Watch // Four films that will haunt you

Horror films and psychological thrillers are my roller coasters. For a long time, even a puff of creepy on the wind would keep me awake at night. A few years ago I decided to combat my sensitivity by consuming scary stories and pathetic horror films to build up my immunity to film-induced fear. 

Now that I have a critical and jaded exterior to protect me from being too unsettled, watching scary movies is fun – sometimes. There are a few films, whether they are identified as scary or not, that have imprinted their scenes on the back of my eyes. At night they replay, reminding me that no amount of self-constructed security is impenetrable from pure, sincere fear. 

The Shining

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. (IMDB)

The Shining gets an obvious mention here. Kubrick’s ability to build tension with tight framed, lingering shots, horrifying flashes of blood-soaked hallways and mysterious visions keep watchers wondering. The film has prompted a documentary and an incredible amount of fan theories dedicated to revealing the “true” meaning behind it. Surely, there is one strand of meaning, a hidden thread that explains everything.

I have my doubts.

What keeps me up at night about this film is the anticipation and anxiety Kubrick captures. I’m always waiting for the jump scare or the spooky monster. But he doesn’t deliver. Instead, he makes you agonize. And when creepy characters make their appearance, they are not cast in shadow but fully in sight. They know you better than you know them. They are not afraid. Which makes it all the more unsettling. (Check out this behind the scenes video shot by Vivian Kubrick, Stanley's daughter.)

The Mothman Prophecies

A reporter is drawn to a small West Virginia town to investigate a series of strange events, including psychic visions and the appearance of bizarre entities. (IMDB)

This is a favorite of mine. The mind-bending psychological thriller takes you through tragedy after tragedy making man face his ultimate fear: he's in control of nothing. John Klein is shown a devastating future and despite his best effort, there is nothing he can do to stop it. 

Mothman also has a philosophical underbelly. My favorite scene in the film is when John Klein is looking for others who have experienced Mothman and Alexander Leek gives him a personal theory:

Alexander Leek: If there was a car crash ten blocks away, that window washer up there could probably see it. Now, that doesn't mean he's God, or even smarter than we are. But from where he's sitting, he can see a little further down the road.

It’s creepy and thoughtful. I still remember my first time viewing the film, watching Christmas presents float. The story is so torturous that the ending is legitimately relieving. But fear of the Mothman and what he represents, our inability to prevent tragedy, will keep you awake.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

13-year-old Rynn Jacobs lives alone in a high-class Quebec small town, but unknown to the neighbors, she is leading a secret and dangerous life. (IMDB)

Don’t even ask me how I first saw this film. I’ve only seen it once, and that was enough. If you’re not afraid of 13-year-old girls now, you will be after watching this. This 1976 thriller starring a young Jodie Foster kept me enthralled. There is a novelty to watching older horror films, but this one has a lingering eeriness. Props to Jodie’s acting and to the writing.

There is an unspoken social code that women can’t be evil, especially when they're young so bearing witness to unapologetic death by the cleverness of a  girl destroys that ideal. Or at least manipulates it. Even the heartfelt romance is disturbing because it is sincere and inappropriate. She sets traps and captures those who threaten her. Her mysterious family makes her behavior seem genetic. And her one connection to humanity fails her. Creepy and weird, you won’t soon forget the girl who lives down the lane.

The Hotel New Hampshire

The film talks about a family that weathers all sorts of disasters and keeps going in spite of it all. It is noted for its wonderful assortment of oddball characters. (IMDB)

Okay, wow. How about not. The IMDB summary makes it sound like a Wes Anderson quirky family adventure. Imagine an Anderson film but darker and more disturbing. It is absolutely bizarre. Don’t even ask me to explain the plot. I have seen this movie several times and I just finished reading a detailed summary, but I still cannot tell you in sequential order what happens.

It is a rollicking ride minus any sense of positivity. A story so horrible and strange it becomes comedic. The film is based on the John Irving novel of the same name. Most disturbing is that every tragedy in this film is a legitimate fear. My favorite character, Lilly, is a dwarf (aka a 13-year-old playing a grown woman) who's writing career peaks early, leaving her distraught and dissatisfied in her work and life to such a degree she no longer has a desire to live. The fear being achieving your greatest dream and still being unhappy. And this is only one of many fears come to life. It's an incredible film, deemed a box office flop turned cult classic.

What's your favorite scary movie?


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