In time for Halloween, our staff reminisces about some of the movies that truly scared us. You'll notice a trend: Many of these films were ones we stumbled upon in our probably-way-too-young-to-see-this-film youth, and the scariest scenes and characters stuck to our psyches ever since, like a Jolly Rancher on a molar.
You can join the discussion. Tell us which movie scared you the most, either using the comments feature at the end of this story, or on Facebook.
What’s scary about “Poltergeist”? How about every single thing?! Especially for a little girl who was maybe only 8 years old the first time she saw it. (Dad was watching it on VHS and I joined him.) Certain scenes about the not-so-friendly ghosts wreaking havoc on a family have stuck with me through the years: the giant, gooey demon head coming through the doorway (or was it the ceiling?), the giant toy clown, the dead bodies in the pool. Over the years, I’ve managed to exorcise most of the scary images from my head, but from time to time, that aforementioned humongous ghost noggin rears its ugly face in my dreams, and I wake up soaked in sweat. After all these years, you’d think I could rewatch the film in its entirety and giggle at the effects, but no. I still can’t watch it without getting freaked out. —Anna Chan
“In space no one can hear you scream," is the tagline of 1979's "Alien." Well, you know what? On Earth they can hear you scream like mad. Especially when you’re 10 years old, as I was the first time I saw this film in a theater. (Good move, mom!) Despite the trauma of seeing a space-horror flick at such a young age, “Alien” has stuck with me as one of my favorite films of all time. There’s nothing more realistic to me than the prospect of things going horribly wrong way, way out in deep space. Everything about this film is executed perfectly to maximize the fear factor: confined spaces, darkness, intense score and a monster of unmatched creepiness. My chest aches when I think of this film’s most memorable scene. So until time and travel can prove otherwise, I’ll go on believing that space is the scariest place for a horror film to be set. And “Alien” is unmatched in the 32 years since its release. —Kurt Schlosser
I don't get the people who dismiss "Paranormal Activity" as not being scary. Sure, I've been terrified by "The Shining" and "The Exorcist" and "Halloween." But "Paranormal" was so scary for me because it was so realistic. I personally am not living in a haunted hotel, am not possessed by the devil (that I know of), and am not being stalked by a creepy masked killer. But in "Paranormal," things start slowly and close to home. Of course I've glanced at a closet door and idly wondered how it happened to be open, or heard a sound in the night and let my imagination run wild. That's how things get going in "Paranormal," and the film builds its suspense so successfully that soon I'm dreading every scene where we once again see Katie and Micah's bedroom through the eye of their nighttime camera. This movie had me carefully shutting all closet doors when I got home, and may have also robbed me from a few hours of sleep as I sat up staring at shadows. —Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
'The Blair Witch Project'
Laugh if you will, but I ended up with nightmares from this thin little horror of a picture. Yes, millions saw it on DVD and can't figure out what's so scary, but seeing it in a dark arthouse with the subway rumbling beneath, I was taken in. The shaky camera, the out-of-focus shots, the unanswered questions just heightened my anxiety: What the heck was that thing in the handkerchief? What was making all of those noises? I couldn't sleep that night, thinking of the non-ending, of Michael standing in the corner, of Heather's horror of finding him there and just what that meant for all of them. I've never watched it again. —Randee Dawn
I saw this movie when I was an impressionable youth, and it has stuck with me ever since. The premise is that inside each one of us is a symbiotic creature, living along our spine, a "tingler." The tingler lives off our fear, and as we experience it, the creature grows inside of us, if it gets too big, it will kill you. The only way to keep it in check it is to scream your head off when frightened (fun for kids, not so much for those around us). Vincent Price stars as the creepy main character, and while it may be considered camp now, this is the first movie that really scared the "tingler" out of me. —David Gostisha
What's the scariest movie you saw as a kid? How about scariest movie you ever saw? Tell us on Facebook.