How the movies were chosen:
* Scary enough to induce at least one night of insomnia, and in some cases, repeated nights of insomnia.
* Scary enough to change habits (driving, eating, not going into the basement, etc.)
* Had a long-lasting aftereffect
In no particular order:
1. Halloween (1978)
One of the first to begin the onslaught of formulaic teen slasher films, only it doesn’t feel formulaic at all. Just scary. Really scary. Michael Meyers never runs, but no matter how fast you run, he’s going to catch you and kill you. How does he do that?
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Brilliant social commentary aside, this is about as scary as it gets, the black and white film giving it an even creepier feel. And the little girl eating the, well, you’ll see – it’s the stuff of nightmares.
3. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Unlike most zombie movies where the undead just shuffle along mindlessly, these things can really move. They’re almost superhuman. You can’t outrun them, so you can only outsmart them, which shouldn’t be hard to do since their brains have all but turned to mush and can only entertain one thought: tearing you apart and eating you. Suburbia will never seem the same after you’ve watched the first ten minutes.
4. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
This film not only spawned a haircut that was copied around the world, it was about the spawning of something far more sinister. For the love of God, Rosemary, don’t dismiss that chalky undertaste – run!
5. Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
And you thought your family was dysfunctional? You’ll never eat sausage again without wondering what it’s really made of (as if you didn’t already). Queasily sickening, yet you know you won’t look away. You’ll definitely want to order the vegetarian lo Mein when this one is on.
6. The Exorcist (1973)
When it was released, movie theaters gave out barf bags. Publicity stunt? Maybe, but there are some scenes that could have weaker stomachs hurling up something similar to the pea soup Regan was spewing. This one will keep you up night after night, not daring to close your eyes, because every time you do you’ll keep seeing certain scenes playing over and over in your head.
7. The Omen (1976)
Never mind checking your kids for head lice, shave their heads and check thoroughly for weird markings.
8. The Shining (1980)
How could it be anything but great with Stephen King dreaming it up and Jack Nicholson portraying a man slowly going mad and transforming into a murdering nutcase with an axe. Suspense, creepy twins, a shrubbery maze, rivers of blood, weird people doing weird things to each other in doggie costumes…it’s got something for everyone.
9. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
If you thought Anthony Hopkins couldn’t get any weirder and creepier as a ventriloquist in “Magic” think again. He’s simply unnerving as Hannibal Lechter. Curl up with a nice Chianti and enjoy!
10. Amityville Horror (1979)
Okay, so the family admitted they made everything up. The movie is still scary as hell.
11. Suspiria (1977)
A film by Italian director Dario Argento; don’t expect it to make sense. Just sit back and feast your eyes as the blood flows as freely as marinara on a Saturday night at Carrabba’s.
12. Evil Dead (1981)
A group of friends, a remote cabin in the woods and a book covered in human skin. What could possibly go wrong? Bruce Campbell rocks this campy cult classic. If you happen to be in Florida or California this Halloween season, Universal Studios are offering an Evil Dead haunted house attraction (it’s based on the new 2013 version, not the great original, but hey, it’s all good).
13. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
Wes Craven. Michael Berryman. Tagline: “The lucky ones died first.” ‘Nuff said.