Believe me, those scars are REAL. And never is the threat of fear scars more imminent than around the days and weeks leading up to Halloween, as every TV station busts out their own personal arsenal of scary movies. Here’s the thing – if I can’t rationalize my way out of why something scary in a movie can't possibly happen to me, then I cannot see the movie. Why, you ask? Because I’ll have nightmares for life. I’m still not convinced that I won’t die in some freak garage door mishap (see Scream)...or by gremlin, for that matter.
I just don’t understand why people want to be scared. And the scariest movies to me are those where inanimate objects come to life. Most notably: creepy dolls. I never saw Child's Play, and I certainly don’t plan to. And don’t even get me started on this new Annabelle movie that’s out. The previews alone make me mute the TV and leave the room for fear my eyelids will betray me and suddenly snap open at an inopportune moment during the commercial.
I’ll give you three scary movies (out of the ones I’ve actually seen) that absolutely scarred me for life. Disclaimer: I avoid scary movies like the plague, and I in no way claim to have seen all or even a healthy number of them. And my friends and would-be-nay-sayers should thank me. If you think I’m neurotic now, you should see me after a night of scary TV. So the list below is by no means a "scariest movies of all time" list; it's simply a list of the most scarring movies of my childhood. In no particular order:
Pet Sematary. Oh man. OH MAN. I love pets, so obviously I would love a movie where pets come back to life, right?? WRONG. In this thriller, a family from Chicago moves out to the woods of Maine and into a house near a local pet sematary, where townsfolk bury their dead animals. The family’s cat dies, they bury it there, and, SPOILER ALERT: it returns home the next day…but it's not the same. Clearly the cat is possessed by an evil force, having broken the laws of nature to return to the living world. The family’s son then dies in a tragic accident, and the dad hopes to bring the son back, so he buries him in the pet cemetery. He comes back alright…as demon spawn. I mean, REALLY?! The dad had to know that kid was coming back as Satan himself. The scariest scene in the entire movie, without question, is when the family’s elderly neighbor is getting ready for bed and Gage (the demon child) pops out from under the bed and slices open his Achilles tendon with a child-size scalpel. Simply terrifying.
The Craft. Four teenage girls in high school become obsessed with magic. One, the newcomer wallflower-type who happens to be pretty and sweet and the least outsider-ish, is actually pretty badass at it, but she’s so powerful it scares her, so she keeps the extent of her powers under wraps. But one of the other group members, Nancy, who appears to be the truly terrifying leader of these girls, becomes obsessed with black magic and basically offers her soul up to the black magic gods in exchange for all their power. She and the “good” witch have a battle to end all battles at the end of the movie. Thank GOD the Nancy threat, played by Fairuza Balk, is neutralized in the end, but Balk's devilish smirk and cackle still haunt my dreams <shudder shudder>.
Shaun of The Dead. First of all, I heart heart HEART Simon Pegg. He is a master at taking a story line that you think you are following and throwing a big metaphorical (and sometimes physical) wrench into it. He'll lead you through awesome twists and turns and eventually leave you feeling satisfied with the knowledge that certain people got what was coming to them and others, though not heroes of the day-to-day variety, have overcome their shortfalls and helped win the day…the “day” usually being an apocalyptic event of some kind. In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun (played by Pegg) is a bit of a loser – he works as a sales guy at an electronics store, spends all his free time at the pub with his bestie Ed (played by the glorious Nick Frost) and is broken up with by the girl of his dreams. After a debaucherous night of drinking, Shaun and Ed wake to a zombie takeover of London (later known as “Z Day”). He rounds up what’s left of his crew, fights off zombies from all sides, and wins his girlfriend back in the process. Ed does actually fall victim to the zombies in a form of self-sacrifice and becomes one himself, but as the world emerges from Z Day, we see that Shaun has found a place for his now-zombified friend: playing video games in his garden shed until the end of time. Smiles all around.
Hocus Pocus. Three witches, played by Sarah Jessica Parker (the hot, young one), Kathy Najimy (the large, dumb one) and Bette Midler (the ringleader) are killed in 1693 by hanging in Salem, after they kill a little girl to steal her youth and turn her older brother, Thackery Binx, who bravely attempts to rescue her, into a cat who must live forever. As they are hung, they cast a spell that will allow them to come back to life when a virgin lights the black flame candle in their home. We then flash-forward to the year 1993 (when this epic movie came out), when high school newcomer and non-believer Max Dennison challenges the legend as “hocus pocus” to show off for the class hottie and lights the candle. As it turns out, like most dumbass high school boys, Max is a virgin. Binx, who has been standing guard over the candle for 300 years, attempts to stop him (he has learned to speak during that time), but to no avail. The witches return and attempt to suck the youth out of all the girls in town, including Max’s little sister, Emily. Binx, Max and the hottie put a stop to it and Binx is finally released from his cat-form to join his little sis in heaven. It’s the perfect Halloween flick – danger, mayhem and teen angst.
Beetlejuice. No list of Halloween movies would be complete without making reference to this gem. A small town couple, played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, dies in an accident and returns home to haunt their house. They haven’t really figured out how to be ghosts, so they go to ghost-training and read a ghost book on the subject. They even try to enlist the help of this bad boy ghost named Beetlejuice, realize he’s bad news and decide to avoid him. Davis and Baldwin appear destined to "live" out their days in the attic of their home, as a new city-folk family (think hipsters before hipsters existed) has moved in during their “transition” to the other side and they have no idea how to scare them away. The new family, with extremely modern taste, includes a daughter, played by Winona Ryder (think hey-day Ryder, as opposed to shoplifter Ryder). Ryder isn’t a big fan of her parents and, as it turns out, she is the only one that can actually see the ghost couple. Why, you ask? According to the ghost book, “the living ignore the strange and unusual,” but Ryder herself is “strange and unusual.” So ANYWAY, Ryder’s parents want the ghosts out, and they try to force Davis and Baldwin to cross over. It nearly kills the ghosts, who enlist Beetlejuice’s help. As payment for getting back at the family, Bettlejuice insists that Ryder marry him. He’s gross. Like real gross. Like face fungus gross. All ends well, and the new family and the ghosts (sans-Beetlejuice) agree to live in peaceful coexistence. And Ryder does a dance number with a bunch of other ghosts at the end. Fine holiday fun.
So there you have it – my movie guide for this most festive of holidays. Happy Halloween to all you ghouls and goblins out there!!