2. The Shining
If there are still rock-dwellers reading this article, The Shining is about a man who takes a job as a caretaker for a hotel that is shutdown during the winter months. He is to live on premises, in the hotel, only with the company of his wife, and psychic son. He is a writer, and recovering alcoholic. The few months, away from the world, will surely be good for his career and sobriety, not to mention, the bonding experience with the family. Well none of those happen. The wife is on a planet we have yet to discover, the son is a creepy little weirdo, and Jack Torrance, father of the year, quickly descends into madness.
I love this movie! It’s great, but certainly not without its flaws. Part of the reason this movie is both good and bad is its director. Stanley Kubrick is an outstanding filmmaker, but he was the absolute worse person to have directed this film. He’s too much about his film craft, and hidden messages and blah blah blah…Sometimes you just want to be entertained for two hours and not have to think about the moon landing, or the homo-erotic nature of the film, or the plight of the Native-American Indian. The film is very atmospheric. The shots of the hotel accompanied by that anxiety inducing music is scary in its own right. But as the film progressed it just became Jack Nicholson doing his best Jack Nicholson impersonation.
Ok, so rule number one-If you’re going to have your main character start of sane and have him slowly degrade into insanity, you must get an actor that the audience believes was sane to begin with. Jack Nicholson is bat-shit crazy as it is. Just him talking, with his high arched eyebrows and joker like smile makes him look crazy. So when he is telling his wife he’s going to bash her brains, while wielding an axe, it’s not scary, it’s funny. The moment he begins his mission to kill his family he is hamming it up from one scene to the next. The tension and dread that was felt in the beginning of the movie is taken away and replaced with Jack doing Jack. Oh, and in the end, when he is frozen in ice with that look on his face…come on! Hysterical, but not at all scary anymore!
1. The Conjuring
Ok, so The Conjuring is the scariest movie on this list, and for most of the movie, the suspense is very real. But man, this could have been the go-to horror movie of the decade. The great thing about this movie is the feeling of danger when nothing is really going on.
The movie opens as the Warrens, a husband and wife paranormal investigation team, are recounting a possession case to a class of students. The case featured a demon, a doll and two young ladies; a great way to get the blood pumping early in the film. The doll is absolutely terrifying to look at it, and the scene gets the anxiety going early and keeps it going often.
The film is about the Perron family who start to experience disturbing goings on in their new Rhode Island home almost immediately after moving in. From the moment we meet this family moving their stuff into the house, we have a sense of dread. What I love about a great horror movie is, it will never use “cheap” tricks to illicit fear. What I mean is, the loud ear piercing music, or a cat jumping out of a closet to make the audience jump. A great horror film uses the less-is-more technique. The Conjuring is successful for most of the film in doing this. After a good 45 minutes into the movie, we hear doors slam, the sound of laughter and a pair of clapping hands. Doesn’t sound too scary on the surface, but the Director James Wan did an excellent job with creating real tension.
I was sitting on the edge of my seat when Carolyn decided to join her children’s game. Very scary, until…the Warren’s come to save the day. It felt a little too ghostbustery to me; the psychic and the demonologist ride in, to take out the outlaw ghosts. Now, don’t get me wrong, for the rest of the movie it’s chills galore. Once the Warren’s meet the Perron family, ghosts start pouring out of the woodwork and I think that was part of my issue. Though I still think the movie was scary, I lost the sense of dread I had when the demon was picking on Carolyn. Somehow I feared for the Warrens the same I feared for the Perrons. Once they entered the scene, I was like, ok….they got this! I think it would have been much scarierhad they spent more time terrorizing the entire Perron family rather than have team Warren come in and start taking flack.