I haven’t written a list in a little while and with Halloween being days away, it seems timely to share a few scares with you. Rarely does a movie make me jump or really take me by surprise, but it has happened on a few occasions…and here they are!
I didn’t watch Jaws straight through until I was 19 so you’d think it would take a lot to make me jump. Based on the production documentary on the DVD, Mr. Spielberg wanted to make sure the human head popping out underwater was timed right to get one more scare into the movie, and it sure worked on me. When I saw that, I was lying on the floor in front of the TV and there must have been a foot and a half between the floor and my body when that head pops out. That was the first time I ever jumped with fear because of a movie. At least it was at the hands of one of the greats.
Dallas is in the vents and all of a sudden!…god damn, those xenomorphs are scary. Between the quick cut of the alien reaching out for him and that edge-of-your-seat tension that built up to it, I’m surprised my heart didn’t burst out of my chest like…well, actually, like another scene in that movie. Eleven years ago, the “Director’s Cut” of Alien was released in a handful of theaters and since I’d only seen the heavily-edited broadcast version on Fox, I figured this was the way to see the true version of this film. It was loud, creepy, claustrophobic, and amazing. And I had my second jump courtesy of another master.
This one is much more psychological in the way the mutilation comes at a moral price but I was aghast for most of the movie, especially during those last few minutes. It was more about being shaken by what I saw in a movie rather than scared. James Wan built that first Saw movie up to an incredible finale which left so many of us walking gape-mouthed to our cars afterward. Unsurprisingly, that series got worse as it went on and became more about grotesque torture porn than emotional shock value (I quit after Saw III). This Wan guy certainly seemed to have a touch for tension and release.
Dolls freak me out. As a kid, I saw both Child’s Play and “The Dummy” episode of The Twilight Zone. I’m now 33 and I could give a damn about public embarrassment for saying it – dolls are still freaky. This movie is a spin on the classic ghost story that involves a creepy doll which sucks the souls out of people when they scream in fear. I saw it with a friend around Valentine’s Day 2007 (as you do) and then spent the night alone in my apartment quivering with fear, afraid to even breathe too loudly. James Wan got me again! A lot of people dismiss these horror/doll movies as being ineffective, but not me! The creepy vibe of the movie stuck with me long after I left the cineplex and literally haunted me for a few days.
Full disclosure: I haven’t seen The Conjuring but many of my horror-loving friends have and they were scared out of their knickers, so I have purposely put this one off because I’m pretty sure it’ll freak me out. It’s been airing regularly on HBO and I keep flipping past it, so my first time seeing the film is in the safety of being among friends. Once again, dolls are creepy and based on all the ads for Annabelle, even if she’s barely in this movie, I’ll be jittery. Plus: James Wan (the Saw and Dead Silence guy). That’s enough reason for me to hold out for a group viewing.