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Queue Tips: Scary Movies

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 25, 2010 5:20PM

a scene from "Night of the Living Dead"
Screw that silly custom of dressing up and going door to door for candy--we're grown up enough to go to Walgreens and buy our own candy, thank you very much. For us, Halloween is all about scary movie marathons at home. And unbidden, we'd like to share some of our very own scary movie memories with you.

Rob: When I was 11 or 12 I watched Night of the Living Dead for the first time. The local PBS station aired it at 10 o'clock, and I watched it alone. Big mistake. When it was over I was so freaked out that I didn't dare go to bed yet. So, I flipped stations and watched another movie to happened to be airing: The Fall of the Roman Empire. The entire thing. A few years ago I watched The Exorcist for the first time and, despite everything I already knew about the movie, I had nightmares anyway that night. If you haven't seen it yet, a cool movie to try this year is Dead of Winter. Directed by the great Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde), who passed away earlier this month, it's a taut little suspense shocker with a great turn by Mary Steenburgen.

Laura: Somehow I was talked into watching The Exorcist. I lived in England at the time, and it had just been un-banned there, so the Ultimate Picture Palace down the street was showing it on the big screen. I'm still not sure how my housemates got me there, but I went, very much against my better judgment. I'm pretty sure it was an excellent movie, and I'm glad I can say I've seen at least one scary movie, but I spent the entire time curled up in the fetal position in my chair, my arms wrapped in a death-grip around my friend's. She possibly did not enjoy the experience very much. I have never seen a scary movie since.

Kim: When it comes to great horror films, it doesn't get much better than Friday the 13th. This classic still manages to be scary even if everyone knows by now exactly what to expect. I also love it for its pioneering (or reinforcement) of several horror movie tropes: the scared woman running upstairs, the teens who invariably get slashed while or after having sex, the heavy breathing off camera and the running through the woods while looking behind you. David Cronenberg's Scanners is another good one despite the fact that the climax of the movie is in the first 15 minutes. I only recently saw Candyman, and while more gory than scary, I had to see it since Chicago is all over it. It will no doubt be strange for people in the future to view it, since by then Cabrini Green won't even resemble the (both real and fictional) horror movie setting that once was.

Aaron: While not necessarily "scary" in the sense that I jumped off the couch after spilling popcorn and wetting myself, I think Zombie has one of the most gory scenes I ever saw at an early age. A woman has her eye gouged out by a splintered piece of wood as she's pulled through a door. Nothing's exactly left to the imagination and I'm pretty sure I was probably 14 years old. While not a traditional "horror" movie with monsters and blood splattering, I think 1984 captures something even scarier - the absence of hope in the face of a truly terrifying world.

Tony: I know I should be one of the cool-kids-in-school and pick some obscure, limited-release, underground horror film, but my faves are pretty pedestrian. Aliens. (Sigourney Weaver—and that’s all that needs to be said.) Silence of the Lambs (not exactly “horror,” but a truly terrifying film.) I can quote every line of this movie, everyone I know can. I remember as a young, newly-minted gay man, being in complete awe of Hannibal Lecture as this kind of fey, but well-spoken, intelligent, and powerful creature. And, no, the lambs have not stopped screaming, at least not for me. But I think the most influential horror movie for me was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I know, I know—it’s not a true horror film either, but, come on, Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the flamboyant pansexual, the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania? He scared the shit out of me as a young, sexually confused teen, but he also thrilled me with his camp, his hedonism, and the promise of what might lay ahead—if and when I ever came out of the closet.

A scene from "The Innocents"
Michele: The Innocents is in no way, shape or form a traditional “horror” film, the intensity of its storyline conjured through masterful character and plot development. All I know is it enough for me to hide behind my fingers every single time I watch it. Growing up with a somewhat conservative upbringing, my mother was a driving force in what my sister and I could watch, i.e. no MTV, no horror movies, etc… Her motto on such matters was “garbage in, garbage out.” I didn’t even see The Exoricist until they re-released it ten years ago; so The Innocents was an approved form of the “horror” genre in my household. Because of this I learned early on to appreciate suspense over blood and plot twists over eye-gouging.

Steven: Don't Look Now is visually inventive, genuinely creepy, and possesses a notorious sex scene (although its notoriety seems quaint now). This movie will change, forever, the way you look at short people wearing red raincoats. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star as parents spending winter in Venice while grieving for their daughter, who drowned. Or did she? I've never watched this with anyone who wasn't sincerely spooked. The Abominable Dr. Phibes features Vincent Price at his best. This is extravagantly, hilariously campy while also being genuinely weird. It's kind of like Se7en for people who like a little levity in their biblically oriented revenge fantasy. I like watching this with people who think they hate Vincent Price and/or horror movies.

Chuck: As a kid I often laughed at The Wolf Man. But Werewolf of London, which preceded the Lon Chaney Jr. classic by six years, could make me jump like none other as a seven-year-old. The makeup designed for star Henry Hull by the legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce was a hybrid of wolf and man that Pierce would later perfect for Chaney. The foggy London setting also was as much a character of the movie as its cast. My other favorite scary film is Dracula's Daughter. Filmed in 1935, the movie picks up after the events in the classic 1931 film that immortalized (or typecast?) Bela Lugosi. Gloria Holden plays Countess Marya Zaleska, daughter of the Prince of Darkness, who hopes that by destroying his body she can be freed of her curse for bloodlust. The film was notorious for its time for its lesbian implications and Holden's "exotic" performance, and is equally a psychological thriller and horror movie.

Tankboy: This is going to sound lame, especially since I love horror movies, but I saw The Blair Witch Project the week it opened (before the hype it could never live up to unfortunately ruined it for 99% of folks) and that scared the HELL out of me. Especially the scene with people running all over the tent. It didn't scare me as much as it did my roommate at the time though ... he slept with a knife under his pillow for protection for a few week's after seeing the flick.

Kevin: The scariest movie I ever saw was Roger & Me. Yeah. That shit is terrifying.