Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Horror Movie Extravaganza

It's that time of year! Spooky stories, evil children, deranged clowns... Halloween ushers forth scary movies in all of their splendor, keeping kids up at night. Grown men become unwilling to make that 2am trip to the bathroom for fear of being set upon by demons. Yes, I refer to myself there, but in my defense I haven't had to do that since college. Shut up! It's a long trip to the dorm bathrooms at night!

Anyways, to honor the season I decided to take upon myself the exciting and potentially insane task of watching a number of the scariest movies I could lay my hands on. The criteria? I wanted to target movies that I hadn't seen before, and ones that have made top ten or top twenty-five lists of best horror movies out there. My plan? To watch and then review them here. Not a full review, mind you, but enough to get a sense of how good they were, what they were about, if they are worth your time, etc. I speak in the present tense because I write this before watching any of them and, as I watch them, I'll review them one by one so they are fresh in my memory. Also noted at the end of each mini-review will be an account of any disturbed sleep, bizarre dreams, or any freaking out that occurred after watching each respective movie, because I just know everyone will get a kick out of that.

Now, without further ado, the first on the list!


Picked from a list of the top horror movies on Netflix, Insidious is about a family who are perpetually haunted. They keep moving from house to house, keep seeing creepy shit, and can't seem to catch a break. We then figure out that it isn't the houses that are haunted, it's their eldest son who has mysteriously fallen into a coma. Yes, that might be a spoiler and its a pretty major plot point, but if the movie poster thinks its unimportant enough to say exactly that in the movie description, then I think it's fair to ruin it here too. OWNED. Anyways, Insidious then takes a very interesting path involving dreams, demonic possession, psychics, ghosts, and more!

My thoughts? This movie was awesome and well worth seeing. Did it scare me? Not really. I think the problem was the subject material: I am simply not scared of exorcism/possession type movies because I find the concept completely ridiculous. I will say that the subject is intellectually interesting (the different demons, the specifics of how one exorcises, the fighting of the subject to mentally overcome the spiritual obstacle), but frightening? Nah. But Insidious definitely kept me hooked, and its dwelling on how the family could overcome the evil was quite engrossing.

Also worth noting is that this movie has quite an undercurrent of humor throughout. At one point, a hapless comic duo of psychic investigators shows up to help out, and they are such a bunch of nerds that its hard not to laugh at what they do. They help prevent the movie from being a total Debbie downer, which is nice. In addition, there were a number of moments which were so surreal as to be more unintentionally hilarious than disturbing. Case in point, what the hell was up with the demon's house? Hell, anything to do with “The Further” reeked of funkiness. Good funkiness, mind you. Is there such a thing as 'good funkiness'?

Creepiest moment in the movie: Why won't anyone shut the curtains over the fucking windows?!

How Disturbed was the Loon: I'll admit, there was a moment when making lunch where my back was to a window and I checked a couple times to see if there was anyone watching me through it. There wasn't. Regardless, I moved to a position where I could face it. This movie and windows... *shudder*


This movie was actually mildly disappointing. It wasn't that it was bad, by any means, it was more that I was expecting to be completely freaked out after watching it. In all of the 'Top Horror Movie' lists that I'd read through, Poltergeist was supposedly so scary that the people writing these lists wouldn't even describe any of the scenes that were in it; apparently, they were that disturbing. I expected this to be the crown jewel of all the horror movies I would watch. … But then I saw that it was written by Steven Spielberg.

I'm sorry, but Steven Spielberg's brand of horror utterly fails. This is a movie where a tree attacks a kid and then gets inexplicably sucked into a tornado; the events are so far-fetched and the 'CGI' so kiddie that it's hard not to laugh at it all. So I did. From the squeaky-voiced psychic to the demon head in the closet, it was just impossible to take seriously. It wasn't a bad movie, by any means. It just inserted that Spielberg-ian sense of wonderment and magic that clashes too hard with a horror film. There was one moment where I felt a bit disturbed at what was happening on screen, but that was a moment where you could only hear a character panic but not actually see what was happening to them. The best horror movies have more of that: scenes where you don't entirely know precisely what form the horror is taking and thus have to have the imagination take over.

Creepiest thing in the movie: What the hell is happening to that dude's face?!

How Disturbed was the Loon: I didn't think this movie would affect me at all but then, when visiting a bathroom in a school building, I nearly jumped thirty feet in the air when the plumbing made a slamming sound after I turned on the sink. I won't lie; I half speed-walked half-sprinted from that little encounter.


Now the Loon starts getting into some really creepy shit. [Rec] is a Spanish-made found footage type film about a reporter, her cameraman, and a crew of firefighters investigating a mysterious late night call in a tall apartment building. After they show up, increasingly weird things start happening, the tenants seem a bit off, and then they start attacking the firefighters. For reasons unknown to us, the Spanish police decide to cordon off the apartment, locking the firefighters and the reporter and her group inside. They then have to do their best to survive with the few remaining normal tenants within a warped hellhole of an apartment where everything just starts going very wrong.

Now, zombies don't really tend to scare me in horror movies, but whatever the fuck those things were in [Rec] were a whole 'nother level of disturbing. In fact, it wasn't even that the 'zombies' were bad, it was that found footage feeling that you were there and going through the same trauma as the characters you were watching. This movie is full of nasty, nasty moments. What's fun (and also disturbing) is that I learned that there is enforced method acting going on. The actors didn't even know in many of the scenes what exactly would happen, often making their terrified reactions very real. Possessed children coming out of nowhere, corpses falling down stairs, characters unexpectedly turning hostile... These are things that the actors had to deal with out of nowhere!

Creepiest thing in the movie: The Madeiros Girl. What. The. Fuck.

How Disturbed was the Loon: The weird nightmares began. I don't remember exactly what happened in them, but I remember fighting zombie dogs in one. Which is odd, as they aren't even zombie dogs in [Rec]. I also walked home reallllly fast after watching it. Screw it. You would too.

The Others

Oh, man... This movie...

The Others is about a mother living in a mansion in the middle of nowhere with her son and daughter. A small family of caretakers move in with them. Then things start going strange.

The Others is sadistically designed to fuck with you. The kids have a disease that makes it so that light is harmful to them. Thus the light and the dark become scary. In addition, this movie really likes to mess with the viewer. Usually in a horror movie you expect that something bad is about to happen when the scary music in the background reaches a crescendo, but there are multiple times in The Others where it has that music pop up, only for nothing to happen. Its jump moments come when you least expect them, and the combination of the music's tricks, the uneasiness of everything going on, and the great acting of Nicole Kidman make it so that you are in constant tension. What's more, it is never exactly clear what is happening or why, which contributes the fear of the unknown on top of everything else.

What made this movie especially enthralling for me to watch was the fact that Nicole Kidman's character behaves precisely as she should in such a situation. I don't recall a single moment where she does something that I would not do if I were in her shoes. This is SO RARE in a horror movie. Because she's responding to the situation as rationally as she can, this makes what happens to her and the children all the more disturbing. Similarly, her daughter is absolutely fearless, which makes for an interesting situation when there are things happening that she should be frightened of, but isn't. This is a movie where the characters and their stories really got me into it.

Creepiest thing in the movie: The goddamn doors.

How Disturbed was the Loon: Things got worse. I watched this in my home alone and then went to go take a shower after. When I got in and turned on the light, the bulb flickered. I shut the door and almost thought to lock it (despite there being nobody else in the apartment), but then decided against it because I didn't want to lock myself inside. During the shower, I admit to opening the curtain from time to time to peer at the door. This movie and its fucking doors. Afterward, I left home as soon as possible and went to work early so I didn't have to sit around the quiet, empty apartment by myself.

The Descent

And then shit got even worse...

Being a fan of hiking and reasonably well-learned when it comes to movie know-how, I knew ahead of time that The Descent was probably going to freak me out. However, because I knew before watching that it involved monsters in a cave, I figured that that knowledge might sap any suspense from the movie. I also hardened myself against the idea of being so disturbed that I wouldn't want to go hiking afterward.

It didn't help. Not one fucking bit. The Descent was far more scary than I thought it would be. The freaky goblin creatures were one thing, but it was really the concept of being stuck in an unexplored cave that really got to me. Even with friends, that would be incredibly harrowing, and watching the bonds of trust between the girls crumble was awful to watch. This was so emotionally draining that throwing the creatures into the mix just made my brain go into OVERDRIVE. Some nasty, nasty shit goes down in this movie. Simultaneously, the girls kick a surprising amount of ass, making you root for them to get out alive. But, instead, they fall further and further down a slippery slope to madness and carnage.

So do I want to go hiking now? Fuck no! Thankfully, it's cold in Portland now, so that wasn't an attractive prospect to begin with. Still, the mischievous side of me likes the idea of watching this with a group of friends and then going to explore Ape Caves. Perhaps that will be a fun and potentially traumatizing idea for next summer!

Creepiest thing in the movie: Any scene with falling into a hole. Having nearly done that myself, seeing what happens to the characters that do is horrific.

How Disturbed was the Loon: As this is the last movie for this little blog event, it's the last thing I'm writing. I haven't had time for it to sink in and disturb me. Given how it involved a cave, I sort of doubt that I'll be particularly frightened by everyday life and all. But who knows? Perhaps the accumulated terror of having watched five horror movies in a short period of time will snap my brain into crazed overload. Time will tell...


I wanted to watch more, but given that today is Halloween and I really won't have time to see more movies over the next few weeks, I figured I'd let it go for now. Others that I wanted to watch but will have to wait for a future list: The Grudge, The Omen, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween.

Which of these movies was the scariest? It depends on what you're looking for. I found The Others to have the most unsettling atmosphere and scares brought about by getting freaked out by the atmosphere. By contrast, [Rec] and The Descent tied for the most intense and gory affairs. Insidious was probably the most conceptually interesting. Poltergeist was a mix of the most disappointing and the most entertaining. Thus I feel like every movie here had an excellent part to play, and succeeded in freaking the Loon out quite a bit over the past week!

Any recommendations for next Halloween are always welcome. I think I might watch some Disney movies now to regain my sanity.

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