There’s only one Halloween night, but you can scare you’re self silly any old time. It’s as much fun to scare as to be scared, said Vincent Price, who should know.
These are eight movies that had me literally hiding my eyes for large stretches, beginning with when I was a child and probably too young and vulnerable to be watching anything so chilling.
They all bespeak the creepiness of tight spaces, of claustrophobia. I guess that’s what horrifies me, and maybe it horrifies you too.
1. House of Wax.
An indelible experience, watching Vincent Price go mad in my grandmother’s rambling old house, the image of wax figures coming to life in a dank, dark cellar. It appeared on TCM the other day and I could barely be in the same room as the TV.
2. Funny Games.
In this 2007 version (a shot-by-shot remake of Michael Heneke’s earlier German film, by Michael Heneke, which Gil much prefers) with Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Brady Corbet and one of my faves, Michael Pitt, two very cleancut young men come to the door of a cabin and take the family hostage. Don’t do it! Don’t let them in! A friend of ours still hasn’t forgiven us for exposing her to this nightmare.
3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’m in college, very blasé, watching the new flick from a seat at the front of a crowded auditorium. Just as Leatherface appears on screen with his saw, two students leap up onto the stage, their own chainsaws revving.
4. The Last House on the Left. The first and best of the home invasion flicks, shot with terrifying hand held cinematography, in which teenage girls undergo unspeakable terrors. By master Wes Craven.
More home invasion, from 2008. Do I detect a theme? Except here we have teens in masks terrifying other teens. Liv Tyler attempts to fight them off.
6. Games, from 1967, with James Caan, Simone Signoret and Katharine Ross, a period piece which involves kinky “mind games,” an ultra modern living environment and a dead body encased in a cast.
When I was an adolescent this messed with my head big time. What I remember most is murdered people stashed in a crawl space and telltale blood dripping through an immaculate white ceiling.
7. The Descent, 2005.
There’s a deep, twisted cave into which a group of reunioning young women have spelunked. It’s dark and dank. “Hey, there’s something down here,” says Holly. Yes, there is.
I have almost successfully blocked out the one that started them all in 2004. It may be trite to cite Saw in a list of the best. Still. I can’t imagine how people watched any further movies in this franchise. It was so awful! And so great.