I must tell you. Movies don’t scare me. A horror movie may make me jump, but I have yet to see the film that gives me nightmares or makes me afraid to turn off the lights. If any moviemakers see this and want to take it as a personal challenge, bring it on.
This is not to say, however, that I haven’t been creeped out by a good movie. Here’s my definition of the difference between a good horror movie and a good creepy movie. With all due respect to the horror movie genre, horror movies are not known for their writing. The scares tend to come from gore, sudden movements on camera, the lighting, and the music. When a creepy movie is good, however, it is almost always due to the story and the writing. The best creepy movies take the things that scare us the most, especially the things unseen, and fabricate stories that could happen to any one of us.
So if you want to creep yourself out on Halloween with a good movie, here are my picks:
The Vanishing (Spoorloos) (1988): This Dutch film, directed by George Sluizer and written by Tim Krabbe, is super creepy as it follows the path of a couple on a cycling vacation in France. Stopping at a service station for drinks, the woman goes in to the store and never comes back out. The film continuously builds tension throughout and leaves the viewer riveted. Note: Do NOT, under any circumstances, rent the 1993 American remake. You will only regret it. Pony up and live with a few subtitles.
The Shining (1980): Based on the novel by Stephen King and directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining takes the most normal of families, complete with dysfunctions like alcoholism, and examines how complete isolation might tweak those dysfunctions into madness. Of course, it doesn’t hurt (or help) that the hotel is EVIL. REDRUM. REDRUM.
Alien (1979): A most awesome creepy film. Ridley Scott‘s Alien, written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, works as well as it does because of its close confines, relative isolation from any help from the outside world, and a threat that is all the scarier because for so much of the movie, it is unseen. And poor, poor John Hurt.
The Kingdom (Riget) (1994): I watched this Danish miniseries (directed by Lars von Trier and Morten Arnfred, and written by von Trier, Tomas Gislason, and Niels Vorsel) with my mouth hanging open for most of the scenes. Imagine Grey’s Anatomy in which the hospital is haunted, operations are botched and covered up, and Udo Kier appears. It is impossible to describe adequately, but with equal parts creepiness and black humor, it really should not be missed.
Wait Until Dark (1967): How do you defend yourself in your own home when you can’t see? That’s the premise of this very suspenseful film starring Audrey Hepburn, based on the play by Frederick Knott and directed by Terence Young.
Night of the Hunter (1955): Does anything inspire more tension in a moviewatcher than watching a blind woman try to survive? Perhaps only seeing children with a dangerous secret trying to escape the clutches of a sociopath (Robert Mitchum). This film, based on the novel by Davis Grubb, with a screenplay by James Agee, and directed by Charles Laughton, ratchets up the tension and keeps it at an almost unbearable level. Mitchum is creepiness personified.
What films have creeped you out?