As a young boy of 13 , at a downtown theatre in Bentonville, AR, home of Wal-Mart headquarters, I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for the first time. The film had been around for a few years. I don’t know whether Psycho was in re-release or if then-sleepy Bentonville was just that far behind, as the movie was about 6 years old.
In any event, the shower scene was the scariest thing I had ever seen in my young life. I thought I was going to be sick, actually, but I made it through.
Just a few short years later came probably the most hyped horror movie up until that time. In 1974, my freshman year in college, there were reports of a film so horrific that ushers were having to clean up vomit in the seats, some faint-hearted patrons were passing out and all sorts of mayhem.
By that time I had developed an immunity to celluloid blood and guts and was ready for just about anything. Now the list:
Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, and of course, Norman’s mother. This story of a young woman on the run who makes the fatal mistake of stopping at the Bates Motel still holds up today as one of the scariest movies ever.
The infamous shower scene is still terrifying and it’s still a shock to see the knife-wielding “Mrs Bates”. Whether you were born a generation or more after 1963, horror fans should still check out this film. It was Alfred Hitchcock at his best and one of the scariest movies ever made.
Also in the 1960’s, about the time Richard Nixon was making his political comeback, came Night Of The Living Dead. Even though the gore was in black and white doesn’t make this film any less terrifying. It was almost as terrifying as the Nixon Presidency to some.
Watching the dead rise from their graves to devour any living thing in their paths is not exactly “in good taste”, but this is undoubtably one of the scariest movies ever made. It was years after 1968 that I saw it, after watching the sequel Dawn Of The Dead, which wasn’t quite as palatable as the original.
In 1974 came the aforementioned movie that had some theatres issuing barf bags to patrons before the movie began. William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist was hyped well in advance of it’s springtime release. This film was being talked about more before it’s release than any in recent memory.
The film concerned a young girl living with her mother in the Georgetown section of Washington D.C. The girl, Megan, played by Linda Blair, alarmed her mom with increasingly odd behavior. Next thing you know, little Megan is cursing like a sailor, her head is spinning around and, let’s just say you’ll never look at pea soup the same again after viewing this super scary film.
The young lady I went to see the film with couldn’t take it and had to leave and due to car trouble, I had to walk home late at night the last mile or so. After seeing this and surviving the walk home, no movie ever bothered me too much after that. Absolutely one of the scariest films ever made.
Later in 1974 came The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Based on a true story, this Toby Hooper film was used as an excuse by at least one college football team after a loss.
A good Rice University team featuring future NFL quarterback Tommy Kramer was soundly thrashed by my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks. In the paper the next morning, Rice players were quoted saying they had seen the film on Friday night, as college football teams traditionally do on the road, and most of the team was still queasy on saturday afternoon.
Right…Anyhow, the leather faced maniac with the chainsaw was a great screen villain and made this one of the scariest movies ever made. It’s been so long since I saw this film, I don’t remember that much, except that the film definitely belongs on this list.
In the summer of 1975, there was a beast with a different kind of teeth. Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s first monster hit movie, was based on a bestselling book by Peter Benchley and featured a great white shark terrorizing the beaches of Amity, New York.
Murray Hamilton is entertaining as the Mayor of Amity, denying the existance of the shark due to fear of hurting tourism. Roy Scheider is very good as Police Chief Brady who is fighting city hall as well as the shark. Richard Dreyfus is excellent as a marine biologist, Matt Hooper, and Robert Shaw is brilliant as Captain Quint.
“Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged wimmen” snarls Quint, who looks upon Brady and Hooper with bemusement. The Captain offers his services to the city to kill the shark, so he, Brady and Hooper sail out into shark-infested waters in search of the culprit.
Years after the book, author Benchley expressed regret at stigmatizing the Great White shark, but the book and movie made a mint and spawned one of the scariest movies ever made. John Williams’ award-winning score is synonymous with Jaws and who can forget the duh-duh-duh-duh sound as the shark closed in on it’s prey.
1976, the nation’s bicentennial brought us Damien, supposedly the devil’s child in The Omen. From the moment Damien could walk, the smug, round-faced little brat was wreaking havoc on the rest of the world in one of the scariest movies ever made.
I don’t recall how many sequels there were to The Omen, but the original stands on its’ own as a scary horror movie.
Later that year, John Carpenter brought us Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis. At the end of the movie when Michael Myers’ body disappears after being thrown out a 2nd floor window, shot, stabbed, burned and having everything done to him short of a bikini wax, (in the movies that only makes the bad guys MAD) it was obvious that the filmmakers were setting up a sequel.
Even so, the first Halloween is one of the scariest movies ever made. Unfortunately, this film was ripped off and regurgitated as the Friday The 13th never-ending series and also spawned Nightmare On Elm Street. You won’t find any of those waste of celluloid claptrap films on this list nor any of the Halloween sequels.
The very next year, Sissy Spacek brought Stephen King’s Carrie to life on the big screen with John Travolta in a supporting role. The squirelly Carrie emerges from her cocoon as a lovely young girl in spite of her wing-nut religious right mother only to be dumped on by the “mean girls” and Travolta…
One of the scariest moments in film history is when the one friend Carrie had who survived is visiting the grave and the hand reaches out to grab her. Alas, like that one season of the primetime soap opera Dallas, it was just a dream…
The 80’s offered only the hockey masked wearing Jason in the ridiculous series mentioned earlier and Freddy Krueger, soonly one in this list of the scariest movies ever made was released in the 80’s.
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is the story of a family with young children who find the perfect place out in the country, with only a slight problem. The grave yard for pets located nearby. Isn’t there always a catch? It’s been a long time since I saw this film, but I still recall the gripping terror as the man’s young son turns into a vicious killer, mmaking this one of the scariest films of all time.
Silence Of the Lambs made Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, a supposedly cultured creation of writer Thomas Harris in a series of bestsellers, a household name. “Wull hello…. Clarice” Lecter intones in his conversations with FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster.
It’s obvious that Lecter has a thing for Clarice and equally obvious that Lecter is one sick individual. A deranged former psychiatrist who enjoys eating his victims with “fava beans and a nice chianti” is enlisted in his padded cell to help the FBI catch serial killer “Buffalo Bill”, so named because he “skins his humps”.
As Starling closes in on the sicko Bill, a man who is sort of like a violent, knife-wielding version of Bruno minus the accent, unfortunately Lecter, who kills prison guards while listening to classical music, breaks out of jail, setting up a sequel.
While the sequels are more creepy than scary and Lecter’s killing sprees harder and harder to believe, Agent Starling is played by Julianne Moore in the sequel, Silence Of The Lambs still ranks as one of the scariest movies ever made.
These scary movies are available at www.cduniverse.com/default.asp.