Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Top 10 Creepiest Movies

Creepy is a feeling. Creepy is an ambience. It is not merely being scared or disgusted. Many filmmakers tend to confuse this. While a creepy movie may be scary, a scary movie may not be creepy at all. It is this difference that separates good films from great films.
This list is for those who want to feel ‘creeped out’. Not all on this list are horror movies in the traditional sense. But all on this list paint a world for you that are indeed creepy.
While compiling such a subjective list I have to keep in mind that what I may find creepy is not what you might find creepy, and while asking the opinions of everyone I have talked to this week. I found that what is creepy for one generation is not what is creepy to the next. With that in mind, this list is chronological in order.

10. Nosferatu

nosferatu
 

Released in 1922. Nosferatu goes down in history not only as one of the earliest horror movies ever filmed, but certainly one of the creepiest films ever made.
Nosferatu is based on Bram Stokers 1897 novel Dracula. The production company changed a few things in the story because they were unable to acquire the rights to the novel. However they did not change enough aspects because Bram Stokers estate eventually sued the film company ‘Prana film’ for copyright infringement and won. All copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed but a few survived and Nosferatu is more popular today than ever before.
The lead role ‘Count Orlock’ [Dracula] was played brilliantly by the German actor Max Schreck. Oddly enough in German “schreck” means fright or terror. Mr. Schreck certainly lived up to his name in this film!
For a silent film, this is one of the creepiest movies I have ever seen. The mere sight of Count Orlock fills the viewer with dread and impending doom. At a time when the term “Special effects” had not even been coined yet, there are some surprising effects within this classic vampire film.

9. House on Haunted Hill

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Released in 1959 this is one of many horror “B Movies” that moviegoers couldn’t get enough of at the time. This film starred the late great Vincent Price who is best known for appearing in so many of these types of movies.
Also at a point in movie history when special effects were nothing like we enjoy now, director William Castle did a fantastic job of creating a creepy feeling in the viewer with candlelight, shadows and movement in this film.
The plot line is pretty simple. Five people are invited to stay the night in a haunted house by an eccentric millionaire, Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price). The power will go out and all windows and doors will be locked at midnight. Everyone that survives the night will be awarded $10,000. Of course at midnight, people start dying off!
Ironically, director William Castle was a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock noticed the wild financial success of House on Haunted Hill and decided to make his own ‘b’ horror film which would not only go on to achieve great financial success, but would also eventually make it to the this coveted and prestigious list…

8. Psycho (1960)

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Widely considered Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest film, this is one of the most recognized film titles in American cinema history. Although it did not win any of them, Psycho was honored with 4 Oscar nominations from the academy. In 1992 it was deemed culturally and historically significant enough by the library of congress as to be selected for preservation in their National Film Registry.
Filmed in black and white, few films since have created the stir this film has. Based around murder, voyeurism, suspense and insanity this film is burned into the minds of an entire generation of moviegoers as one of the scariest films they have ever seen.
I asked many generations for their list of “Creepiest movies” this past week. I asked people from the ages of 10 years old at the youngest, to 72 at the oldest. It became apparent to me that everyone in the generation that came before mine lists ‘Psycho’ as one of the scariest films they have ever seen. As a matter of fact I talked to two different men that admitted to me that to this day, when they stay in a hotel room they have to leave the bathroom door open when they shower. To see why I list this movie as creepy and not just scary you will have to watch it for yourself. Watch it alone. Watch it late. And watch it with all the lights off. You will see what I mean when I say “Creepy”

7. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Night of the living Dead presented some firsts that moviegoers had never seen previous. An African American Male as the lead character, a fully nude corpse lumbering around, and seeing a child brutally killing and eating her parents.
Prior to its release, the term “Zombie” meant someone who was enslaved to a voodoo witch doctor through a spell, or some type of mind control. Although the word zombie was never actually mentioned in Night of the living dead, this film is credited for transforming a zombie from the traditional voodoo curse to the now common concept of a person that rises from the dead and feeds on the living.
Initially disliked by critics, Night of the living dead later became recognized as a film with social significance. This film has been seen as a metaphor for everything from the cold war, the enemy in Vietnam to the inevitable corrosion of capitalism.
Night of the living dead was of course released before the MPAA rated movies. So during its time in theaters, anybody of any age was allowed to view it. This raised a lot of questions about censorship. The producers of the film found it nearly impossible to find a distributor for the film at the time, and Roger Ebert was quoted as saying in an early review of the film:
“The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying”

6. The Exorcist

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When it comes to classic literature, you must have compelling characters. There must always be a protagonist and an antagonist. These are just the rules of writing. We have come to know these characters as cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers and man against the aliens. But nowhere in cinema has history had good versus evil been as blatant as it was in The Exorcist.
Like Psycho was to the generation before mine, The Exorcist tops the list of most terrifying movies my generation has ever seen. Its concept is quite simple. God versus the Devil. A young girl is possessed by a demon and two Catholic priests must exorcize the demons out of her body.
So what makes this movie so creepy? In my estimation, it is the fear of the unknown. Can the devil or demons really control your body? What is happening to this poor little girl? Is it the devil or is it psychosis? Is it real or is it not. Even the Catholic Church itself tries to play down the whole practice of exorcism because of the obvious ridiculousness of the practice in today’s society, but there is this little known fact. William Peter Blatty, the author of the 1971 novel that spawned the 1973 film by the same name, admits that his fictitious novel is indeed loosely based on an actual exorcism performed on a 13 year old boy in Maryland in 1949.

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street

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In 1984 Wes Craven wrote and directed what my wife calls “A movie that f*cked up my life!”
This movie is not in this list because my wife was terrified by it as an 8 year old child, but because it is consistently recognized by the generation that came (shortly) after mine as the creepiest movie they had ever seen.
Time and time again, Movie studio’s and critics like to proclaim that the horror genre is dead.
Much like when a bell rings and a fairy get’s its wings…
When a pretentious overweight blow-hard critic spews his nonsensical eulogy for this genre, a great film is produced.
This film attacks the audience in a very vulnerable and personal place, a place that all of us spend one third of our lives, in dreams. Whether you are Mother Teresa or Genghis Kahn at some point you have to sleep. When you sleep you dream. When you dream, Freddie comes for you.
The only thing creepier than the movie itself is the sight of middle-aged women fawning over a teen-aged Johnny Depp!

4. Dead End

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I realize that I am making a leap from 1984 until almost 20 years later when Dead End was released in 2003. I am certainly not trying to insinuate that there were no ‘Creepy’ movies produced in this time period. But here is the problem. When you survey people on “Creepiest movies you have ever seen” everyone, no matter the demographic, reaches back to childhood. So this is a pick that future generations can think back to for their own creepy movie lists.
I firmly believe that Dead End is a very creepy film that will be remembered as one of the best for my children’s generation. Not widely known and not a big box-office hit, this is one of those sleeper films that most overlook but does deserve some accolades.
The premise is simple. A family (and the older daughter’s boyfriend) is in a car on their way to a nice Christmas dinner at the grandparent’s home. The dad decides to take a shortcut on a no name secondary road to not only shave some time off the trip, but for a change of scenery. For some strange reason, the road never seems to reach its destination and horror follows closely behind the family as they travel deeper and deeper into their own secrets and other creepy and horrifying mile markers along the way.
This is not a horror film in the traditional sense. It’s not even a ghost story in the traditional sense. It is simply a good film that will leave you with such a creepy feeling at the end that you will want to take a hot shower in hopes of scrubbing the creepy feeling away.

3. The Woodsman

the-woodsman
 

Yes that is Kevin Bacon you see there in the poster. No, you probably never heard of this film, and for good reason. It had a very limited release in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. It only made about $1.5 million in U.S. theaters at no more than 84 locations.
Kevin Bacon was critically acclaimed for his role in this film. This film was nominated for the “Grand Jury Prize” at the Sundance film festival as well as winning the “Jury Special Prize” at the Traverse City film festival.
So why have you never heard of The Woodsman? Because the subject matter of this movie is absolutely terrifying to every single parent in America.
Kevin Bacon brilliantly plays the part of ‘Walter’. A convicted child molester that has just been released from prison and has to adjust to life on the outside. He finds himself with a menial job at a saw mill, and a small apartment across the street from an elementary school that educates his biggest temptation, young girls.
While Walter meets a woman his own age at work (Kyra Sedgwick, Bacon’s real life wife) he also finds himself spending a lot of time with a young abused girl from the local school who likes to watch birds.
Mos Def plays the cop that abuses Walter verbally at every visit, and you never know if he is protecting our children or just abusing ex-convicts.
This is not a horror movie by any stretch of the imagination. It is a drama. But as a father to 3 young daughters, this ranks number one in my personal list of “Creepiest movies ever”.

2. Deliver us from Evil (documentary)

deliver-us-from-evil-documentary
 

Released in 2006, this film chronicles the real life story of Catholic Priest Father Oliver O’Grady and his alleged sexual abusing of hundreds of American children between the late 1970’s and the early 1990’s.
This man spent only 7 years in prison and was deported to Ireland. Documentary filmmaker Amy J. Berg caught up with Father O’Grady and interviewed him in Ireland in 2005. This powerful and terrifying film features interviews with the victims, victim’s families, court documents and a whole host of information that proves that the Catholic Church was not only aware of these atrocities, but went out of its way to cover them up.
On a footnote, our current Pope was shown to be quite instrumental in the Catholic Church cover up of Father Oliver O’Grady’s horrible actions, but was pronounced immune to prosecution by George W. Bush. Very Creepy.

1. Inside (French)

inside
 

I have to admit that this is not the only creepy thing that I have ever seen come out of France. After all, they did give us ‘Mime’.
But number one on this list (chronologically speaking of course) is a French film produced in 2007 called “Inside”.
It is not the “creepiest” film I have ever seen, but it is the creepiest film I have seen recently. The version I found did not have an English dub in it, just English subtitles.
The movie starts off with a pregnant woman in a horrible car accident that kills the father of her unborn child and leaves her and the driver of the other car severely injured. It then picks up on Christmas Eve just before she is about to give birth to the baby. She is at home alone when there is a knock at the door. The stranger on the other side explains an emergency and Sarah (The pregnant lead) refuses to open the door. Mayhem ensues.
I can’t tell you much about the film because chances are that you have not seen it yet. But I will tell you this. It is gory, violent and disturbing. This film is not for the squeamish! Grab a rag and a squeegee, some popcorn and a stiff drink. Sit back, turn out the lights and prepare to be CREEPED OUT!

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