Scariest Movies Countdown Continues

Numbers 17 through 11: an M. Night Shyamalan flick and an original/remake tie

It’s week three for my picks of the scariest movies of all time. For those of you who need to get caught up, check out the write-ups for my picks for 31-25 and 24-18.

This week’s list, as you will see, has a lot of comments from readers. So let’s get to it — on to 17!

17. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Everyone has a scary monster that terrorizes his/her childhood bedtime. That creature that you know is waiting in the closet for your parents to fall asleep. That thing that’s waiting for the last light to go out. For one hand or foot to poke out from under the covers. But then you fall asleep, and forget about it.[SIGNUP]

That is, of course, unless the creature that terrorizes you is Freddy Kruger.

Once I watched Nightmare on Elm Street at a friend’s Halloween sleepover, I was screwed. At one time, I was excited and looked forward to falling asleep. But once that striped-sweater freak was introduced to me, I was terrified out of my mind. Nothing would help. Night lights were laughably ill-equipped to keep him at bay. Keeping the door open would do nothing more than let my parents get to my lifeless, torn body faster. Even sleeping with the covers pulled all the way up to my chin, like a kid burrito, simply made it easier for him to pull me through the bed.

The only thing that helped ease my fear was time. It took a long time before I really stopped thinking about it every night. But if I’m totally honest, sometimes I still do.

16. The Sixth Sense (1999)
This brilliant, ingenious movie from M. Night Shyamalan is filled with scary images. But for me, the one that truly stuck with me long after the movie ended, was the image of the people hanging in the school. Absolutely horrifying.

15. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The movie that received the most responses from readers and friends. And yet this is one of the most divisive scary movies ever. Why? Well, there seemed to be two ardent factions. The first is the early-seers, those who saw it on opening weekend — well before the huddled masses — who purported that this was, in fact, the scariest movie of all time and, possibly, based on fact. The second is the late-seers, who having heard that this was the scariest movie of all time, saw it a few weeks/months later, and thought it was lame. (My factional theory is also applicable to my #20 pick, Paranormal Activity.) Well, actually there’s a third faction — those who never saw it because they vomited from the shaky camera work.

But as I learned from responses, many more fall into the first group. This movie — the first viral film to build excitement through a web presence — scared the bejesus out of many, many people. Like Amie B: “I slept with my light on for three nights!” And Mark F.: “At the time I was living in this apartment that had a great view into these woods behind the complex. Well, after that movie I couldn’t have my blinds open on those trees at night for weeks.”

Similar in response, Julie P: “To this very day (this morning, in fact), the hair on the back of my neck stands up whenever I walk in the woods near my home. And Christie D.: “The following night I had to sleep in the woods with my campers, and I had my fellow camp counselors tormenting me for the rest of the summer with stick figures and piles of rocks. I haven’t liked sleeping in tents since then.”

14. Dawn of the Dead (1978)/Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I know I’m cheating here, but both iterations of this film are phenomenally grotesque and scary. What happens when materialism and zombies collide? The mall.

13. The Strangers (2008)
What makes this creeper so creepin’ creepy is the normality of the situation. There are no ghouls, zombies, razor-handed demons, or pasty demon children. Instead we have everyday people … wearing masks. Christine Speer, Philly Mag deputy editor, sums it up best when she says, that the bad guys are “so calm and collected while they’re torturing this poor couple for no other reason than what’s articulated in the scariest line of the movie: ‘Because you were home.’ There is no reasoning with pure evil, and there’s no motive, which means it could happen to you.” Others echoed the same sentiments: Devin: “It makes my skin crawl because it could really happen!”

12. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
From reader Nanci P: “Rosemary’s Baby is by far the scariest film I’ve seen, and sits right at the top of my list. Most definitely way before its time, it’ll have you never looking at your ‘elders’ the same, again!!!”

11. Se7en (1995)
It’s hard for me to even articulate my thoughts about this powerful, deeply disturbing film from the brilliant David Fincher. Wonderful performances from the cast, but all I know — really, all I can remember — is that I could barely watch as it moved from grotesque to grotesquer to grotesquest. Like #19, The Silence of the Lambs, it’s a movie whose images and ideas burrow deep into your mind.

Stay tuned for next week as we countdown from 10 to 6. Until then, here are some suggestions of movies not on the list.

From Nicole T.: Troll (late 80s and probably only scary to kids under age 10). This is really one of my sister’s scariest movies, not mine, and only because after the movie was over my dad locked her in the basement and told her to watch out for trolls — he thought it was funny. My sister is afraid of basements to this day (she is 31).

Amy Korman (Philly Mag senior writer and fellow Post blogger): I think a lot of people feel this way, but it’s got to be the Chucky movies. They are just so horrible, they totally freak me out. Diabolical.

Rick: Greatest psychological horror film of all time: Polanski’s Repulsion.

Jordan B.: Time Bandits. The parents exploding and the kid being left alone was the scariest thing that happened to me that year.