I have a confession to make: while I enjoy scary movies and books, for the most part, I’m not scared by them. Okay, it’s kind of a strange confession, but it’s true. I might jump if I’m in a theater (because anything is scary in a movie theater), but that’s it. There isn’t much terror in it. If it’s not the first time I’ve watched it, forget about it. The same goes for books, too. Maybe this is because I’ve read Stephen King ever since I was eight, but I don’t ever remember being sleep-with-the-light’s-on-or-the-monster-will-get-me scared.
Am I weird? Eh, whatever. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. Unless it’s a bad movie. Because those just ruin everything. But if you’re looking for something scary, you might want to try the books and movies that actually scared me:
Fright Rating: 2 (Out of 5)
This was a Spanish movie that received a limited release in the US. I had to travel across the state to see it (not as far as it sounds, trust me) but it was worth it. While it wasn’t super scary, it gave me chills. It was an emotionally driven movie about a family who bought a house that twenty years ago, was the orphanage the mother lived in. Ghostly things start happening and the end was quite a punch to the gut. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, try to pick up a copy.
Fright Rating: 2
Stephen King’s tale of the monster that wakens every twenty-seven years or so to stalk children of a town in Maine. Parts of this book still give me tingles and I’ve probably read it a dozen times. I think the scariest part is Mike Hanlon’s reflections about the nature of the word haunt (is anyone surprised that word play drew my attention?) and what it means to the town of Derry.
Fright Rating: 3
I’m so glad I was able to see the rerelease in the theater. It really creeped me out, even though it wasn’t the first time I saw the movie. The basic plot is about a girl, daughter to a movie star, who is seemingly possessed. The book delves deeper into the “is she faking it?” question and is at least as scary as the movie, perhaps more so because there’s more time for the tension to build and more tension always encourages horror.
Fright Rating: 3
Found footage movies are kind of this generation’s slasher movies. Some people hate them, but most of them scare me (unlike slasher movies, which I find to be yawn-fests). I thought Paranormal Activity was well done because a lot of the fear hinges on how real it seems. And it’s not gory or full of monsters. It’s just two people trying to make sense of evidence that neither is prepared to deal with.
Fright Rating: 3.5
Actually, this goes for pretty much everything of Lovecraft’s that I’ve read, including Herbert West—Reanimator, The Call of Cthulhu, and the Whisperer in Darkness. All scared me a pretty decent amount. I think that is due to Lovecraft’s skill at building tension and describing people who are so frightened, that they would rather jump out of a window rather than face the demon (in all fairness, it’s a pretty bad demon).
Fright Factor: 3.5
This is a great example of realistic horror. No monsters (okay, that’s arguable), just a situation that is so inexplicable that it’s frightening. It’s also very character driven, which I love. Most of the fear comes from this family who returns from a short vacation to find their house has gained new hallways, one of which should lead out into the back yard but instead goes into a cold black corridor.
So these are my recommendations for the Halloween season. Enjoy the scarefest! And all hail great Cthulhu!