Do You Like Scary Movies?

This is one of those subjects I usually avoid because it seems like so many other people talk about it, but here we go. I enjoy a good horror movie. I think it's like vigorous physical exercise—tough while it's happening, but there's a rush of endorphins when it's over and you survived.

I often discuss with people the concept of "scary" horror movies vs. movies that are just gross or trying to shock people. And a friend and I were considering whether PG-13 horrors might actually be more frightening because they have to rely more on atmosphere and implied violence rather than blood and gore. So we started making a list of "scary" PG-13 movies vs. R-rated movies. And that led to us listing movies that are great and fun, but not necessarily really scary. Anyway, this is far from an exhaustive list, but it's what we were thinking.

The Ring—Still probably the scariest movie to me at the time I saw it. The original Japanese version didn't really do it for me.
A Quiet Place—More super tense than scary, but very effective
Lights Out—The first half of this movie in particular is really creepy and lots of fun
The Babadook (not rated, but could probably be PG-13)—Scary on several different levels. If you're a parent this will terrify you.
The Sixth Sense—We've all seen this by now, right? It still holds up.
Poltergeist—Can't believe this is actually PG. A good "family scare" if such exists.
The Grudge—This was a lot like The Ring, pretty scary at the time I saw it.

Alien—One of the best horrors of all time. Everyone should see this.
It Follows—Really primal fear, and some of the best scary moments in addition to the creeping dread throughout.
Halloween—The grandmother of all slashers, just great.
The Loved Ones—This movie... is incredibly bonkers. Pretty shocking, actually, but it's stayed with me.
Ghost Stories (not rated)—A great anthology with a unique twist to integrating the frame story. Very good. Also, Martin Freeman.
The Descent—I love that it's an all-female cast. Claustrophobic and really scary. But make sure you see the original ending, not the cop-out US version.
Oculus—I am terrified of dark mirrors, and this pushed all my buttons.
Hereditary—I've never seen anything like "that moment" from this one.
The Witch—The production design, setting, costuming, and dialogue make this a real treat to watch. Truly terrifying, and with a great deal of ambiguity.

Excellent, not necessarily scary
Scream—Possibly my favorite "scary movie." Holds a ton of nostalgia for me. The whole series is pretty good, really.
Happy Death Day—One of the most "fun" horror flicks out there.
The Guest—This is mostly a thriller-type movie but takes a turn that is awesome.
Get Out—What I think of as a Very Important Movie. Everyone should see it and think about the issues it explores.
Us—Another great Peele horror, playing on something primal about our need to be unique.
It Comes at Night—This was either marketed horribly or perfectly. Nothing like the trailer leads you to believe, it's a very different kind of horror.
The Terminator—Kind of like the original It Follows, really. A classic.
Aliens—I remember watching this (edited) on TV without my parents knowing. I had nightmares for years about the aliens. Perfect action horror.
Predator—This will put hair on your chest. Just solid horror-type action.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil—This is my favorite horror comedy, turning all the tropes upside down. You should see it.
Shaun of the Dead—Another masterpiece of horror comedy. Simon Pegg is brilliant.
Zombieland—Kind of a horror/comedy.action blend. Tense, but funny, with a great heart.
Under the Shadow—I just saw this the other day. It's Iranian, and takes place in the 80s. It's as fascinating culturally as anything I've ever seen. It made me want to know more about Iranian culture and history.
Anna and the Apocalypse—I don't like musicals, but this is a British Christmas musical zombie comedy. I don't like soundtracks either, but I listen to this one all the time.

There are a few common threads here. I really like horror comedy, because I love contrast. I also love ambiguity, like the movies that explore whether the "monster" is real, or where you're not sure who the bad guy really is. Anything that makes me think is good.

Do you like scary movies? What are your favorites?


Bill said…
I'm not a scary movie person at all, mainly because I already have anxiety, and so that burst of cortisol coursing through my veins is just a bit more than I need. (I've never seen The Ring, but I still very clearly remember my friend just telling me the plot of the movie over the phone and getting freaked out. The fact that I was sitting in front of my parents' big screen TV at the time certainly didn't help.

That said, I do remember seeing The Others and being thoroughly creeped out in all the right ways.
Joel said…
Funny, I've got The Others on my rewatch list. I feel like it was really good but can't remember.
)en said…
The Ring is the WORST decision I ever made. I thought I liked scary movies until that one came out and I made my sisters go see it and it traumatized us all. And I'm not kidding. I'm like Bill's friend, who gets scared just talking about it. And now I have to move on.

I haven't seen a bunch of these and I dare say I never will but I still like a good suspenseful watch. I saw Scream and thought it was a pretty good "slasher"(?) That kind of movie isn't going to leave me with nightmares or like I need an exorcist. I also really like the Terminators. I got into those when I was young (not like, a kid) and they're sort of special. I remember watching Alien a lot but in bits and pieces. I think I just had siblings who watched it all the time so it was always on. I think i could see that one again in full though.

Poltergeist never needs to be watched again. Goodbye. LOVED A Quiet Place. Just the kind of scare I like. Sixth Sense is still kind of too scary for me but I might force myself to watch it if Julian wanted to when he's older. Whenever we watch something that I warn him might have scary moments, like Indiana Jones, I tell him to "just have your pillow ready" to hide behind, and he obeys.

The Others was totally freaky but in a cool way. Love the twist. I enjoyed When a Stranger Calls, sort of a scary movie for kids, but Sean was having none of it. I am tempted to watch Get Out but I think I already read the entire synopsis for that, which is what I usually do when I'm intrigued by a movie but too scared to actually watch it.

Did you watch Stranger Things? We started Season One, Sean bailed, I stuck it out and loved it, watched the entire second season by myself and loved it though I had to watch something more lighthearted before I went to bed. Then Sean felt FOMO and we rewatched One and Two together and then watched Season Three and felt kind of meh about it. I loved some things. But scariness-wise, it was just too in my face. I read a review saying it was too gross to be scary, and I agree. You have to leave some mystery there, that's what makes it scary! What do you think?
Joel said…
Stranger Things is great. And it does something I think it really smart: it changes genres as it goes on. I've been on this kick lately thinking that it's the best way to keep a franchise fresh (like going from Alien to Aliens, or even Terminator to #2). Season 3 is more spy thriller/adventure than horror, IMO.

I'm in the middle of rewatching The Others. Very well done, more just suspenseful than outright scary, especially going into it knowing the twist.

I do agree with your imagination providing more scares than seeing the monster or whatever. The movie Lights Out is the perfect example of that. It's awesomely scary for a while, but once you know what's going on it is less scary.

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