Afternoon Inquisition

AI: I ain’t scared o’ no ghost…

I love horror movies. The gore, the predictable plot, the buckets of red corn syrup, the cheesy one-liners… But most of all I love the eerie feeling that I still get when watching a scary movie. As a skeptic I know there are no vampires or zombies or parasitic aliens, and hopefully there is no deranged man waiting in the closet with a machete, yet I still fall for it when I get involved 136598_mainwith a film.

Admittedly, some of it even sticks with me. I have not been able to look at a clown (with the exception of Captain Spaulding) without feeling sick to my stomach and like I’m having a panic attack since I saw IT as a kid. Pennywise is a motherfucker, for real.

Horror movies are the only type of film that I can lose all skepticism in for the duration. Granted, if they’re particularly awful I still find myself saying, “Yeah flipping right,” the whole time, but well made horror makes me cringe, cover my eyes and reel at the thought of what could happen next. Midnight Meat Train actually made me leap from my seat and run to the bathroom to throw up. Seriously, guys.

As skeptics who don’t believe in the paranormal, what scary movies freak you out? Do you find yourself more drawn to reality-based horror? Or do you still cringe over a scary fantasy? Why do you think we’re able to drop the skepticism for the sake of a cheap thrill?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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  1. “Scary” movies having to do with the supernatural don’t do anything for me. They don’t scare me. They tend to bore me. MOST of the time.

    Except Stephen King’s It. That was kind of freaky (still not afraid of clowns, though). And The Shining. That is seriously the only book to really freak me out, and the movie REALLY freaked me out as a kid, though what has stuck with me is the father slowly going insane and turning on his family. I can remember the scene where the father is running through the ice/snow, chasing his own son with an ax. D: That freaked me out. I was also afraid of the color red at night (for reals) for a long time due to REDRUM and all the blood int hat movie.

    I couldn’t handle American Psycho.

    I cannot handle realistic torture scenes, especially involving women (and most of them do). I think I mentioned this before, but once I was watching CSI, and a woman was tied to a chair, being tortured. I couldn’t find the remote and FREAKED OUT. I was frantic. And then I realized I could use the power button on the tv, ran to it and turned it off, and fell on the ground shaking and laughing. It was hilarious but seriously, I was freaked out by that scene.

    Those Rob Zombie movies FREAK ME OUT. My younger sister LOVES his horror movies, and one time when she was staying with me, she kept watching the first one over and over. I still have a few scenes stuck in my head and ughghghgh I can’t handle movies about psychopaths, because that shit can really happen and just ughghghg.

    I have no desire whatsoever to watch Saw or any of the related “torture porn” movies. They would give me bad, bad dreams. *shiver*

  2. As previously stated, zombies, anything with zombies will always creep me out.

    As for cheap thrills they are the best. There’s a scene in the movie version of Communion where Christopher Walken is staring at a dresser and telling him self there’s something there and then a alien sticks his head out from behind it. I know there’s no such thing as alien abduction but that scene is a great scare scene.

  3. Candyman still is probably the one that still freaks me out the most.

    However, despite the fact that I KNOW ghosts do NOT exist, the new movie Paranormal Activity is scary as hell (with it’s original ending, not the “hollywood-style” ending) and was the first movie in a really really long time that actually made it hard to fall asleep after seeing it. I was able to suspend the common logic of ghosts not existing, because I was able to get sucked into the movie.

    Great question Chelsea :)

  4. I guess I can’t turn off my skepticism : horror movies don’t really scare me and haven’t for some time. Most of them, like Midnight Meat Train, just sound stupid. The Saw movies and their ilk are even worse.

  5. I don’t care for most modern horror movies. They seem to have become torture porn and that offends me. I just get angry and self righteous. For whatever reason I am a fan of a lot of the old monstor flicks. The last horror movie that I enjoyed was Coraline. Before that it was The Others with Nicole Kidman. Movies like The Strangers, SAW 27, etc. just offend me and I can’t enjoy them. I guess that some people like them and that a lot of people actually get some kind of a sexual charge from them.

  6. I can’t really say I get scared of horror movies but they are definitely my favourite genre. Not so much the extremely supernatural types with goblins and giant monsters, but the ones that are more down to what we can all relate to. Whether that be an entirely possible horror story involving your everyday murderer, or a horror story associated with the more believable types of supernatural (ie. the Shining…love that movie).

  7. @NoAstronomer: The thing with Saw is that this kind of stuff could really happen. Perhaps to a lesser degree, but psychos actually exist. People actually get tortured and killed every day. Shit freaks me out.

    I can handle Dexter… most of the time. But even that causes me to cover my eyes sometimes. The Trinity Killer killing his first victim on screen, a woman in the bathtub? AAH! I had to cover my eyes.

    John Lithgow as a serial killer was fucking genius. He creeps me the fuck *out*.

  8. Zombie flicks are by far my favorite of the horror genre. I like classics, also… Suspiria and Candyman, for example.

    @marilove: The ones that leave me shaking for the longest amount of time are the almost-realistic mind fucks, like watching someone slowly lose their mind. And I don’t like gratuitous torture porn – the scene has to really fit with the characters and plot (not when the movie is written FOR those scenes, like Hostel or Saw) for me to be comfortable with sitting through them.

    However, I love the Rob Zombie movies because of the psychopaths. Since I was little I’ve had a fascination with the psychology behind psychopaths and sociopaths. There’s something about those movies that reminds me that someone could actually DO that and it gives me a more genuine scare. I don’t know why I didn’t end up pursuing that as a career, but I like it as a side-interest.

    @teambanzai: Yes! I love a good jump-outta-your-skin scene. The only part of Poultergeist that ever stayed in my head and made me jump 3 feet in the air is when the kid doesn’t see his clown doll, checks under the bed and is relieved to not see it there and then it’s freaking behind him, waiting for him to sit back up. UGGGGH.

    @NoAstronomer: I hate all of the Saw movies and movies like them. I didn’t want to watch Midnight Meat Train and it did have a really stupid plot and an even worse ending. BUT for anyone into gore, it’s really well made, and for some (myself included), that makes it worth a viewing.

  9. @Amanda: Hahaha, “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” both cause me to zzzz. So boring. How was ANYONE fooled by that disgusting pea soup? I knew instantly it was fake. I mean what the hell, those movies are not realistic or scary at all.

    Know what kind of freaked me out? “Mommy Dearest” – the one where she beats her child with a wire hanger. I still think of it EVERY TIME I use wire hangers.

  10. I have more trouble turning off my skepticism for the butchering of history than for the butchering of innocents. With Gladiator I had to consciously ignore most of what I knew about Roman history, and enjoyed it; I can let myself go into a fantasy or sci-fi pic pretty easily, though.

  11. Hi there!

    For me, I am always willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good horror movie. It’s the same way that I believe that Spider-Man can go from a freefall at terminal velocity to a gentle stop by secreting several times his body weight worth of sticky resin from his wrists and lassoing a flagpole without tearing his arms from his sockets.

    The great thing about most horror movies is that they have this sort of reverse-psychology built right into them. The more you think: “This isn’t real. There’s no such thing as ghosts. This is just a movie”, the SCARIER it gets.

    One of the things that scares me the most about horror movies is the effect of my own mind. I’ve actually spoken to many rational, sober people who claim to have seen ghosts. Not just as a fleeting shadow or trick of the light, but they’ve actually seen a person who wasn’t there. Now, when believers talk about this kind of “sighting”, they’re always quick to say: “This person wasn’t crazy. They were as sane as you or I!”. I believe that. I believe that it’s possible for a person to be sane, sober, and rational, but for them to have genuinely seen something that wasn’t there for just a moment. Why do people always assume that we humans fall into the most extreme poles of “crazy” and “sane”? Maybe EVERYone has a little mental disturbance once in their lives. Maybe we’re all a teensy bit crazy, right?

    That thought scares me even more than ACTUAL monsters.

    The thought that I could be a perfectly rational person one minute, and then suddenly see visions of ghostly spectres the next minute absolutely terrifies me! How do I know what’s real and isn’t? How does anyone? Could my mind snap one morning and I wake up thinking that aliens are in my bedroom? Do I really have a beautiful wife and three cats, or do they only exist in my mind and my friends and relatives are too polite to tell me? They say that when someone says: “Bloody Mary” into a mirror three times in a darkened room they’ll see her. The simple power of suggestion will make them see whatever it is they believe they’ll see. If it’s that easy, how do we know we aren’t seeing things that aren’t there all the freaking time?

    And if you can say that about the supernatural, how can I really be convinced that the world ISN’T wrought with demons and ghosts and supernatural creatures, and I’m just not “sane” enough to see them? [shudder]

    Okay, creeping myself out now …

  12. Scary movies just don’t scare me. To be honest, it’s disappointing because I miss that child-like fear of movies like Childs Play, Candyman, Nightmare on Elm Street etc. But now, instead of fear I just feel enticed — not in a perverted way but in a fascinated way. Like I LOVE Poltergeist, The Thing and Hellraiser in a creative/artistic way. I find weird misshapen Humans-turning-into-something-scary or vise versa ala The Thing so strange I can’t look away. They disturb me, which makes me happy because I don’t scare anymore.

    Actually, I take that back — something does scare me completely irrationally. Alien Abduction, as stupid as that sounds. Those little grays freak me the f*ck OUT! I have no belief in them, but holy god if one of those little bigheaded buggers came to get me in the middle of the night I would die of fright before they sucked me into the saucer.

    I’m kinda excited for this movie The Fourth Kind that is coming out. I’ll probably be disappointed, but I am holding onto the hope that there will be some good scare in there!

  13. As a kid, I could NOT watch the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the ghosts that came out of the Ark turn all mean. I could watch all of the face-melting that followed, but that one moment when the ghosts go bad… shudder. I bet I’d still be bothered.

    Otherwise, alien movies always freaked me out as a kid because I was a total UFO nut, and I think a good scary alien pic could still get me. I guess being confronted with things (ghosts, aliens, etc) I am powerless to stop and which I cannot predict or rationalize… that’s the scariest kind of horror to me.

    But really, as long as I get sucked into the film, and the scares amount to more than just shocks and things jumping out at the camera, any horror movie can stick with me and make me uneasy, whether fantastic or realistic.

  14. LOVE zombie movies, but slasher flicks are good too. Friday the 13th is awesome.
    The last paranormal movie I saw was A Haunting in Connecticut. I couldn’t stop laughing. The ghost cured CANCER? Omg I was laughing all through dinner after. This is why paranormal movies don’t scare me. They are funny. I also don’t like the disturbing trend of ‘based on a true event’. Really? Really really? No, I don’t think so, that doesn’t make it more scary, it make it dishonest.

  15. So if Close Encounters of the Third Kind is making contact with aliens and Close Encounters of the Forth Kind is abduction does that mean that Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind is anal probing? Is Close Encounters of the Sixth Kind an orgy?

  16. @Draconius: “For me, I am always willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good horror movie.”
    This. This right there. That right there? Yeah. That.

    I have to agree with other posters as well though that splatter porn turns me off, is boring.
    I can sit and be scared stiff while looking at a good horror flick though, even though I know it’s just fiction.
    Luckily I can, eheh, unsuspend my disbelief when the film is over, so I’ve never* been bothered with things that really scared me during the film after the film is over.

    *Okay, okay. Insert “in my adult life” after never. :P

  17. Speaking of the clown scene from Poltergeist. Richard Donner tells a story about the making of the original Omen. When David Warner’s character get’s his head cut off Donner noticed that the audience sees the scare coming a mile away and covered their eyes in the test screnings. So he went back and re-edited the scene adding a couple of beats so that the actual beheading comes just about the time people pull their hands away to look.

    The clown scene in Poltergeist plays the same way, you cover your eyes as he bends down to look under the bed and look just as he sits up and it grabs him.

  18. Oh, and:

    I don’t think it matters that as skeptics we don’t believe in this stuff anymore. I’ve never believed in zombies or vampires, and yet good zombie and vampire movies can still be scary.

    I think what really matters is how well the filmmakers grasp the psychology of fear and whether or not they are able to use the medium to convey that fear.

    People are instinctive creatures, remember, and skepticism is really NOT that natural for us. When a filmmaker can figure out how to trigger our inner paranoid monkeys, rationalism goes out the window.

    Obviously, that fades when we’re back in the “real world” and can think clearly again… but even skeptics have survival instincts, and a good, well executed scare is all it takes to flood our bodies with stress hormones and adrenaline :)

  19. Initially it was the Exorcist, but more so the book. I think the movie just confirmed some of my visualization. I read the Exorcist on a road trip once to my family’s house in Pitt. Did not sleep the first 2 nights.

    Now, it is Misery and Psycho (the original Hitchcock).

    Funniest is Fear and any Nightmare on Elm Street after the original. Freddy Krueger has better one liners than the Joker.

    The one I cheered for was Devil’s Rejects. I really wanted the bad guys to win.

  20. @marilove: I couldn’t handle American Psycho.

    American Psycho is one of my favorite movies, but I never thought about it as a horror film. I think of it as a satire of American business and to a larger extent American culture. The scene with the execs exchanging business cards in hushed tones and voices filled with awe is one of the best film clips ever. I can understand why someone else might be horrified at some of the scenes, but for some reason they didn’t bother me — probably because Mary Harron took steps to distance the viewer from the violence by putting it off camera, or running the scenes fast-forward, or backing the camera way off.

    I can’t watch films with realistic depictions of violence like Schinder’s List and Saving Private Ryan. They take too much of an emotional toll. I don’t really find them scary, though. Just disturbing.

    The only scene in a movie that I can recall genuinely frightening me was in She’s Having a Baby where she drops the birth control pill and it slowly spirals down the drain. I was in a position then when I really didn’t want babies and that scared the meconium out of me.

  21. @davew: I don’t think it’s a horror film, either, but I still couldn’t handle it.

    probably because Mary Harron took steps to distance the viewer from the violence by putting it off camera, or running the scenes fast-forward, or backing the camera way off.

    Actually, that makes it harder to handle — because you can’t see the violence, you are left to your own imagination. And I have a really vivid imagination. Just the implication of the violence was enough for me to get sufficiently creeped out.

  22. Oh, and I thought I should parrot others and mention a book that scared the living daylights aout of me as well:
    Dan Simmons’ Song of Kali

  23. For starters, ALL fiction requires some degree of suspension of disbelief, so I’m not too bothered by flicks involving the supernatural. However, I am bothered by internal inconsistencies–whether there’s the supernatural involved or not. In other words, if I understand going in that I’ll be watching a movie about ghosts, zombies, vampires, flying superheroes, or sentient planets, then I momentarily accept the premises in order to enjoy the movie. When I do this, I mentally construct a world where these things are possible and then let the movie fill in the details for me.

    As I said above, if the movie starts feeding me contradictions and inconsistencies to even this fantasy world, I start to cry “FOUL!” This, of course, also applies to movies without any supernatural, so I guess this is just a criticism of bad movies.

    Another attribute of my personal willing suspension of disbelief is that if there’s going to be any supernaturalism, I like to find out early so I know what kind of movie I’m dealing with. In other words, if I’m deep into a movie that doesn’t seem to involve the supernatural or pseudoscience and suddenly that crap gets thrown at me, I will yell “FOUL!” I hate it when movies throw in a supernatural plot twist to an otherwise “plausible” script. That’s why the movies by M. Shamalayanamanamadingdong are total garbage (“The Sixth Sense” wasn’t bad because at least all the supernatural was laid out up front, so the crucial plot twist was already within my scope of willing suspension of disbelief.)

    What I *love* though, is movies that do the reverse [WARNING: this paragraph contains very mild spoilers]. For example, in the movie “VERTIGO”, the premise of the movie involves the supernatural (ghosts), and when I first saw it I had already accepted that premise when Hitchcock went and hit me with a skeptic-friendly surprise twist–just like SCOOBIE DOO!!! That was awesome! Another movie I would add to that list is “Primal Fear”. One of the central plot points of that movie is something which I consider to be pseudoscientific nonsense. I was a bit disappointed when it was first introduced, but it was early enough in the movie that I was able to work it into my suspension of disbelief. This made me especially happy when the skeptic-friendly ending came. YAY!!!!

    I realize that nothing in my comment really answers the question, so here it goes. What has always creeped me out the most is when the *evil* or horror hits close to home, regardless of how plausible it is. For example, when I was a kid, “Creepy Doll” movies really gave me the creeps (As I type this, I’m looking at a Teddy Bear and a James Randi doll. Don’t come to life!). Vampire movies never really scared me too much; I find serial killer movies quite disturbing; and I couldn’t sit still (and almost wanted to leave the theater) during “Arachnophobia”. So there you go: my achilles heel is “Creepy Doll” movies. :-)

  24. Japanese horror movies always get me. Ringu, Ju-On: The Grudge…those types. Not in that I’m scared when the movie is over or I can’t sleep or anything like that, just that that’s the only style that can sufficiently creep me out.

  25. Count me into the “not into torture porn” camp. I can’t even watch those.

    I love zombies (as anyone who’s ever clicked on my blog should know) and most zombie films. I haven’t been freaked out or scared by any of them, except for the more recent Dawn of the Dead – that one actually scared me the first time I saw it. I think it might be the inspiration for doing the Zombie Anti Defamation League site, as a manner of coping with it.

    I have a large collection of old horror films though, mostly bad ones from the 70’s, and while they’re low quality compared to today’s, they seem a bit creepier somehow. Not terribly so, but I think the lack of gore leaves more to the imagination.

    Which brings me to what I think is the best horror film ever made: Alien.

    The fact that you never really see the alien through most of it, the constantly moving camera, the lighting, the pacing… all of it comes together to make a genuinely creepy film. I can’t look at hanging chains in any movie now without feeling a bit of dread.

  26. I LOVE horror. “It” is definitely still, hands down, the creepiest horror character ever. As young children (under the age of 11), my siblings and I would barricade ourselves in a bedroom overnight with liters of cola, pizza, and m&m’s while we watched that movie. Probably not a fine moment of parenting in retrospect.

    For me it’s the suspense of the movies that are scary. Whether is monster porn, torture porn or anything else, it’s not scary if the blood continues spurting or the zombies continually pop in from stage left, right, left! Artful use of momentum and suspense is what gets me every time. I can still find myself jumping from the original House on Haunted Hill. I’ll suspend disbelief of obviously hokey plots (you hear me Ghost Ship?) until the end, as long as the physical and mental chase is good.

  27. @Zapski: I saw a restored, remastered Alien on the big screen a couple years ago at our local historic “Majestic”-style theater. I wasn’t old enough to catch it the first time around, so having a chance to see it on the big screen was amazing! Damn, that’s a great movie.

  28. Just chalk me up as another Skepchick reader that loves them some zombies!

    I think we’ve sort of touched on this previously… but apocalyptic movies get me. I have nightmares! But I LOVE watching them, on the edge of my seat, about to have a panic attack.

  29. The modern torture genre doesn’t do much for me and I’ll admit to having never seen one by choice. However I do like being scared at movies but I like suspense and drama more(Hitchcock being the master), which don’t require ghosts and demonic clowns. When the first Alien movie came out I was delightfully scared and jumped along with everyone else at the theater; and before that Gregory Peck in The Omen was a good scare. And while not being a big fan of blood and gore, I’ll admit to enjoying many of the newer Zombie and Zombie comedy movies.

  30. I love Zombie movies and Gothic horror movies – more suspense than showing. A few Lovecraft stories were done as movies and were not bad.

    But the movie that scares me is Scanners. Mainly because of Ephemerol – based on the real drug Thalidomide. It was pulled from the market a few years before it could have been given to my mom.

    So it really creeps me out.
    Please note: I get all the vaccines I can (egg allergy rules out flu vaccines) and so does everyone in my family.

  31. @numsix: What Lovecraft movies were done well?! I’d really like to know if you have some for example. I was just telling my husband last night that people should be banned from making movies based on his work because they ALL SUCK. Well, except for this little independent movie for Call of Cthulu done like a silent film. I actually enjoyed that one.

  32. When I first went to see Alien a few days after it opened my buddy and I didn’t know anything about it except it was SciFi and we had to go. When the alien pops out of the crew man’s chest there were numerous simultaneous eruptions of popcorn across the theatre in front of me which made the whole scene all the better and more memorable.

  33. I have a very overactive imagination so pretty much every thing the least bit creepy keeps me up at night. I recently watched a really lame show on animal planet about hellhounds, “Lost Tapes” or something like that. My logical mind told me it was complete and utter crap but the imaginative five year old that lives in my head woke me up every fifteen minutes for the next two nights to scan the room for glowing red eyes.
    I stay far away from anything resembling a good quality horror flick because I’m afraid I’d never sleep again.

  34. @Surly Nymph: Alien should have been written by Lovecraft.

    I forgot to mention Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Top 5 of all time. It infers more than shows… Besides the obvious creep factor, I grew up in the areas it was filmed. Seeing it more times than I can count before the age of 13, the similarities of the house and countryside to my grandparent’s homestead was never really far from my mind when we visited. There’s still something about those nostalgic sensory experiences of hot windless Texas summers, endless vegetation, and stifling old houses that heightens the movie for me.

  35. I love a good ghost story. A bad ghost story (one that treats the ghosts simply as normal monsters, or tries to throw special effects instead of plot and atmosphere) bore me. But a good Ghost story (such as the 1981 movie The Changeling), that’s a damn fun and creepy ride.

    This isn’t just movies, though. I enjoy ghost stories in literature, around the campfire, sitting up at night.

    Hell, I even collect allegedly true ghost stories as a hobby. I don’t believe in ghosts (in fact, most of the stories are easily explained), but I love the stories.

  36. I rarely see any movies in the theater, and that includes scary movies. There are a few interesting scary movies that I’ll watch on TV. To me, the most interesting ones are the movies that include strange ways for people to die. Yeah, I know that Saw has been overdone, but that’s the kind I like. The scariest part about those movies is that the murderer tries really hard to defend what he does, and say that it’s not really murder because the people could have passed his sick tests. That’s scary. I’d rather see a killer who knows he’s bad but enjoys it.

    As for being a skeptic, I think it’s perfectly fine for others to like movies about ghosts and stuff. I like to play D&D even though I know that magic is not real and elves don’t exist. I don’t see the difference between that and watching a movie that has something that’s not real.

  37. I love zombie movies and Bruce Campbell movies. But they’re fun, not scary.

    Most “scary” movies just don’t scare me, but Poltergeist gets me because it traumatized me when I was a child; My parents took me to see it when I was eight or so. It’s still hard to watch just because of the associations.

    In terms of actually scary movies, I’ll second (fifth?) the nomination of Alien. I’ve seen it too many times for it to bother me anymore, but it is possibly the pinnacle of the craft. One of the ways it is most brilliant is by showing only one actual death. The chestburst/dinner scene is possibly the most grotesque and upsetting death scene in film history; but then all remaining deaths happen offscreen. You hear a muffled or abbreviated scream, and your imagination fills in the rest more powerfully than a film ever could. Genius.

  38. @Surly Nymph: Oh come on, Reanimator was fun as hell. I liked that one.

    Big horror movie fan, I even actually liked the first and second Saw (the third one jumped the shark, all subsequent ones I haven’t bothered to watch). I love Zombie movies first and foremost, slasher pics, suspense is good as well. I loved Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects” but couldn’t stand “House of 1000 Corpses” (I found it really dull). Big Evil Dead fan. Movie that actually sort of scared me, “Audition.” I also agree with @Expatria: , the ghost scene creeped me the hell out as a kid. I don’t find it so creepy now. Also add another positive remark for Alien from me. And Tim Curry rocked it as Pennywise.

  39. To everyone who has suggested Alien as one of the greatest horror movies: YES. Yesyesyesyes. My husband and I just watched it again the other day – granted, it was the Rifftrax version – and I loved it all over again.

    @Draconius: I’m always so glad to find that other people have similarly twisted lines of thought. :)

    @teambanzai: See, that kind of thing is genius. Timing is everything!

    @SpiralArchitect: I am going to take a roadtrip out to visit you guys and we are going to watch horror movies. *High-5* to all of your picks!

    @davew: American Psycho is one of my favorite movies ever. And I never thought of it as horror either – any sign of violence was in addition to the already amazing plot. I think my favorite line in the film is, “I want to stab you to death, and then play around in your blood.” Cracks me up every single time. :)

    @The Science Pundit: Hahah dolls are so creepy!! I can’t handle that section of any toy store. And thanks to Arachnophobia, I’ve had a life-long (I saw part of it when I was very small) fear of spiders.

    @Jeremy: I found Ju-On scary, but The Grudge was not scary at all. Maybe it’s a cultural thing? I mean, I know that it still took place in the same location but I think Sarah Michelle Gellar ruined it for me.

    @Zapski: The remake of Dawn of the Dead is brilliant. I saw it in the theater the day it came out and was, due to lateness and crowding, stuck in the front row. When that first neck bite took place and there were arteries flapping around right in my face, I knew I had spent my $10 well.

    @Ashley.Ele: Ha! I just watched the original House on Haunted Hill last week! Again, it was the Rifftrax version, haha, but it was still awesome.

    @Pinkbunny: I have the same problem. On the rare occasion I watch a suspense thriller that involved, say, a stalker or something, I check every lock and look over my shoulder everywhere I go for a week. It’s only in the last couple years that I’ve stopped checking behind the shower curtain every time I entered a bathroom.

    @Ashley.Ele: Oh man, I just got creeped out thinking about living in that movie, haha.

  40. @davew: , @marilove:
    I loved American Psycho. I laughed so damn hard during that movie.

    “There is a moment of sheer panic when I realize that Paul’s apartment overlooks the park… and is obviously more expensive than mine.”

    Alright, I’ve gotta go return some video tapes.

  41. @killyosaur: IMDb is an amazing thing :D

    Do you like Phil Collins? I’ve been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn’t understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins’ presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group’s undisputed masterpiece. It’s an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Christy, take off your robe. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Sabrina, remove your dress. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Sabrina, why don’t you, uh, dance a little. Take the lyrics to Land of Confusion. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. In Too Deep is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I’ve heard in rock. Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole. Phil Collins’ solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds. Sabrina, don’t just stare at it, eat it. But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio, a great, great song, a personal favorite.

  42. @Chelsea:

    The reason you didn’t find The Grudge scary is because well… it wasn’t. Ju-On scared the living fuck out of me. But The Grudge seemed watered down. And the ending sucked. It was like a Disney Princess version of the original.

  43. I love scary movies and still get thrills out of them (been hankering for a decent one lately, actually), but even with that, the only film ever to make me demand that someone stay with me that night while I slept with the lights on was /The Ring/. Can’t explain why exactly, but it creeped me right the fuck out.

  44. Yep, zombies, love ’em. Slow-moving, brutal and brain-dead, they remind me of all the scary things in real life like religious fundamentalists.

    Torture porn just seems too juvenile. Like the meeting for the script consisted of a room full of 14 year old boys adding “but then” to every idea.

    “Yeah, like she’s all bloody and running away but then she gets her eye caught on a nail!”

    “Gross! but then it pops out and it’s all over her face and stuff!”

  45. I love that photo of Captain Spaulding! He’s the bomb!

    I’ve had the shit scared out of me by different movies at various points of my life (seeing “Night of the Living Dead” & “Freaks” as a freshman in college back in 1971, seeing “The Shining” in a movie theatre when in first was in theatres, also “Aliens”, etc.). But I’ve grown up and such stuff entertains me more than terrifies me at this point–my Dark Passenger still requires amusements on a regular basis. ;-)

    What really has spooked me recently is the reality TV show “Hoarders”. The peeks into the lives of people possessed by such a mental illness that this show offers is like watching my worst impulses magnified a hundred times and reflected back to me. Eek!

  46. @killyosaur: That scene is hilarious. After watching Dexter, though, it makes me disappointed in the precautions Patrick takes for cleanliness. I think about how the blood is going to bleed through the newspaper… but the clincher is where he kind of dance-walks- he reminds me Jim Carrey so much right there.

    I have to say Alien has got to be my favorite. We’re doing so much research into space and with the use of the Hubble, beginning to come close to being able to imagine just how large the universe is. A ship pretty much alone in space, with a crew of seven against an intelligent alien with a perpetual sense of claustrophobia… So good.

    The general consensus seems to be against the horror porn and I must say it makes me glad.

  47. I wrote a post about this a couple weeks back on It was about suspension of disbelief. We know going in that (documentaries and based-on-true-story movies not withstanding) the story we are going to see is a complete work of fiction. By entering the theater we are giving unconscious permission to be drawn into the movie. So, for a time, we suspend our disbelief and allow the world on the screen to become momentarily real.

    That being said, I love a cheesy horror movie. Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead, Army of Darkness and of course my new favorite zombie flick: Zombieland. I’m not much for the scary stuff. The real world is frightening enough without spending money to be scared.

  48. While I love the Saw movies, zombie movies, and just about anything with Bruce Campbell. But the movies that have freaked me out, Tremors. I know most people would disagree, but I think I was 6 or 7 when the first movie came out, and wouldn’t play on the grass for about a month after seeing that movie, sure it prevented me from playing football/baseball, but my Basketball skills increased.

  49. @James Fox: Yeah, all this talk of American Psycho is making me want to dig it out and watch it again. It was one of three movies I saw that featured Jared Leto getting mutilated in some way, shape, or form.

    @magicdude20: Bruce Campbell is made of awesome.

    More American Psycho Quotes (courtesy of imdb):

    Patrick Bateman: Do you like Huey Lewis and the news?
    Paul Allen: They’re OK.
    Patrick Bateman: Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humour.
    Paul Allen: Hey Halberstram.
    Patrick Bateman: Yes, Allen?
    Paul Allen: Why are their copies of the style section all over the place, d-do you have a dog? A little chow or something?
    Patrick Bateman: No, Allen.
    Paul Allen: Is that a rain coat?
    Patrick Bateman: Yes it is! In ’87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip to be Square”, a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself.
    [raises axe above head]
    Patrick Bateman: Hey Paul!
    [he bashes Allen in the head with the axe, and blood splatters over him]

  50. I’m sort of crashing the discussion because I have never liked horror movies, or scary movies in general, so I don’t have a lot to say about them.

    However, I will say that I am absolutely willing to suspend my skepticism for the right movie or show. The fact that I don’t actually believe in demons and vampires does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for Buffy.

    @The Science Pundit: I just wanted to second what you said about how much you love a skeptical twist at the end of movies. I love it when rational thought wins! I think that’s one reason I watch Psych even though it’s not always great.

    I know, I know, I didn’t talk about horror or scary movies at all.

  51. Has anyone listened to Revolution 9 by the Beatles? I listened to it out of curiosity. That is possibly the creepiest piece of mixed sound weirdness around. I don’t know why, but for some reason, the guy saying “Number nine” and having all sorts of sounds really creeped me out.

  52. Possibly a new fave horror movie that really isn’t that scary, but totally awesome, TRICK ‘R TREAT. It is almost done like a Tarantino movie in that it is a collection of short horror stories that all take place in the same town on the same night and interweave with each other at random times, plus it is just a lot of fun to watch in a room full of people.

    The only kinds of horror movies i cannot handle are things involving medical procedures (I could barely even watch one ep of House without covering my eyes at the needle-parts), or any/all movies by Takashi Miike (could not make it all the way thru Audition).

  53. Zombie movies don’t do much for me. I’m more of a ghost type. The Sixth Sense had me pretty freaked out, as did The Ring. Both touched childhood fears pretty well – in The Sixth Sense it was “what might you meet on your way to the toilet in the dark?” and in The Ring it was “what if the things you see on TV aren’t just moving pictures?”.

  54. The best horror movie experience I had was to look at Shinning (the Kubrik one) in Black and White (I disabled the color of my TV).

    Hellraiser II was creative.

    Good frightening movies are the Lynch ones. Not really horror movie thought. Just look at Eraserhead and Inland Empire. And you’ll experience a really bad feeling for me, more intense than with horror movie. Though I’m a fan of horror movies.

    But the winner is 1984 film and book. The most scary part is that many details of the movie occurs in real life. As if we are going this way no matter what we do. What is hard with this movie is the fact that it attack not only “physical reaction” but mostly “rationality”.

  55. I’m more like marilove. I don’t do horror much…For some reason, it bores me. It’s always had that effect on me. Zombies are more funny to me than scary. The old monster movies of the 1930’s- 1960’s are more campy to me than scary. Giant preying mantises and ants? Oh really?

    I do have a taste for the old Alfred Hitchcock series, as well as the Twilight Zone. The real masters…! I also like reading Lovecraft and Poe, but that’s an exception. Their styles are so compelling…

    Jaws got to me, though. I’ve been in the water with sharks a few times and have no desire to repeat the experience (not too- large ones.) I’m not sure that Jaws is a horror movie. Isn’t it more of a ‘thriller’ genre movie?

    The ‘Alien’ trilogy movies got to me, too. I think it was the insectile aliens, but that’s S/F. I absolutely loved Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. A woman as a ‘tough as nails’ survivor. Awesome…I find truly “alien” aliens, like in ‘Alien’ more creepy than horror movie monsters for some reason.

    I was really disappointed in the ending of Close Encounters, though.

  56. I don’t like the horror films of today. They all follow the same formula which I find boring.

    What scares me is a good suspense film of the Hitchcock variety pre-Psycho. Psycho and The Birds both were disappointing because the violence was too in-your-face and too soon. I have a very good imagination, so don’t show me everything. Just build the suspense and my mind will do the rest.

  57. “Event Horizon” got me pretty good, made me jump. “Lake Placid,” too. I like horror movies, but they rarely actually scare me. I’m so jaded. Or maybe it’s because I was the only girl in my high school group of friends and had to man up? Who knows.

    While I like Rob Zombie, however, I haven’t liked any of his movies much -especially the Halloween re-makes. And it’s not that I’m partial to the originals at all. I just wasn’t that impressed. Maybe I’m just miffed at the presentation (and not) of the boobies…

  58. One that’s bothered me since I was a kid was the old version of “The Bad Seed”. It wasn’t classical horror, I guess, but that little girl was the embodiment of evil, and it was really disturbing. I think it’s been re-made since, but I’m not sure if that version is any good or not.

    Other than that, “The Shining” and “It” are movies that are quite scary to me.

  59. @Gabrielbrawley: That made me think of Jhonen Vasquez’s “Short Horror Theater” tweets:

    Short Horror Theater: Girl orders boba tea, realizes she’s not chewing tapioca but EYEBALLS. Girl sues owner who turns out to be a dracula.

    ShortHorrorTheater:Lady is bitten by a vampire, a werewolf, a mummy, a zombie and a CHUD. She doesn’t change at all, and also loses her job

    ShortHorrorTheater: Stripper prays to Stripper God for a great night of tips, shortly dies from thousands of paper cuts to her pelvis.

    ShortHorrorTheater:McCain hits the floor, exploding into dozens of teensy Bushes, like that scene in The Gate.

    ShortHorrorTheater:One guy get’s transformed into a sentient wiener, while his best friend becomes a vampire sustained by hot dog water.

    ShortHorrorTheater: Little boy scared of clowns finds his mom and dad
    are clowns and believes he, too, will become one. He does. Credits.

    ShortHorrorTheater:Guy devotes life to hunting Bigfoot, finds him after decades and Bigfoot says “I been hunting YOU”. OH SHIT, Right?

    There are others but are difficult to get to via twitter (they are old! and I found these using google and Jhonen’s flickr feed)

  60. JACOB’S LADDER !!1!

    Most terrifying movie ever made.

    David Lynch is pretty good at scaring the crap out of me, too.

    I am not at all skeptical of the reality of mental illness and the terror that one’s own mind can do to one.

    Also, I refuse to watch any of that SAW stuff and things of that ilk. Non-consentual Sadism is very real, and very, very terrifying. My brain doesn’t need to be seeing that crap just so it can spit it back at me in my dreams.

  61. @killyosaur: That is great. I remember, gosh, I think it was Bearkly Breathed did his own version of a horror movie.

    Jane and Alex are a happy young couple. When they are on their honeymoon they are staying at a country resort. They hear a story about scary, terrible things that happen at a house down the road and are very curious about them. What will happen. Nothing, they don’t go to the house, have a nice honeymoon and go home.

  62. Oh, and that Kane guy from Poltergeist 2. Aaaaah!

    I was TERRIFIED of him as a kid for months and months…then a few years ago (over 20 years later), I decided to see what all the fuss was about. After all, Clash of The Titans had seemed WAAy real-er looking through the eyes of a four year old.

    Popped the movie in, as soon as Kane showed up on screen, I realized that he was just as scary as I had thought as a kid and a lot scarier than I remembered.

    I got the heebie jeebies just thinking about it.

  63. @whitebird:
    “Jacob’s Ladder”–yes! I forgot all about it.

    I saw the original “The Haunting” from 1963 on TV recently, and was surprised to find that I still found it, well, haunting, despite the silly, now-classic setup of a paranormal investigator staying in a house with a group of people with alleged psychic sensitivities to document spooky goings-on. Julie Harris’s portrayal of the tragic and doomed character Eleanor, who is on the lam from her bleak life and craving a real home, buttressed by the cinematography and soundtrack, worked its magic on me.

  64. There seems to be two ways to scare the crap out of me with a movie.

    Either create a world that is consistant unto itself, no matter how unrealistic, and never break away from it (like Blair Witch or The Thing) or give me something that really could happen and focus on the character development (like Se7en or Hand That Rocks the Cradle).

    I tend to be more easily scared by the psychological thriller types than the straight horror types because it is far easier to get “pulled out” of the made up world of horror.

    Oh, and the scariest movie I have ever seen? Bob Roberts, but that’s anyother story. ; )

  65. Going beyond the horror-comedy gore fests (Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi are my heroes), I prefer the films that aren’t so much going for thrills as for disturbing you on a deep, psychological level, sometimes not realizing it until hours or days after you’ve actually finished watching them. Unfortunately, it seems there aren’t very many of those out there (“Let the Right One In” was one such example).

  66. Not a horror movie, I know, but Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory totally freaked me out. There was just something very wrong and disturbing about his Willy Wonka.

  67. @killyosaur:
    It’s many years since I read the book too, so that maybe so, but that bobbed hair ……. bbrrr, gives me goosebumps whenever I see it.

    Thanks for the American Psycho quotes – definitely time for a rewatch. Love the scene where he’s running down the hallway with a chainsaw naked except for the white trainers. The incongruity just cracks me up every time.
    Seeing a very buff Christian Bale naked, again, has, of course, no bearing whatsoever on my desire to rewatch. I’m just licking my lips because they’re dry.

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