We polled our writing staff as well as some local horror-inclined film lovers to answer some questions about their perspectives of the genre. Our final question:
“What was the last film that scared you?”
Eric Bresler, Editor & Founder, Cinedelphia.com
The opening sequence of Martyrs (2008) made me uneasy enough to turn it off and wait until daytime to watch it. If only I’d known what I was actually in for, that’s a rough film, but a somewhat brilliant one.
Jill Malcolm and Ryan Silberstein, Cinedelphia Contributing Editor
Seeing that we’re a couple of unabashed babies, our pick is going to have to be The Woman in Black. If you don’t recall Jill’s answer to one of our previous questions, nothing gets her heart pounding more than haunted houses filled with Victorian toys that animate spontaneously. And while we generally dislike the jump scares that are prolific in haunted house films (it can be a cheap way to get scares from those of us who are easily startled), I think we found the physical fright cathartic by the film’s end.
J.T. Alvarez, Cinedelphia contributor
Most recently, The Conjuring had the most scares in it for me. That movie just did everything right, from the eerie pacing of the horror to the practical effects.
Lucas Magnum, Cinedelphia contributor and author
The last film to really scare me was The Strangers a few years back. While there have been a plethora of home invasion films before and since, none of them have handled that idea quite as well. I was double-checking the locks whenever I left the house and investigating strange noises in the night for weeks after seeing that one!
Kyle Harter, Cinedelphia contributor and filmmaker
Hate to say it, but Paranormal Activity.
Aaron Mannino, Cinedelphia contributor
Michel Franco’s After Lucia. Not a horror film, but more horrific than any I have ever seen. Shook me on a deep level because it accessed a horror of the real. It is a horror of things that could happen, and have happened, and continue to happen. It is the horror of humans as they are capable of as much evil as good without the provocation of demons or angels.
Madeline Meyer, Cinedelphia contributor
You know this is weird to say because I’ve watched it many times before but the last time I saw Silence of the Lambs I really lost it. I went to Oberlin College and Jonathan Demme came to present it at the opening of our new movie theater. I think maybe it had something to do with seeing it on the big screen for the first time. I also happened to be sitting next to this dude who was like “c’mon this isn’t scary.” It was the first time that the violence against women aspect of the film really rang true. Not only was I scared but I found myself actively distressed. Needless to say, when I came home and found moths banging at my window, I called a friend over to stay up all night and watch Seinfeld with me.
C.S. O’Brien, Cinedelphia contributor
Uhhmm, it’s hard to say. I’m not really scared by much anymore. I am affected mostly by things that pop out of nowhere. I tend to avoid modern gore, ’cause its just gross, but campy gore is muuuuch better. Uhhmm…I guess I saw The Conjuring and there were a lot of scary sounds and movements. Ghosts are cool too.
Robert Skvarla, Cinedelphia contributor
I don’t really get scared in the traditional sense. I think like most horror fans you reach a certain point where you become desensitized to the tropes and conventions of the genre and you build up an immunity. It leads you to search out films that are more disturbing, like a Cannibal Holocaust or an August Underground, the very extreme fringes of the genre, to test yourself and see if there’s anything that will make you flinch. I’ve found that what makes me flinch isn’t necessarily the jump scares, or the monsters, or the gore; it’s people. Films about damaged, broken people doing terrible things because they don’t have any other option, or they don’t see any alternative. One of the only films in recent memory that left me disturbed in that way is Lucky McKee’s May. A variation on the Frankenstein myth, May envisions its version of Victor as a woman driven to create life out of an overwhelming sense of loneliness. What gets me every time I return to it is its keen sense of observation. It’s able to distinguish true weirdness, those people who are inexplicably unable to function in society, from those attracted to the concept of weird as a form of rebellion but who will never really understand the pain it engenders. It uses that distinction to build such an immense wall of sadness and separation around its main character, you can almost empathize with her when she eventually resorts to violence because it’s not a stretch to see how she could get there. That’s what scares me — when you can get me to question my own sense of morality in relation to choices your monster is making.
Samm Deighan, Editor, Satanic Pandemonium
The only film that’s ever really scared me remains to be The Shining.
I teach a class on the Psychology of Horror at Rutgers and I recently showed my students Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre (1989). I hadn’t seen the movie in about ten years but was shocked by the imagery, especially when Fenix (hallucinates and) pulls the giant boa constrictor out of his trousers. Rarely do I have nightmares inspired by movies, however that night I dreamed of adopting a boa constrictor (which was uncanny as I would never want a snake as a pet) and then it escaping its tank and going missing in my house. The thought of a lurking giant snake in a domestic arrangement makes me shutter… It’s a testament to Jodorowsky that he can reach your subconscious so directly. I sure hope his new movie, his first in twenty-three years, La danza de la realidad (The Dance of Reality) gets released stateside ASAP.
Liam O’Donnell, Philly native and Cinapse contributor
The last film that scared me for real was the original Ju On. I watched alone, in my first apartment by myself, and I got freaked out. I hope it’s not cause I am afraid of Japanese children, or maybe that is why I now am? No idea. That film just hit some nerve and the first time the female ghost makes that inhuman noise I still get goose bumps.
Chuck Francisco, Horror Host at the Colonial Theatre
The Conjuring totally gave my goosebumps a workout. Great cinematography, solid acting from the core quartet, jump scares used more as punctuation marks to taut, drawn out suspense; James Wan did an impeccable job.
This is going to sound hilarious, but I can watch just about any genre without even batting an eye, but I don’t like alien abduction films. Combine that with a half decent found footage narrative and you have something that had me turning on all the lights in my place for a few days.