being scared by a book or movie

I recently tried to read a horror novel by Bentley Little. What made me unable to continue reading was the gross-out factor rather than fear, but I’ve definitely been afraid while reading books or watching movies.

What books or movies have scared you? Is it always a specific kind of scare, like serial killers or aliens? And what are we actually afraid of when we get scared by entertainment?

My husband says he’s never really been scared by a book or movie, though I know he was getting pretty jumpy when we were watching “The Others” in a dark room. :smiley:


I am very rarely scared by a book or movie and treasure those moments like I would treasure anything in art that I look for, but rarely find. Movies have an impressingly bad track record of scaring me, because they refuse to prey on realistic fears. I can easily dismiss a dream warrior with razor fingers, because I have no reasonable fear that I will ever face that situation.

That being said there are three movies that have honestly left me unsettled. I am a genre film junkie so I have seen most all of the attempts.

  1. Night of the Hunter - Stars Robert Mitchum as a deranged preacher and potentially Satan himself. He torments the saintly Lillian Gish and two young children in the search for lost loot. Mitchum gives one of the great performances of all time and embodies evil itself. Charles Laughton as the director deserves more credit than he has ever recieved for the dream like feel of the film. The chase sequence along the river is one the great suspense sequences of all time.

  2. The Exorcist - Most everyone has seen the movie so I need not spend too much time. I don’t think many people recognize how easily the film could have been ridiculous. Linda Blair’s head spinning around could easily have been another laughable horror movie sequence. That it is not is a tribute to the wonderful acting and the fear we all have of our children growing apart from us and being corrupted by the world. Max Von Sydow deserves a particular nod for his work.

  3. The Blair Witch Project - It has become fashionable to hate this movie. To those people I say pshaw!. In a world where we are all surrounded by concrete and lights being lost in the woods is the stuff of nightmares. The courage of the film makers in not showing us what the characters feared was a stroke of genius. It is popular to complain that no right minded person could be scared by sticks and twigs. What would scare you then? The monster from Jeepers Creepers? Freddy and Jason?

BWP does not hold up as well on multiple viewings as the other films mentioned. If you saw it on opening night though, without being prepared by the hype it was frightening. The unseen is always more frightening than what is seen. BWP is one of the few films that dared to examine that fully.

In the film world honorable mentions go to: Wait Until Dark, Aliens, Nightmare on Elm Street, M and Silence of the Lambs. I will do my favorite books when I get some more time.

The only film to really make me scared was Ringu. I had all the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. If you don’t want to be scared then don’t watch a film alone!

Night of the Hunter scared the crap outta me, Fruitbat. When I was a kid, I couldn’t sleep after seeing that movie.

Book-wise, The Shining scared the living bejeezus outta me. To the point that I woke my toddler up and made him sit with me during the real-life snowstorm we were having! AAAHHHHHHH!!

The first time I watched “Night Of The Living Dead”, I had no idea what I was watching. I was standing military watch by myself at night and turned the TV on (as it turns out) just after the film had started. So I had no idea that this was a horror movie until the corpse attacks the woman and her brother in the cemetery. You all know how the thing plays out, but imagine seeing this for the first time–alone and at night–without having heard of the film or knowing the plot. It freaked me out.

Another vote for “The Shining” (the book, the movie is absolutely dreadful IMHO). I stayed up all night reading it, and kept all the lights on in the apartment while I did it. The scene involving the lady in the bathtub was the scariest (again, IMHO).

I’m with you in that movies about aliens, creatures that inhabit dreams, and the like aren’t particularly scary. What I find most scarey are movies about REAL people being inhumanly cruel. “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death” is a case in point. Young woman being terrorized by people who wish her harm - that’s scarey.

Evil Dead: it’s a strange film for me. If I watch it in the middle of the day I laugh my ass off. Watch it middle of the night it scares teh crap out of me.

Seconds for the Shining though I find as I grew older the less scary it is for me.

Same with Texas Chainsaw Massacre now it’s pretty good but all the endless screaming annoys me.

Of recent horror movies the only one that really effected me was Shadow of the Vampire. At the end of it I sat there with a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I thought about it and it slowly dawned on me that I was creeped out! It had been so long since a movie had that effect on me that it took me awhile to identify it. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s always the creepy psychological stuff that gets to me more than suspense or gore.

The conclusion of Don’t Look Now left me rather unsettled after viewing it in a University film class. It’s an obscure movie but well worth a look, so I’ll refrain from spoiling it (even with a box).

Watching the Mother’s final breakdown stages in Requiem for a Dream was disturbing. Incredible performance by Burstyn.

I saw Trainspotting for the first time last weekend. The slow pan to the child’s crib, with the mother screaming in the background, revealed one of the more ghastly images I’ve seen recently.

I’m generally pretty easy to scare, and I also love scary books. I really enjoyed reading Silence of the Lambs and thought I’d check out Red Dragon afterward. Silence creeped me out a bit, but Dragon scared the everlivin’ snot out of me - I think because I identified more with the victims in that one. I got horribly frightened reading Pet Semetary, but part of that was due to my cat jumping from my dresser onto my bed at a crucial moment in the book that involved a cat.

Scary movies? Not so much, me. When I read, I can sorta control how much my imagination “sees” and I can mentally close my eyes at the gory parts. Watching a movie, I can close my eyes, but I can still hear, and that’s way too much scary sensory stuff for me to block.

I’ll second (or sixth or whatever) the Shining. My mother was the wife of a winter caretaker at a snowed in hotel in Michigan with a three year old named Danny.

She didn’t turn the lights off all winter.

Signs had me and my s.o. all messed up for weeks. It’s not as scary now, as I watch it on DVD, but I was freaked… especially the night I was walking in from my carport and saw a human shape on the roof, sillhouetted against the full moon.

I about chopped down that tree the next morning.

The Others was scary… and the Sixth Sense can be if you watch it in the right mood and with a loud enough subwoofer.

Also, I was listening to Bag of Bones (King) on audiotape at work (hand labelling envelopes… such mentally taxing work) and I actually JUMPED at one point. I’ve read the book more than once, but the reading really got to me… fantastic.

Event Horizon, pretty much any book by S. King has it’s moments (I’m thinking of the Lincoln tunnel scene from the Stand among others) and anything that’s ‘jump out and scare you’ if it’s done right.

I find if the music is bad, it’s not as scary.

I don’t watch a lot of scary movies, and after a few days usually I can get over the explicit scary stuff from them. But one piece of media that’s impacted me the most is actually a video game, Eternal Darkness. It’s the kind of scary that’s pretty scary while watching it, but even scarier after you’re done. With movies, you always have a degree of separation from it, because everything is moving along without your input. But with the video game, everything that happens is under your control, so you feel more vulnurable. A movie about people walking around in a mansion hearing strange noises is one thing, but to actually be in that mansion is another.

Probably the most unsettling thing about the mansion in Eternal Darkness was that it was lit-up and well taken care of, not dark and decrepit. There’s something about nonscary environments or things that we experience in everyday life turning twisted and evil that really freaks me out.

I saw the Blair Witch Project for the first time as a rental video, watched on a portable tv/vcr combination, while sitting in a tent in the far back of my backyard (about three feet in from the heavily-wooded property line) with my best friend.

We ended up going back in the house and sleeping on the floor in the living room.

I’m pretty easily scared by movies: things that jump out at you or make sudden loud noises make me scream (my boyfriend can do this to me by staring at me for a while then saying “boo;” he does it all the time because he’s cruel and he thinks it’s funny and cute the way I jump and say “eep”). Psychological fear also gets me (my boyfriend can creep me out just as effectively by staring at me so I THINK he’s going to go “boo;” I then curl up in a little ball without him even making a noise).

It’s harder to pinpoint what scares me in books. Aliens and things never scare me. Ghosts often do. There’s a Stephen King short story in which the dead come back to life, and a pregnant woman’s dead fisherman husband comes out of the sea and comes after her; she has to kill his reanimated corpse, while noting that he’s still wearing a shirt she bought him and stuff like that. That stuck with me for a long time - the idea of having to kill someone you love.

I was staying in a condo at a ski resort, reading Night Shift by Steven King. Everyone else was skiing (I hurt my leg the day before) It started to snow, and then the wind started to howl. The more I read, the colder I got. I kept turning up the heat, and putting on sweaters.

Bottom line that book scared the hell out of me. :eek:

The Ring scared the hell out of me. I was scared of the TV. I saw it with a friend who’d seen all the Japanese movies, and when we left the theater, I asked how some of the victims had died, and he said it wasn’t just TVs, but any reflective surface. That meant there wasn’t a room in my apartment where I wasn’t by a TV or a mirror.

True-crime books and documentaries scare me late at night. Particularly anything about the Zodiac killer, for some reason.

I had trouble getting to sleep after Requiem for a Dream, but it was because it was heartbreaking, not scary.

The only book or movie that really scared me was the book Salem’s Lot. Read it in the middle of the night when I was around 14…kept looking out the window waiting for a vampire to show up.

When I was a kid, I remember watching an Outer Limits/Twilight Zone type show that scared the hell put of me. All I remember of it is evil dolls coming to life.

I have a very active imagination and it’s normally relatively easy for a book or movie to at least make me jumpy.

My mother has always been a huge horror/suspense fan so I grew up watching movies and reading books from those genres.

The Exorcist is one movie that scared me as a child and still does.

Salem’s Lot frightened me when I was young but I haven’t seen it since so I don’t know if I would have the same reaction to it.

I just now thought of one that scared me when I was a kid and I can’t even think of it without getting chills. When A Stranger Calls. It’s the whole idea of some demented psycho hiding in a closet waiting to make his move on the unsuspecting victim that gets to me.

:shudders and eyes the closed closet door:

Coraline is very scary, especially if you finish it around midnight and turn the page to find that picture in the back. I listened all night for sounds of that thing.

I was reading Jaws on the beach in Key West. Scared the livin’ snot outa me! The movie did the same thing. It got me so freaked about water, I was scared to sit on the john for weeks.

I’m a big baby and always have been. When I was a kid, I never watched horror movies because I knew what they’d do to me–but even the previews they showed on tv got to me! The one that really freaked me out as a kid was for the Anthony Hopkins movie Magic. All I remember is a close up of the ventriloquist dummy’s head and that really spooked me as a kid.

I love to read horror novels–usually :slight_smile: And have no problem toning down my imagination as I read so I don’t have to sleep with the lights on.

I still try to avoid horror movies but my SO loves them. The most recent one to freak me out was Session 9. It’s about a cleaning crew that’s helping to renovate an old mental hospital–it sounds pretty cliche, but it was really good and very creepy! I definitely had the lights on for a while after that!

House of Leaves freaked me out when i first read it.

i was fortunate enough(!) to see both Alien and the Exorcist when i was about 5 and 11 years old respectively, which led to some sleepless nights.

the ring (the japanese one) freaked me out as id just moved into a new flat and watched it on video on my own. i had to watch simpsons videos the rest of the night to get the ending out of my brain.