By Doug Hunt
As the days become shorter and the weather becomes cooler, one thing is for certain: the spooky Halloween season is here. In preparation for the scariest and also sweetest time of the year, “Entertainment Weekly” composed at list of the most terrifying films of all-time. Prepare to be scared.
Starting the list at number ten is the 1969 thriller, “Rosemary’s Baby,” directed by Academy Award winner, Roman Polanski, and staring Mia Farrow. While it is not a typical scary movie, like “Frankenstein” or “The Wolfman,” this film is still frightening. In the film, Rosemary (Farrow) battles a rash of phobias and also believes she has been raped by Satan himself. The movie is more of a psychological thriller, leaving the audience guessing as to what is really going on, than a traditional scary movie. In the climactic scene, Rosemary’s baby is born and is thought to have died shortly after. Or does he? This is one of Polanski’s first films and it has one of the creepiest taglines of all-time, “Pray for Rosemary’s Baby.”
Coming in at number nine on the list is the crime thriller, “Seven,” starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. In this 1995 film two police officers (Pitt and Freeman) are in charge of investigating sadistic murders that take place in an “unidentified crime-filled city”. They both become infatuated with the cases and find that they all relate to the seven deadly sins. Not only does Freeman star in the film, he also uses his “god-like” voice to provide narration. As the murders are discovered, the audience tries to get a sense of who is behind them, which leads to a shocking ending.
Next on the countdown of scariest films of all-time is the legendary 1960 film, “Psycho.” Anthony Perkins stars as the neurotic Norman Bates who owns a hotel in the Arizona desert. Shockingly, “Psycho” is the only film by Alfred Hitchcock to make the top ten. The master of suspense knows how to portray the freakish nature of the human psyche better than anyone and this film is the epitome of his mastery. From the iconic scream scene to one of the weirdest endings in Hollywood history, “Psycho” has made audiences afraid to take a shower for fifty years.
“Halloween” comes in at number seven and has one of the scariest characters in Hollywood history, played by Michael Myers. The first installment of the franchise opened in 1978 and stars Jamie Lee Curtis as the heroine Laurie Strode who tries to end Myers’ reign of terror. In this cult classic, which also is one of the most profitable indie films of all-time, Myers stalks Strode after escaping from a psychiatric ward. In their confrontation it seems as if Myers is killed, but when the location where his body is supposed to be is shown, it is not there.
The most recent film on the list is “The Ring” which comes in at number six. This 2002 thriller also hit audiences hard because the villain, the videotape, was passed from person to person like a virus. Naomi Watts stars as Rachel, a woman who watches a video of random images and receives a phone call that tells her she will be dead in seven days. No matter what she does, Rachel and her siblings cannot escape the curse of the tape. The only way to try and break free is to show it to someone else, which does not solve the problem but only continues the vicious cycle. The movie features scary images that show people deteriorating during the seven days they have left to live, which caused audiences to fear what society would come to if the SARS virus, which was at its peak when this film came out, became global. Luckily, SARS was contained and the world was saved from an almost certain doom.
The most frightening animal in film history, “Jaws,” comes in at number five. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this classic film still freaks out anyone who goes to the beach. No matter how silent a person is, it is never known when a shark attack could occur. The realistic nature of “Jaws” is one of the reasons why it is so scary. What happened on screen could actually happen to a member of the audience. With the ever popular Shark Week inspired by this 1976 film, “Jaws” still has an influence on pop culture and is continuing to scare viewers to this day.
The only Best Picture winner in the top ten comes in at four on the list. Opening in 1991, “The Silence of the Lambs” introduced the world to the most freighting villain in all of film history, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins. In the film, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) must interview the terrifying cannibalistic doctor in order to help track down the equally terrifying Buffalo Bill. Although he is only in the film for sixteen minutes, Hopkins steals every scene he is in and is simply brilliant as the doctor. Buffalo Bill is eventually caught but Lecter escapes prison and goes back to wanting to have “old friends for dinner.”
Breaking into the top three is the 1974 film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Based on the ritualistic murders of Ed Gein, “Chainsaw” is frightening. Not only is this film scary, it is absolutely brutal and makes the audience queasy at every gut wrenching scene. While it claims to be based on a true story, the film is a complete work of fiction and details the murder of a group of friends tortured by the hands of a family of Texas cannibals. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is sure to make anyone think twice before asking strangers for help, no matter how sweet they might seem.
Coming in second is the 1973 classic, “The Exorcist.” The film stars Linda Blair as Reagan MacNeil, an unfortunate girl who is possessed by a demon. From Reagan spinning her head around 360 degrees, to spitting up green slime, “The Exorcist” has some of the most iconic horror scenes ever captured on film. The story follows the MacNeil family in their quest to get their daughter back from the grasp of the evil spirit. This film has made generations of viewers check every creak in their house to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary.
Finally number one … drum roll please! Taking the top spot on the “Entertainment Weekly” list of scariest films of all-time is “The Shining,” starring Jack Nicholson. From the terrifying score to Staley Kubrick’s dark cinematography, “The Shining” is one of the most visually creepy films ever made. The film is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name and follows a writer, Jack Torrance, (Nicholson) and his family as they take care of an isolated hotel. Their son possesses psychic powers and is able to see ghosts that are living in the hotel. While the Torrances’ seem like the perfect family, the hotel breaks them apart as a demon possesses Torrance and makes him obsessed with killing his wife and son. One of the most iconic scenes in Hollywood occurs when Nicholson shouts “Here’s Johnny!” right before he chases them around the hotel.
Along with massive amounts of candy, scary movies are one of the best traditions of the Halloween season. The ten films “Entertainment Weekly” featured on its list sent chills up and down the spine when they were first released, and continue to scare viewers to this day.