Camiele’s 100 Favorite Frightening Films of All Time: 100-81
Dear Beautiful (animated short)
Yes, I said no films shorter than 30 minutes. But that was just for the main list itself. Honorable mentions are fair game. This 15-minute short made quite an impression at Cannes Film Festival in 2009 and certainly had me rather unsettled with its Invasion of the Body Snatchers-esque story of a plant consuming human sanity, in particular a man’s supposedly soon-to-be ex-wife. In a word: damn!
I know, I know. It’s not exactly the best film, but the premise was excellent–a series of unsolved murders seemingly of a supernatural bent left for Ethan Hawk to sort through for his next true murder book–and for the first 75% of the film, the execution was spot-on. I was definitely invested in the film’s resolution, and even managed to be freaked out beyond any reasonable belief. I won’t spoil it for you, but the twist was so well done M. Knight Shyamalan would’ve been pissing his pants. Then the director just had to go and ruin the ride for me. We had what amounted to a bogeyman committing all the crimes, but when it became clear that wasn’t the case, that angle just didn’t work anymore. Throwing our phantom in at the last second for a jump scare cheapened the experience for me in the end, but for three-quarters of that film, I was gripping my teddy bear for dear life!
99. The Blair Witch Project
Before the “found footage” subgenre of horror had a name, The Blair Witch Project showed up in theaters and gave moviegoers an experience they could’ve never expected. For all that it’s since become Hollywood’s go-to for drumming up cheap scares, what this movie did for the industry is still talked about in stage whispers. It was unpolished, not particularly great, but damn if it didn’t make up for it with atmosphere and ambition.
98. White: Melody of Death (화이트: 저주의 멜로디)
I’ve been watching Korean horror films for only a few years now, but what I’m truly in awe of is how they take current trends of the day and unveil the grimy underbelly beneath all the sparkle and shine. Nothing’s as sparkly and deceptively beautiful as South Korea’s idol industry. Those just getting into K-pop, of course, only see the prettier than life starlets dancing across a stage as they give the camera thousand-watt smiles and put-on bits of cuteness. However, White peels back the layers of what it actually takes to survive in one of the most cutthroat industries every spawned by man, one that includes destroying the lives of anyone who stands between a trainee and her desire for the spotlight–especially in a group of five girls hoping for the same thing. This movie did so much with atmosphere and theme, managing to be both terrifying and highly entertaining.
97. The Innocents (1961)
Honestly, when a story is predicated on the idea that the caregiver uncle just doesn’t feel like taking care of his dead sister’s children, thus actually marrying a young governess to do the job without question or ever deferring to him when anything at all out of the ordinary happens, nothing good can come of it. When a child’s boarding school writes home to say he’s been expelled for his influence on the other children, it’s quite obvious whoever has to take care of him is in for more than she could possibly imagine. As the title suggests, The Innocents is a story that makes the audience question just who the pure souls really are. On the one hand you have two children who’ve had to deal with the loss of their parents as well as the horrible death of their former governess, the tragedy so fresh in their minds the young girl has a hard time even hearing the late governess’s name without having a psychotic break. The young boy has taken on the role as the only strong male figure in this girl’s life, and he takes his job seriously to the point that none of the supposed innocence of youth is left–only a childlike fascination with darkness and a precocious personality that sets their new governess, Ms. Giddens, on edge at every whisper and shadow. However, Ms. Giddens sees beyond the dewy-eyed innocence of youth and glimpses the evil stirring in that house as well as the boy left in her care. When she tries to uncover the mystery, things take a turn for the deadly… and no one can really explain why or how.
I know this film’s touted as a classic (even coming in at #1 on the list that inspired this one, Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments). And the premise as well as the execution in both direction and acting were stellar as far as I’m concerned. However, as with a few films on this list, when it came down to the last chunk of it, the suspense and the magic sort of fizzled out. There was terror, emotion, so much depth in this film. The story, acting, and even the horror of a two-ton-pound beast bent on eating anything in its path was so dense with suspense I was gripped. After a while, however, the movie just seemed to drag on until Brody (played by Roy Scheider) and Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) actually blew the damn thing up. But that shouldn’t suggest I don’t respect the film and what it did to people psychologically whenever they came close to a body of water.
95. The Babadook
I’ve seen only two Australian horror films, and The Babadook left such an impression I had to put it on the list. I was surprised that a classic bogeyman story–clichés and all–worked so well. Essie Davis who plays the mother was such a revelation in this film. From the moment she read the story to her child (played quite convincingly by young Noah Wiseman) you can see the toll it takes on her. Still dealing with the pain of losing her husband in a grisly accident and raising a child whose misguided desire to protect what family he has left has left him incapable of being around children slowly tears her apart. The moment she’s possessed by the very thing that was meant to provide a bit of levity in her heavy fog of pain and confusion–reading a story to her child–the entire psychology of the movie disintegrates and you’re left clawing to some sense of sanity. The film works on so many levels that the ending is a bit of a let down. But it’s still such a competently compiled piece of cinema that I couldn’t leave it off the list.
94. Cinderella (신데렐라)
This story is as heartbreaking as it is frightening. Again horror acts as very blatant social commentary as writer Son Kwang-soo and director Bong Man-dae explore one of Korea’s biggest trends: plastic surgery. As with all horror in Korea, however, the film digs deeper, goes for emotion through the conceit of exposing the ugliness of the plastic surgery industry. It’s a story about masks, really. The masks we wear and often times fashion for ourselves to keep our lives in some semblance of control. Plastic surgeon Yoon-hee has worn the mask of her profession to hide the tragedy that left her and her family completely obliterated. It truly is a chilling story, one that skimps on jump scares to focus on the underlying story of pain and unresolved grief nestled right under the surface.