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the haunting hours
halloween movie madness
by heather m. millen

I do not watch scary movies. Perhaps it stems from one of two clear memories of my childhood: When I was in first grade, my sister offered to take me to the movies. This was an unprecedented move by my sister, six years my elder. I should have been suspicious, but I was ecstatic. I can't quite recall what movie we were supposedly going to see -- I believe it was Gremlins -- but it was on this precedent that we were given permission from our parents.

However, when we arrived at the theater, it turned out that this was all just an elaborate ruse to enable her to meet up with her new boyfriend. I was a mere decoy! A decoy that, moments later, was dragged into a cold, dark theater for Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I don't recall much after that, I was too busy squatting on the floor in the fetal position screaming intermittenly in horror. This began the age during which I would always turn the light on before I entered a room. Example: Heather is entering a room. First, Heather sticks her arm around said doorway and fumbles for lightswitch. Upon light appearing through doorway, Heather cautiously pokes her head into room before entering with full body. It went this way until I was about 15.

The second traumatic event that I will cite is when I attended Danielle Hall's Birthday sleepover a year or two later. Her mother was heading to the Movie Store (I believe she was renting Beta!) and asked us our movie requests. We wanted to see Goonies. When she returned from said movie store, she had brought home Ghoulies and, inexplicably, Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Now, I'm sure the latter is fittingly frightening for its own reasons, but that's not part of my story. Upon the conclusion of Ghoulies, a hazy hectic memory of bluriness and, again, more screaming, two things happened:

1) I would never again be able to go the bathroom without first thoroughly inspecting the toilet for creatures of a varying assortment, AND
2) I had by now taught myself a very important daily ritual. When I went to bed each night, I started my nightly prayers much like every child does.... "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep... followed by some "God Blesses" of friends and family. But before I said "Amen," I had become so petrified of nightmares that I threw in a little God, please don't let me have any nightmares tonite. Amen. This was soon after amended to: God, please don't let me have any nightmares or bad dreams. Amen. I felt this small distinction was important, because who KNOWS the classification system God utilizes to distinguish nightmares from regular dreams. But "bad" was "bad," right?
I had to cover all my bases.

Fast-forward twenty years and the nightly prayers are gone (all facets, but that's another column) and I just barrel into a dark room with wild abandon. I only check the toilet occassionally and mainly only in public places. But I still don't really watch scary movies. Sure, over the years I've watched Candyman... but even that led to a rather frightening memory at the local roller-rink where we tempted "Bloody Mary" from the mirror by inspiration of the film. And I've watched most of The Shining, which I agree is a really freaky movie. But it doesn't really affect me, it's just some crazy guy on a hill with his ugly-ass wife and his own hallucinations. So, that's fine. Anyway, by and large, I avoid scary movies.

Sometimes, however, I've been tricked. Usually one can spot a "scary" movie a mile away. Knife wielding psycho on the cover, usually pictured at the bottom of the stairs or next to slightly-cracked doorway, and a nubile-looking virgin thrown in for good measure.

But the REAL horror movies have no such indicators. Take Se7en for example. I willingly went to watch this movie in the theater. By the end, I was openly crying. Now, I cry at some real crap: Stepmom, Steel Magnolias and the occassional AT&T commercial. But this was the first time I had actually cried from fear. As we all know, what is frightening about this movie is that it could REALLY happen. Okay, I'll stop looking in toilets for grimy green creatures, but what about just self-righteous psychopaths who want to teach me a lesson about vanity?! That's freaking scary.

Another movie that I assume is of this genre is Silence of the Lambs. Now, I'm sure it's incredibly well-made and I'm sure the acting is spectacular, and hey, that's great. But I'm NOT FREAKING WATCHING IT. Because I like chianti but don't particulary care for fava beans or human liver.

However, while I don't like scary movies, I do like Halloween. And my love for Halloween goes a long way. So, as part of this celebration this year, I have agreed to have "Scary Movie Month" with my boyfriend. First, we watched The Changeling. Child's play! (get it!? get it?!) Next, Rosemary's Baby. This one, I actually just thought was a good movie that was well-written but with a bit of a stupid ending. It got to me the way most good movies get to you, you're analyzing it later and going back over the details.

So, this past weekend, we were ready to hit the next titles on our list: The Exorcist and Halloween. My boyfriend came home with The Ring. Weary but determined, we put in the movie at 11:30pm. Mike fell asleep during the film and I generally just started freaking out. It's pretty freaking scary to watch a video about a video that kills people. Alone. In the dark. With your snoring boyfriend. Upon its ending, I laid in bed in horror for about an hour before falling off to nightmares from the goddamn movie. In fact, I mentally caused myself to dream that there was a sequel explaining how The Ring happened and it was all just a silly misunderstanding. I think I needed to erase the reality from my mind.

I guess part of me is still that scared little girl, hiding behind movie seats while Texas rednecks mutilate people with chainsaws. The Exorcist is still sitting on my TV stand taunting me and I'm not sure that in between here and Halloween, I'll be able to muster up the strength to watch it. Scary little bitch got to me. It may be time to check back in on that prayer of mine.


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


tracey kelley
10.26.05 @ 12:14a

Silence of the Lambs is the best scary movie of all time.

My friend Sloan and I were too scared to leave the theater to go to the bathroom. I used to see Hannibal Lector's face in dark windows before I went to bed at night. I was, I believe, in my mid-20s.

I always re-watch it whenever it comes on, too, and it's still an awesome, awesome movie.

But the others of that series, Red Dragon and Hannibal, I avoided.

I tend to not watch horror films anymore.
Se7en (Pitt's wife's name was Tracey!!! Hello!) freaked me out in myriad ways. And I watched Scream shortly after moving into our house, which has 12 feet of sliding glass windows overlooking an extremely dark backyard, and I always thought that freakin' mask was watching me just beyond my line of vision, and thus, got a motion light (which only works when a raccoon ambles into the yard).

So, it's just better all around to avoid the genre.


lisa r
10.26.05 @ 3:04a

I prefer Gothic horror to the stuff that Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th (ad infinitum) are made of.

My favorite: The Legacy (1978), starring Katherine Ross and Sam Elliot. Roger Daltrey makes an appearance as one of the soon-to-be-dead heirs of Mr. Jason Mountolive, and Margaret Tyzack (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange)plays a very eerie Nurse Adams.

Several people die, but in inventive ways. A pool suddenly develops a glass ceiling, trapping a champion swimmer, for example, is much more creative than chainsaws, hatchets, and various and sundry other bloodletting devices. There is some blood, but no bloodbaths...at least not the chainsaw sort.

If you like horror, this one's worth tracking down and watching.


mike julianelle
10.26.05 @ 8:35a

I prefer creeping, psychological suspense to over-the-top slashers. And nothing is easier to manufacture than a quiet-quiet-quiet-BOOM! kind of scare. The best ones combine both, really.

Stuff like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs falls into a different category. I consider those thrillers, not horror movies. And horror these days conveys more of a gore kinda feeling. Labelling something scary is obviously totally subjective, but I don't think of SotL and Seven as horror movies, really.

adam kraemer
10.26.05 @ 9:51a

Example: Heather is entering a room. First, Heather sticks her arm around said doorway and fumbles for lightswitch. Upon light appearing through doorway, Heather cautiously pokes her head into room before entering with full body. It went this way until I was about 15.

Don't you know that's a good way for the killer to chop off your hand? Those guys wait for stuff like that.

sandra thompson
10.26.05 @ 10:22a

Movies which changed my life: "Psycho:" no more EVER taking a completely carefree shower. "Jaws:" no more ocean swimming or riding sea turtles at night.

The original "Diabolique" in French with subtitles which I saw while pregnant nearly scared me into labour.

Horrible as it was, I loved "Se7en" because Himself was in it, but I won't see films of Steven King's horror stories. They are just too horrible.

I thoroughly enjoyed the old 1940's ghost story, "The Uninvited," but in general I avoid scary movies, too.

I hate it when my favourite actors' characters die, too. Himself has died a zillion times in his films and I cry every time. I had temporarily forgotten about that old heel when I went to see "Troy." Sigh. Does Tom Cruise ever die in a film?

katie morris
10.26.05 @ 12:54p

Who is "Himself"? And how do you get to ride sea turtles at night? I want to do that! As for scary movies -- I've seen absolutely none. Well, I was forced into seeing 'Child's Play' once, but that was just funny. Movies stay with me forever, and I know what a chicken I am, so I avoid them altogether.

heather millen
10.26.05 @ 12:59p

I definitely differentiate between horror and thrillers, but SCARY is SCARY.

Growing up, I do recall watching Nightmare on Elm Street and being scared, but still not so freaked out that I didn't watch all 97 of them. Meanwhile, I remember my family had the Friday the 13th video game (we're talking early nintendo graphics here) and even THAT freaked me out. I couldn't play it without screaming and running away from the TV. Clearly, I never won.

mike julianelle
10.26.05 @ 1:12p

Himself, I believe, is Brad Pitt, due to the Se7en and then Troy references. Child's Play is HILARIOUS. And while the first Nightmare is the only scary one, the third one is awesome! Dream Warriors! And the opening flesh-shredding/human marionette scene is GREAT.

heather millen
10.26.05 @ 1:15p

I'm not sure which NIGHTMARE it is, but I remember a scene where a borderline deaf guy was harrassed to death by Freddy messing with his hearing aid and him being able to even hear a pin drop.

This might not be a good description, but it made my SKIN CRAWL!

jael mchenry
10.26.05 @ 1:42p

I can't stand movies that exist just to scare me. That said, the first time I watched Sixth Sense and the kid said "Let me show you where my dad keeps his gun," I FREAKED.

It was awesome.

tracey kelley
10.26.05 @ 2:37p

Yeah, there's a definite difference between thriller and horror...

...but seeing splayed and filleted bodies hung up to dry kinda leans toward horror for me.

That being said, I really like most thrillers, as long as there isn't a lot of gore. In Silence, when dealing with two types of serial killers, you had to prepare yourself for a certain amount of ick. But the story was so solid, it didn't matter.

In related note #1, there is a great episode of Monk in season two, I think, in which monk is being attacked by a guy in a dark house, but Monk is wearing nightvision goggles. The chief of police is actor Ted Levine, who portrayed Buffalo Bill in Silence, and chased Clarice around with the same goggles. I can't be certain it was deliberate, but I thought I was going to choke from laughing.

In related note #2, "blank">
Behold the Fug

ETA: I have no idea why this link is funky, but it gets you there.


mike julianelle
10.26.05 @ 2:49p

Ted Levine's voice is so distinctive and strange, I always recognize it. I remember seeing Heat and knowing he was Buffalo Bill from voice alone.

I'd like to request a no-spoiler rule on Silence; Heather hasn't seen it yet. And I stress: YET.

katie morris
10.26.05 @ 3:30p

Are 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Sixth Sense' scary? As in 'freak me out so I have nightmares' scary? If not, maybe I'll rent them.

mike julianelle
10.26.05 @ 3:43p

Silence is real-life scary, and very effective. One of the all-time great movies. Sixth Sense is a scary, atmospheric and well-paced and jolty. It's a very solid movie tho, and isn't just about cheap scares.

tracey kelley
10.26.05 @ 4:52p

Ya know, if I were Heather, after all that stuff she went through in Raleigh, I wouldn't watch Silence NOW or EVER.

Katie, it depends on how you feel about psychological thrillers. They're both excellent films, but it really depends on how scared you get about certain things. If I were to recommend one over the other on the "I can't ever sleep if I watch this" - I'd definitely choose Sixth Sense over Silence.

heather millen
10.26.05 @ 6:27p

Thank you, Tracey. Like I said, I can handle a little supernatural spooky crazy stuff... but if it can happen anywhere on any given day- Count me out!


heather millen
10.26.05 @ 6:28p

I've seen Sixth Sense and found it just to be a good spooky movie. Very well-written. But it didn't scare me in the least.

I'm not authorized to discuss Silence of the Lambs, nor will I EVER BE!


drew wright
10.26.05 @ 6:49p

Heather, I had the same thing happen to me when I was 5. My brother took me to see Poltergeist with his girlfriend. I truly believe that movie stunted my emotional growth as a child. It took me until about the age of twelve to not be completely frightened of storms or clowns. I couldn't go into my closet without the light being on, and I refused to sleep without the closet door closed. Static kind of still freaks me out on TV's. I hate cemetaries as well.

A movie that freaked me out recently was The Grudge. That movie is just amazingly scary. The sounds in that movie are awesome, they make the movie in their own way. I would suggest that in your halloween movie rotation. Even better, watch the japanese version.

michelle von euw
10.26.05 @ 7:46p

A Greatest American Hero episode had me scared witless for a really long time (So, I win the biggest scaredy cat award!) I think it was about a freaky doll -- living dolls and clowns always got to me.

I do love Rosemary's Baby, and Se7en, and Sixth Sense, and even the Exorcist, though my favorite of the horror/thriller genre is Copycat. Good, scary stuff, and an evil, ugly Harry Connick, Jr!

And I'm a sucker for the old school Jason/Freddy/Mike Myers; I always stop the clicker on AMC for those early 80s kids in their Jordache jeans and feathered hair getting butchered by some inhuman freak with a grudge. And I loved Scream ... I guess I like being scared, to some extent.

I've seen that glass pool scene Lisa referred to! Creepy! The Legacy, huh? I'll have to check out the whole flick.

michelle von euw
10.26.05 @ 7:47p

Gremlins in my computer!


juli mccarthy
10.26.05 @ 9:17p

I like thriller-ish films, but I do not like being grossed out. Horror movies in general can get pretty gruesome, and slashers hold no appeal whatsoever for me.

That said, I thought the first Halloween movie was terrific, and Se7en badly tested my ick factor limits, but was still awesome because of the tension and suspense.


drew wright
10.27.05 @ 11:29a

Saw a pretty bad horror movie last night, High Tension. It was french, so I should of known right there, but it started off really good and then all of sudden it got gimicky, the kind of gimicky that makes no sense.

Without that, I would of loved it.

A thriller/horror movie that I really like is Identity with John Cusack. Once again, gimicky, but it works here. One of my favorite H movies of the past few years.

mike julianelle
10.27.05 @ 11:40a

I liked Identity. Interesting twist, not entirely unpredictable but unique.

sarah ficke
10.27.05 @ 12:51p

I'm a wimp when it comes to scary or gory movies (Evil Dead scared me - that's how bad it is). However, I'm intrigued by Silence of the Lambs because everyone says it's fantastic. Now, I mangaged to sit through Se7en without freaking out too badly. Will Silence of the Lambs be equivilent or too much?

russ carr
10.27.05 @ 1:13p

I've seen Silence so many times now that I think I'm inured to it. It plays out like an episode of The X-Files, though without the sci-fi/mystical aspects. It's a mystery, and practically a procedural; however, the clues are more psychological than physical. There are only a couple of scenes featuring blood. The tension comes first in the lurking menace behind Dr. Lecter's charm, and second in the rush to save the next victim of "Buffalo Bill." It's not until the climax of the movie that we feel substantial fear for Clarice, our heroine, because we see her getting closer and closer to the inevitable confrontation...like a moth to a flame...and we're not sure she can handle it.

It certainly is a psychological horror movie; even though Dr. Lecter isn't a villain in this picture, his voice will still haunt you, well after the credits.

drew wright
10.27.05 @ 1:14p

Silence of the Lambs is a must see, even if it scares you sleepless for a few nights. I dont think that the two movies (se7en and SOTL)are too far apart in scares though.

Anybody remember The Believers with Martin Sheen? Or the 1984 movie Dreamscape with Dennis Quaid. Both of those movies freaked me out.

mike julianelle
10.27.05 @ 2:30p

Dreamscape, when Sully turns into a snake? TERRIFIED me. That and Red Dawn were the first PG-13s. I liked The Believers, weird voodoo crap, eyes rolling back. Creepy, that scared me back then too.

joe procopio
10.27.05 @ 4:25p

The Thing. Kurt Russell 1984 version. First scary movie I sat through thinking "cool!" instead of "OHMYGOD!"

dathan wood
10.27.05 @ 5:59p

I watched When a Stranger Calls by myself when I was about 12. I was home alone (parents were out to dinner) and it scared the piss out of me. The movie ended and I just sat there until my parents go home, I was too freaked out to get out of my chair. When you find out the killer is calling from inside the house, your own house suddenly seems huge and creepy.

drew wright
10.27.05 @ 10:20p

Soes anyone remember the watchers in the woods, no blodd, just creepy.

drew wright
10.27.05 @ 10:20p

Soes anyone remember the watchers in the woods, no blodd, just creepy.

heather millen
11.1.05 @ 9:50a

Last night, after I passed out all of my candy, I finally sat down and watched The Exorcist. I must say, I didn't find it the least bit scary. Sure, some things are creepy, but other things are just weird. I think the medical part of it kinda deters from the fright factor. And the little girl spouting foul language and green vomit was just bizarre.


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