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Scary Movies: Trick or Treat?

ScaryJackoLantern I happen to hate scary movies -- how is being frightened fun? I've never had fun having the bejeezus scared out of me, which always happens with movies like The Ring or Candyman, both of which I shamefully yet honestly admit kept me sleepless several nights after viewing. These two are examples of more modern psychologically "scary" movies, both incorporating some amount of disturbing violence, but I hate the outright horror ones too. No gore for me thanks. If you'd prefer to go gore-free too, check out this list of top five scary movies for the squeamish.

I have a great many friends who love the chills and thrills, those goosebumps and frights, of a good scary flick, and I dutifully respect that. Yes, I admit I got a kick out of Blair Witch Project. (But the sequel was a joke.) It's all a matter of taste, no doubt.

Yet there is a category of scary movies for which I have the utmost respect, those that pull off the hardest thing this side of comedy: suspense. Suspense involves an expert's blend of anticipation, tension, and twists. There's the issue of how many hints to drop without giving too much away. How do you keep your audience riveted without confusing them? More importantly, how do you walk that fine line between those who want to try to figure out the game and those who want to be surprised? How do you keep your audience on track without pandering to their intelligence? It's such a tricky business, this suspense stuff.

AlfredHitchcock1 The movies that have succeeded most admirably, to my mind, are usually directed or influenced by one Alfred Hitchcock. Forget M. Night Shamalayan. (Am I the only person who thought Sixth Sense was silly and pretentious? Even I, solidly in the "surprise me" bunch, figured out early that the guy was dead. And the poor director has been forced to spend his entire career one-upping that twist, each subsequent attempt being a resounding bust.) Hitchcock had it all: the perfectly executed trickery, the delicate touch, the subtly that led viewers right where he wanted them to go, the timing, the pacing, the final blow.

WaitUntilDark Very much in the Hitchcock vein was the scariest movie I ever saw: Wait Until Dark. This film, directed by Terence Young in 1967, stars Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman who must fight off a group of thugs who believe she's in possession of a doll stuffed with heroin. The final sequence in which she must defend herself against her attackers is paralyzing. And it doesn't rely a bit on blood or guts or restless, angry ghosts or vengeful urban legends come to life. How original!

Now that is scary.  

--Anna Bengel

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