Halloween special III: 3 movies guaranteed to scare the crap out of you

It’s the one night in the year when the ghosts come out to play…or so popular legend has it. So you’ve decided to ignore the egg-hurling crowds of kids that are threatening to break through your doorway in their hungry search for candy. Wise move – Halloween last year found me naively answering the doorbell, only to find about five youngsters with their hands stretched out in sweet expectation.

Trouble is, I only had two bars of diet chocolate and a couple of bags of pistachios available. How I escaped a good egging on that night is beyond me. Maybe it was my large(ish) mutt standing behind me. Thought she was the sort of dog who was scared of saying boo to a goose, her eyes did have a tendency to glow in the dark… Whatever it was, I escaped unscathed.

This year I’ll just leave a bag of candy by the door, switch the bell off and – should the weather include the occasional eggfall – let it rain all it likes. Judging by the amount of closed doorways I saw last year when I later left home, most of the neighbours had also opted for this strategy. Since it’s Monday and there is no convenient party to disappear to I’ll just have to make sure I have all the essentials with me at home.

If you’re thinking of entertaining – or maybe even spending a romantic Halloween en deux – this is a pretty good excuse to do the whole shebang. Appropriate (read nightmare inducing) DVDs, lots of munchies, dimmed lighting and you’ve got it! The following are my suggestions if you really want to up the ante when it comes to thrills and spills. Yes, spills tend to happen when scary movies and wine are involved!

Alternatives to the below three suggestions include the very obvious The Exorcist (it’s not included for the simple reason that I never found enough spine to watch it, which makes reviewing it a tad difficult) and The Shining (I mostly kept my eyes closed, which also makes a genuine review difficult). And if you’d rather listen to music than watch movies, you can check out my Halloween playlist here.

The Hostel

Fine, it’s nothing more than your classic torture porn. Which – judging by the way torture porn movies are always breaking box-office records and spawning sequels like the devil knows no tomorrow – works just fine with you lot. However I’d classify this flick as a tad more intelligent on the way it delivers the fear factor. Mainly because it is all too realistic and also because I have caught myself – on those rare occasions when travelling alone and finding myself in some semi-abandoned location – picturing exactly the same scenario depicted in this movie. So, I have a disturbing imagination… I’ve learnt to live with it.

Disturbed is exactly how you’ll feel by the time the end credits are rolling. And by disturbed, read ‘oh mama please hold my hand while I make my way to the loo’. This one is graphic, too much so for my taste in fact. But don’t make the mistake of dismissing it as yet another slasher movie. It’s not. And you’ll whimper. Just don’t bother with the sequels.

The Descent

I suspect this one actually tops the list of scariest movies ever. Period. There’s precious little bona fide gore in it. And even less clearly identifiable monsters. If you want me to clarify the freak-o-factor for you, suffice it to say that you get 1.5 hours of continuous, undiluted stifling darkness. Do not mistake this movie with The Cave, which is pretty much about the same topic but which goes nowhere near the sheer pee-in-your-pants aura of fear that The Descent manages to pull off.

The plot is simple: group of hot chicks go cave exploring and weird crap starts to happen. The first half of the movie creates a world of unending mental anguish, the kind of world where you know something bad is out there but you have no clue what it is and could somebody open the damned window please ‘cos you’re not sure you’re breathing any more.

That’s just the first half. The last forty minutes then proceed to take you on a depressing, psychozoid trip that never lets off even for a minute. The kind where you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not any more until finally…you kind of see a ray of light to lift you out of the soul-sucking blackness. And then the ending hits you.

Word of warning: only watch this movie if you can take real fear. We’re not talking slash and gore cheap thrills here, but potential for a serious mind freak.

Profondo Rosso

Dario Argento’s classic is titled Deep Red in the English translation, but should you decide to go for this one don’t you dare not watch it in its original language. If you’re old enough to be watching this one it means you practically grew up hearing nothing but Italian on TV, so you really have no excuse (this last bit only applies to the Maltese reading this).

Most people, if they had to recommend an Argento classic, would go for Suspiria. They’d be perfectly within their rights and if you decide to follow suit, I can tell you that it was this movie – and not Black Swan – that put the fear factor in anything wearing a ballet tutu. The score is haunting, a common factor in all Argento movies. He is one director who certainly gets the importance of music to help create the right ambience.

The fact that I’m recommending Profondo Rosso is a purely subjective choice that is tied to the circumstances in which I saw the movie. Which was in a small and dark hotel room in Dublin, waiting to catch the early morning flight back home, with the sound of traffic and the occasional ambulance driving past.  To the mix of creepiness in this movie, you can add a grotesque wind-up puppet whose appearance precedes murder, a music score that includes regular banshee screams and a “killer in the mirror scene”. Well, it’s easy to picture the state I got myself in by the time I was checking out.

Also, when it boils right down to it, Suspiria is a story about a bunch of witches who have it in for the heroine. Profondo Rosso is about a very human serial killer who starts bumping off the cast, one by one, while the hero tries to follow clue after increasingly macabre clue. Hmmm…cackling witches or crazed serial killers? Which one of the two am I more likely to encounter in a dark room? Well, hopefully neither – but you get the gist of why I find Profondo Rosso scarier.

This post was published on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta).



  1. titabuds says:

    Such a well-written article, Ramona. I got claustrophobia through your description of The Descent! Haha. I’m such a coward when it comes to horror movies. I can count in one hand those that I’ve watched, all of which can still give me chills w/ their memory. :(