Well, it’s Halloween, and that can only mean one thing: Tis the season for scary movies! Being a movie fanatic, and one who loves scary movies, I couldn’t help but put make a list of the scariest movies ever made.
If you don’t like my list or you disagree with my choices … well, bummer. Make your own list.
10. Deliverance (R, 1972)
I haven’t traveled all that much, but this movie has made me realize that I should put Georgia on my states-never-to-go-to list.
The plot: Burt Reynolds plays the role of an adventurer who takes a few friends —including one played by John Voight — down Georgia’s Cahulawassee River on canoes. What they find is anything but friendly.
The verdict: This movie is a classic piece of American cinema. It’s manly, touching (perhaps a little too much so at times) and it gives you every reason you’ll ever need to prefer staying inside to exploring the outdoors.
9. “The Haunting” (G, 1963)
How scary can a G-rated movie be, you may wonder? I asked myself the same question the Saturday night my dad brought this movie home from the video store. I even laughed at him for suggesting this movie was remotely scary. Then, two hours later, I didn’t want to go upstairs alone.
The plot: A group visits in the supposedly haunted Hill House during an investigation of the spirits that inhabit it. Julies Harris plays the lead.
The verdict: I consider this the definitive haunted house movie. It doesn’t rely on cheap tricks or gore (obviously, given the G rating), but rather goes straight for the uncanny. It’s absolutely creepy, and it sticks with you long after watching. This is an absolute classic.
8. “Poltergeist” (PG, 1982)
Have you ever been afraid of what’s in your closet? Maybe your fear was a healthy one. After all, you never know if your closet is actually a swirling vortex into a land of lost souls. My sister’s is.
The plot: A family moves into a nice, sunny suburb, only to find out something is just a little “off” in their house. Chairs move by themselves in the kitchen. The television talks to a little girl through a screen of static. Oh, and did I mention the tree out back has a taste for human flesh and toy clowns come to life?
The verdict: This early-80s flick helped take horror movies to the next level with clever camera tricks, unexpected twists and a bright suburban setting that completely belies the sinister plot. If you want to traumatize a little kid, this is one of the best ones you could pick.
7. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (R, 1974)
The plot: A guy named Leatherface chops people to bits with a chainsaw.
The verdict: Not much to say. It is what it is: a screamer from start to finish. It’s gory, shocking, disturbing and downright horrifying. I watched it once, and that was enough for me.
6. “Quarantine” (R, 2008)
If your neighbor is foaming at the mouth, don’t touch her. If she’s charges you and tries to bite you, shoot her. That should be the first thing you remember in the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
The plot: Jennifer Carpenter takes the lead in this shaky-camera, night-vision, popcorn horror flick. In the movie, a reporter goes on a ride-along with a crew of firefighters. They get a strange call taking them to a creepy apartment building where they find a woman foaming at the mouth, covered in blood and hungry for flesh. When they try to get out, they find the government has locked them inside.
The verdict: If the haunted house at the fair were a movie, it would be “Quarantine.” Scares hide behind every corner, catching you when you least expect it with shocking, uncanny images, and, in this case, an ample amount of gore. Zombie movies don’t usually do it for me, but this one is definitely an exception.
5. “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (PG-13, 2005)
The plot: A girl gets possessed while away at college. She must be exorcised, of course.
The verdict: Many critics didn’t care for this movie, but I have a suspicion they were just lying. I consider this one somewhat of an updated version of “The Exorcist.” However, what’s most unsettling is that it’s based on a true story.
This one stayed with me after watching it. There’s not much else I can say. It’s just downright creepy, start to finish.
4. “Session 9” (R, 2001)
Even if somebody offers you a lot of money to clean out an abandoned mental hospital, just say no.
The plot: In this lesser-known film, an asbestos removal team cleans out a massive, abandoned mental hospital with a snaking series of service tunnels beneath its floors. As the project progresses, the terrifying history of the hospital reveals itself, and a member of the team vanishes inside the facility.
The verdict: This is a brilliant, white-knuckle thriller that will leave you scrambling to put the pieces together. Each character is masterfully crafted and deep, and you believe each one’s motivations and actions.
To make it even better, it was filmed on location Danvers State Hospital. The setting enough is to give you nightmares.
3. “The Blair Witch Project” (R, 1999)
The plot: Three filmmakers disappear in the Maryland woods while shooting a documentary of a witch who supposedly haunts the forest. Their footage is found a year later.
The verdict: This is why you should never go off-trail hiking, folks. The raw filming style here gives a sense of immediacy and authenticity. The horrifying uncanny sounds that echo from outside the tent in the wee hours are sure to make your hairs stand on end.
2. “The Shining” (R, 1980)
Stanley Kubrick was a freak of nature. The man made some of the finest films ever made, but I never want to know what was going on in his head on a daily basis.
The plot: Jack Nicholson plays the role of a writer who spends the winter with his family taking care of a hotel nestled in the mountains. Oh, by the way, the hotel is haunted and has a tendency to drive its caretakers to hack their families to bits with axes. Small detail.
And did I mention his son has ESP and can see the hotel’s ghosts in its desolate hallways?
As you can guess, Nicholson’s character gets bitten by the crazy bug, leaving his wife and child in what you could call somewhat of a pinch.
The verdict: As usual, Kubrick used his unique, unsettling filming methods to scare audiences from the opening to closing credits. It’s very scary, but not as scary as Shelley Duvall’s teeth.
1. “The Sixth Sense” (PG-13, 1999)
M. Night Shyamalan’s has only made one good movie, and this is it. He should have just gone away after and spared us the pain and himself his reputation. But hey, what do you expect from a guy who goes by “M?” This isn’t James Bond, people.
The plot: Bruce Willis plays the role of a psychiatrist trying to help a boy who has a terrifying gift: he can see the dead walking the earth.
The verdict: If you’ve ever been afraid of ghosts, this one will hit that fear home, guaranteed. It has the perfect combination of chills and adrenaline jolts, with a fantastic opening scene that sets the pace for the menacing events to come. Couple the scares with an incredibly creative plot and solid acting from Willis, and you’ve got yourself a great film.
See this one before somebody spoils the ending. Of course, even if you know the ending, it’s not any less scary.