October is a special time of year. It comes fast, and leaves just too quickly for anyone to know what hit them; I can’t believe it’s halfway over! The tempurature starts to cool, (unless you live in Houston, like me, in which case the weather just stops being consistently 200 degrees every day) the sky is bluer than ever, and even the air itself seems to change color, or at least it does for me. I love settling in to the creepy atmosphere of it all; you get an excuse to stab holes in pumpkins and shove fire in their heads, hang up fake spiderwebs and orange/purple lights, eat candy corn, (because candy corn consumption outside of October is just wrong) and scare the shit out of small children without getting arrested. That’s my idea of a good time.
By far, my favorite part of October aside from dressing up is getting to watch my favorite scary movies, and the new ones that come out in theaters. The fact that I spend 365 days a year watching them anyways doesn’t quell the fact that enjoying them this month enhances how special they are to me.
Now, I’m no movie critic, or at least not professionally, and in fact, I tend to disagree with most of their opinions on horror movies in general. I am however, a professional horror enthusiast. I was raised with it, I revel in it, and enjoy it consistently. Though I love being creeped out, have my whole life, and am admittedly easy to scare and startle, I’ve been finding it hard in recent years to be truly frightened of anything Hollywood churns out. Its all over processed regurgitated bullshit; but there are some movies that managed to stand out in my mind and truly jar me. Some scared me to the bones and back, making it harder for me to sleep at night. Fortunately for you guys, (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I tend to like scary movies that everyone else pretty much hates. Now, these are by no means the only movies who have ever scarred my mind and disturbed me out of my wits; I was going to make a whole list of those, but what fun would that be? Its much more entertaining for me to address films I found original and creepy in their time, but never quite hit the mark for some people. Plus, you can all have fun joking about how stupid it is that they scared me at all, unless of course you like them as well, in which case we can commiserate. This list will probably contain some spoilers, and because I hate people who whine about spoilers, I’m giving this warning. SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DON’T WANT SOME OLD ASS SCARY MOVIES NOBODY LIKED RUINED FOR YOU, READ NO MORE!
Lets start off with some movies that scared the peanuts out of me at the time, but don’t have the same effect on me anymore.
#6: Darkness Falls
The Premise: Darkness Falls is a movie about a when kind old woman who exchanged childrens’ baby teeth for gold coins was wrongfully accused of murdering two children who turned up unharmed a few days after they hanged her. Before her death, she cursed the town of Darkness Falls, “What I took before in kindness, I will take forever in revenge.” Before the lynching, she suffered a house fire and was horribly disfigured, sensitive to the sun, and only came out at night. When she did, she wore a porcelain mask, and hated it when people looked at her.
Present day, there’s an old urban legend that when you lose your last baby tooth in Darkness Falls, the “Tooth Fairy” will visit you to leave you your coin; the only catch is if you look at her, she’ll kill your ass. Our protagonist, Kyle Walsh, watched his father get murdered by the Tooth Fairy when he doesn’t believe there’s a monster in Kyle’s room. He turns into a PTSD paranoid adult, and his childhood sweetheart’s little brother is suffering the same plight. That being, they saw her, but managed to escape the night of, therefore, she would chase them both their whole lives until they finally slipped up and fell asleep in the dark.
Why Everyone Hated It: Rotten Tomatoes gave it one star, and a whopping 9% rating. The audience gave a slightly higher one, at 34%, but that’s still not a whole lot. The critic quote used is, “A derivative movie where the scares are few and things don’t make much sense.”
One Metacritic user says, “I had more laughs than scares while watching this. The acting was a hilarious and the plot not thought out at all, like they were desperate to just make a movie. The “demon” chasing them was quite amusing as well; the way it was set up was very unbelievable. The appearances she made were totally random and put whenever the movie seemed too “dull” for the director. It was either a great comedy or a horrible horror film.”
I think that not a lot of people were actually frightened by the Tooth Fairy herself, and felt the narrative was disjointed, with not enough scares, and sub-par acting chops.
Why I Loved It: Listen, I had one of those creepy ass porcelain masks hanging up in my room at the time of this movie’s release; I also hadn’t lost my last baby tooth. At 13, I was a little behind, and actually still have a few baby teeth. Oh well, just bad genes I suppose. Anyways, not only did I find the movie’s monster very frightening, it is the premise of the movie that really chilled me. If you screw up and look at her when you wake on the night of losing your last baby tooth, she’ll slash your ass to ribbons. If you manage to escape, you have to live in fear your whole life, only sleeping in the light, since light is the only thing you can use to stop her. Light is the only thing you can use to stop her. Think about that for a minute. Most demons, entities, witches, vampires, etc, have more than one limitation, and some are easy to utilize. Salt, holy objects, mirrors, words, what have you. All you can use against her is light, and it can’t just be a janky ass candle, it has to be enough life to cover your whole body.
What happens when the lights go out? What if they go out while you’re sleeping? Batteries go dead, power can be cut off without warning, candles are extremely fragile. Her only weakness isn’t even something we can completely control; that, along with her spooky mask and disfigured face coupled with one hell of a vendetta against anyone who sees her, made her an effective monster for me.
Spookiest Scene: The most jarring scene BY FAR is when the Tooth Fairy murders Kyle’s father. Its a big deal as a kid to think that not even your parents can save you from the monsters. The frame where Kyle has hidden in the bright bathroom to evade her pans out to her hovering just above the door, waiting for her chance still gives me goosebumps.
#5: Ghost Ship
Premise: A team of maritime salvagers are given information by a stranger of an old ocean liner, The Antonio Graza, that disappeared completely during its maiden voyage in the 60’s. When they get there, they’re greeted by danger, as most of the ship is collapsing, and ghostly entities; one of which is trying to help them. Their boat unfortunately gets blown up, leaving them stranded. They eventually find out that they’re not the first salvage crew to have been there via finding a digital watch and, well, the bodies of the first crew. They suffer creepy visions that eventually lead them to their gruesome deaths one by one. The protagonist, Epps, who is being helped by the ghost of a little girl named Katie, is shown a vision that reveals the stranger who led them to the Graza is actually a demon just shy of enough souls to take the ship to hell with him, so he’s spent the last few decades luring more aboard, using a gratuitous amount of gold and visions to spur them to sin out of greed, lust, envy, and wrath; he can only collect souls that are impure.
Epps tries to blow up the ship, and after a quick battle with the demon in question, succeeds. When she does, all of the souls trapped on the ship are able to escape, passing on to the afterlife. She is picked up out of the water by another ship, and wakes up in an ambulance to find that the demon is loading his damned gold onto another ship, and her dead crewmen are his new lackeys, ready to continue reaping souls on the open water.
Why Everyone Hated It: Rotten Tomatoes gave it a slightly higher score at 14%, but critics were still damning. “With a plot as creaky as the boat, Ghost Ship fails to deliver the scares.”
Metacritic users say, “Launched with a few surprising touches and a disturbingly bloody prelude, horror pic collapses under the weight of its own dull conception and weak direction, dialogue and character portraits.”
I can see why some people thought the plot moved slow, it does get a bit redundant. Some people thought the scares weren’t worth it, and the acting wasn’t believable, including character development. The ending was also received with scrutiny.
Why I Loved It: Scares not worth it?! This movie never stopped scaring me! From the ghostly visions to the gruesome deaths, I was disturbed by the whole thing. Its part of why I never want to set foot on a cruise; in the open water, anything could happen. Any disaster could strike, and there would be nothing you could do about it, especially if your radio decides to take a nap. The only thing around you is water and things in the water that want to eat you. You can either wait until you run out of food, or try and use a life boat to get to safety, but chances are still slim that you’ll survive.
The whole atmosphere of the film, and ships in general are creepy to me. Dark corridors, creaky metal, and dank conditions are a perfect recipe for scares, which in my opinion, are delivered. I had no problem with the acting, and found the character development satisfying. A few characters are unlikable, but you really get a sense of how much the crew cares for one another; they’re like a family, and when it starts to fall apart, you feel bad not only for their deaths, but also because they are losing one another. You begin to understand how they tick when their unique sinful behaviors are revealed, and ultimately, are what dooms them.
I loved the twist ending! This doofy guy that brings them information on how to make a shit load of money is actually an insidious soul collector hell bent on dragging them, well, to hell. He does a complete character flip and becomes a threatening and sinister enemy, even tricking Epps at one point that he’s part of her crew to stop her from blowing up the ship.
The soundtrack also deserves an honorable mention, and in fact, my favorites are the bookends of the movie. “Not Falling” by Mudvayne, and “My Little Box” by Gabriel Mann.
Spookiest Scene: My favorite scenes are the flashbacks of the Graza before she was the Ghost Ship. The intro tells of the crew that, motivated by the gold aboard, poisons some guests, cuts others in half with a snapped wire on deck, and kills others execution style in a hail of bullets within the swimming pool. The other flashback scene, revealed to Epps by Katie to show her the truth, shows the events leading up to the big reveal. The crew kills the guests, An Italian performer kills the crew, and the soul collector kills her, marking them all for damnation. Katie is hanged. It was so disturbing, and set to “My Little Box”, one of my favorite cinematic twist reveals.
#4: Stay Alive
The Premise: After the death of their friend, a group of young adults come into possession of the last game he beta tested before dying. They decide to play it in his honor, and it ends up being the biggest mistake of their lives. They have to recite a creepy incantation for the game to even allow them to play, “Come to me, clouds. May you rise as an evil storm born to rip them open. Let the cover of night bear witness and destroy those who resist so they shall harm me not. Let the blood of many cleanse me, preserving beauty eternal, I pray you.”
The game was adventure horror loosely based on Elisabeth Bathory, the very real countess who murdered over a hundred of the girls in her employ because she thought their blood made her look younger. When townspeople realized what she had done, they bricked her up inside her tower and left her to die. She hated mirrors, because she felt that they made her look like an old hag, spurring her vanity driven murders.
After playing the game and turning in, one of the players, Miller, is murdered in his office in the same manner his character dies. The group decides to make a pact to never play the game again, ridiculous as a killer game sounded. The next to die is run down by a horse drawn carriage because he made the mistake of pausing his game as opposed to turning it off, and through this the group finds out that the game can play itself, with or without their input. October, who’s brother was killed by the carriage, sees a vision of Elizabeth sneaking around in an abandoned house nearby, and attempts to kill her with a nail gun; according to occult lore, witches can be killed with nails and fire. What she doesn’t realize, is that her game is still playing, and the character is in danger. Needless to say, she’s unsuccessful, as the ghost of Bathory isn’t corporeal, and can’t be harmed.
They track down the game’s programmer, and find that his plantation mirrors the over world of the game. He is completely obsessed with Bathory, and later return to try and get to the bottom of the game’s unnatural power to discover him dead, and Elizabeth’s tower in the backyard of his plantation. They’re greeted with the ghosts of the girls Bathory killed. When they finally get to the tower, they find Elizabeth’s real body, preserved by the curse, and try to kill her with nails, like October. When that fails, they set her on fire, hoping to end her reign of terror.
Flash forward; the game is being mass produced and unboxed at game shops everywhere, and Bathory’s ghost is seen still waiting in the window of her tower.
Why Everyone Hated It: Stay Alive also got a whopping 9% from RT, though over half of the viewers rated it positively. “A by-the-numbers teen horror flick, Stay Alive fails to exploit its premise for any real scares.”
MC users report why they disliked it, “Stay Alive is death porn without the porn: Director William Brent Bell’s pre-gore cutaways should enrage even those horror buffs for whom suspense is irrelevant, to say nothing of the fact that the movie’s only real scare tactic is playing what sounds like a reverbed electric razor on the soundtrack.”
I don’t think many people found the ghost of Bathory Frightening, because she’s seen too immediately and often; a big scary movie no-no that a lot fall victim to, and thought the story was unbelievable. Elizabeth Bathory’s castle was not, after all, in Louisiana, or even on this continent. People who aren’t gamers would be separated from the premise, because non-gamers would find it unbelievable that a game could kill someone. All in all, I think people found the story just a bit to fantastical to get immersed in; a lot of the gaming related scares were lost on them.
Why I Loved It: I am a gamer, am familiar with the occult, and was scared by the ghost of ‘Liz, and the disjointed movements of the ghosts of the children she murdered. I’m also very familiar with the real story the character was based on, which is chilling enough on its own. When something awful is about to happen, the players’ game controllers vibrate. While that by itself isn’t very frightening, it was the sound that chilled me. For years after seeing the film, the sound of a controller vibrating gave me goosebumps, which is unfortunate, because video games are a big part of my life.
I found the idea of dying in a game being able to determine your death by a ghost that “haunts” it very scary, especially if you can’t control if the game is playing you or not! Having to recite an incantation to be allowed to play the game was a big no-no; I’m a big believer that words with enough power spoken out loud can get you into some serious trouble. This ghost also had very few weaknesses; mirrors and fire, and fire only affected her physical body.Nothing else could kill her, and if you were close enough to her to get her to look in a mirror, you were probably fucked anyways.
The atmosphere was spooky, the characters, though not well developed, obviously cared about each other very much, and I’m a big fan of emotional realism, especially in horror flicks. I saw this movie in theaters with my mom. (Bless her for being the main reason I’m so in love with all things horror.) I remember asking her if she thought they would release a game for the movie as a publicity stunt. She replied with a deadpan, “You’re not playing it.”
Spookiest Scene: The most jarring scene for me was probably the first of the gaming group that dies, Miller. He’s in his office, all alone. Empty office buildings at night are scary enough, but when he quits the game, he begins to see shadows and spirits in the hallway. His controller, which he’s dropped on the floor, begins to vibrate (that awful sound) furiously. He’s then met with the spirit of Bathory, who pins him to a desk and segments his head and neck with a gigantic pair of shears.
While the last three films spooked me solid when they came out, and years afterward, I can hardly be frightened by them any more because I know the scares so well. These, on the other hand, still make me want to cry and sleep with the lights on forever.
#3: Paranormal Activity
Premise: A normal couple starts experiencing some very paranormal occurrences when the man of the house, Micah, buys a high tech video camera and starts recording everything after an suspected break in. He begins to notice his girlfriend, Katie, has been sleepwalking and staring at him during the night. She is very vague when she talks about her and her sister being haunted by an malevolent entity when they were children, and she believes it has followed them there. Micah goes on to capture things moving by themselves, shadows, coupled with voices, loud noises, growls, and thuds both caught on film and heard by the couple in the wee hours. He takes none of it seriously, and constantly taunts the entity.
One night, following noises up to his pull down attic, Micah discovers a picture of Katie as a child. When he reveals it to her, she becomes very frightened, because her childhood home burned down and she hadn’t seen the picture since. During the course of the movie, they invite a medium, Dr. Fredrichs, into their home to shed some light on the situation. He’s disturbed by the home and informs them that the spirit is indeed evil, and they should not taunt or pay it any attention, because these kinds of entities draw power from fear. He recommends they get in contact with a demonologist he knows, who is conveniently abroad and unreachable.
Micah continues to taunt the demon, yelling insults at it, tries to use a Ouija Board to contact it, and use baby powder in the hallway to prove to Katie its not real. They lay down the powder, go to bed, and wake up later to reveal hoof-like prints in the powder. They invite Fredrichs one more time, but he refuses to even stay in the house, and warns them to leave.
Katie is eventually possessed by the demon, and after murdering Micah, disappears, still at large.
Why Everyone Hated It: PA is the first positive rating from RT, at 83%. Users, however, were not quite as impressed. RT’s quote is positive, “Using its low-budget effects and mockumentary method to great result, Paranormal Activity turns a simple haunted house story into 90 minutes of relentless suspense.”
MC had some positive user reviews as well, but some were downright scathing, “Don’t believe the hype: Paranormal Activity may be a lot of things, but the words “scary” and “movie” are not among them. It is instead nothing more or less than an excruciatingly tedious YouTube gag cleverly marketed to go viral in the broadest and most box office-friendly way.”
Though this movie was a pilgrim in the “found footage” horror genre, many people thought the progression of the film was slow, the premise wasn’t scary, that the spooks were few and far between, and in the end, not effective. I think the reason this movie gets a lot of negative attention is also a result of gratuitous sequels, the first two of which I quite enjoyed, and also love how well they all tie in to the original, especially the 5th spin off, “The Marked Ones.” The fourth one, however, is just hot garbage. I think people got tired of hearing about it, and if they watched them out of sequence, probably found the first film redundant and not scary. There’s very little visual scares, mostly atmospheric and subtle ones; not for everyone.
Why I Love It: Paranormal, demon based (excluding possession and excsorcism, that’s not scary to me) haunted house, object, boat, etc, movies are downright my favorite. As I mentioned, my mother has always led me to have an open mind about these things. She believes in ghosts, hauntings, demons, and spirits, and some of our best bonding moments came from going to the theater to enjoy these movies together; so of course this movie floored me!
Though I did find it slow, what did happen gave me goosebumps. The childhood haunting, the unexplained picture showing up out of nowhere, the growls, the footsteps, the creepy sleepwalking. This was one of the first “found footage” movies that cropped up in the wake of The Blair Witch Project, so the sub-genre wasn’t tired to me at the time, which it can be now, if not done properly. I wasn’t used to seeing the creepy videos play out what was happening in the couple’s home around them at night. There were very few jump scares, which is a plus, and tons of bristling moments that stuck with me long after the film ended.
Now, I saw this movie by myself, weeks after its release. My Ex-Boyfriend hated scary movies, didn’t believe in ghosts, and wouldn’t come with me. The theater was empty, save for a couple behind me, and I spent that entire 90 minutes with my hands over my eyes and my legs curled to my chest. After it ended, both the couple and myself rushed out of the theater like our clothes were on fire. I was on edge for the rest of the day.
Spookiest Scene: While not visually terrifying, the hooves appearing in the baby powder was by far the most flooring and goosebump inducing moment for me. Up to that point, Katie and Micah didn’t know the entity troubling them was any kind of “demon”, the had no idea what it was. The prints in the powder solidified the fact that this spirit was something else. Something unknown; not a ghost, maybe not even a demon, and that’s the scariest part of all! Whatever it was, it had never been human.
#2: House On Haunted Hill
Premise: A group of people are invited to a birthday party for Evelyn Price, the wife of an eccentric millionaire. What’s so weird about that? Aside from it being in an abandoned mental asylum, she has no idea who anyone on the guest list is, and her husband, Stephen, doesn’t claim to know who they are either.
The asylum was shut down in the 30’s after patients escaped from their cells, killing nurses and doctors mercilessly. Due to the fact that Dr. Vannacut; a sociopathic lunatic who brutally tortured and murdered his patients, performing medieval experiments on them, rigged the asylum in a way that he could shut it down if need be, locking everyone inside. The patients triggered it, a fire started, and everyone who had managed to survive was burned alive.
The party’s theme is a gruesome one; Mr. Price offers all guests $1 million if they remain through the night, those who flee surrender their money into the pot, and even gives them guns as a “joke”. The gates are mysteriously activated, and the hosts and guests, along with the owner of the home, are trapped inside.
As they explore the decommissioned asylum, they find grotesque experiments and contraptions. Bisected humans and even a horse, medical anomalies, and horrifying tools. Some see horrible, demonic looking figures and voices. One by one, the guests and hosts are drawn in and killed by the awful apparitions in the hospital, but the bodies disappear. Its later discovered that all of the guests were actually descendants of nurses and doctors previously employed at the hospital, explaining the mysterious guest list.
Eventually, the bricked up room the asylum’s “darkness” was trapped in is opened, and it escapes, consisting of not only the souls who’ve died in the structure, but all responsible as well. The two remaining characters, Sara and Eddie, flee to the highest point of the towering building, where they’re confronted by the darkness. It tries to lure Sara into it by showing her the face of one of the other guests she bonded with, but the ghost of the building’s owner and caretaker appears, flipping the switch and opening a window for the two to escape. The light forces the entity back, and they get out just in time for the bars to snap shut behind them.
They escape with the money, but soon realize they have no way to leave, with the ocean thousands of feet below them and no way to find their way down.
Why Everyone Hated It: It got 27% on RT, and just under twice that score from users. “Unsophisticated and unoriginal film fails to produce scares.”
MT’s consensus is much the same, if not a bit worse. “The horrors of Haunted Hill might have worked for children, but sadly the true horror here is how ridiculous, rickety and perplexing the twist is, and despite the successful, seductive performance by Janssen, this gothic B-movie is a nauseating waste of time.”
Even with an all star cast of characters, audience members felt that the acting wasn’t great, the story was overly complex, and the effects were worthless and not scary. The asylum came off as confusing and convoluted, and ultimately, the traps didn’t make sense to some people.
Why I love it: I have no idea what any of those people are talking about. I rented and watched this movie with a group of friends for my 9th birthday party, (which should give you some insight into my tortured, horror loving psyche). The visuals are still disturbing to me; failed experiments, dissected humans and animals, the gory deaths, and the asylum itself all lent themselves to the overall insane atmosphere in the movie. It’s an asylum, where tortured humans live and die. A lot of people still believe these places are prime hot spots for paranormal activity.
The voices and apparitions are so frightening; they’re mutilated and jittery, reminiscent of some Silent Hill monsters. The unrest between the characters’ relationships enhances negative feelings and makes the viewer feel even more uneasy. I didn’t find the bad CG effects distracting, I mean, it was the 90’s, and I was 9. I was also used to cheesy horror movie effects.
The fact that the entity itself, again, wasn’t a “human” soul, and wasn’t something I could comprehend made it more jarring. It was aptly named the asylum’s “darkness”, because it was a huge culmination of damned and tortured souls all condensed into the same “being.” After its released, the hospital turns into a downright horror show, at times manifesting physical teeth to try and “eat” Sara and Eddie as they attempted their escape.
Just the idea of being trapped in a terrifying asylum filled with disturbing objects and spirits, all topped off by a downright evil final boss is really why this movie has stuck with me, and I’m still affected by the imagery.
Spookiest Scene: At one point, one of the guests is forced into a kind of house-of-mirrors type chamber, where he begins to hallucinate. In one hallucination, he’s being operated by disfigured nurses, and thrown into water. When he opens his eyes, he sees a nude woman that appears to be dead floating down there with him. She fades into the darkness only to reappear moments later, screaming with a face that’s 3/4’s mouth and gnashing teeth. Still one of the most effective jump scares I’ve ever been subjected to!
#1: The Grudge
Premise: A house in Japan is stained by the woe and rage of a family who’s patriarch brutally murdered them, including his 8 year old son and their cat, then later killing himself, because his wife was in love with and stalking an American professor, who kills himself at the beginning of the movie due to guilt when he hears of her fate.Years later the house is vacant and for sale; an American family; Matthew, Jennifer, and Matthew’s mother are relocating to Japan due to job placement and are viewing the home. Aside from Matthew’s mother, who suffers from dementia, seeming a little off and staring at the ceiling below the attic, everything seems normal, and they move in.
Cut to Karen, a hospice worker, who is called to the home in place of Yoko, who hasn’t been reporting to work. She finds the house in disarray, and locates the grandmother, who will not speak and only stares off into various parts of the house. After cleaning up and giving the ailing old woman a bath, she discovers a child and a cat duct taped into the closet leading to the attic in the home; he is unresponsive and says very little to her. She calls the office with her concerns, and eventually goes to tuck the old woman in, only to find she seems to be having some kind of seizure. She sits up in bed, gasping, and when Karen turns around, she sees an entity descend from the ceiling.
When authorities arrive after Karen does not return to work, they discover the old woman has passed away, and the couple in dead in the attic, having been mutilated. Throughout the movie, Karen is haunted by Kayako, the entity that resulted from the horrible deaths that occurred in the house. Eventually Yoko is found by her boss, wandering the halls of the office with her jaw ripped off. Matthew’s sister, who was with them when they viewed the house, also works in Japan. After trying to get ahold of Matthew to check on their mother and failing, she begins to get a bad feeling. When she tries to leave her office, she is stalked by Kayako, who also follows her to her apartment and eventually drags her under the covers, both disappearing.
Karen, trying to get to the bottom of everything, is aided by the same detective who was on the case of the original murders in the house. He tells her he suspects everyone who so much as sets foot in the building is cursed, doomed by the negative energy there, and will surely be stalked and killed by either Kayako or her son, including his late partner. Karen decides to burn the cursed house down, but her boyfriend, who suspects her intentions, gets there first to try and stop her. He is killed by Kayako, and Karen succeeds in setting the blaze, but the house is saved in the end. The end of the movie hints that Karen will be forever haunted by Kayako, as she is seen in her hospital room with her.
Why Everyone Hated It: RT gave it 39%, and users don’t give it much more. “There’s some creepy imagery to be found, but not much in the way of logic or truly jarring scares.”
MC gives us, “This movie is…..wait, scratch that, I don’t even consider this piece of garbage a MOVIE! I don’t even know where to begin….. No suspense involved here, and WHY OH WHY does she keep going back to that stupid house!!! If she KNOWS something bad is there then WHY GO BACK! And don’t call me a harsh critic because i’ve never ever said a movie to be as bad as this one, in fact before this, the lowest level of a movie I had seen was a “meh”. The movie was confusing all around and didn’t really give the viewers a sense of relevance to keep on watching. But the most confusing thing about this movie is, above all else, why the critics loved it so much?”
Not a very articulate review, but I found a lot of people felt the same way. No one thought it was scary, or that the characters’ actions made much sense. A lot of people found the visual effects funny, and the subtext, scares, ideas behind the hauntings, and the ghosts themselves, would have been lost on non-fans of the Asian horror genre. Aside from The Ring and a few obscure others, The Grudge was one of the first big box office remakes of an Asian horror film; the idea was still new to the western world at the time. Since horror is a lot more culturally driven than people might think, some movies don’t transcend the sociocultural bridge they need to cross to hit home.
Why I Loved It: This is numero uno on this list for a reason; despite the amount of times I’ve seen it, I still have trouble watching some parts. After seeing it in theaters, I couldn’t even look at pictures of Kayako, which were popping up all over the internet. She scared me so much that I couldn’t sleep without my bedroom light on for three months. I was scared to be alone in my house, and always had one eye over my shoulder. Toshio didn’t jar me as much as he did others; I just didn’t find the meowing scary, but the scratchy, garbled sound Kayako made as a result of being strangled was just too much for me. Every time I heard anything even similar, I freaked. My friend Megan and I used to prank call each other and make the noise. 10 years later, she’s still never watched it again.
I watched the film a year or so later with my mom, and every damn scare got me again. There are some that still do now. One in particular is when Karen is on a bus with her boyfriend, quietly contemplating her situation, when Kayako’s face appears in the reflection of the window, along with that awful growling noise at top volume. My two friends I initially saw the movie with were surprised they weren’t bruised; I was flailing and punching them the whole time.
The ghosts are horrifying, the narrative is chilling; a house is so stained with negative energy by the events that took place in it, that literally anyone who sets foot in it is cursed. Even accidentally. Doomed, forever. Kayako will get you, she is everywhere, there’s nowhere she can’t go, and she brutally mutilates her victims, presumably after they pee their pants. She isn’t limited to the house, or even the country, according to The Grudge 3. She’s ever present. This wasn’t just another haunted house movie for me, it was so much more, and has stuck with me my whole life.
Spookiest Scene: It was hard to pick just one, but when Matthew’s sister leaves her office building and is chased by Kayako is by far the most chilling scene in the movie. Kayako appears as a horrifying shadow on a surveillance tape, walking painfully slowly toward the camera, and delivering perfectly placed jump scare when she reaches it. In the stairwell, the woman is chased up the stairs by Kakako crawling on hands and knees as the lights continue to go out beneath her. When Matthew’s sister escapes into the hall, Kayako grabs her lucky rabbit’s foot from a key chain. When she gets home she gets a call from Matthew, who says he’s downstairs. She buzzes him up, and seconds later the doorbell rings. Suspicious of the time it took him to get there, she looks out the peephole to find it is him, opens the door, and nothing is in the hallway. The growling starts emanating from her phone. She runs inside and dives under her covers, but finds her rabbit’s foot underneath. Kayako appears and drags her to somewhere else.
Well, there you have it. My list of movies that terrified me, but seemed to baffle and amuse others. Since this has been quite long, I wont bore you with a lengthy epilogue. Even with the spoilers, these movies are worth a watch if you haven’t seen them. Do you like them as much as I did, were you just as floored and afraid to sleep as me? Let me know, and Happy Halloween!