The other night while watching the original Halloween I panned the horrible acting; the town sheriff is especially unbelievable. Yet, for reasons other than the actors’ performances, the 1978 film still scares me.
It’s the music. Director John Carpenter actually composed and performed the synthesized, repeating score, and every time it’s cued over the course of the movie, the viewer knows that Michael Myers is lurking. It increases the tension in otherwise simple scenes and lingers with the listener. It stirs anticipation until Carpenter reveals what you’re anticipating. And that’s scary, and a big reason why the film is considered a classic.
In the spirit of Halloween, here are some other scary movies that lingered with our newsroom staffers long after the credits rolled.
Quarantine Set in LA, a night shift reporter follows a routine police call to an apartment building, which they soon learn is home to some woman infected with something strange. She viciously attacks people, then they start viciously attacking other people. The CDC quarantines the building after the reporters are already inside. Everyone dies. One by one. Afterward, I moved my bed to a different spot in my childhood room so I could see if someone with rabies was coming after me through the door or window. And I also stopped watching scary movies. – Clare Menzel
Silence of the Lambs In hindsight, I was probably too young to have watched this psychological thriller when I did, but I’d begged my dad to see it after a friend piqued my adolescent curiosity with a vivid description of the film’s horrific plot. After initially spurning my request, my dad acquiesced, and watched the film with me. I almost couldn’t stomach the final climactic scene in which the young FBI trainee Clarice Starling closes in on the serial killer Buffalo Bill in a pitch-black basement room. It remains one of the most nauseating and upsetting experiences of my life. – Tristan Scott
Watcher in the Woods The scariest movie I’ve seen depends on how old I was when I saw it, but Disney’s “The Watcher in the Woods” from 1980 is still really scary to me now, and I’m 30. It’s creepy, there’s a missing girl, and someone is literally watching this family from the woods. You see it in that first-person point of view, so you KNOW it’s not just a trick of the imagination, seeing that movement out of the corner of your eye. I’m not sure what possessed Disney to make this movie, but I can tell you: Lion King this is not. – Molly Priddy
Seven When I was 12 years old, I found out why my parents warned me about watching scary movies. It was the summer of 1996, some friends and I somehow got our hands on a VHS copy of “Seven.” Up until then, the scariest film I’d seen was “Young Frankenstein,” which of course wasn’t supposed to be scary. I was a bit weak in the knees back then and still largely am. So you can probably imagine the level of trauma that all 127 minutes of “Seven” caused a precocious young boy. What’s in the box? I wish I didn’t know. – Dillon Tabish
Storm of the Century Without question, the scariest movie I ever saw was Stephen King’s “Storm of the Century,” a six-hour miniseries that aired on ABC when I was a kid. The film focuses on the fictional town of Little Tall Island, Maine that is pummeled by a Nor’easter that cuts the community off from the mainland. In the middle of it all, a stranger named Andre Linoge shows up and starts spilling everyone’s darkest secrets. He murders people at random. He tells the townspeople that he will stop haunting them “if they give him what he wants.” I won’t tell you what he wants, but it’s creepy. Set in my home state, perhaps the film hit a little too close to home. – Justin Franz
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