Aidan Myles Green: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. The original – and the only one, as far as I’m concerned.
I saw this gem during its limited release when trailers consisted only of crowd reactions and the “Demand It!” campaign was a real tool used (proudly by me) to expand the film’s release. Upon being shown the trailer, my interest was peaked and I decided on a whim to go with my cousin who had already seen the film once.
A line snaked down the stars of the theater and the buzz was electric. None of us knew what to expect, and a theater full of non-cynical, unassuming moviegoers was fully pumped to be scared shitless. And man, did it deliver.
I couldn’t sleep. My cousin could not sleep. We went to a Denny’s after the film for three hours just to postpone having to go back to a dark house where any given creak of a door could mean death. This film was subtle, low-key, and above all, MYSTERIOUS.
It hit a perfect nerve of making you feel scared, and even more terrified at not knowing what was scaring you. Its sequels are deemed “stupid” and “unscary” because YOU KNOW WHAT IS HAUNTING THW CHARACTERS. In the original you didn’t – you were just as helpless ad clueless as the protagonists were, and their terror became ours.
I dislike horror films, but this wasn’t horror. True terror. True suspense. A fantastic experience.
Jesse Blume: I don’t care if Aidan already chose Paranormal Activity as his pick, I’m choosing it too, and for good reason. No other film has ever truly terrified me the same way that one did.
I saw it back in college with Derick ‘d-rock’ Dotson when it finally came to Wichita Falls. Like everyone else, we were very excited to see what we would get. On our way into the theater, we met a friend of ours who is also a big cinephile. He and his friend had just left an earlier screening of the movie, and they were both very shaken by what they had seen. This only heightened our anticipation.
When showtime came, we quickly realized that our audience was going to be a good one. During the first silent nighttime scene, some smart ass a few rows behind us let out a mock scream. Everyone in the theater laughed at that. But later, when stuff was really going down, the entire audience was still involved. When Micah brings out the Ouija board, there was not a single person in that theater who wasn’t screaming “You’re a dumbass!” and some much more vulgar things at the screen.
Audience ate every moment of that film up. In the penultimate nighttime scene, we were all screaming in terror. And when the movie was over, there was a quiet but rushed stampede to get out of the movie theater.
On a personal note, I was so effected by the movie that on the walk back home, I was jumping it every unusual noise. It didn’t matter whatever it was a pecan falling out of a tree, or a fish jumping in the pond, I would freak out. “What was that?!” Derick had to spend about 45 minutes calming me down, by reminding me it was still a movie. Despite his reassurances, when I returned to my bed at midnight, I didn’t fall asleep until 6 AM. I still don’t know how I made it to my class the next day!
Haters gonna hate, but I don’t care. Nobody can take that experience away from me. It was by far the greatest audience experience I ever had, and it’s easily the most terrified I have ever been of any film.
Brandon Groppi: INSIDIOUS. I can say that next the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY this film scared the living hell out of me in the theater. James Waan’s atmosphere in the film was (dare I say) haunting. It was a haunted house flick that I had no expectations for. My favorite thing I noticed about it was that there was not a single “false scare” (i.e see a hand coming for a character off screen and its just a friendly. Or a suspenseful shot that holds on for a while with no pay off) Everything is guaranteed to scare you. I remember one scare in particular that made me go from sitting upright in my chair to laying down in fear in my seat. It was a very chilling film granted at one point it does push its limits a bit but my suspension of disbelief is very broad with horror films. Absolutely dreaded and loved this film experience. I gladly own it on blu-ray.
Derick ‘d-rock’ Dotson: AUDITION hands down. I think the last 45 minutes of that movie might be every man’s worst nightmare.
Sandy Cilla Stachowiak: Horror and thriller are my two favorite movie genres, with horror as #1. So, I really wanted to think hard about this topic. However, no matter how many movies I went over in my mind, “Evil Dead”, “13 Ghosts”, “The Amityville Horror”, I kept going back to the one movie that still scares me to this day more than any other. There is one movie that still gets my heart racing and my blood pumping when I watch it and no matter how many times I have seen it, it STILL scares me. That movie is the original, 1978, John Carpenter classic, “Halloween”.
After all of the killings had been done, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) discovered the bodies of her friends in the house across the street from where she was babysitting. That was when the movie really got good. Michael Myers made his appearance to Laurie and the chase began. When she finally made it out of the house and ran limping back across the street with Michael right behind, the nail-biting really began in this movie.
However, the ultimate, scariest moment to me was toward the end, after Laurie made it back across the street and went upstairs. She hid in the closet until Michael found her and then stabbed him with a coat hanger. She got the kids out of the house thinking she had killed Michael aka The Boogeyman. As Laurie squatted down by the door, you could see Michael lying on the floor behind her. It was silent. And then…Michael sat straight up as the music mimicked his move. And then…he turned just his head to look straight at her and then came the music again. Wow…it actually gives me goose bumps just thinking about that scene.
The story, the directing, and even the music all worked together perfectly to make this ’78 classic the movie that I would consider the scariest of all time.
Rick Tym: For this Renegade writer, it all comes down to The Exorcist. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, maybe it’s because my dad let me watch stuff he shouldn’t have let me watch at a young age. This movie haunted me for years with its uncompromising depiction of innocence corrupted by incomprehensible evil. It also shook and still shakes me with the its depiction of the crisis of and reconnection to faith (even as a someone who would generously call himself “nonpracticing” these days).
Over time I began to appreciate The Exorcist as a drama just as much as a horror film; maybe even more so. Partly because of the elements of faith I mentioned above, and also because it is a story of a single mom and a crisis with her daughter that, while of a demonic nature in the film, could be symbolic of psychosis, drug use, even puberty. That’s why I hold the movie in such high regard; Blatty, Friedkin and company crafted a piece of art where there’s so much up for interpretation.
And then they went and rereleased the thing in 2000. Even though I was a weathered fan, having watched the film a number of times on DVD, nothing prepared me for the experience of seeing The Exorcist on the big screen, in cinema surround sound, with that damned spider walk scene reintroduced, blood and all, thanks to modern technology. That, and the rest of the film, still gives me the chills to this day. So much else to say about it; the soundtrack, the practical and animatronic effects, the acting, the direction. It’s just a classic horror movie — and just a classic, period.
Caliber Winfield: I had to turn off the original Scream when I was 13 because the beginning scared the hell out of me. I watched The Grudge with 2 of my friends in broad day-light, and still there were two moments when I literally screamed outloud twice. Keep in mind though, I screamed like a lumberjack. The Strangers though, that was one of those movies that got into your bones. There were so many things that built this movie into a monster. From the desolate setting, the masks worn by the killers, the methodical, prolonged stalking, and that God-awful music. Just look at the poster, it tells you everything you need to know. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself.
“Why are you doing this?” “….because you were home”
Shawn S. Lealos: The Ring – You know, the idea of the movie isn’t realistic – you watch a movie and then you die in a couple of days. However, this is one of the only J-styled horror movies that actually did it justice (The Grudge was complete garbage). The original Japanese movie was good, but I saw the U.S. version first – alone – during a matinee in a theater that was almost empty. I swear to God, this movie freaked me out. I had trouble falling asleep for a few nights after seeing it, and that never happens to me. I don’t know if it would have the same effect now, but that is because I have avoided watching it again. The Ring really messed me up after seeing it.