Welcome to the final chapter of Geek's 30 Scariest Movies Ever! Scott Fraser and I have compiled a list from a number of movie aficionados to make this list what it is.
Geek Magazine staff writers, contributors here at GeekExchange, and a number of actors, producers and directors also chimed in to make this the scariest list of scary movies possible. (A full list of those involved is available at the bottom of this page.)
So what are we waiting for? Let’s take a look at #10-#1 of Geek’s Scariest Movies Ever!
#10 – Jaws
Nearly everyone on the planet has seen Jaws. One of the most monumental horror flicks to date due to humanity’s extremely primal fear of the ocean. When a massive Great White Shark starts preying on the unsuspecting beach goers at a popular beach town, it’s up to police chief Martin Brody to take out the vile beast on his own. Since the production of the film was plagued with problems and the mechanical shark they were using kept malfunctioning, Spielberg decided on probably the greatest presentation of the shark possible. Spielberg took a very minimalist approach by rarely showing the shark and leaving the real horror to settle in the imagination of the viewer. At least until we finally saw the shark in action.
However, the most effective scare of the film is easily that chilling theme that fans know intimately. When that music starts up you know it’s time to get out of the water. Jaws is one hell of a scary movie, and that is a fact. After Jaws was released, beach towns coast to coast reported a drop in tourism, which most fans like to believe is a direct result of the fear of the ocean presented to us in this seminal classic. Fact: Jaws is scary. - S. Fraser
#9 – 28 Days Later
Yesterday while discussing 2004′s Dawn of the Dead, I mentioned that they were the first movie to introduce us to speedy zombies. I stand by that statement, as I don’t really clarify the ‘monsters’ in Danny Boyle’s28 Days Later as zombies. They certainly share some of the characteristics, but with a dedicated reason behind their creation, it sets them apart slightly from most of the zombie films out there. Humans infected with the rage virus ravage England and its people, and we share the POV of a bike messenger named Jim. Jim wakes up in this new world from a coma, making everything as new to him as it is to us, amping up the reality of the scares as they happen.
It’s really difficult to determine where the scares are coming from. It’s either the well written story with a typical horror trope (us vs. them) turned on it’s head (us vs. us), or just the sheer awesomeness that is Danny Boyle. That man can bring a movie to life. Whether it’s the spectacle of the real-life empty streets of London, the terrifying camerawork or the eerie soundtrack, this movie works. The sequel continued the story well, but pales in comparison to the original. - S. Fraser
#8 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tobe Hooper’s ‘true story’ from 1974 really isn’t close to the actual events – but it was a hell of hook wasn’t it? What Ed Gein did in Wisconsin back in the 1950s inspired not only Leatherface, but Norman Bates and Silence of the Lambs‘ Buffalo Bill too. Presenting this story as real though, it just added a little extra kick to an already terrifying premise. A family of cannibals who like to torture and play with their victims before skinning them – that’s all together unsettling.
Then you couple that with the brazen choice of weapon used by Leatherface; a noisy, unreliable, smoke spewing chainsaw, a choice that screams diffident rebellion. It’s just further proof your situation is hopeless, as indicated by his disinterest in stealth. Leatherface isn’t worried about sneaking up on you when he can instead scare the crap out of you with the direct approach and be confident that no one will intercede on your behalf, and Marilyn Burns screaming for 18 straight minutes is so incredibly uncomfortable to watch… - B. Kronner
If Psycho is the granddaddy of the slasher film, TCM is the father of gore and…OH – A hitchhiker, PICK EM UP!!!
#7 – Poltergeist
Poltergeist was rated PG in 1982. Thanks for that. “From the director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we bring you a spooky story for the whole family!” I was just a little kid when I saw this for the first time, and it scared the hell out of me, perhaps a precursor to why I found Pennywise the Danceing Clown so terrifying later in life too. The story of a home built on top of a cemetary, and occupied by a normal family. No drunk teens out in the woods or goth kids performing rituals. This was the suburbs, married couple with 3 kids, a dog, and swimming pool out back. But when little Carol Anne gets sucked into the television and they have to call a creepy medium (Zelda Rubinstein) out to exorcise the spirits from the house, things just get worse.
It turns out that there are spirits trapped there and attracted to Carol Anne’s life force, mistaking it for the ‘light’ they need to pass over. A demon however also resides there and has kidnapped Carol Anne to lure the other spirits to him. If that isn’t enough, there is also a creepy ass tree out back who grabs people. Tobe Hooper directed this, but Steven Spielberg also had a heavy hand in it as he produced and co-wrote the screenplay. This was significantly scarier than Speilberg’s other hit that year, E.T. - B. Kronner
#6 – The Ring
2002′s The Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski and based off the book Ringu, introduced us to a new kind of movie monster, a killer videotape that kills you 7 days after watching it. When Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) starts investigating the death of her niece, she hears the story of the cursed tape and watches it for herself. The images are disturbing not only to her, but to the audience as well. As she investigates the origins of the tape she learns of the tragic death of Samara, who is inextricably tied to the tape. The muted tones and chilling atmosphere lend more to the fear than any scenes of the film, and takes a look at our societies obsession with media and the dark side of storytelling.
Which is really what’s terrifying about The Ring. Every culture is dictated by the stories we tell, and nobody in this film watches the tape without first hearing the story of the killer video, with the exception of Rachel’s son Aiden. Some are even spurred on to watch the tape by hearing the story, which further proves that the art of storytelling is a double edged sword when used improperly. It’s often said that you can tell a work of art’s success by looking at its imitators. If that’s the case, then The Ring was a ridiculously successful movie, and has more than earned its spot on our list. - S. Fraser
#5 – Halloween
One movie that is constantly on TV screens today (and in select theaters across the country) will be 1978′s Halloween directed by John Carpenter. Considered by many to be the beginning of the modern age of mainstream slasher flicks, Halloween introduced us to the character of Michael Myers. Myers was a masked and silent killer on the search for a very specific prey, teenaged scream queen Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). On Halloween, Laurie sees Michael in his ionic blue coveralls and white mask stalking her across town, until night arrives and he makes his move. The resulting night of terror was forever etched in the minds of horror fans everywhere, ad made the mold for literally hundreds of slasher films over the years.
Another film that relies heavily on a moving score to really make the back of your neck tingle, which was actually written and performed by Carpenter. Michael Myers (originally known as The Shape) is the original slow moving killer, and his inhuman gait instantly makes you believe that no matter how fast you run, he is going to catch up to you. Halloween terrified audiences by showing us that sometimes evil just takes a hold, even warping a child like Myers into the horrifying murderer he becomes. - S. Fraser
#4 – Alien
Alien is very much in the same vein of the previous movie on our list, Halloween. It is in essence just a slasher flick in a space setting. The story follows the salvage crew aboard the Nostromo, who is awakened by what they initially believe to be a distress signal. They follow it and land on planet LV-426. Once there thay locate and investigate a derelict space ship that appears to have crashed. Once inside the crash site however, one of the crew is attacked by something which attaches to his face, and they are brought back aboard the Nostromo – against quarantine regulations. Clearly a poor decision. From here the creature grows and starts stalking the ship’s crew, who keep splitting up for some reason. Like drunk teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, the crew is picked off one by one in terrifying fashion.
The creature itself is unnerving to look at, but the film is more reliant on suspense and quick scares than extended gore or closeups. Ridley Scott was able to build excellent tension throughout the movie in an unnatural setting and it ultimately culminated in one of, if not the single best Sci-Fi Horror film of all time. - B. Kronner
Below is a deleted scene from the film, which gives us some insight as to where James Cameron got many of his ideas for the sequel...
#3 – The Thing
John Carpenter’s version of The Thing is so scary because he re-injected the mystery from the original 1938 short story Who Goes There?, which Howard Hawk’s 1951 The Thing from Another World had removed. You have a group of men in Antarctica, secluded from the world, and an alien life form is introduced into the equation and begins killing people. What’s really scary though, is after it kills them, it adopts their identity, so you never know who is or isn’t an alien. Mis-trust and suspicion quickly takes over the camp causing the men to turn on each other. A true ‘no one is safe’ scenario proves you never know who gonna survive, which by taking out a level of predictability, it adds to the fear factor.
The scene where they do the blood test is perhaps one of my favorites of all time. Part of makes it so great, aside from the tension it creates, are the effects. This is practical movie effects at their best right here – no CG, just some really great looking puppets and clay. The Thing is perhaps the most often under-rated film on this list, but comes in strong here with the experts voting it third. - B. Kronner
#2 – The Shining
The Shining has been called ‘the most complex horror movie ever made‘ and with good reason. It is basically three stories all happening at once; it’s a supernatural story about a child with psychic abilities. It’s a ghost story about a haunted hotel, and lastly it’s a thriller about one man’s downward spiral into insanity. Only when these three storylines come together do we see the true nature of the film’s horror and all the while timid Wendy is stuck in the middle of it all. Jack’s mental breakdown and Danny’s supposed hallucinations keep Wendy in a constant state of disarray. It’s not until after Jack tries to kill her that the hotel finally reveals itself to her, and even then it’s done in way the further disorient her, trying to further scare her and aid Jack in completing a cycle that will cost his family their lives.
Though it’s well documented that Stephen King, author of the story, wasn’t a fan of this movie, nearly everyone else is. From Nicholson’s performance to the way Kubrick shot the interior of a building with impossible architecture, this whole movie is designed to keep you from getting too comfortable. Without those normal breaks in tension, your mind is rarely allowed to relax, therefore making the experience more intense. This is, simply put, the scariest ghost story ever told. - B. Kronner
#1 – The Exorcist
And we finally made it! Our #1 scariest movie, which I’m sure is not a huge surprise to most, as we all clearly remember distinctly the first time we witnessed the horror that is William Friedkins The Exorcist. The ultimate possession movie that all others try to emulate, which is pretty much impossible. When young Regan is possessed by an evil demon, her mother (Ellen Burstyn) tries to diagnose some of the odd and unsettling habits Regan is slowly developing. As they get worse and worse, Father Merrin is called in to perform an exorcism as a last resort to cure her. Cue crazy, freaky, out of this world events and vulgarities that were out of place in 1973. So many elements combine together to make this a truly frightening movie.
The spectacular portrayal of the demon possessed Regan by Linda Blair, along with Max von Sydow as Father Merrin. The stunning visual effects that still hold up, mixed with the beautiful lighting that permeates the entire film, leaving a creepy and threatening feeling constantly in the back of your mind. Not to mention those quick flashes of the intensely freaky demon, an almost subliminal cue to crap your pants. The Exorcist sits comfortably in the number 1 spot on Geeks 30 Scariest Movies Ever, and doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon. - S. Fraser
So there you have it, that’s what scared us – what scares you? This list started with over a hundred movies on it before we got it dwindled down. Let us know what would’ve been on your list, see odds are if it wasn’t in our Top 30, it was on our original 100…
And Happy Halloween from everyone at GEEK!
And Special Thanks to…
- Mark A. Altman
- Andrez Bergen
- Jeff Bond
- Megan Burns
- Nikki Griffin
- Marcus Alexander Hart
- Jay Holben
- Brian Kronner
- Sam Rome
- Corey Sienega
- David E. Williams