As a horror fan, the question I am most frequently asked is what I personally find scary. Everyone always wants to know what movies or books are “really”frightening, and I’m often at a loss to answer them. The truth is, more than two decades into my fandom, I no longer have a baseline for what “normal” (read: non-fan) viewers find scary, and rarely find myself truly upset by the media I consume. I can get caught by a jump scare in a movie like anyone else but being startled is not the same thing as being afraid, no matter what movie marketing departments might have you believe.
In the spirit of the season, I want to know what’s frightened you from movies, television, or literature. In exchange, I’ll trade you some of the highlights from Slay’s Personal Reel of Shit That’s Scared Her.
No need to mention your student loan balance. That’s one fright we all share.
Specifically, that moment where we see E.T. when he’s sick and lying in the bathroom, and the mom gets upset and tries to run out of the house with Elliot? And E.T. is crying and reaching out for him, and Elliot is screaming back? And then there’s those guys in the hazmat suits at the front door? Ugh.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Aside from being some of the creepiest clown make up ever shown in pop culture — though this season of American Horror Story is putting up a good show with Twisty — the clowns abduct and drain people of their blood. I know logically, now that I am an adult, that should I rewatch this movie I will not be terrified by a scene in which the abductees are cocooned in cotton candy and a clown sticks an oversized straw into one to suck out the blood, because typing it out right now sounds incredibly ridiculous, but I don’t care to watch the movie again to find out. Once (or twice, maybe) was enough.
I’m of the age where reading Stephen King religiously was a rite of passage. He’d have a new book out every summer, and every summer you’d get your parents to buy you the paperback from the gift shop down at the shore and read it on the beach. Salem’s Lot is King’s vampire book. While there have been two middling adaptations of it, nothing beats the spine-crawling prose of the book. It was the first novel I remember terrifying me — if I was reading it at night, I’d eventually have to creep over to my windows to make sure the curtains were drawn tight, because I always thought there was something outside my second story window watching me. Not that it would have done me any good anyway — they were lace curtains, and you could totally see right through them.
Any episode of Unsolved Mysteries involving aliens
I was a religious watcher of Unsolved Mysteries. A couple of years ago, Lifetime started rerunning the series and I resumed my fascination with it even though they didn’t produce any new episodes, so everything that aired was almost a decade old. Any segment about aliens or alien abduction would set me right off — the show frequently aired on nights where I was home alone babysitting, and I would inevitably freak myself out with stories of people who had been taken out of their homes. To combat this, I’d turn on every outside light, with the sound reasoning that at least I’d see them coming, right?
The opening credits to Tales from the Darkside
Tales from the Darkside was an anthology show that ran from 1984 to 1988 and was produced by George A. Romero. I don’t recall any specific entries that stuck with me despite episodes that adapted Stephen King and Clive Barker short stories. However, the opening credit sequence, which featured a shot of trees fading into a negative image would fill me with a deep dread. That one simple shot struck a terrible chord with me.
This Japanese survival horror game isn’t as well-known as titles like Resident Evil or Silent Hill though it really should be. You play a young woman, Miku, who ventures into the Japanese countryside to look for her missing brother. All you find of him is his camera abandoned in an old mansion and that’s the happiest thing that happens for the rest of your play through. Ghosts and demons haunt the mansion and you can only fight them off by taking perfectly timed pictures of them as they attack you. That’s it — you have no other weapons or resources. I, a grown woman, had to stop playing the game at night and only played it during the day when I knew other people were at home, because that shit was frightening. My husband once walked in the room to ask me a question during a session and I was so tense and engrossed that I screamed when he spoke to me.
Your turn. What’s frightened you?
5 replies on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 28, Personal Chills”
First story I really remember being too scared of to finish was Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat. I’m… not entirely sure why, but I got so freaked out I threw it across the room.
I did have a horrible nightmare about Chucky once as a child, but watching the movie itself never really freaked me out that much.
I really like psychological horror, even though the trope where the big reveal is that they were hallucinating it all along really bothers me. Not bothers me in an “oh no!” level, but a deep level of unsettlement, and a sense of eroding away trust in reality. Even though I love the stories, they leave me with dread in the end.
I’ve had some discussions with people where I realized that other people’s experiences of certain types of movies- usually asylum or quarantine horror- aren’t the same as mine. Apparently it usually works that it’s being put in there with those people/being mistaken for those people is the horror point? But for me I very much find that it’s the laying bare of ruthlessness and indifference of society that is the terrifying part.
BUT the one that scared me the most is actually not a horror film genre wise, but a Science fiction one: Gattaca.
Scary but enjoyable: ghosties and possessed things and Survival Epics and actual plots.
Scary and NOPE: anything way too realistic that plays on terrible people being terrible. Like anything that shows women being imprisoned and tortured in rape basements (or people being tortured in general).
So, for scary but fun: the Grudge, Silent Hill, Misery, the Walking Dead, American Horror Story, the cheesy low-budget stuff.
Scary and NOPE: Saw, Hostel, movies I watched thinking they had more plot than depressing gore (the Seasoning House, A Darker Reality) and wish I’d never watched because my soul.
I’ll totally second the intro to Tales from the Dark Side!
Also anything where there’s a distress call–crashing plane, cop radio, whatever. I don’t know what it is but it viscerally upsets me.
I watched Candyman for the first time at the tender age of twenty-eight, and in spite of being typically dated like everything of its era, that movie really held up for some reason. It creeped me out more than most things do.
I always found Candyman unsettlingly sensual visually.
Not being sure if something really happened, life or death (for example: The Others). Also can’t stand children being the ones that can only see things because “adulthood” and therefore not “believing” anymore is like a sickly protection of things.