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Top five scariest movies

Published 11:59am Friday, October 26, 2012

Since Oct. 13, my TV has stayed tuned in to AMC’s Fear Fest.

But we’re almost two weeks into the “most frightful time of year,” and I have yet to see one film on AMC that actually frightens me.

Sure, I’ve watched bits and pieces (no pun intended) of all the slasher films they’ve played – the 12 movies in the Friday the 13th series and 10 films in the Halloween franchise seem to be their favorites.

All of them (except, perhaps, the original Halloween film – who doesn’t get chills up their spine when they hear that theme song?) have left me disappointed.

I’m not scared by a silent, hulking, immortal masked figure with incredible strength and a penchant for killing errant, irresponsible teenagers.

The films that truly scare me are ones with an unexpected event or series of events, instead of knowing a bloody end is a guarantee for the two amorous teens in the car conveniently parked in a desolate area, despite the radio announcer’s earnest warnings of a killer on the loose in the teens’ sleepy hometown.

Here are the films I’d like to see being played on television right now – Virginia’s Personal Fear Fest, as it were:

Alien: I will never forget the first time I saw this film in its not-edited-for-television version. The film follows Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the crew of the spaceship freighter Nostromo as they explore an unknown planet. A crew member is essentially impregnated with an alien, which goes on to terrorize the entire ship. I remember squirming in my seat on the couch, sinking lower and lower as the alien brutalizes crew members and takes them out one by one. Yes, this is also considered a science fiction film, but it is a far cry from most sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. Even its tagline suggests horror: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

The Blair Witch Project: Perhaps those of you who have never seen this film – or those who have only seen the parodies – might not appreciate this pick, but I was truly shaken after the first time I watched this movie. Three budding filmmakers set off to create a documentary about the Blair Witch, only to disappear in the woods and have their footage discovered later. The beauty of this movie is that there are no gory scenes, except for one where the unfortunate campers find a bloody piece of, well, something outside their tent. This movie is essentially about small-group hysteria, set off by the fact that the stories told by the interviewees at the beginning of the film are “true” accounts of murders that have been attributed to the Blair Witch.

Saw: This is another franchise that was destroyed by devolving into pure gore instead of sticking to horror. But the original, in which a serial killer named Jigsaw puts people into situations where they must make terrible choices or face certain death, is terrifying. Often Jigsaw leaves one of the unfortunate unwilling participants with some type of voice recorder or video message explaining the rules of how to survive the situation. I shudder to think of his voice saying, “I want to play a game.”

- The Ring: The Ring is an American remake of a Japanese horror film Ringu. The story involves a grainy video tape filled with disturbing images that seem to disconnect – a chair in an empty room, a young girl viewed in a mirror whose face is hidden by her hair, a barren tree sitting atop a hill near a lake and squirming maggots, just to name a few. After the unlucky viewers watch the video tape, the phone rings, and a girl says the viewer will die in seven days. I remember several middle school pranks involving such phone calls, but the movie is disturbing nonetheless.

The Shining: This Stanley Kubrick classic also happens to be one of my favorite Stephen King books, though it strays greatly from the book version. Kubrick made this story his own, in which a father, mother and son move to a hotel in the mountains to keep it for the winter, only for the father – brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson – to slowly go insane. This film was one of the most successful I’ve seen at broaching the subject of a place retaining the evil of the persons who had inhabited it years before. And who can forget the iconic scene where Nicholson takes an axe to the bathroom door, peeking through and yelling maniacally, “Heeeeerre’s Johnny!”

So if you enjoy horror films, I’d highly suggest you watch any or all of these as Halloween approaches. Just be prepared to sleep with the light on for a few nights.

Spears is managing editor for The Outlook.