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It’s October. Halloween is little more than a week away. Horror enthusiasts rejoice, most people just partake in whatever scary movie the studios release to capitalize on the holiday, and then there are some of us who stand by silently as we try to hide our mortal terror. Call me a scaredy cat or a coward if you must. I’ve heard it all from teasing friends. My last encounter with a horror film (The Conjuring) resulted in my imagination running wild and a sleepless night. I enjoy scary movies, I really do. Unlike other people though, I just can’t manage my fears. I spook easily and then continue in a state of anxiety and paranoia for the remainder of the day. Perhaps my real problem then is not my weak disposition, but that in spite of it I keep watching scary movies. In honor of the season, here are my top five films that scare me but shouldn’t.
This one is kind of stupid, and rightfully so. First off, it’s not a scary film at all. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are gorgeous, star-crossed lovers! But ever since I was taken to watch this film at a young age (I was six), I’ve been terrified of large boats. By the grace of the god of lovely, firm dirt, I’ve been able to fight off any suggestions of a family cruise ship vacation without giving away my most shameful secret. But here it is folks - sacrificing myself for art - I’m terrified of Titanic’s sinking scene. I just can’t handle it. True, I’ve improved. I can make it through the film without running out of the room once the boat starts to sink, but there’s always that urge deep inside to bolt.
Clearly James Cameron has it in for me. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the ruthless, sentient robot sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor terrifies me. Again, I grew up on The Terminator films, so my fear stems from watching this movie when I was very young. Regardless, you have to admit that this film takes a few pages out of the horror book. That last scene when Sarah is injured and desperately trying to get away from a predator that can’t be killed is downright frightening. The terminator has shed his fleshy coat, and his steel skeleton continues to pursue his mission until he’s completely crushed and destroyed, except for his hand that remains centimeters away from Sarah’s face. I’ll never get the horrifying image of that red eye out of my mind.
Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp as my fellow coward Ichabod Crane. Set in a creepy town with equally creepy inhabitants, Burton’s enthusiasm for the German Expressionism pervades the whole film with a sense of whimsy but with an even greater dreadful gloom. Numerous people are beheaded and dead bodies are opened up and inspected. There’s a dark forest that houses a crazy lady who has basically sold herself to the devil over a plot of land. Then of course there is the headless horseman. A LITERALLY mindless murderer who made me grateful to have always lived in a metropolis away from his forest grounds. This movie is more of a murder mystery than a horror film, but Burton’s love for the macabre imbued the film with enough darkness to scare me.
This film scared me for several reasons. The incredibly dark subject matter hits home for any teenager who watches this film. Those feelings of alienation and hopelessness have been felt by most hormonal teens at one point or another. However, Donnie Darko takes those themes further by linking them to the inevitable end of the world and a silent, giant rabbit named Frank. The film is not overtly scary, but the atmosphere and tone of this film is intensely dark and sinister. It’s a wonderfully disturbing film.
The Cabin in The Woods
I love this movie so much. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who directs), this tongue-in-cheek, meta-commentary film is a must see for anyone who likes horror. Unfortunately for me, even with the jabs that aim to deconstruct the genre, I still fell prey to all the classic tricks. It hits all those tropes just a little too perfectly. I laughed a lot, but for each chuckle there was an an equal and opposite reaction of terror. A cabin in the middle of nowhere with no one to come to the rescue. Spooky paintings and stuffed animals - I could mostly handle it. But then the hillbilly zombie family shows up, and I lost the battle. By the time the zoo of horror creatures are released, I was clutching on to my purse for dear life.