The Scares and Thrills of Scary Movies

Hall of Scream! Watch a supercut of the most famous cinematic screams

What’s a better way to celebrate Halloween than to watch scary movies? As shown in Entertainment Weekly’s  screaming compilation above, scary movies are definitely something to scream about. It’s my favorite spooky activity and with a plethora of channels playing their own version of scary movie marathons, there’s plenty for you to chose from. And I’m sure you have your favorite scary movie on standby, be it a gore fest, like any of the “Saw” movies or “Hostel” or a more expertly crafted, chilling thriller, like “The Shining” or “Psycho”.

Just last night, I had a midnight Halloween viewing of “The Shining”, something that I do every year. It’s really the only film that gets under my skin and truly terrifies me. The brilliant direction of Stanley Kubrick, paired with the shocking, heart-racing music and of course, Jack Nicholson’s psychotic and disturbing portrayal of Jack Torrance, the film delivers some truly nail-biting moments. It’s really a film that showcases the art of terror.

I could write endless paragraphs about the cinematic elements of the film and the numerous fan theories, but that seems like a tedious thing to do on Halloween. Instead, I’m going to dive into something a bit more campy and fun: the horror flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. (Here’s a great list by Amazon user TheRealest0431 of classic horror movies: My Favorite Horror Films of the 70’s and 80’s).

Now, I’ll be honest. I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies and I’m even more hesitant of watching gory horror movies. Growing up with two older brothers, who were always finding new (and relentlessly mean) ways to scare me, I’ve had my fair share of spooky moments. Looking back on it now, it was like they were mad scientists and I was their experiment. Really, I’m making it sound a lot worse than it really was, but some of those scares really shook me up when I was younger. The worst? Putting on a werewolf mask and hiding behind every corner in the house, while pretending to stab me with a plastic butcher knife. On top of that, the TV was almost always on the channel that played “Goosebumps” and “Ren and Stimpy” seemingly non-stop. I’ve seen more gross-out and scary moments that I can count.

So, when I feel brave enough to watch a scary movie, I prefer to indulge in the more tame, less gory scary movies of the 70’s and 80’s. While I cringe at any gory moments and I practically jump out of my skin at certain scares, there’s just something about watching a well made, fun and sometimes cheesy scary movie during Halloween.

Older scary movies are better quality to me than the ones from today. Today, films are overloaded with gore and themes of torture. These types of films have been dubbed “torture porn” . That does not sound appealing to me. I don’t want to see people being tortured as a strange, sadistic form of entertainment. I think it is an easy alternative to a good plot and well-crafted and well-executed scares. It’s an over done trick and makes the gore on the screen too realistic for me. It terrifies and disturbs me way too much. I’ve read about some of the most disturbing movies there are, and simply reading the descriptions of the films is enough to make me feel sick. That’s not what I want to get out of a scary movie. I want it to be enjoyable.

With the scary movies from the 70’s and 80’s, a more fun and enjoyable scare is easier to achieve. Some of my favorites to watch during Halloween time are:

A Nightmare on Elm Street

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Friday the 13th

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Halloween

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The villains in these films are slightly less than human, or back from the dead, which I think is part of the reason I am able to distance myself from the horror of the film. With films that have the villain as a real person that is murdering or torturing people, it makes it more realistic and plausible to happen in everyday life.

Also, because of effective story telling and well-crafted scares, the villains from these 70’s and 80’s scary movies are memorable and a part of popular culture. The villains are often over the top — especially Freddy Krueger from “A Nightmare on Elm Street”– which makes the films more fun and enjoyable to watch.

freddy-krueger

Sure, the special effects and makeup can be considered campy and not convincing, but that’s what makes these films so fun for me.  The ending scene of “Friday the 13th” is a good example of this. In the scene, the decomposing corpse of Jason pops out of the lake and pulls the remaining camp counselor, Alice, in. It’s an overly-dramatic scene, but that’s what makes it fun.

With these scary movies of the 70’s and 80’s, the atmosphere is always tense and chilling. The mood, through the lighting and tense music, is set up as suspenseful and keeps you on the edge of your seat. With these cinematic elements, I am able to get lost in the story of the film and it pulls me into the suspense of the scary scenes. I like getting lost in movies and with these types of scary movies, that’s easy to do. I’ll be so engrossed in the suspense of a movie, like “Halloween”, that I’ll jump at the initial shock of seeing Michael’s white face, void of emotion face peering into the window. I’m scared, but then I’m able to laugh at myself for acting so terrified. And that’s how I like my scares.

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When there is gore in these older films, it is not as realistic as it can be today, which I think helps to keep the scary-fun entertainment value. Too much realism makes it hard for me to distance myself from the violence. With some of the more gory horror films today, the violence looks plausible and like it’s ripped from the headlines. With the scary movies of the 70’s and 80’s, the entertainment is similar to walking through a haunted house or being on a haunted hay ride, instead of with today’s horror films, which is like being in a bad nightmare that you wake up from in a cold sweat and have trouble shaking for the next couple of days.

So, if you’re looking for scary movies to watch on Halloween night that offer great scares, while still keeping the fun value of entertainment, I suggest sticking to the older scary flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. They’re campy, over the top and scarily enjoyable.

Happy Halloween and enjoy your screams!

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