What’s Your Favourite Scary Movie?

The unexpected consequence of watching The Exorcist at age 13 (and being utterly terrified by it) was that the experience somehow inoculated me against future horror movie misery, at least in the various horror movies I’ve had occasion to watch since then. I don’t actively seek them out and haven’t watched many of the classics like Suspiria or even The Shining, but at least I’ve been able to weather lesser stuff like teen slasher flicks or Asian horror movies quite unflappably. My blood pressure still spiked when Sadako made her awful, ungainly stagger out of the television screen in Ringu, and I still jumped when the sloth victim in Se7en moved, but at least none of that stayed with me afterwards.

Mildly emboldened by this, I have usually indulged my occasional inclinations to scare myself whenever they arise, spending hours reading about the Zodiac killer after watching Zodiac, and reading various Scariest Movie Scenes lists for pointers as to which scary movie to watch the next time I feel like watching a scary movie. But then I got married and moved out of my family’s home to an apartment where things frequently go bump in the night due to wind and neighbours, and where I live alone every time Alec goes on a business trip.

Such factors coalesced into a perfect storm of goose-bumps when, after Alec had left for yet another business trip mere hours after we returned from Kyoto, I made the mistake of getting caught up online reading reviews and discussion of The Orphanage (which I’d watched and loved on the flight) in our empty dark home, and ended up terrified of our navy blue, child-height laundry basket which I had earlier placed carelessly at the end of a corridor.

The problem is that, unable to admit from this experience that I am obviously still a total pussy, I haven’t been able to stop this self-sabotage. I’m sorely tempted to finally watch The Shining and read Naomi’s Room and The Haunting of Hill House, and some say Exorcist 3 is hugely underrated and a worthy successor to the first film. But these are really all very bad ideas. I don’t even know why I’m writing this post other than to link back to in future, when I’m frantically typing my last ever blog post while Alec chops down the door with an axe.


  1. Maybe Nightmare on Elm Street 1? I don’t really like horror movies much anymore. They used to scare the bejasus out of me until I hit my teens, now I just find them boring. Or in the case of torture porn like Saw and Audition, just plain unpleasant.

    Zombie movies ftw! I could watch the ‘78 version of Dawn of the Dead a thousand times.

    Possibly my favourite movie ever, Punch Drunk Love, was on TV last night. Followed by Fargo. There’s something about watching movies on television I really like. Whenever I watch something on DVD or on a computer I inevitably get distracted after an hour or so no matter how good it is.

  2. I watched that – can’t remember what it was called offhand but I wasn’t too impressed. I think it would have made a good half-hour comedy special, but it didn’t really have 90 minutes in it.

    I’ll talk up Shaun of the Dead though, if it needs it?

  3. Black Sheep! No, I didn’t watch it, because I love sheep and refuse to see their cute fluffy name so besmirched.

    Shaun Of The Dead is great, of course, but hardly scary!

  4. REC was utterly scary to me… maybe it was the fact that it was shot in the style of blair witch that made it more immersive and raw. i’m more afraid of zombies than ghosts.(zombies could scientifically come to exist, while i remain skeptical of ghosts.) i watched the orphanage too and, after reviewing it, i didn’t think there were any supernatural elements involved in the plot.

    the entire premise of the zodiac killer was a red herring. what better way to get away with a planned murder than to pin it on an invented serial killer?

  5. I liked the orphanage, it has so many scenes which when taken in isolation will spoil an evening or even a shadowy moment alone, but i think you really have to love that movie to forgive the cheat ending, everything else is flawless.

    I have to say I found “the Descent” to be v. scary, it stikes a note of horror which passes for subtle in these post “Hostel/murder Porn” days where scrabbling around in the darkness for the light, while something blindly grasps for you in the gloom is actually the thoughtful approach.

    the shining is really good, but it’s from another age where tone and mood were enough to scare people, there aren’t any meat hooks or gory devices, just an empty room, barren corridors, and a squeky hinge.

  6. t: I’ve read some similar views on The Orphanage, but they seem to dismiss how Simon finds Tomas’s basement a bit too summarily for me.

    I didn’t find Blair Witch scary at all (too consumed by hatred for its characters) but went looking for a little more info on REC and…wah lau. I don’t think I can take it!

    brian: Hmm, I’ll give The Descent a go next time I’m in the mood to be scared. (Not now though, when I’m sitting alone in the living room late at night, while Alec snoozes a little too far away to hear me scream!)

  7. hmm.. it doesn’t surprise me that a curious boy left to his own devices would stumble upon a hidden door to the basement, esp being an only child with a hyperactive imagination. but what i liked about it was that it gives the viewer the freedom to interpret in either way.

    can you believe they’ve already made a hollywood remake on REC? over here, i think they were screened concurrently at one point of time. watch out, the descent is quite scary too and may leave you feeling a lil bit claustrophobic. :)

  8. Spoiler alert:
    i totally believe that a child might find a space in a rambling old mansion such as the orphanage, but what i don’t believe is that once the boy enters the hidden room, his ghostly friend will dash down to the hardware store and get a step ladder, wallpaper and paste and then wall paper over the entire entrance making it impossible to find/enter without destroying the wallpaper.

  9. Ah well Brian, according to the intrepid commenters at IMDB, whose discussions I read while rooted to my chair in terror the night of the Unfortunately Placed Laundry Basket, the door was only wallpapered so as to camouflage it, but it wasn’t wallpapered over at the edges such that you couldn’t open it. (And then for bonus points, I read the “Was it Simon or Tomas that locked her in the bathroom?” discussion.)

    Still, while I agree with t that it’s left open to interpretation, it still feels a little far-fetched to me. Yeah, I know, more far-fetched than the idea of ghostly children! :P

    But if you wanna talk about unbelievable stuff, I think what takes the cake is the idea that the CREEPY ASS MASK would be a good way to deal with Tomas’s facial disfigurement. Shudder.

  10. yes he’ll blend right in with his fellow orphans, freddie (you know the one -has daggers for fingers), Michael (how do we describe him -wears a mask painted white, obsessed with holloween and his sister’s sex life) and of course Jason (wears a hockey mask, has mother issues and doesn’t know how to die)

    it puts me mind of a detail i heard regarding the returning wounded after World War 1 – their faces scarred by the newest technological advances in weaponry.i.e. various gases- (some of the soldiers were left permanently weeping by the exposure to the gas)

    The Doctors, made well meaning efforts to return them to normal life by fashioning Plastic Faces to wear over their injuries. which i’m sure did nothing of the sort.

    I dispute that answer regarding the wallpaper, because when the doorway is eventually found the wallpaper is either torn off to disclose the doorway or tears as the door opens- hence the opening credits with the tearing wallpaper motiff.

    so was it simon or tomas who locked her in the bathroom?

  11. It’s been a couple of months since I watch the Orphanage so now I’m thoroughly confused. It kept reminding me of The Others, and I didn’t find the old women all that scary so by the time it got to the meat of the story I wasn’t properly primed for the excellent last third.

    I got on a bit of a zombie move buzz over the Halloween weekend and watched Day of the Dead, Zombie Flesheaters and my new favourite Return of the Living Dead. It’s the first movie with ‘fast zombies’. They’re also impossible to kill, even when you lop their heads off they keep going. The protagonists are all well aware of what they’re deadling with but the usual zombie killing techniques just don’t work. They chop the zombie up into 20 pieces, and stick them into plastic bags. The bags still wobble about the place and try to get away. So they incinerate the corpse. But then it rains and all the zombie juice gets into the ground and makes more zombies. Add in the delicious looking Jewel Shepard, who is naked during most of the movie for no apparent reason other than the fact she’s really hot and you’ve got one very satisfying b-movie.

    I’ve torrented a ton of other zombie movies; Cemetery Man, Bio Zombie, Burial Ground etc. and I’m looking forward to finding some time to watch them soon.

  12. You must watch The Exorcist III, Michelle, my darling. If only to see the most marvellously scary scene in the hallway… Which is just marvellous.

  13. Unfortunately I’ve already been spoiled about that scene because it’s in all the Scariest Scene lists. I’m sure it’s still scary despite that, but being spoiled would probably take away some of the OMGWTF!!!! shock of that moment.

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