Tonight we end the top 10 countdown with one that was guaranteed to be in the list and three that may surprise you. Remember, fear is a very personal thing. Your list may look very different than mine and I’d love to see it, but I believe we’ll probably intersect on at least a couple of them…
4. Session 9 – Sometimes the set of a movie is enough to terrify, but in the case of Session 9, it did much, much more. Filmed in a real, abandoned mental institution, the Danvers building is a decaying, rusty cast member more important to the story than any of the human actors. Don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t act. It’s not alive; it’s dead. Its asbestos paint peels away to reveal the stories of its tormented patients. The cracked and peeling walls reflect the crumbling lives of the primary cast. Every black corner holds terrifying secrets.
The building cleaners begin to uncover some of these secrets as they listen to tapes from patient interviews. They hear the voices of several characters, all of them coming from the same person. A murderer. As the conflict and madness in the modern day story begins to crescendo, so does the intensity of the tapes. The final line of the movie literally (yes, I’m using literally correctly) sent a shiver up my spine.
This is easily the best example I’ve seen of letting the viewers imagination create the terror, and even though there may not be enough payoff for more popcorn movie-goers, you can’t question the creep factor of Session 9.
3. The Entity – Watching rape in a movie is always uncomfortable, but this movie takes it to a terrifying level. Wait! I’m not talking about anime tentacle porn, you can keep reading. I’m talking about violent, invisible demons. Despite the sexy cover (why oh why did you market it this way?), this movie redefines demonic possession.
Our heroine is not possessed by demons exactly… the demons own her. They follow her, violently violate her, and there is nothing… absolutely nothing, she can do about it. This is not a spooky slamming doors and rattling chains haunting… these assailants are savage. It’s been a while since I’ve seen The Entity, but if I remember right, she describes two small demons who hold her legs and one big one who torments her. We never see them.
How does that work? Honestly, until coming up with this list I had absolutely no idea. The effects were beyond my comprehension. We don’t see the demons, but we see them touch her skin. We see indentations where their fingers press. How? Apparently, it was done with some sort of heated air jets. Unbelievable.
Again, this is not an erotic movie. It’s a haunting, and a very nasty one at that. The worst part? Her house isn’t haunted, she is. There is no escape.
Did I mention this is one of those “based on a true story” movies?
2. The Exorcist - What? It had to be here! Leaving it out is like leaving Stairway to Heaven off a Top 10 Rock Songs list, isn’t it? How many pairs of underwear has this movie soiled?
I don’t need to say much because anybody who is visiting my site has probably seen this one many times. A little girl doing and saying things that make adults blush. Pea soup vomit. Spinning heads. Spontaneous urination. Swearing at priests. This movie grows from awkward to uncomfortable to unbearable as Captain Howdy tears the girl’s world apart.
Also “based on a true story.”
And the winner is…
1. Poltergeist – What the hell, Ethan? How dare you put a PG movie, written by Steven Spielberg no less, in the number one spot? Whoa there! Need I remind you:
This movie was originally given an R rating, until the ratings board let up. If I remember right, this one came up in arguments while they were trying to create the PG-13 rating. It was also directed by Tobe (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper.
What we have are a bunch of playful bumpitty-bump ghosts who amuse a family in their new house before unleashing holy Hell upon them. What starts with the death of a canary ends up with a gigantic spider demon strolling into our reality and taking bites out of people. On researcher pulls off his own face. Mud-filled pools pop out long-dead-and-buried Indians. TVs kidnap little girls. Psychic midgets set up elaborate inter-dimensional pulley systems (R.I.P. Zelda, you amazing and creepy little woman).
Afraid of clowns? They thought of you, too! Not only does this painted nightmare hide under the bed, his stretchy arms pull you under the bed with him! Many of the toys begin to animate, creating a whirlwind of plastic, led by the Incredible Hulk on a plastic stallion. What?
And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for this poor family, what else could the spooks throw at them?