dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Your scaredest moment

Enough of the serious stuff. Trolling around the TV channels this evening, I discover the original Alien movie, with Sigourney Weaver. And I remember that, twenty years or so ago, also trolling around the TV channels I came upon the movie about which I knew nothing. I was immediately engrossed, and, quite unexpectedly,found myself terrified at the appropriate moments, so that at one point I felt like I was back, once againa terrified pre-teen boy in the Nyack movie theatre, saying silently to myself: "Its only a movie! Its only a movie!"So now that Ive bared my soul or psyche, tell me what was your scaredest moments at the movies, either as a child or as an adult. Books can come later.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

I walked out of the first LOTR after maybe 15 minutes, when the black riders were standing over the hobbits on the road. Terrific, and terrfying, sound editing!

I remember being perfectly terrified by the witch in the Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That when I was very young, because I remember trying to get under the seat in the theater. (I remember reading that some of the great classic children's films are the most psychologically damaging to kids, among them Dumbo and Bambi.)In college I went off one night to see a showing of Psycho, which I basically knew nothing about. It was in an almost empty auditorium. I don't really remember my reaction to the shower scene, but when Vera Miles (I think it is) comes up behind mom's chair and turns it around, I gasped (literally). As an adult, I was scared out of my wits by The Exorcist. I had been in a very long line to see the movie at a theater, but I gave up because the wait was too long. I watched it on television, with my finger on the off button a great deal of the time in case I couldn't stand it, and was grateful not to have seen it in a theater.

Two movies that I watched on T.V.The Creature from the Black Lagoon -- watched it when I was rather young and I can still remember the scene of the creature underwater looking up as the starlet swims.The Exorcist -- no explanation neededMovie theatre = JawsKathy, did you ever eventually watch the movies? All three are quite good.

Psycho 1960.. all movies before that were not too scary monster flicks.. Shower scene and detective stabbed on stairs were enough to for us[wife] to change our seats that had our backs on a cross over aisle where people could come up to behind us.Also, entering an occupied bathroom with a towel over our heads was a continuing tease.

Yes, I've seen them, bought them, w/tched the extended versions on free online netflix. But that day I was freakin! It was pretty loud...

Movie = Open WaterBased on a true story of an American couple diving on the Great Barrier Reef, a couple is left behind by the dive boat during a scuba outing. The sharks were scary enough, but the couple's fear and anguish at being left alone in the ocean was even scarier IMO.TV = Bill O'ReillyAny Monday through Friday evening.

When "The Wizard of Oz" was first shown on television, we must have had fifteen nieces and nephews in the living room watching it, while we adults sat chatting in the dining room. I remember some of the younger ones coming in and huddling next to their mothers, frightened by the cackling wicked witch.

The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. On TV, I recently heard our new AG call America "...a nation of cowards". This man is a serious hater; that scares the hell out of me.

The original "Phantom of the opera". I lived in a city tenament type building and wouldn't go in our cellar for years after seeing that movie. I must have been 10 or younger when i saw it.

Bob: He said we are cowards when it comes to talking about race. That may still scare you, but at least be clear.

Just remembered another one. I'm in grammar school watching "Heidi," and I have a clear memory of Gene Hersholt sharpening a knife that I was sure he was going to use on Shirley Temple.

So Joe, what was most frightening? That he would use it? Or he wouldn't? Aliens--children were taken by their father to see it. They all loved it and found it horrifying. And then there was Aliens II, which I took myself to see... what was worse? the alien? or the apparent human with the robot head? I think some children love to be horrified. Some not so much. I had a friend who thought Bambi was absolutely horrifying. Mom killed. Also Babar. Mom killed. I didn't notice with Bambi as a child. But watching Babar with the grandchildren, I was horrified for them. Very complicated what is scarey... Definitely the pod people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." It made you wonder about so many people on the street, subway, etc...

"Bambi" didn't frighten me. Maybe because my father went deer-hunting every Fall?

Sophomore year in high school - boarding school. In the middle of a huge lighting/thunderstorm, a few of us were watching Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte - the scene where the "supposed" murder victim's head rolls down the winding staircase of the antebellum home. We all screamed and at the same time there was a huge lightening strike and thunder burst right outside the window of the TV room.

No movie could possibly be scarier than watching BXVI take us back to 1954.

When I was a little kid I saw Attack of the Crab Monsters on tv and it really scared me. I rented it a wahile ago and it cracked me up because it was so silly :)As an adult, The Prophecy, with Christopher Walken as the (evil) archangel Gabriel was pretty scary. Also frightening - Zodiac.

Robert Mitchum chasing the kiddies around in "Night of the Hunter."I was horrified by the "Exorcist," not in a frightened way, but thinking how Linda Blair wouldn't be scarred for life playing the possessed little girl.Pleasantly surprised by LOTR. Sure beat reading those damn books.

I saw "Bambi" in the theater as a child, and recall flames more than the fatal gunshot. Now that I have a 3-year-old in the house, that and other Disney classics I never saw are flooding in. I foolishly let her watch Bambi, in trepidation: she didn't get the deadly scene, kind of smiled, and now has lost interest. I'll bring it back out in a few years time. Meanwhile, we let her watch Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo, all of which she loves and which I found horrifying, for various reasons. They've been banned. She of course keeps asking for them.Scaredest? "Jaws," in the theater. Think about it every time I go near the ocean. Alien is a close second. It is a beautiful homage to Chiller Thrillers. Then again, I retain a fondness for Abbott and Costello meets Frankesnstein & Co.

"Diabolique," where the allegedly murdered (? dead, anyway) man starts raising himself out of the bathtub.

Seeing Silence of the Lambs as a teenager.

Enough of the serious stuff!

BTW, in searching for "Jaws" info I came across this post from last year by Beliefnet's Movie Mom, Nell Minow, discussing scary movies and the difference between scary and gory and horrifying. Apologies for the seriousness:http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/2008/01/why-and-how-do-we-like-to-be-...

So Joe, your dad shot Babmbi's mother? Horrifying!

Jean--The LOTR books were much, much better than the movies.And I'm sure you've heard that a previously unpublished book by Tolkien will be released in May. It's called "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun," and it is written in verse no less. Not only does the name of the book come tripping off the tongue, but I'm determined to get a copy of the book into your hands. :)Another scary movie I remembered: "The Shining," Kubrick's film with Jack Nicholson.

Not only that, Peggy; we ate her, too!

Lots of good calls made here already. David's right, it's the forest fire in Bambi that did it to me. In Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch was scary, but the thing that really got me was that testy apple tree with the basso profundo.I saw a Godzilla movie on television when I was 5 or 6 that scared the #$%^&* out of me. I kept looking in the backyard to see if there were giant red lizard legs stamping through the neighborhood.Saw Poltergeist in the theater when it was in first-run - believe I was in college. Spent quite a bit of the movie saying "Oh shucks", sort of.

Which is the worse sin, Margaret's wisecrack about Shirley Temple, or my laughing at it?!

William mentions The Shining. There are two moments I remember. One is Shelley Duvall locked in the bathroom with Jack Nicholson hacking his way in with an ax. It's terrifying. The other is more psychological (and earlier in the film) when Duvall discovers that Jack Nicholson, who is supposed to be finishing work on a novel, has actually been typing, again and again, for page after page, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."There was a shocking moment in Hitchcock's The Birds when Jessica Tandy ventures into the house where the first really major bird attack has taken place. She rounds a corner to see someone lying all bloodied on the floor, and the camera zooms to a close-up of the man's face, whose eyes have been pecked out by the birds. If you've only seen the movie on television, you have probably never seen the closeup, since it is always cut. Nobody has mentioned Roman Polanski's film Repulsion, which was intensely disturbing, with some very frightening moments. There is a scene in which Catherine Deneuve is going down a hallway, and suddenly a great many human arms shoot out of the walls and grasp at her. I also remember when she reaches for a light switch and the wall it is on cracks and breaks.

I guess I was one among many driven under the seat by the Witch in The Wizard of Oz, but the scene that drove me there the one where she gave Toto to the Flying monkeys. And Heidi gave me nightmares for a long time, about a coach being driven down a road terribly fast, and away from home.

The ghosts of the two murdered little girls in the hallway in The Shining still really creep me out after all of these years. On the other hand, any movie that has children getting killed in it really upsets me. So for example I would include the scene in the Latin American movie The Green Wall where the little boy runs across the screen with the poisonous snake hanging off his leg as one that has haunted me for 30 years.

I would say "The Blair Witch Project " (1999) and "The Ring" (2002) - the former, in retrospect, is probably overated, the later, underrated. "The LOTR books were much, much better than the movies."Very true, but, despite its flaws, I do have to say the movies were just about as perfect as a film adaption could be.

Yeah, "The Shining" scared me, too. Forgot about that one. Those two creepy little girls. I wasn't afraid of "The Blair Witch" project at the time. But not long after that, we went camping Up North out in the middle of nowhere, and I had to walk through the dead dark woods to the privy in the middle of the night, and the image of those stick dolls in the trees came back to me. Very creepy.Please, William C., don't trouble about the book. Verse, dear Lord, spare me. I'd rather have a copy of Fritz Lang's silent version of "Siegfried" and "Kriemhild's Revenge." When I was stuck in bed during the early part of my pregnancy, I watched those several times. Possibly explaining my kid's fascination with dragons ...

Les Diaboliques is pretty scary if you're watching it in a darkened theater. That's obviously true of most scary movies but more so of this one, since you really need to turn off your rational side to get the full effect. Naturally, that's a lot easier when you're in a theater with a lot of other scared people.Speaking of that reminds me of the movies that are intentionally both scary and funny, such as Gremlins, Gremlins II and "The Howling".

It's a good thing that when I saw The Exorcist I was close to the restroom! I was too old for the possibility of being embarrassed that way.

Remember "The Sixth Sense," not so much scarey as totally weird and surprising--except for when the boy turns and points to the people hanging by a rope from the past. I jumped out of the seat. Was I surprised? Was I scared?Killed and ate Bambi's mom? Joe! What were you thinking of?

Even as I write, I have venison in my freezer--Bambi's Mom, Dad, brother? Who knows? I've served venison to guests, but I admit that I've usually not told them what they were eating until they had finished.

In Michigan, we can't afford to anthropomorphize deer. They have overrun the place, are road hazards, decimate crops, and spread bovine tuberculosis in dairy herds. A clean kill by a hunter who is actually going to eat the mat is a far better use of these creatures than their slow starvation, or maiming by a car. Or the horrors of the commercial stock yard, come to that,(Ted Nugent aside).I've enjoyed many venison dishes provided by grandfathers, uncles and past boyfriends. It is flavorful, lower in fat and cholesterol than corn-fed beef. "Bambi" ignores the fact that does cannot be legally hunted until late fall, when their fawns are old enough to take care of themselves.

I agree with MAT that "The Ring" is an underrated, seriously scary movie. Also, Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" scared the bejeezus out of me, and is particularly good if you ignore the happy ending that was done for theatrical release and watch the original downer ending that is included on the DVD. The sequel, "28 Weeks Later" is, alas, a complete waste of time. It's one of those "scary" movies where characters consistently make the stupidest decisions possible.

Venison in the freezer!Now we are getting to what really scared me when I was young -- the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and the Alfred Hitchcock Show.The last had lamb in the freezer. As detectives puzzle over the bludgeoning death of a man, his perfect 50s housewife offers them some of the roast that had just come out of her Amana Radarange. But you knew it had come from her Frigidaire, where it had been frozen solid, as hard as any club could be. Knowing the evil lurked behind the cheery face, so like the faces so happy in all those comercials.I later learned the episode was based on a story by Roald Dahl, who obviously had some insight into what scares children.

Jim, thanks for those happy memories! The Amana Radar Range! "The Twilight Zone"! And the beginning of Hitch's show, where he'd walk into his own silhouette and turn to the camera and say "Good ev-en-ing" in that adenoidal voice.In keeping with the scary food theme, I have to say that my brother and I laughed out loud at the climax of the Twilight Zone, "To Serve Man." "It's a COOKBOOK!!" Almost as hilarious as Charlton Heston at the end of "Soylent Green" screaming "It's PEOPLE!"

Share

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.