia
Spiders have a very interesting place in different religions of the world -- there are plenty of spider gods and goddesses and myths about them -- but they are also very creepy and have a lot of legs. Arachnophobia is the ne plus ultra of spider freak-out movies, starring deadly South American spiders breeding and killing and munching on innocent townspeople! Although spiders can bring people together in surprising ways, as in Annie Hall, they can also kill them in horrible ways.