s c a r y  m o v i e s

What with Hallow'een just around the corner and the nights drawing in, we thought we'd give you a quick blast of scary movies. There are a lot of different reasons why movies scare us so below we've picked five that all scare for very different reasons. Wooooooo.... 

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The Vanishing (Spoorloos)

1988

George Sluizer

 

A movie completely infused with creeping dread, the original Dutch language version of The Vanishing continues to haunt us to this day. The plot is pretty simple: a young couple visit a service station, the girl goes inside for snacks and never returns. Her boyfriend becomes completely obsessed with discovering the truth about what happened to her. The horror is far deeper and more disturbing.

 The fear comes from a number of different places but predominantly three things. 1. This could easily happen, there are no special effects here and nothing particularly fantastical occurs. 2. Raymond Lemorne (a wonderfully understated turn from the sadly no longer with us Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) is an outwardly normal person who merely decides that in order to right a good deed, he want to commit a truly bad one. 3. The ending. Good grief the ending.

Sluizer went on to utterly ruin the film in the Hollywood remake (starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland)  and has never since reached the heights of this terrifying movie but you should seek out the original. A creeping psychological assault rather than a wham bang jump scare, this film will leave you terrified of European service stations for some time.

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The Descent

Neil Marshall

2005

Building on the promise seen in his excellently arch feature debut Dog Soldiers , Neil Marshall's second movie is his finest moment to date. The Descent is a master-class in stripped down horror.

Beginning with a horrific car accident that deprives Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) of her reason for living, we pick up with her some time later as her girlfriends attempt to help her out of her depression with a weekend potholing. Competition for the alpha female role in the group soon leads to cracks forming in the relationships and some dangerous decisions are made. Which turn out to be the least of the girls' problems. 

Marshall cranks up the tension both within the group and by clever use of massively restricted locations. Lighting is barely used so we see very little for long periods, adding to the building sense of claustrophobia and terror. Long stretches of tension punctuated by brutally realistic incidents make for a gruelling viewing experience. Even the introduction of subterranean beasties (normally where the wheels fall off) only serves to up the brutality. As with The Vanishing , the ending here really comes as a firm kick to the stomach.

 

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The Orphanage (El orfanato)

2007

J.A. Bayona

Few things are more deeply terrifying than your child being attacked by unseen forces and Bayona's movie takes this one step further. 

Haunted children have been filmed on numerous occasions, most notably and effectively in Tobe Hooper's 1982 hit Poltergeist but Bayona managed to find new and far creepier ground with The Orphanage.  Returning to her childhood home, a mother becomes increasingly desperate as her child spends more time with his invisible friend.

The movie scores on two massive levels. Firstly it taps into a primeval fear of bad things happening to your offspring but secondly it backs this up with some genuinely unsettling locations and creepy direction. The sense of pervading dread smothers the entire film without ever hitting anything that could be described as a routine stride. Tapping into the mother's history with the location turns her into a completely unreliable witness and the occasional moments of actual horror throw you because they are so occasional. 

A devastating and, for me, unpredicted ending make this a superb modern ghost story that will resonate long after you've breathed a sigh of relief at the end credits.

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The Haunting

1963

Robert Wise

Legendary director Robert Wise (who later went on to helm the original Star Trek  movie but is perhaps better remembered for The Curse of the Cat People and The Day the Earth Stood Still ) managed to capture the perfect version of The Haunting of Hill House.

Using nothing in the way of conventional special effects, The Haunting  is a perfect exercise in escalating paranoia in the creepiest of houses. A scientist takes the opportunity to investigate ghostly goings on within Hill House, taking with him a variety of damaged people for the trip.

Wise uses a brilliant mix of the unseen, shadows, noises and disintegrating personalities to send our imaginations into overdrive. What we think is stalking the group is inevitably far worse than anything Wise can show us. A creeping shadow across a wall could just as easily be the camera moving slightly as it could be something supernatural. 

Utterly ruined by attempts to bring the unseen to screen in Jan de Bont's remake in 1999, this is a movie that will never be surpassed by the addition of technology. In fact, the pointless re-make only emphasises how brilliant the original was. Watch this, then go to bed with one arm sticking out into the darkness I dare you.

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Drag Me To Hell

2009

Sam Raimi

If ever a movie deserves to be likened to an actual roller-coaster, this is very probably it. Evil Dead  creator Raimi took time off from his ever diminishing Spider-Man series to return to his horror roots.

Firmly adhering to the wham-bang school of frights, Drag Me to Hell  is a masterpiece of cartoon scare film making. The ever lovely Alison Lohman's bank worker makes the terrible mistake of refusing another extension on an old woman's home-loan. Confronted in the carpark after work, the woman bestows a horrible curse on the hapless Lohman and then has the temerity to die leaving Lohman no route to salvation.

Raimi throws absolutely everything at this one and it's a superb ride. I came out of the screening sweating and feeling like I'd actually been on a fairground ride. Played entirely straight despite the increasingly absurd circumstances (witness the attack in the tool shed and the terrible demise of the cat), this one retains its ability to make you jump through sheer weight of horrific situations. 

A kind of extended take on the 'cat jumping out' scare, the whole movie is geared to set-pieces that make you either jump, squirm or laugh out loud as a form of release. Not one you'll spend any time considering the deeper meanings of but certainly one that's very definitely recommended for a Hallow'een night in. 

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