SURVEY SAYS – What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?

October 22, 2009 ( - Halloween is still a couple of weeks off - but this week I asked readers to share what was your favorite scary movie(s).

The “winner” was clear – but it was close enough to qualify as a “thriller.”    More on that in a minute.   

Now, I’m always in the market for a good scary movie – though, as one reader noted this week “Most of the other newer movies mentioned here substitute fear with gore. After seeing just a few of these, the gore becomes a bore, not scary anymore.”

“Undiscovered” Territory

That said, I enjoy this survey because – in addition to seeing how these movies stack up in YOUR assessments, I always look forward to the one or two previously “undiscovered” selections to add to my collection.

This year it’s one that as a reader explained “Nobody has ever heard of it, but there’s this British made-for-tv movie that came out in the 80’s. Very low budget. No real special effects. Nobody famous is in it. But, I swear, it is the scariest movie ever made.   It’s called “The Woman in Black.” (You can get it at the library.) When I first watched it, my friends had to pry me off the ceiling.”   Check it out – I plan to.

Now, if you checked out the survey choices yesterday, you’ll have a sense of the “quality” on this list.   But today I’m going to present those results in a different order.

Reader Comments

First, there were some entertaining reader comments:

“Any of the above, as long as I am not in the same room as the movie, or if I am my eyes are closed and I am wearing ear plugs – am not a fan of scary movies (reality TV and the nightly news is bad enough).”

“I can’t figure out if the reason I haven’t heard of some of these movies is because I’m too old – or too young!”

“None. Scary movies scare me.”

And this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “I don’t like scary movies. If I want to be terrified, all I need to do is read through my To Do List.”

Now, as for the movies.

First, the movies from the "other" category - suggested by readers, but not on our list of choices:

  • American Werewolf in London
  • Wait Until Dark
  • The Hitcher
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Night of the Hunter
  • 2001, A Space Odyssey
  • Stephen King's "It"
  • Don't Look Now
  • Cape Fear
  • Wall Street

Those from our list that got votes (but not enough to "win"):

  • The Omen
  • Alien
  • Hocus Pocus
  • The Legend of Hell House
  • Stephen King's Storm of the Century
  • The Ring
  • 28 Days Later
  • The Shining
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Aliens
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Seven
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • The Uninvited

Now, as for the movies that were readers' choices for scariest movie, here are the top 8:


In which we learned the rules of survival in a scary movie…

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They're heeeere!

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The Birds

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The movie that made us afraid to go swimming….

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Sixth Sense

"I see dead people…."

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The movie that made us afraid to take showers…

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The Exorcist

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That's right - the aptly named John Carpenter classic once again topped our scary movie list.

The night "he" came home…

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Now, not that it (perhaps) matters lots, but as I thought back over my history with scary movies, I realized that WHERE you see a movie, WHEN you see a movie, and sometimes WHO you see it with, all have influences.

Without question, the movie that most unnerved me when I saw it in the theater was "The Exorcist."   Of course, that was back at the time when people were coming out of that film claiming to be possessed (or having seen it with someone who started acting that way), returning home and experiencing objects moving around, etc.   That, and unlike movies about fictional monsters, or reanimated zombies, it seemed like it could happen.   Perhaps the best evidence of how it affected me - I slept with the lights on that night (and I was still living at home with my parents at the time).   But, as creepy as it was, I wouldn't call it the scariest movie I ever saw.

As for the where you see it, I saw "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for the first time at a drive-in theater.   Now, it's one thing to see a scary movie in a crowded theater.   But even though the screen is far away, and the picture tends to be grainy (that added to the realism - and it was, after all, based on "actual events"), I was so scared that - well, let's just say I wasn't interested in sticking around for the second feature.

The scariest black-and-white movie I ever saw was "The Haunting" (though "The Night of the Living Dead" was close).   If you haven't seen it - or haven't seen it in a while - check it out.   One of the best ghost movies ever!

Let's face it - there are lots of great scary movies - every time I get goosebumps, I still think of "The Sixth Sense", I'll never forget that scene from "Poltergeist" where the clown comes from under the bed, and yes, if I had lived near the ocean after I saw "Jaws", I surely would have skipped the beach that summer.   "Halloween?"    A true classic (the soundtrack is wonderful!).   Looking for a good werewolf movie?   "Silver Bullet" is great - or check out "Dog Soldiers" for a new twist on the genre.   One with a really creepy (no pun intended) ending?   Check out "Jeepers Creepers" - or for a new selection, how about the closing scene in "Shutter?"   For my money, the scariest ending ever?   "Carrie."

Still, the scariest movie I ever saw on a television screen - and my choice for scariest movie - was "The Evil Dead."    Oh, sure parts of it look kind of campy now (Sam Raimi was a long way from Spider-Man), but it scared the (*&*(& out of me the Saturday night I watched it with some friends - fortunately we weren't in a cabin in the woods!