Scary/Not-Scary: A Horror Guide for the Horrified

By Alex Johnson
amjohnson@lc.edu  

Disclaimer: Horror movies often deal with sensitive issues in not-so-sensitive ways. If you are concerned about possibly triggering scenes in any of these films, I would suggest visiting www.DoesTheDogDie.com before watching, this site provides “crowdsourced emotional spoilers for movies, TV, books and more”.

 It is October, which means it is chili weather, hoodie season and time to be terrified by horror movie marathons. But what do you do to celebrate Halloween if horror movies always leave you sleeping with the lights on?

 As someone who used to chew their nails to the bone watching “Goosebumps”, I found the only way to get over the fear was to build up a tolerance to terror, and slowly ramp up the fear factor of the films I watched.

 Take this as a guideline for getting into the horror genre if you have always been just a bit too anxious for scary movies. I am going to provide a “Chill Factor”, “Gore Level” and “Comedy Relief” score for each movie as well as movies at a similar spooky-scale to check out if the first one did not leave you too horrified.

 

1.) The Mummy (1999)

“The Mummy” is a 1999 adventure/horror remake based on the 1932 movie, “The Mummy”. This was actually the first horror movie that helped me get into the genre. “The Mummy” is probably an adventure movie first, horror movie second, but it does have some genuinely creepy moments. The horror is offset by some good, silly humor, a fun adventure story and slightly dated special effects.

-Chill Factor: Two Scarab Beetles out of five.

-Gore Level: Two CGI mummies out of five.

-Comedy Relief: Three Brendan Frasers out of five.

-If you handled that, try: Jaws (1975), Blade (1998), any Universal horror from the 20s-50s.

 

2.) Shaun of the Dead (2004)

“Shaun of the Dead” is part zombie movie, part romantic comedy. The special effects are very good, it can be very graphic and genuinely creepy at times; so how does this ease you into horror? The majority of the characters react to a full-blown zombie outbreak in a quintessentially British way: with adaption and apathy. The characters treating a zombie hoard as just another one of life’s annoyances really takes the edge off.

-Chill Factor: Two bits of red out of five.

-Gore Level: Four metal poles through the stomach out of five.

-Comedy Relief: Five Queens out of five.

-If you handled that, try: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978)

 

 3.) Halloween (1978)

The first real horror movie on the list, “Halloween” is often credited for popularizing the slasher subgenre. As is often the curse of being influential though, a lot of “Halloween” may seem cliché to contemporary audiences. The “predictability” takes away some of the tension and the cheese-factor of the lingering purity-culture lessons can provide some laughs to lighten the mood. Not to mention, despite being the “original” slasher, it is not super graphic, with a lot of violence being implied, out of frame or done in the shadows.

-Chill Factor: Three William Shatner masks out of five.

-Gore Level: Three knives out of five.

-Comedy Relief: One riff-track out of five.

-If you handled that, try: Scream (1996), Final Destination (2000), Psycho (1960)

 

4.) The Exorcist (1973)

Considering this movie has a reputation of being one of the scariest of all time, this may seem like a strange choice; however, if you are good with gore but cannot cope with chills, then this might be a good introduction to the more spine-tingly side of horror. Like “Halloween”, sometimes having a reputation can actually take away from some of the terror, and I think a more modern audience might not be as shocked by “The Exorcist” as their 1973 counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuinely scary moments (one on the stairs gets me every time), but if you made it through the movies above, I think you can make it through this.

-Chill Factor: Four spinning heads out of five.

-Gore Level: Three bowls of pea soup out of five.

-Comedy Relief: One inappropriate swear out of five.

-If you handled that, try: Poltergeist (1982), Evil Dead 2 (1987), Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

 

5.) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a film based off an ’81-’91 book series of the same name. The books are (in)famous for chilling and borderline graphic illustrations, many of which the movie faithfully re-creates. Just because this series is directed more towards children/pre-teens/teens, does not mean it is going to be easy to get through if you do not normally watch horror, but if you made it through everything above, I think you have got this one.

-Chill Factor: Five pale ladies out of five.

-Gore Level: Three face-spiders out of five.

-Comedy Relief: Two jump-scares out of five.

-If you handled that, try: getting more brave!  If you made it through everything here, you are ready to start exploring the genre on your own!

 

Keep in mind, we are all individuals, what scares me might not scare you and vice versa. Watch the trailers, check www.doesthedogdie.com and read more in-depth reviews of these movies if you are apprehensive about any of them. Remember, Halloween is supposed to be fun, so if you are not having fun watching these full-blown horror movies, there are plenty of Halloween-themed, “spooky not scary” movies you can still watch this October.

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