Friday the 13th: Scene Staff’s Scariest Screenings
Scene Editorial Staff | Thursday, September 12, 2013
“Don’t Look Now” is a 1973 thriller starring Donald Sutherland (in all his 70s moustache glory) and Julie Christie as John and Laura Baxter, a married couple with children. The movie opens with an absolutely horrifying opening scene: while John and Laura sit inside their home, their daughter falls into a pond. When John discovers what has happened, he runs to the scene. His attempt to save her is shown in slow motion and accompanied by no music, magnifying the scene’s subsequent heartbreak. As the opening credits begin to roll, it becomes clear that the daughter has drowned.
To deal with the loss of their child and escape their old life, the couple takes a trip to Venice. But even in Venice, thoughts of their lost child return quickly when a terrifying psychic woman tells Laura that she has had visions of her daughter. Soon after, John begins seeing a figure around the city wearing the red raincoat his daughter was wearing when she drowned. The film becomes a full-fledged psychological thriller made even more frightening when it is discovered that a killer is on the loose in Venice.
Sutherland acts the part of John so wonderfully, especially in that first scene, that you can’t help but find yourself completely submerged in the story and unraveling of the two mourning parents. The film is also edited in a way that jumps around, confusing the audience to create even more suspense, and the combination of the Venice setting, bizarre small roles and 1970s film aesthetic somehow makes “Don’t Look Now” one of the creepiest movies ever. But nothing can prepare you for the climax of the film, when Sutherland’s character finally approaches the figure that has been haunting him. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that I can never see a red raincoat the same way again.
I have seen many scary movies. I don’t remember most of them. So I actually can’t say which one I think is scariest.
Instead, I’ll share the two scary movies I remember most-partly because they were scary, but mostly because they were funny.
“Tremors”: Have you heard of it? If you haven’t, I’m not surprised. This movie brought horror to my best friends and I in middle school. Something about the atrocious special effects and Kevin Bacon (mmmm, bacon) made the idea of giant worms coming out from the ground to eat everyone pretty earth-shattering (pun intended).
“Paranormal Activity”: It was Valentine’s Day.
Imagine, if you will, the perfect romantic evening: dinner and a movie. It’s very hard to go wrong with that time-tested equation. And yet…
Two 15-year-olds walk to a restaurant – since they are not yet able to drive – and sit down for a lovely meal. The conversation flows, as do the refills of their nonalcoholic drinks. They end their night out with pie, Oreo pie, of course, because there is no better way to show your undying love for someone.
Then, the movie portion of the evening begins. Normal people would choose a typical rom-com, preferably with Sandra Bullock. However, we were children. Children who decided to watch “Paranormal Activity.” Emphasis on children.
What followed was approximately two hours worth of mild fear, followed by two weeks of not being able to sleep without the light on.
I do not claim that “Tremors” or “Paranormal Activity” are the scariest movies I have ever seen.
I only claim two things.
First, that giant worms coming up from hell to eat me would be terrifying and a pretty bad way to go. And second, that I find it hilarious to this day that I watched “Paranormal Activity” on my first romantic Valentine’s Day. If that’s not scary, I’m not sure what is.
Out of all the scary movies I’ve watched (total of about three, thanks to my jumpiness and irrational fears), “Paranormal Activity 3” takes the prize for scariest. It is the only one of the series I’ve watched, but since it serves as a prequel, I was able to follow along with the plot, at least during the scenes where I had my eyes open.
Now, I do agree that for a good portion of the film, nothing is all that scary in the literal sense. The majority of the film is just a camera panning back and forth in an empty house, which is character Dennis’s attempt to catch any evidence of ghost life. Most of the time there is nothing, but occasionally the very careful eye will see slight movements, silhouetted figures or, more obviously, furniture moving all over the place for no reason whatsoever.
There are only about four or five scenes that made me jump, scream and make a fool of myself, but the psychological aspects of the film are what get to me. Any movie with creepy children, clowns or dolls is enough to scare me, so the fact that the two daughters are the ones who are haunted really gave me the creeps. Ghosts aside, little kids are creepy with their insistence on invisible friends and convincing conversations with absolutely nothing.
So, in the movie when the little girls, Kristi and Katie, are constantly talking to the invisible figure, Toby, the parents assume it is an invisible friend – that is, until he begins to terrorize and ransack the house. The peak of terror in the movie occurs at the very end when the grandmother and her witch coven come out to attack. Not going to lie, I may have had a nightmare or two of a bunch of hooded witches slowly chanting their way toward me.
As far as scary movies go, I give the “Paranormal Activity” series credit for utilizing actual plots, rather than simply gory, disgusting horror scenes. But, plot aside, “Paranormal Activity 3” is a pretty terrifying movie.
The movie was “Signs,” the alien film by M. Night Shyamalan, where a not-so-happy-go-lucky country family headed by a former minister, played by Mel Gibson, encounters mysterious crop circles that Gibson refuses to acknowledge as signs of extraterrestrial life. Mel Gibson’s ever present facial expression of subdued pain and worry made me anxious and uncomfortable throughout the movie.
My fear was exponentially driven by the fact that we did not see our actual antagonists except for in two instances. The first was during a news clip that shows a brief glimpse of the alien casually strolling through a Spanish neighborhood while children celebrate a birthday party. The second was not until the very end of the film. I vividly remember almost pleading with Shyamalan, “Just give us the aliens already!” despite the fact that I was mere moments away from running out of the theater.
However, the truly worst scene is easily the scene where Gibson channels his inner Braveheart and goes into a pantry while the aliens are in the next room, which is separated only by a locked door. Gibson sees his reflection in a knife and forms the brilliant idea of finding out what the visitors look like by sliding the knife underneath the door. He’s not able to get a visual after a few moments of trying, makes as if to leave, and then has the nerve to come back to the door, get back on the ground and try one more time. This time, a foreign hand lunges underneath the door, and Gibson reacts just in time to cut off the alien’s fingers.
Perhaps it wasn’t the sight of fingers, human or not, being cut off that made such a scene the “worst,” but rather, if I had to put a finger on it (pun intended), how little Gibson’s facial expression changed throughout the entire scene – or better yet, throughout the entire movie. Yes, indeed, it was Gibson’s withstanding look of slight nausea and anxiety that really scarred my young mind. The concept of aliens and the suspense that Shyamalan impressively built up surrounding the aliens only made things worse.
Shout-out to my older brothers for this one. When I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, the coolest thing in the world was watching the movies my older brothers would watch. It’s little surprise that “Die Hard,” “Con Air” and “The Rock” rank in my top 10 movies of all time.
But my sneaky film watching habits struck back one day in the form of David Fincher’s suspense thriller “Se7en.” I remember the opening credits distinctly, mainly because they showed up in my nightmares for a good 10 years after I first saw the film. The weird, glaring white text for the cast and crew names was only outdone in creepiness by the haunting, jumping shots of someone developing film. I’ve never been more scared of photos in my life.
And it only got worse from there. Here’s the guy from “Shawshank Redemption,” so I think I should be safe, but no; he’s solving gruesome murders based on the seven deadly sins. Luckily, thanks to my Catholic grade school education, I knew enough about the seven deadly sins to be scared out of my pants.
By the time Kevin Spacey shows up in the police station at the end, I almost committed the greatest sin of any kid trying to prove he’s tougher than he really is ¾ walking out. But don’t worry; I stuck it out. I wasn’t learned enough in the ways of Hollywood storytelling to realize that the worst was yet to come.
But come it did! WHAT’S IN THE BOX?! WHAT’S IN THE BOX?! Chills.
All right – I lied, I didn’t have nightmares for 10 years after seeing this movie. I still get them.