October 31, 2018

What is the Scariest Movie Ever? No Film School Round Table

scariest movie ever roundtable poltergeist
We went around the editorial room and submitted each of our picks for scariest movie ever, along with what they meant to us as filmmakers. Join the discussion!

It's that time of year again, and here at No Film School, we decided this week ask our staff for their picks for scariest movie ever. Everyone did a brief write up explaining their selection, and how it impacted their filmmaking journey. 

What is the Scariest Movie Ever? 

Poltergeist (1982) 

Poltergeist 1982

Dir. Tobe Hooper

"I was ten when I watched Poltergeist and I've never been the same. For a kid from the suburbs, Poltergeist captured every one of my nightmares. It was about a normal family, trying to blend in with a bunch of other normal families, on a normal cul-de-sac.

I was never going to read from a magic book, exorcize the devil, or wander into a tomb. But the idea that there were angry spirits who were mad about where I lived? I couldn't have control over that! For months after watching the movie, I wouldn't go into my closet. I wouldn't even dig a hole in my backyard because I was afraid I'd find a body. And when the TV hit static... I peed a little.

My main takeaway from Poltergeist was how it was able to create scares from chairs, toys, and even pajamas. From a writing standpoint, it built in an excellent and simple backstory. A neighborhood built on a desecrated burial ground, and how that leads to one family being tormented. Also, it leaves us with a lasting image, and one of the greatest movie lines of all time... They're here!"

-Jason Hellerman

Cure (1997) 

Cure 1997

Dir. Kiyorshi Kurosawa

"I recently saw a retrospective screening of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s psychological horror-thriller Cure at AFS Cinema in Austin. Probably both the best “horror” film I’ve ever seen and the most unnerved I’ve been leaving a theater. Similar to David Fincher’s early work, when a horror film can make you question your own grip on reality, its effect can stay with you much longer than any jump scare.

Even just tricks in the editing which go against an audience’s expectations for shot-reverse-shot and matched action can subtly build up in terrific ways that creep at you throughout the viewing experience. In an actual sense of the word, Cure is the most terrifying film I’ve ever seen."

-Jourdan Aldredge

Antichrist (2009) 

Antichrist 2009

Dir. Lars Von Trier

"What The Exorcist did to my fragile human psyche in my childhood, Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist did to it in my adulthood. However, instead of being scared of what you’re seeing on screen, you’re scared of what you’re seeing in yourself.

At the time of the script’s writing, Von Trier was battling some nasty demons, many of which I was throwing down with myself when I watched the resulting film. Antichrist is more than a controversial art film that depicts unsimulated sex and savage genital mangling. It’s a film about inescapable guilt, intense grief, and the fear of human nature in its most primal form, only instead of the quintessential bloodthirsty madman, we get the unbound woman with all of her fury and repressed sexual chaos.

The Selfish Mother and the Dick Smashing Whore: scaring the ever-living shit out of everybody. Realizing I could relate: scaring the ever-living shit out of me."

- V Renee

Mandy (2018) 

Mandy 2018

Dir. Panos Cosmatos

"Perhaps the single most terrifying experience I've ever had in a theater was catching the world premiere of Mandy at Sundance earlier this year. It was my first day at the festival, I'd just seen two films back to back, and I had to rush, jet-lagged as all hell and delirious by altitude, to the midnight showing almost entirely unaware of what I was getting into.

The movie started and I immediately felt like I was slipping into a really bad acid trip. The first half is so mesmerizing yet unsettling that by the time things started really picking up (as a certain character has liquid drugs forced into her eyeball before being stung in the neck by some sort of giant wasp) I was nearing a full-blown panic attack. As the drugs begin to kick in for this character, the sounds, and colors, in turn, began to overwhelm every sense I had left. I could barely breathe. I felt like I was going to throw up. I needed to look at the ceiling to steady myself. I wanted to get out of my chair, but felt like if I did I'd just fall back down to the floor again.  God, you guys need to see this movie in theaters while you still can."

Read more of NFS coverage of Mandy here.

-Jon Fusco

Pinocchio (1940)

pinocchio 1940
"A lonely old man builds a little boy out of wood. Already creepy and weird. The wooden boy comes to life? Creepier and weirder. The wooden boy who has come to life gets fooled by a fox and then trapped in a circus and the leader threatens to chop him into firewood? Now we're talking legit scary. 

The boy's nose grows when he lies... He goes to a place to have fun and it turns him into a donkey. Other kids also turn into donkeys and are sold into slavery and cry for their parents from cages. WTF.

But the scariest thing of all? This movie was made for kids. 

Pinocchio spins a nightmare fueling terrorscape entirely out of the harmless mistakes a child might make. Talking to a stranger. Wishing for something you don't have. Wanting to live up to your parent's expectations. Having fun at an arcade. 

Some children's stories fall into 'cautionary tale' territory, and Pinocchio is a cautionary tale for walking outside and being alive."

-George Edelman

Halloween (1978)

Halloween 1978

Dir. John Carpenter

"Appropriate title notwithstanding, John Carpenter's Halloween remains the defacto choice for scariest film of all time and the most appropriate to praise during the month of October. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the low-budget, low-concept aggressive slasher has only grown in prestige among horror fans and cinema academics, singling out the film for its iconic score, its expressionistic cinematography, its relentless pace, and its memorable leads (including the antagonist, an expression-less serial killer who stalks babysitters). Time has been kind to Carpenter's classic, and it's easy to see why: when you're stuck in a closet with a masked man on the other side of it, a universal fear of protecting one's self can be shared by everyone. The film is left with an open-ending, proving that the evil force can never truly be put down. In our current age of real-life bad guys and demons in power (and in office), what's scarier than that? " 

- Erik Luers 

What would your pick be? Let us know in the comments below!     

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