I love the month of October, mainly because I love Halloween and the accompanying sugar rush. I was thinking about some of the scariest movies I saw as a kid. Since I was born in 1970, most of these movies are from roughly 1975-1980. This begs the obvious question: where were my parents when I was watching these?? If my memory is accurate, I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad were out disco dancing with Antonio Fargas and Shelly Hack. Admittedly, I saw some of these films several years after they were released, but you get the idea.
The following ten films are listed in no particular order and I’ve avoided spoilers. Of course, I posess only a vague awareness of what a “spoiler” is, so this oughtta be good.
10. The Sentinel (1977): A young fashion model (hey, it was the 1970s) learns that her New York City apartment building is harboring a terrible non-plumbing-related secret. Hilarity ensues, of course.
9. Burnt Offerings (1976): Oh Man. This is probably the scariest haunted house movie I have ever seen. Perfectly cast with the über-creepy Karen Black and an equally frightening Oliver Reed (his character wasn’t scary; I’m just very frightened of Oliver Reed.) Oh, and don’t forget that grinning evil chauffeur. And get this, Bette Davis is in this movie! THE Bette Davis! This is a great movie to watch with the lights off and it has held up surprisingly well.
8. The Changeling (1980): This film starred George C. Scott, but surprisingly was NOT a comedy! I don’t remember much about the plot, but I recall a scary old-timey wheelchair and a creepy kid. That’s good enough for me.
7. The Shining (1980): I know everyone cites this movie with Jack Nicholson playing the role of axe aficionado, Jack Torrance, but I first became aware of this movie via the film trailer while sitting in a darkened theater. You know, the simple shot of the elevator doors with the eerie music. All of a sudden a literal torrent of blood comes pouring from the elevators and toward the camera. Pretty freaky, especially for a little kid. Wait a minute, “torrent of blood”…”Jack Torrance.” Hey, that’s weird.
6. Suspiria (1977): OK, I actually saw this film several years after it was released, but seriously, there is absolutely no reason that a kid should watch this movie. It is a brutal, moody, suspenseful and incredibly disturbing film about a coven of witches who run a ballet school in Germany. Known for it’s use of very bright colors (yes, they used a LOT of red,) but if you ask me, the striking soundtrack by Goblin totally made the film. Oh, and the US trailer for this film is incredibly lame, but here you go.
5. The Spell (1977): I didn’t actually see this made-for-TV movie which aired on ABC in its entirety. It is probably best remembered for starring a very young Helen Hunt. Apparently, she’s an actress, or something. Oh, and Lee Grant was in it! You kids loves the Lee Grant! The one scene I remember seeing was with this woman walking down the stairs when all of a sudden she starts shaking, her eyes start bulging and smoke comes out of her ears. Yeah, I didn’t sleep for two weeks after seeing this. I don’t have a clip, but special thanks to Kindertrauma.com for the freaky pic.
4. Phantasm (1979): This is the one with the spooky undertaker known only as “The Tall Man,” who was played very effectively by Angus Scrimm. It also had these deadly flying silver balls. There were also scary little jawa-looking guys who would just as soon kill you as sell you an R2 unit with a bad motivator. The plot of the movie didn’t make any sense to me, but that didn’t matter. I actually saw this film recently, but it wasn’t nearly as scary as I remembered.
3. Race With The Devil (1975): In hindsight, not all that scary, but it spooked me back in the day. This film is about two couples in a large RV who stumble upon a Satanic ritual and wind up being chased across the Southwestern US by the cultists. Geez, what was with all of the Satanic cult movies back then?
2. Tourist Trap (1979): At the time, this movie was overshadowed by films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. But is you ask me this film is scarier for one simple reason: creepy mannequins. Oh and the movie also features (gasp!) Chuck Connors! Chhhuuuuccckkk Connnnneeeeerrrrs! (Sorry, that sounded scarier in my head.)
1. Friday The 13th: This is the original slasher flick…as long as you don’t count all the ones that came before it. OK, maybe it wasn’t that original, but it was still the prototypical scary movie to us pasty suburban kids for years. Well, to those of us who used words like “prototypical” anyway.
How about you guys? No matter when you were born; what were the earliest scary movies you all remember? Anyone?