It’s Halloween today, so whether you’re celebrating or pretending not to answer the door, you may be sitting down for a good dose of horror sometime tonight. Scary movies are a sacred part of pop culture, offering a rush of adrenaline that can leave us screaming in excitement, or pissing our pants in seemingly endless terror. Over the years, they’ve developed their own subculture within Hollywood, with films in the genre referencing one another, and adding new elements over the years to make it one of the biggest parts of cinema today. Scares in these films can come in unusual ways, so let’s take a look at some of the best ways these films keep us awake at night.
1. The Dolls
I went to watch The Conjuring in cinemas last year with a group of friends, or rather I sat in a cinema and stared at the ground while The Conjuring was playing in front of me. Every time I dared to look up, my eyes were assaulted with images of possibly the creepiest doll I’ve seen in some time: Annabelle. She’s got her own movie out this year, but reassured I will not be attending, because that bitch is crazy. Dolls, for some, are a cherished symbol of childhood, and seeing them turn murderous keeps us on our toes, even making us feel like we’ve been betrayed by own perceptions. If you were crazy enough to have a doll that even remotely looked like Annabelle as a toy, well then maybe it’s your own fault that these childhood toys are so creepy.
2. The Phone Call
Most would agree that answering the phone is a terrifying thing to do by itself, even without a serial killer on the other line to heckle us. Horror greats such as Scream and When A Stranger Calls, make having a yarn to a murderer over the phone central parts of their narratives, making hearing the phone ring when you’re home alone at night an unnerving experience for everyone. Heavy breathing, sudden hang-ups and fake voices are all standard-fare, and because we can’t see who’s on the other line, the image in our minds takes over, creating monsters out of thin air that send chills down our spine.
3: The Children
Doubling back to dolls, children work so well as horror symbols because we don’t believe they can be evil. When you see children, you see innocence, happiness and a sense of naivety that adults have long since lost. The Omen and The Ring have taught us many times over not to trust children, but their effectiveness as horror villains remains, as we can’t fight fostering affection for young’uns.
4. The “Found Footage”
There’s nothing like a little home-video to unsettle hearts and minds. The Blair Witch Project started a revolution when it came out in 1999, with it’s shaky hand-cam footage and even shakier acting paving the way for a host of imitators. Made on a $25,000 budget (and making a cool $250 million dollar profit), the film is a testament to how less is more when it comes to horror. Audiences are scared by what they can’t see, and there haven’t been many films like Blair Witch that have left so much to the imagination quite so well.
Though a bit played out now, Paranormal Activity brought new life to this sub-genre of horror film, and the trailer for the original film shows how scary it was back in 2007!
5. The True Story
As soon as you see the words, you know it’s all downhill from here on in. The line “The following film is based on real events” is something that sticks in the back of your mind for the entirety of any scary film that opens with it. Both The Poltergeist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are undoubtedly two of the biggest horror films ever, and they are both said to be based on actual accounts. As the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction, and while the actual story may be murky when it comes to what actually happened, letting the audience know that we live in a world where men make masks out of human skin leaves a lasting impression.