A college professor once told me that the definition of a good horror movie is to be “sitting alone in the dark, scared shitless.” Fear is undoubtedly one of the strongest emotions a person can experience, and one of the hardest for a film to elicit. Not all horror movies are scary. Some have a campy, comedic feel to them, like Evil Dead; some are too outdated to be terrifying nowadays, like the 88-year-old classic Nosferatu, and others just plain suck, like the majority of the past decade’s releases. The movies listed below are so bloodcurdling they will make you want to slowly impale your eyeball with a wooden shard just to avoid watching them. Oops, that’s a scene from Zombie.
Filmmaker Robby Reis’s favourite horror movie is The Exorcist. “The pacing of this film is so slow,” he explains. “It draws out on the feeling of impending evil to the point where you’re begging for something terrifying to finally happen… and then when it happens, you wish you weren’t witnessing it.” Repeatedly labeled one of the scariest movies ever, The Exorcist is so disturbing that at the time of its 1973 release, theatres handed out barf bags to customers. “I still have never seen the entire film from beginning to end. It horrifies me way too much,” said Reis.
Jean-FranÃ§ois Leblanc, a clerk at Montreal’s La BoÃ®te Noire video rental chain, considers the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be the creepiest movie of all time. Why does it deserve this title? Several factors come into play: “its rawness, it being shot with a 16mm camera and the fact that one girl screams for like 20 minutes,” he explained. The movie’s explicit violence actually got it banned in over 10 countries.
Slasher films can be terrifying as well. “The first Halloween movie is a masterpiece,” stated filmmaker-animator Elisa Gentile. “Up until this very day when I see someone dressed as Michael Myers, I can feel the hair behind my neck rise like it did the first time I saw the movie,” she shared. Gentile attributed her fear of the movie to its combination of the right amount of suspense and gore and its now iconic soundtrack.
Horror movie enthusiast Nick Brygidyr insisted that a film doesn’t have to be well-known for it to be among the scariest. His pick is Guinea Pig 2: Flowers of Flesh and Blood. This Japanese horror flick escapes its cheesy title by providing viewers with nothing but 45 minutes worth of gore. It’s so realistic that upon seeing it, actor Charlie Sheen mistook it for an authentic snuff film and contacted the FBI. “The movie has no plot, really. It’s about a man dressed as a samurai warrior, slowly dismembering a woman tied to a bed. Extremely graphic; definitely not a make-out movie,” said Brygidyr.
As for me, I’m going to have to go with The Shining. As I’m generally petrified of children, those twins just about make me cry. Despite its now classic status, the film initially received lukewarm reviews; even Stephen King, whose novel the movie is based on, hated it. It even earned director Stanley Kubrick a nomination for Worst Director at the Razzies, an awards show distributed to the worst movies in Hollywood. When I worked in a video store, I constantly recommended The Shining to anyone requesting a scary movie (unless they were rude, in which case I suggested something along the lines of Gigli).
So, if the thought of spending Halloween night partying with provocatively costumed women and obnoxious drunk bros makes you want to puke into a dog dish and feed it to them (oops, that’s a scene from Odishon), any of these films would provide a suitable alternative. Spoiler alert: people die in all of them.