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EW's 20 Scariest Movies

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EW's 20 Scariest Movies

Old 05-13-06, 07:18 PM
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EW's 20 Scariest Movies

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/comment...7_1_0_,00.html

It's more like 20 good horror films. I don't know if these were the scariest.

THE SHINING (1980) Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel about the Torrance family's headlong plunge into insanity during a secluded Colorado winter remains better known for its T-shirt quotables (''Heeeere's Johnny!'' ''All work and no play make Jack a dull boy'') than as a beautiful and pleasing horror film. It's a shame. With a haunting score, luscious, near-eternal Steadicam shots, and Jack Nicholson's grand pirouette into murderous madness at its heart, it's one of the most artful horror films in history. Not everyone, of course, thinks so. King was famously put off by the adaptation, remarking, ''I think [Kubrick] wants to hurt people with this movie.'' (He made his own six-hour TV version in 1997.)

THE EXORCIST (1973) Directed by William Friedkin
A cat unexpectedly jumping from off camera is scary. But The Exorcist is so disturbing it will mess you up for months. Controversial and profane, The Exorcist remains the most viscerally harrowing movie ever made, not only because it dares to question the existence of God but because it has the cojones to put Satan in the body of a 12-year-old girl. Moviegoers literally fainted as Linda Blair vomited pea soup on a priest. And after a series of mishaps, Friedkin asked a clergyman to perform an exorcism of the set. ''A lot of people definitely thought something weird was happening,'' says Blair, ''but I was so young they tried to keep me in the dark.'' Consider yourself blessed, Linda.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) Directed by Tobe Hooper
Truth is stranger than fiction...and it's a hell of a lot scarier, too. Based (like much of Psycho) on the horrific ritual murders committed by Ed Gein, Chainsaw looks, feels, and smells so much like a grainy, low-budget documentary that it borders on snuff. It opens with a sober-voiced narrator (a young John Larroquette) detailing a heinous killing spree. Then we see the split-second flashbulb pops of crime-scene carnage before finally meeting Leatherface a homicidal lunatic wearing a butcher's apron and a mask stitched out of human skin. Hooper (Poltergeist) says that when he settled on the film's title, ''I lost several friends. But I thought, they're putting so much energy into hating the title, maybe there's something there.'' Indeed there is; a copy of Chainsaw resides in the Museum of Modern Art.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) Directed by Jonathan Demme
''A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti...fpt-fpt-fpt.'' Released only one year into the '90s, Silence would remain the decade's scariest vision of pure sociopathic evil. As Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins is a waking nightmare of seductive depravity the sick, twisted serial killer America hates to love. Even with Hannibal the Cannibal safely locked away in his maximum-security cell, Jodie Foster's FBI trainee Clarice Starling is as helpless as a lamb. ''Great villains are subversive audiences go and see them because they feel uncomfortably attracted to them,'' says Scott Glenn, who plays Starling's seen-it-all FBI mentor in Silence. ''To this day I still have nightmares about it.'' Join the club.

JAWS (1975) Directed by Steven Spielberg
''Is it true that most people get attacked by sharks in about three feet of water?'' When this doom-drenched gem the highest-grossing film on our list hit theaters, it gave new meaning to the phrase red tide. Weeks over schedule and dizzyingly over budget, Jaws caused Spielberg more than his share of headaches especially due to his temperamental star. No, not Richard Dreyfuss, but Bruce, the 24-foot-long malfunctioning animatronic great white named after Spielberg's lawyer. ''The fact that the shark didn't work was an artistic blessing in disguise,'' says Spielberg. ''It forced me to be Hitchcockian.'' It's true Jaws is terrifying not for the few times we see the shark treating Amity's vacationers like a Red Lobster smorgasbord, but for those sharkless moments of fear and trembling as we wait for Bruce to feed again.

HALLOWEEN (1978) Directed by John Carpenter
Forget the string of half-baked, nonsensical sequels. Disregard the slew of cruddy, uninspired slasher imitators like Friday the 13th. The original Halloween is, was, and ever shall be the alpha and omega of bogeyman flicks. It also remains one of the most profitable indie films of all time costing a mere $300,000 and pulling in more than $55 million. The influence of Psycho(''It's the granddaddy of all horror movies,'' says Carpenter) is everywhere from the tiniest details (Donald Pleasence's Dr. Sam Loomis is named after Janet Leigh's boyfriend in Psycho) to the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis as Halloween's shrieking heroine and babysitter in peril. ''It didn't hurt that Janet Leigh was her mom,'' says Carpenter, ''because everyone's a fan of Psycho.'' And Halloween.

PSYCHO (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
A charter member of the scary movie hall of fame (and don't even think of judging Psycho based on Gus Van Sant's remake). Many of its most renowned features are readily apparent: those startling cuts (more than 50 in the shower sequence alone), Anthony Perkins' neurotic mama's boy, Bernard Herrmann's shrieking-violins score. But Psycho's sneakiest tricks manifest themselves more subtlely. Take Hitchcock's decision to use a handful of different stabbers in Janet Leigh's slice-and-dice sequence: ''He kept changing it so the audience wouldn't be able to get a fix on Mother,'' Leigh, who spent seven days in that shower, told EW in 1999. ''At one point it was Tony's stand-in, at one point it was a woman. Never Tony.'' Bottom line: It still works.

SEVEN (1995) Directed by David Fincher
From the jittery, scratched celluloid of its opening credits onward, Seven oozes more apocalyptic doom and deranged creativity than any Brad Pitt movie has a right to. Before this film came out, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, pride, and lust were just intangible words uttered in Sunday school. But by Seven's closing credits, the deadly sins have become the gruesome MO of a revelations-spouting serial killer so out of his gourd that he shaves off the tips of his fingers to avoid leaving prints. From its bleak, rainy setting to an unshakably grim finale, Seven is so nihilistic and disturbing it's hard to fathom how it ever got greenlit. We mean that as a compliment.

ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) Directed by Roman Polanski
More conspiracy thriller than horror movie, Baby nurses a mother lode of phobias. As Rosemary (Mia Farrow) slowly intuits she's been raped by Satan, she wrestles a myriad of believable demons: uncaring doctors, intrusive neighbors (primarily Ruth Gordon, who copped an Oscar), and a monstrously self-centered husband (John Cassavetes). Farrow's alarming enactment of emaciated desperation got a spur from then husband Frank Sinatra's offscreen behavior: She was devastated when he initiated a divorce in mid-production. Meanwhile, Charles Grodin's turn as a chilly obstetrician made him an unpopular dinner guest. ''When I sat, women moved,'' he says. ''I had to go on Johnny Carson to show people I'm a nice guy.''

POLTERGEIST (1982) Directed by Tobe Hooper
Based on a story by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist was released just one week before E.T., and it seemed like the latter movie's evil twin. Both were tales of suburban California families whose lives are upended by otherworldly invaders, but while E.T. seemed a Christian parable of death and resurrection, Poltergeist had a more sinister take on the afterlife. Its haunted house was a piece of the American dream literally built on a corrupt foundation, a graveyard full of unsettled ghosts. Even the film's most benign elements the toys in the closet, blond moppet Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke), and kindly medium Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) seemed full of ominous dread. That three of the franchise's stars suffered untimely deaths led to talk of an offscreen curse, which surviving cast members dismiss and refuse to discuss, but which makes the film that much creepier.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) Directed by Wes Craven
The screen debut of the character who gave striped sweaters a bad name, Nightmare introduces a suburban monster who stalks teens while they sleep. Craven makes the most banal aspects of adolescence hellish, whether it's turning the sanctity of childhood bedrooms into murder zones or a phone into a demonic tongue. (And ''One, two, Freddy's coming for you...'' irrevocably changed the way we feel about playground chants.) Freddy eventually turned into an all-too-jokey shadow of himself but there's nothing funny about him in this first installment. Bonus: A young Johnny Depp gets eaten alive by a bed.

THE THING (1982) Directed by John Carpenter
A loose remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 sci-fi Cold War allegory, Carpenter's Thing isn't concerned with messages; it's just a terrifying meditation on paranoia and subzero dread as a group of scientists at the South Pole (led by Kurt Russell) is infiltrated by an alien that assumes the bodies of its victims in very messy ways. And despite its many gross-out F/X, no moment in the movie is more unsettling than watching cuddly Quaker Oatmeal pitchman Wilford Brimley go insane. Carpenter is frankly surprised by the film's latter-day esteem. ''When The Thing was released,'' he says, ''it was one of the most hated movies of all time.'' Time to set the record straight.

THE EVIL DEAD (1982) Directed by Sam Raimi
Before he was the webmaster of the Spider-Man franchise, Sam Raimi was a college dropout with $385,000 and a nightmare. Plotwise, The Evil Dead is just your basic ''kids at a remote cabin in the woods foolishly read forbidden book and unleash demons'' movie. But the result was a template for a generation of horror filmmakers, thanks to the wry Bruce Campbell (as ''Ash'' Williams, in the performance that made him a cult horror hero), those predatory trees, and Raimi's wickedly inventive direction. The furiously racing tracking shots came from what Raimi dubbed ''the Shaky-Cam,'' a camera mounted on a two-by-four carried by two operators who would run like hell when Raimi yelled, ''Action!'' As he told EW, ''When we made Evil Dead, I wanted [viewers] to jump and scream and feel my wrath!'' We're still feeling it.

CARRIE (1976) Directed by Brian De Palma
De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's first novel is set in the lurid, oversexed world of high school, where persecuted telekinetic Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) transcends catty rivals and a psychotically religious mother (Piper Laurie) to become prom queen only to be doused in pig's blood, go on a murderous rampage, and kill just about everyone. ''I got tricked into doing [Carrie],'' says Laurie, who, like Spacek, won an Oscar nomination. ''It seemed so over-the-top, I thought it was going to be a satire. When De Palma stopped me in rehearsals, my heart just dropped. Whoops!'' Pioneering moment: the best final scare ever. Period.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) Directed by George A. Romero
The horror movie whose zombie escapades inspired a thousand more, Dead was filmed in black and white for about $100,000, some of which was reportedly contributed by lead actor Russell Streiner. Although the film, about radiation-poisoned corpses on the hunt for fresh meat, was made on the cheap (any flub in the sound was covered with the chirping of crickets), the total gross has been estimated to be as high as $50 million. Because of legal problems with the original distributor, the filmmakers saw only a tiny fraction of the grosses, inspiring a remake in 1990. Stick with the original the Blair Witch Project of its day.

THE OMEN (1976) Directed by Richard Donner
Someday, an enterprising film student will write a master's thesis on why the Nixon-Ford era spawned the cinematic unholy trinity of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen. Until then, let's just picture the last of those demon seeds, Damien (Harvey Stephens) the tiny Antichrist with the 666 devil sign on his scalp maniacally pedaling his tricycle and knocking Lee Remick over the second-floor railing to the menacing strains of ''Ave Satani.'' ''That boy was putty to direct...just a dream,'' says Donner, who adds, ''A lot of people were afraid to see The Omen because The Exorcist scared the s--- out of them so much.'' It's their loss, because when we picture Damien's nanny hanging herself while screaming, ''Damien, it's all for you!'' we still get freaked out.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) Directed by John Landis
Poor David Naughton. He seems to be starring in a madcap romantic comedy as an American backpacker who woos lovely British nurse Jenny Agutter. But then his zombie pal Griffin Dunne keeps reappearing, each time in a state of further decomposition, warning David that he must commit suicide before he becomes a werewolf at the next full moon. What a buzz kill. The movie's blend of comedy and horror isn't always successful, and its ending seems abrupt, but its scary parts are certainly scream-worthy. The werewolf attacks, shot from the predator's point of view, are chillers, but best is Naughton's excruciating, horrifyingly realistic transformation scene, maybe the best in any werewolf movie. (Credit goes to makeup ace Rick Baker, who reteamed with director John Landis to effect similarly scary changes on Michael Jackson's face in the ''Thriller'' video.) If little else in the film keeps you awake nights, that scene certainly will.

HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1990) Directed by John McNaughton
One of those horror movies where the low budget actually helps lending a rough, documentary look to the proceedings Henry follows the titular character and his hee-haw partner in homicide, Otis, on a spree that includes one nightmarish scene in which the two murder a helpless family, then sit back to watch a videotape of the crime. ''Once I was late for a screening and bumped into a lady running away from the movie,'' says Michael Rooker (Henry), ''and she ran smack into me and just screamed and screamed!'' Little-known fact: McNaughton based Henry (in part) on both real-life killer Henry Lee Lucas and Thomas Harris' fictional Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon.

THE HITCHER (1986) Directed by Robert Harmon
''My mother told me never to do this,'' says the young driver (C. Thomas Howell), stopping to pick up a handsome hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer). Once again, Mother knows best: Hauer's seductive psychopath spends the next 90 minutes terrorizing the boy and his sidekick, played by the deliciously blond Jennifer Jason Leigh. ''People [say] it's a violent movie, but I don't know what they mean,'' says Hauer, apparently forgetting his finely delivered line ''Wanna know what happens to an eyeball when it gets punctured?'' The Hitcher will make you rethink those vacation plans to travel across country.

LOST HIGHWAY (1997) Directed by David Lynch
Can we hear a shout-out for a Lost Highway rerelease? A living-room viewing doesn't do justice to the terrifying Angelo Badalamenti-Trent Reznor soundtrack in Lynch's noirish head trip about a hip L.A. couple (Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette) who discover that someone is videotaping them as they sleep. In the film's creepiest scene, a man with no eyebrows, hauntingly played by Robert Blake (!), introduces himself to Pullman at a party and announces that he's also standing miles away in Pullman's house at that very moment. When our disbelieving hero places a phone call and realizes the guy's not kidding, you've got to chuckle to keep from losing your mind.


I'm glad they didn't put the ring but Alien should be on there.
Old 05-13-06, 08:08 PM
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I can agree with half of them. What's so scary about American Werewolf in London? Bava's Black Sabbath is scarier than most of those listed. Any list that doesn't include The Haunting(1963) has no credibility with me. Heck, Amityville Horror is scarier than most on that list.
Old 05-13-06, 10:58 PM
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I would actually consider The Ring one of the scariest movies I ever saw. It may not be one of the best movies I've ever seen, but it did freak me out more than any other movie other than the Exorcist.
Old 05-14-06, 03:55 AM
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Relatively decent list, but The Ring definitely belongs on there.

And American Werewolf, Lost Highway, Evil Dead, and arguably Se7en shouldn't be anywhere near a scariest movie list.
Old 05-14-06, 05:24 AM
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Originally Posted by DealMan
Relatively decent list, but The Ring definitely belongs on there.
I agree.


And American Werewolf, Lost Highway, Evil Dead, and arguably Se7en shouldn't be anywhere near a scariest movie list.

I really think the writer wrote this from a, "Shock the shit out of you or Shocking at the time" angle. With that in mind I think they probably do qualify. Granted, I never saw "Lost Highway".
Old 05-14-06, 07:39 AM
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The only two I'd drop from that list are The Omen and Lost Highway.

Any list of "scary" movies that omits The Ring and The Blair Witch Project is ok with me!
Old 05-14-06, 10:05 AM
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I'm impressed by their list. so I think that they got most of them right. However, I would change the Omen with Suspiria. Other film choices would be Jeepers Creepers, Frailty, and the Ring.
Old 05-14-06, 11:03 AM
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good to see evil dead, TCM, halloween, and nightmare on elm street up there.
Old 05-14-06, 11:29 AM
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The Thing. My fav horror movie of all time.
Old 05-14-06, 11:43 AM
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They released a similar list about 6 years ago. Evil Dead wasn't in there, but Freaks and Suspiria were.
Old 05-14-06, 01:27 PM
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Nice to see The Hitcher getting some props.
Old 05-14-06, 01:50 PM
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Well they're making a new version. I doubt anyone at ew even saw the original.
Old 05-14-06, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by lukewarmwater
It's more like 20 good horror films. I don't know if these were the scariest.
Agreed.

An American Werewolf in London & Night of the Living Dead aren't a bit scary. Se7en is a great film but it isn't scary at all either. The Others is just as scary as a lot of these films and better than most, but I assume it was left off due to who directed it.
Old 05-14-06, 04:35 PM
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I've always though the original "Night of the Living Dead" was very scary - but then again I don't watch many horror films. "The Haunting" and "The Others" also frighten me quite a bit.

Anyways, I've been interested in seeing some horror movies to boost my knowledge of the genre a little bit, so I think I'll check out a few from this list.
Old 05-14-06, 04:50 PM
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"The Prince of Darkness"
Old 05-14-06, 06:30 PM
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This list is utterly worthless due to them leaving off A L I E N.

I saw this in a theater in '79. Adults in the audience were petrified. Not teenie boppers screaming over any mundane, saw that coming a mile away, jump scare, but 30-50 year old adults. I was only 5 at the time ( I loved late night monster movies, and my dad didn't know it was going to be that intense). Yes, part of my psyche was obliterated on that day.


Utterly worthless...
Old 05-14-06, 08:11 PM
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PULSE : freaky deaky!


interesting that no asian horror films are the list.
Old 05-14-06, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD-ho78(DTS)
An American Werewolf in London [isn't] a bit scary.
Um, I've never seen one person watch the dream sequence where David wakes up on a hospital bed in the forest not come *this* close to pissing their pants...even when they've seen the film before and know what's coming!
Old 05-14-06, 09:52 PM
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Here's a much better list, even though the ring is on it.
http://www.channel4.com/film/newsfea...ary/index.html

Last edited by lukewarmwater; 05-14-06 at 09:54 PM.
Old 05-14-06, 11:14 PM
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No Sixth Sense?
Old 05-15-06, 07:15 AM
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and the award for most cliche list goes to...
Old 05-15-06, 07:53 AM
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The Birds?
Old 05-15-06, 07:55 AM
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I've never seen Henry or Lost Highway.

I would remove The Hitcher from that list, it's just not that good or interesting.

Psycho is a decent choice, but I've always found The Birds to be much scarier.
Old 05-15-06, 07:59 AM
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Decent list. I personally wouldn't be bothered if Alien, The Ring, Salem's Lot, and Blair Witch Project were added...

Last edited by Mr. Cinema; 05-15-06 at 08:01 AM.
Old 05-15-06, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Filmmaker
Um, I've never seen one person watch the dream sequence where David wakes up on a hospital bed in the forest not come *this* close to pissing their pants...even when they've seen the film before and know what's coming!
It always feels unexpected.

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