10 movies that scared the bejeezus out of me

What’s News?

It has been a pretty exciting week.

Click here to check out eFiction Magazine

– Found out my Flash Fiction piece, Another Oldie but Goodie, was accepted for the October Halloween issue of eFiction MagazineeFiction currently ranks #13 in Amazon’s Arts and Entertainment Kindle eZines, in good company with other publications such as The New Yorker, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

POST NOTE: Because of a production error, my story didn’t make it into the October issue… at least that’s what I was told 😦  Still hoping for the November issue.

– I was featured in an interview at Tracy’s Treasure of Books (click here).  Some fun questions.  And I did my best to keep my answers brief, but hopefully still interesting.

– Only two more weeks on The Imaginings September-only .99 e-book sale!  Click here for more information.

What does the future hold?

I’m pleased to say that next Friday, I will be posting another Friday Flash Fiction piece.  I think these are great exercises on really getting down to the essential details and maintaining tension.

Also, two weeks from today (9/30), I’m excited to announce my first author interview.  I will be featuring “Seven questions with Carole Gill.”

But without further ado…

My plan as I sit down to write this is to keep it short.  Or at least shorter than my post, My own Works Cited list: 10 books that have inspired me.  But as many of you are getting to know about me, I can’t just do a list, and brevity isn’t my strong suit.  But I’m going to give it a try.

I know there will be some disagreement here, and I’ve heard many a horror writer say they haven’t been really scared by more than maybe one or two movies.  In reality, “scared the bejeezus” is probably too strong for some of these choices, but I just liked “scared the bejeezus” better than “10 movies that I consider good and/or fun horror movies, some of which scared me more than others, and some which wouldn’t necessarily scare me anymore, but really scared me then.”

Oh, and I think I’m a horror writer because there’s still an irrational part of me (sometimes a small part… sometimes a little bigger) that still believes in the things going bump in the night.

Okay, NOW without further ado…

IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

The Blair Witch Project (1999):  I know I’m going to get boo’s right off the bat, but with the exception of the excessive F-bombs, I really liked this movie.  Anyone who’s been lost in the woods (although I think they should’ve filmed it in a more mountainous area) can relate to the panic, but even scarier is that the viewer never really SEES anything.  It’s all imagination.  And their marketing was brilliant.  In the early days of its release (and still relatively young days of the internet), there didn’t seem to be a clear answer as to whether or not it actually happened.     

The Descent (2005):  This was definitely a theatre movie.  Underground.  Hard-core spelunking girls.  Add in my mild claustrophia.  Lack of sufficient light through much of the movie.  And air.  I swear they pumped the air out of that theatre.  I liked the explanation for the creatures.  And the director’s cut ending is the way to go.


The Exorcist (1973):  I remember all the jokes as a kid about split-pea soup and all, but it still freaky.  I mean, she looked like hell, no pun intended.  Apparently the devil wreaks some serious damage.  And the crucifix scene?  I was baptized Catholic, and even though we rarely attended church (at least a Catholic church), that scene was still just downright evil.  I don’t know if I believe in the Devil these days, but if there is one, that’s what he’d be like.

Halloween (1978):  My first exposure to a film version of the Boogeyman, the thing that every frightened child knows can’t be killed.  And Michael Myers is so stoically brazen in his demeanor.  He’s driving a car in the middle of the day, just walking around following Jamie Lee Curtis.  No need to wait for night or anything to make your appearance.  And he kills a dog.  I think the first act of animal murder I had seen on screen. 

JAWS (1975):  Scared/scarred at least three generations of the American public away from the ocean.  And if you were a kid, you didn’t necessarily put it together that sharks were only salt water dwellers.  They might appear in the swimming pool.  And the scene with Robert Shaw telling about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is awesome.  Still to this day, I can’t go in the ocean (at least very deep) without wondering what’s out there just beyond my vision, or just below my feet.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): As I posted at Jim Bronyaur’s guest post at Ginger Nuts of Horror (click here), as if I didn’t have enough nightmares, now I have this to contend with, a guy who will actually kill you in your dreams.  And the American public had been told just a few months earlier in Dreamscape that if you die in your dreams, you die in real life.  This one isn’t as scary going back to watch today, but of all the sequels, this one was definitely the darkest.

Pet Sematary (1989):  One of the few watchable Stephen King film adaptations in my opinion (at least of his horror stories.  Although Carrie was pretty good.  And Christine was fun, but most others…).  It’s brutal, disturbing and haunting.  From the freaky sister to the gut-wrenching scenes involving Gage (both “before” and “after”).  This one was actually scheduled to be delivered via Netflix not long after my daughter was born, and I had to move it down the list.  But it plays on that age old question that I addressed at the end of my Flash Fiction piece, The Professional Crier.

Quarantine (2008):  Lots of jumps and some good old gory horror.  Add in the limited point of view similar to Blair Witch Project (except this time, it’s a news cameraman), and you get some nice surprises.  It’s chaos and craziness pretty much from start to finish.  And it reaffirmed my belief that my wife is crazy in her fondness for pet rats.

The Ring (2002):  A pioneer in a new brand of horror story and cinematography… at least in our country.  Turns out Japan has some scary horror of their own, right?  Anyway, fun concept, not too gory, good suspense, interesting story, and a nice little twist.  And I still get a little nervous whenever I take a picture that ends up blurring someone’s face.

The Shining (1980):  I know that the remake of this with Steven Weber and Rebecca DeMornay was supposed to be closer to the original book (which was awesome), I still say it’s blasphemy to remake anything that pairs up Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson.  And c’mon, Steven Weber and Rebecca DeMornay?  It’s like Molly Ringwald in The Stand.  Just shouldn’t happen.  Anyway, I could go on about the freaky parts of this movie, but there are too many to list.  (By the way, I know I married the right woman when The Shining is one of those movies she could put on almost any time and just putter around the house doing other things).

What do I want from you?

Okay, lay it on me.  What are your thoughts?

Also, eFiction Magazine is free to read on your computer, or you can get a $1.99 monthly Kindle subscription.  Hope you check it out.  Click here.

Also, if for no other reason than my interview, I hope you go visit Tracy’s Treasure of Books.  She features reviews for a wide variety of genres, so you may find some other ideas for your next read there, as well.

And one more mention.  Philanthropic author and book blogger Kate Evangelista has been so kind as to hit up her readers for review of The Imaginings.  So I would hope you would help me return the favor by visiting her blog, http://www.kateevangelista.com/

And don’t forget to check back next Friday for my Friday Flash Fiction piece.

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59 responses to “10 movies that scared the bejeezus out of me

  1. wow thank you, looking forward to it, Paul!
    I like the list of films, I think Carrie (1976) scared the hell out of me I’d add that and frankly remove Blair Witch (sorreeeeeeeeeeeeee) *wink*
    Excellent interview you gave as well, just came from there.

    • I had steeled myself to take some grief for Blair Witch. Just saw Shaina’s comment. Maybe that was it. I saw it in the theatre. And being an outdoors person, I think that part hit me the most.

      Oh, and Carrie was great. Piper Laurie and super-crazy Christianity? Now, that’s scary.

  2. You pretty much nailed my own personal list of movies that I found scariest, too. When I saw your subject line, I thought, “‘The Shining’ better be on there.” 🙂 As far as Blair Witch and The Descent, I think the fact that I saw them in the theater made them scary to me. If I had seen them at home, I’m not sure how I would’ve felt. The Ring… that one had me scared to watch TV for a while.

    • Thanks, Shaina. Good point on the Blair Witch and Descent. I think I had an added appreciation afterwards (and maybe a little jealousy) when my friend’s girlfriend asked as we were leaving, “So that really happened?” Again, with so little advertising (and so little internet at the time), it just gave an air of mystery to the movie. Even if you had discovered previous to going in that it was just done by three college kids, there was still that question of “yeah, but this could happen.”

  3. Great list. Congrats on the E-Fiction piece!

    What about Fire Walk With Me? There’s David Lynch, David Bowie,and a weird midget in a red suit.

  4. The Descent! *shudder* that scared the hell out of me. I like your list. I haven’t seen The Blair Witch Project though. The shaky camera makes me want to hurl. Do you remember the movie When A Stranger Calls? That scared me so badly that I barely slept for a month. I was only 12 when I saw that one. Haven’t seen it since.

    • My sister-in-law gets migraines, so Blair Witch (as well as Cloverfield) almost killed her. I do remember When A Stranger Calls. Another good one. Haven’t seen it in awhile, either. Will have to revisit.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I saw Pet Semetary when I was 10 (my first horror movie) and Zelda (the sister) scared the absolute crap out of me! Completely agree with the Shining (second horror film, later that year – and Carrie was my third!), the Ring and, I might be the only one to agree with you, The Blair Witch Project. Also, I have to add Paranormal Activity…It didn’t really scare me, but I thought it was a much more effective horror than some of the stuff out at the moment, even wth all the found footage films dominating the cinema around.

    • Oooh, yeah. Paranormal Activity was freaky, especially the scene where she’s just standing over him, watching him. I think my wife is convinced that is what I do during my occasional somnambulistic adventures 🙂 And glad to find another fan for Blair Witch.

  6. I’m proud of you for putting The Descent and Quarantine on your list. Those are 2 amazing movies that are often overlooked. I’d replace Blair With with the original The Haunting and also add a movie no one ever talks about, The Sentinel from the ’70s. Super creepy.

    • I’ve heard of The Sentinel, but I don’t think I’ve seen it. God bless Netflix. Consider it added to my queue. Thanks for stopping by. Have a good weekend.

  7. Hi Paul!
    I love this list (even your note about Blair Witch). Blair Witch was cutting edge guerrilla filmaking at it’s best, I mean, it was made for like 2 dollars and scared the heck out of me. Now BW2…that was a travesty.

    Halloween is still my all-time fave. You nailed it on the head about his demeanor. Carpenter is a master at making stillness scary. The shots of Jamie Lee in the foreground and Michael just standing behind her – staring – creep me out to no end.

    The opening scene of Jaws (which I’ve heard they were forced to come up with because the shark wasn’t working yet) are amazingly scary to me. Again, a perfect example of less is more.

    The Exorcist and The Shining are, of course, classics. I’m not really a Kubrick fan (horrible to admit, I know) but The Shining is a staple around my house, too. I actually had an opportunity to go to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO (that was King’s inspiration for the novel and also where they filmed the horrible DeMornay version). It is beautiful and a little spooky for sure. I wanted to stay overnight in the most haunted rooms, but unfortunately we just did the ghost tour and had to leave. I would say it’s a must-see for fans of The Shining, ghosts and beautiful hotels in general if you haven’t been there before. Awesome post! Now I’m in the mood for Halloween and all things spooky!

    – Steph

    • Thanks for the comments, Steph. Yes, BW2 was a travesty. Or at least they shouldn’t have called it Blair Witch anything. It had potential, but I think they just tried too hard.

      Glad I found some good ones that you agree with. Anything you want to add to the list? And I hope you get a chance to watch a spooky movie this weekend. Fall is definitely in the air here, with Halloween just around the corner (or at least so it feels). Oh, and we’re only one state over from Colorado. I’ll have to make the trip. Write it off as research 🙂

  8. Yeah, I can’t watch Pet Sematary anymore. That one got me before I was a parent, but now? It’s off my list, probably forever, even though it’s overall a really good story and decent movie. Funny what parenthood does to you, isn’t it?

    • Agreed. Although I think I would still watch it (the horror writer in me will probably let it slide as “just fiction”). But I certainly wasn’t ready when it popped up on the queue.

  9. Dozed off in front of the TV and woke up around 2:00 AM. It was at that moment that I witnessed, on the screen, an amazing horror film. Black and white, silent, filmed in Germany and released in 1922…Nosferatu. Something about this particular film that won’t let you look away. Maybe because it is B&W and silent it forces us to experience it differently. I would also add Play Misty for Me and certainly Psycho.

    • We have Nosferatu on our Netflix queue (Jennifer is a big fan). They actually did a fun movie called Shadow of the Vampire that was supposed to be loosely based around the filming of Nosferatu. Willem Defoe plays the role of the actor who played Nosferatu, and he’s taking the role a little too seriously.

      And really pulling one out with Play Misty for Me. A good thriller. I don’t know if it scared the bejeezus so much as served as a cautionary tale for keeping my eyes open for crazy women.

  10. Emily Greenwood

    Hi Paul!

    Can’t argue with some of this list. In fact, just going through your top ten brought back many a covers-over-the-head sleepless night memory. Also, I think Robert Shaw’s monologue in Jaws is one of the best pieces on film. I will even back you up on the whole Blair Witch thing for the very reasons you have it listed.

    One movie that would be at the top of my top 10 and didn’t make your cut is Peter Medak’s THE CHANGELING with George C. Scott. Totally atmospheric and doesn’t rely on tricks, and can derive fear out of the simplest of things (like a childhood toy). Unlike the Exorcist which no-doubt disturbed me, The Changeling actually made me feel fear for the first time. Those hairs standing up on the back of my neck type fears. You can see that movies like The Ring, or The Sixth Sense took some inspiration from this earlier work for sure. If you haven’t seen it, watch this film late at night if possible. Don’t turn on too many lights and make sure no other sounds then those coming from the movie can ruin the atmosphere.

    BTW, I got a lot of flack for naming my son Gage and had I realized the reference at the time, probably would have gone with something else. =)

    Emily

    • Emily, thanks for your support of my choices. And actually, I think The Changeling would make it onto my wife’s list. We were just trying to figure out if we’d watched it together or not. Doesn’t sound familiar, so I’ll have to remedy that.

      So what were some of your other choices for “Gage”? 🙂

  11. “Blair Witch” was scary enough in the damn theatre, but I saw it again late at night on TV when I was alone in the house. Not a good idea. Fabulous movie and one of the last truly frightening ones that didn’t rely on surprise scares.
    As for other movies that are truly (not ‘boo!’) scary, I would recommend the horror of the seventies and eighties – look for a 1977 flick called the Sentinel, it’s terrifying. Also, a classic called ‘Burnt Offerings”, with Oliver Reed and Karen Black(!) – the air of menace, violence and hatred just oozes off the screen. There’s a scene where Reed wrestles his son in a swimming pool that will creep you out.
    -Mac Campbell
    http://iwritehorror.blogspot.com

    • Mac, for some reason this comment went to spam. Not sure why. Anyway, glad to find another believer in “Blair Witch.” I agree that it was scary without necessarily the “surprises.” It was all in the imagination.

      And I think you mentioned the Sentinel in another post (or maybe someone else did here. I’ll have to check). And Burnt Offerings, eh? I’ll make sure they’re both in my Netflix queue. Thanks again for commenting.

  12. E.J. Kerwin

    Nice list Paul. I think one of the scariest movies I ever saw was John Carpenters, “The Thing”. As the monster devoured both humans and dogs and took on their appearance. Well, definitely burned some F’d up images into my adolescent mind. Also Porky’s 5.

    • Awesome. Did they really do a Porky’s 5?

      Yes, The Thing was good. We own that one. And yes, again, something about movies that kill dogs. Killing hordes of humanity? Sure. But Fido?

  13. I agree with The Blair Witch. I remember when it came out. I was still in high school and watched it with my friends. The same with The Exorcist. I watched the special director’s cut that came out in the theaters when I was in high school as well. And there’s Quarantine. That final scene in the attic? Good God! *shudders*

    • Glad this gets your seal of approval. Yeah, the scene in the attic of Quarantine is messed up. But there are some pretty nice ones earlier on, as well. I agree with your shudders.

  14. Have seen and loved all of these except Quarantine, which tells me I REALLY NEED TO SEE QUARANTINE. Hehe 🙂 Pleasantly surprised to see The Descent on there, that’s underrated amongst most people that I’ve met. Most haven’t even heard of it. It was the first movie to scare me on a television since…geez, maybe Halloween? Or Alien. I was really young then too. Just a great list, and gives me an idea for one of my own, though not horror-based…hmmmmm

  15. I will have to add Quarantine, the Descent and the Ring to my list of scary movies to watch. Which is short, because I don’t really LIKE scary movies anymore. I might just be getting old.
    But on my list of movies that scared me to death when I was younger are– 1) Poltergeist–This was of course back when TV did actually go off the air at night, remember that? Everytime it happened I would lunge for the TV to turn it off. 2) The Amittyville Horror–I had to sleep with my mother for a week and I was 17 years old. 3) A TV movie called She Waits caused me to freeze in Terror everytime I saw curtains blowing (just watch it). And for some reason 4) The Reincarnation of Peter Proud scared the bejeezus out of me too.
    I am 100% with you on The Excorcist, Carrie and Jaws. Believe it or not I have never seen Halloween or all of A Nightmare on Elmstreet.

    • Never seen Halloween? Oh, you need to remedy that one before the other three you listed. Well, maybe not necessarily before The Ring. But Quarantine and The Descent are pretty gory in addition to scary, so you might reconsider.

      As to your choices, great additions with #1 and #2. And yes, I remember when television went off the air at night. Crazy, eh? Haven’t heard of #3 or #4.

      And because you mentioned Amityville, just have to plug The Imaginings with this quote from the Hawaii karaoke lounge scene:

      Even through the alcohol haze, Steve’s eyes brightened a little. “And I tell you what,” he said, “if Miller’s Mansion ended up like that Amityville place, I sure as hell wouldn’t go back for some goddamn dog like they did in the movie. If the freaking walls in my house are bleeding, I’m gonna be lucky if I remember to take my wife with me, let alone Scratch the Mutt.”

  16. Oh! Oh! This one has to go to #11. Session 9. The only thing I’ve been able to watch David Caruso in.

  17. Some great ones in this list! I love horror movies 🙂 Have you watched Quarantine 2?

    • Whaaa? (ala Marge Simpson :)) Quarantine 2? Is it as good as the first one? Horror sequels these days (and historically to an extent as well) are so dicey.

  18. I still can’t watch the Exorcist at night! The Shining was just creepy, but only because Jack Nicholson is GREAT! ‘Here’s Johnny’ LOL I have never watched The Blaire Witch and never plan too, looked totally dumb. Quarantine was not bad but I am really not into that style of movie where it looks like someone is filming a documentary..blah..but it did have a creep factor! 🙂

    • I’m thinking if you didn’t care for the filming style of Quarantine, you wouldn’t care for Blair Witch either. Did you see Cloverdale? We haven’t seen that one, but I guess it’s the same style.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Congrats! Sounds like things are going well for you! I read your interview on the blog link that you posted. Great responses. I loved finding out that you are a Neil Diamond fan. Me, too!

    • Thanks Jess. Just checked out your site. The DMS Files sounds fun. And always good to find another Neil Diamond fan. I don’t think there are too many of us left. And I’m so glad you were able to get over to Tracy’s Treasure of Books. It was a fun interview.

  20. LOVED the list! What is it about evil children that is so terrifying? I would add Alien to the list. I also thought Salem’s Lot was a great adaptation (the movie not the TV mini-series). Maybe even Pan’s Labyrinth. When Kiri and I watched The Grudge (another evil child) we both were scared which doesn’t happen to me very often. I saw The Ring with Jen and she made the tension worse the way she perches on the theatre seat with her hand to her face. I want to see the Del Toro horror movie out now called Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. I own The Changeling if you would like to borrow it.

    • Thanks for your input Kodi. Alien was almost on the list. It was probably #11, until I remember Session 9. Then it got bumped to #12. The Grudge was definitely up there, as well, but I was kind of putting those two together in a similar vein and ended up with The Ring. I feel like we watched The Changeling together, but we may have to see it again. And yeah, the new Del Toro movie looks good.

  21. Well I agree for one, that Jaws was a pretty scary movie. I first watched it when I was a kid, and the reason I’m still so scared of sharks [though isn’t everybody? ]

    As for the exorcist, yes that ranks pretty high on my list too.

    Other scary movies that I enjoyed [or rather that are worth the watch] were the grudge and American haunting and Amytiville horror.

    The saw series is pretty scary too, but its more of a terrorizing psycho madness rather than scariness, so I don’t if that’s count. Its like a whole mixture of blood, gore, evil genius along with a whole extra hour of agony and terror. But like most movie series,the first ones are often really good, and then the quality of the script and movie just disappoints me, and its made apparent that the later 3-D versions are made just for the sake of money.

    What do you think?

    • Mashal,
      Thanks for your comments. Glad we have some scary movies in common.

      I had The Grudge as a possibility, but I put it in a similar category with The Ring, and when trying to narrow my lifespan of horror movies down to just 10, I chose The Ring. But The Grudge was definitely scary. As was Amityville Horror (are you referring to the original? Or the Ryan Reynolds remake?). Haven’t seen American Haunting.

      And the Saw series. Hmm. A tough one. I really liked the concept. And there were some great ways to kill someone. But it struck me as more of an interesting story with some good old-fashioned gore. All of that is good, but I don’t remember being really scared by it. And yes, I agree that sequels are rarely a good idea, especially with horror. Thanks again for stopping by.

  22. Pingback: The New Flesh: 10 Genre-Defining Movies, Pt 1 | Shaggin the Muse

  23. Pingback: Ten Genre-Defining Movies Part 1: | Shaggin the Muse

  24. Any love for Children of the Corn or the first Scream? Both of those scared me to death when I was younger. I just blogged about my personal problem with recent horror movies.

    • Oh yeah, Children of the Corn would definitely be up there in the list. I really liked the first Scream, but it was more fun than frightening for me (of course, not sure how our ages differ as to when we saw it the first time). I’m heading over to check out your post.

  25. Good list. I’d replace The Blair Witch Project with Carrie, Carrie being the only movie that’s ever given me nightmares. When my sister saw it she just laughed and said, “This movie’s funny,” but then The Exorcist scared her to no end, a reaction I did not share. I had trouble sleeping for days after seeing Carrie.

    • Carrie was definitely spooky. I think what did it was the fact that EVERYONE got it, even the people who were trying to help her. It was brutal and unforgiving. Then, of course, there was Piper Laurie. Yikes. Even John Travolta was scary, especially the scene where he kills the pig. A good addition to the list indeed. Thanks for stopping by.

  26. Pumpkinhead! Grimy, chanting, taunting children are scary! It is also frightening to contemplate how much you would be willing to trade to get back someone you love. Your life? Your soul? Your humanity? Silly title, pretty bad special effects, stock creepy old witch, but still a scary premise carried out with aplomb by Lance Henricksen.

    • How could I have forgotten that Lance Henricksen was in Pumpkinhead. Okay, yeah, I’ll definitely have to revisit. Funny you should mention him. I just put “Near Dark” on my Netflix queue. I don’t think my wife or stepdaughter has seen it. I feel like it came out around the same time as Lost Boys, and fell under the radar (probably for lack of hairspray and pretty vampires like Kiefer), but was much scarier. Thanks for the addition to the list.

      • No problem! I enjoy your blog and I’m very glad to have met you on the Halloween Hop. Also, I never pass up a chance to talk about Pumpkinhead because, well, there are oddly few such opportunities…

        Happy Halloween!

  27. Michelle Muto

    When I was a kid, The Exorcist was the movie that made me keep the lights on. Paranormal Activity had a moment or two that raised the hair on my arms as well.

    • Paranormal Activity was definitely up there on the list. Not sure if I responded to this effect elsewhere but again, I think it was the restricted viewpoint for the viewer that made it scary We could only go where the camera was. And the other part is that “where the camera was” happened to be located in one of the places where we are most vulnerable… sleeping in our beds. Good addition to the list. Thanks for stopping by.

  28. Pingback: One Night after Going to a Horror Movie… or … Why It’s Scary Being Me | Paul D. Dail

  29. Ken Preston

    Great list. I’ve never seen Quarantine so I must check it out. But Jaws is my all time favourite movie. Apparently Spielberg jokingly wanted to end the film, after the shark is blown up, with a shot of thousands of shark fins cutting through the water towards Amity!
    Nice blog, too, I’ll stop by more often.

    • Ken, great story about Jaws. I had never heard that. How funny. Of course, when I was a kid, I never noticed how close they still were to land. I always thought they were miles out at sea. Thanks for commenting.

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