Stories that scare Smiths.
My family’s holidays include certain movies. Over Easter, we watch The Passion of the Christ. On the Fourth of July, we watch Will Smith in Independence Day. Christmas brings a lot of must sees, including Elf, Trading Places and A Christmas Story.
Halloween is also a great time to watch or read something scary.
This past weekend, my wife and I watched Diabolique, a 1955 Henri-Georges Clouzot suspense-filled classic which begs the question, “What is scarier—real life or the supernatural?” (Other movies listed in this blog owe a lot to Diabolique.)
To me, real life (or what may be possible in real life) is much scarier than the supernatural. Another critical element to a scary story is how you experience it. How old are you? Where do you live? Can you imagine this story happening to you?
And, of course, the artful storyteller knows how to embed a scene deep into your psyche. Lighting, suspense, shock and always the music.
Here are few stories that have scared the folks at Smith.
The Shining (the movie, though the book is good too). I think it was Kubrick at his best, even though Stephen King didn’t care for the adaptation. It felt so real and terrifying. It has plenty of scares in the moment, but it is one of those films that stays with you and seeps into your subconscious. When I think back on famous moments from all the great movies ever made, some of the most vivid images I recollect are snapshots from The Shining. It’s a movie that scares the hell out of you … and keeps on creeping you out into the future.
My Last Duchess by Robert Browning. It’s not exactly a Halloween poem, but it certainly strikes me as a dark psychological horror. That classic, understated line: “This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together.” conveys the Duke’s fiendish insouciance. You can just imagine what his guest must be feeling at that moment.
The scariest movie I’ve ever seen is Jaws. I saw it at the theater when I was ten. I spent a lot of time at the beach growing up; still do. To this day, whenever I go surfing or paddling, I have to push down an irrational fear of sharks. The movie isn’t really scary to me now, but Jaws sunk its teeth deep into me at just the right time and place.
Likewise, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood came to me at just the right time. I read it when I was eighteen and had moved into my first apartment all alone. I got it from the library, thinking it was some gangster story. Nope. I had never considered the possibility that there were people roaming the countryside who would kill me for kicks or for a couple of dollars. Capote’s research and writing in that book are so good that I felt like I was more than just an eyewitness to the horror that happened on that Kansas farm. I was also a victim.
Anything from Edgar Allan Poe. I always found The Cask of Amontillado to be the most entertaining. A short story rather than a book, but it says so much in such few words.
I thought The Exorcist (book and movie) was the scariest thing I had ever seen. Never ever had I considered that type of demonic possession.
The 1983 movie version of Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s a lush visual interpretation of the Ray Bradbury novel; terrifying without resorting to blood and guts.
Beetlejuice … which scared the pants off of me when I saw it as a kindergartner.
The War of the Worlds (1938 Radio Drama by Orson Welles from the original story by H. G. Wells).
Listening to the recording of the original production of the radio broadcast delivers a variety of horrors well beyond the actual story that could only be duplicated today if one could somehow meld an NPR episode of This American Life with the two movies, Aliens and The Truman Show, along with the journalistic sensibilities of Twitter and the political advertisements of the season.
And, oh yeah. Halloween. That was scary, too.
Psycho. Just because.
Poltergeist. In reality, multiple cast members had untimely deaths during and after the making of the film, which adds to the creep factor! Read about the Poltergeist Curse.
The Blair Witch Project. There was so much buzz about this movie. Before it had a wide release, my friends and I bought advance tickets and went to see it. It seemed so real. I was frightened—stayed up all night.
Because I hate scary movies, Ghostbusters. I mean, what a soundtrack.
Thanks to Alexandra Gorn for featured image.More Ideas