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My friends , these movies scared the living bejeezus outta me.

Exorcist, The (1973)

Chilling to the bone

I'm not kidding. I am a grown woman, have seen hundreds of horror movies, and even watching this in the middle of the day when it was sunny outside it gave me chills The trailers are scary as hell. In fact, a couple of scenes (like the head spinning) scared me so bad I almost started to CRY. I saw this movie on TV when I was in high school and for some reason I found it much more frightening now.

The included documentary was excellent, and I finally got to see the notorious "spiderwalk" scene that was cut out. I've wanted to see this part for a long time, ever since I heard about it, but I didn't think I'd get to. I was thrilled that it was included, but YEEEESH it gave me the creeps. Then, probably because I was unprepared, the 'revised' version of this scene in "The Exorcist:The Version You've Never Seen" made me scream like a little girl.

I think it was a brilliant idea to remaster the sound, as the sound is one of the most frightening aspects of the movie. It rightly deserved the 1973 Academy Award for best sound. Her raspy voice is creepy enough, but these horrible animal-like sounds that come out of this little girl will make every hair on your body stand on end. I also didn't think upon a second viewing that I would find any scenes shocking as it takes a lot to shock me, and I am not exaggerating. Well, the scene with the crucifix made my jaw drop and I actually had to cover up my eyes, I couldn't watch. By the way, if you are easily upset , I would seriously recommend either fast-forwarding or NOT looking during this scene.

What's also interesting in the documentary is hearing about how rough a shoot it was. Evidently Friedkin is not very well-liked by most of the actors who have worked with him, and you will find out they have good cause for this. However, as much of a jerk as he was, and as much as he put the cast through complete hell, you have to admit that he got results.

I don't recommend watching this alone after dark.

Grade: A

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What Lies Beneath (2000)

Better than the critics gave it credit for

I spent hours in the week before this movie's release on the net, reading reviews, and boy, were they rough on this flick. Most reviewers went out of their way to say it was boring, stupid, unoriginal, a waste of time, how Harrison Ford looked so old he should retire (more on that later), and one critic even went so far as to compare it to "Battlefield Earth" for Godssake! Needless to say, I had such low expectations that I went to see it by myself (not wanting to subject friends or family members after hearing how awful it was). I even considered skipping the first half because I heard Harrison Ford wasn't on screen much for the first hour. While WLB was not the scariest or most exciting movie of all time, I left the theater glad I saw it. Unfortunately for me, a careless reviewer gave away 99% of the 'twists' in the story line, and the trailers already gave 75% of it away anyway, so there was only one real surprise.

The surprise turned out to be that I actually had fun. I think everyone already knows the set-up and plot by now, so I won't bother with a sypnosis. I will say that every seat was full (another surprise) and there were more screams from the audience than I've heard during a movie in years. We're talking over a dozen times where half the audience yelped/jumped in shock and a handful of moments where everyone screamed. Loudly. We are talking adults here too, not nervous little kids. In all fairness, many of the jumps are the 'fake' kind that you are all too familiar with if you've seen enough horror/suspense films, i.e. "OH GOD! You almost scared me half to death sneaking up on me like that". The movie also frequently employs the device where a character is in frame, the camera pans along with them out of frame for a second, then we pan back and someone/something has suddenly appeared in the frame behind them-cheap shot, but it works. Many reviewers complained that the score was overdone, with a loud blast of music in the scare scenes to ensure everyone jumped. Honestly, I couldn't tell whether or not this was the case, because the audience's yelling covered it up. There is one *very* big unexpected jump-trust me, you'll know it when you see it-that will probably end up on a lot of 'scariest moments' lists, I am ashamed to say I SCREAMED at the top of my lungs like a little girl, and so did everyone else in the theater, including grown men. (note: if you tet the chance, see it with a group of friends or at least a significant other, because you will have much more fun (I found that it's pretty embarrassing sitting there all by yourself and suddenly yelling and spilling your candy).

On the negative side, there are many cliched horror movie moments, and the dialogue wasn't exactly brilliant. There were also parts where they over-did the foreshadowing to the point of insulting my intelligence. Example: "Call on the cell phone, we're running late" "Oh, the cell phone doesn't work" "That's right, the cell phone won't work in the middle part of this bridge." "Yes, I forgot about the fact that the cell ph--" OKAY! WE'VE GOT IT NOW! THANK YOU! So, the script could have used a polish, but not enough to ruin the movie.

Another complaint I've heard is that the movie "rips off" Hitchcock's films (a collapsing character pulls a shower curtain down off the hooks with her, a character is named Norman, etc) but I do know the difference between a ripoff and a loving tribute, and Zemeckis knows what he's doing, I highly doubt he was trying to trick the audience into thinking these were his original ideas. For the record, Harrison Ford still looks great with his shirt off, better than some actors in their 30's. He has recently reached the point where he can not pass for a man in his early 40's, but compared with other actors in their late 50's, he still looks mighty fine, especially without that unflattering "angry brush" spiky hair style he's had in his last couple of films. Let's just say there were plenty of women there with biiig smiles on their faces during the love scenes. When he gives that sexy crooked boyish grin, about 20 years instantly drop from his face.

OK, enough rhapsodizing about Harrison Ford, back to the movie. Where was I? Diana Scarwind as Claire's best friend is funny and lightens up the tone. Michelle Pfieffer is wonderful, making some of the corny dialogue sound genuine. Many less talented actresses would simply go into "woman in peril" mode, but her acting is very impressive, and even the critics who really hated the movie gave her credit for that. Oh, and speaking of aging well, there were plenty of males in the audience looking pretty happy during the love scenes too. So guys, if your date or wife votes to rent this "chick flick", don't make her drag you to the store- you'll have a much better time than you think.

Sure, this movie is no all-time horror classic, but it is a fairly intelligent, entertaining, thrill ride of a movie that deserves a much better chance than the critics gave it.

grade: B-

Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

Simply one of the scariest movies ever made, period.

With the BWP hype in 1999, there was a lot of talk of going around about "the scariest movie you've ever seen". Probably because I've seen over a thousand horror/fright/suspense/gore movies, I have trouble pinning it down. I can't name the scariest, I can name the top 5. As far as non-supernatural horror goes, this movie and Last House on the Left are the scariest movies I've ever seen.

I saw this at a film festival and the audience was very, very quiet. My friend and I just sat there quietly cowering most of the time. It's just way too realistic. The opening and closing are probably the most frightening, and we don't even see Henry killing anyone, just the bodies of his victims and their terrified screams in the background, echoing. It will give you chills down your spine. The stuff in the movie that scared me wasn't any big "jumps" or gore, just very disturbing, creepy moments (especially if you knew someone who was been the victim of a homicide, as I do). My friend I saw it with worked at the city prosecutors office and heard about plenty of local murder cases and said it rang very, very true to life.

One of the most chilling scenes is early on, when Henry goes to a mall and just sits patiently in the parking lot, scanning. The camera looks coldly and calculatedly at different women in the parking lot from Henry's point of view. There are so many shots you almost start to wonder what the point of the scene is until it hits you: they are ALL potential victims, this is how he looks at women. I have always been careful as a woman whenever I am alone but after seeing the film, to this DAY I do not walk to my car alone at the mall without my mace in my hand, and I look all around me and never turn my back on anyone.

The movie also does not glamorize the killing or violence against women at all. Also, it's a good primer on home and personal safety. (a good rule- Do not EVER let a stranger into your house when you are home alone if you were not expecting him. In fact, after I saw this I never open the door when I am home alone and not expecting anyone, period. Think I'm paranoid? Watch this movie and see how safe you feel).

The plot sounds simple but it's not boring. The movie follows the exploits of Henry, a young man who is practically a textbook case of a serial killer (male, white, 30's, drifter, soft-spoken, shy). Conflict comes when his disgusting nasty inbred cousin Otis Toole stays with him, along with his pathetic sister. One night Otis and Henry pick up a couple of prostitutes and are having sex with them in the car. Henry kills both of them sort of offhandedly, with no more emotion than you would swat a fly. Otis starts joining him on his exploits. Henry is more sympathetic than Otis, however, because while Henry does these things because he is sick and doesn't have a choice, Otis seems to get off on them, and also should know better. Things sorta go downhill from there, and the sister complicates things because she is so desperately lonely that Henry starts to look good to her. It culminates in one of the most chilling, downbeat endings of all time.

After I saw this movie at the festival, I was lucky enough to be there when Michael Rooker, who plays the title character, came out and lectured and did Q & A. When I say lucky, I don't mean lucky that I got to meet a celebrity (though that was neat). I mean lucky that I was able to have proof immediately afterwards that this was just a movie. If the movie had ended and I just had to get up and go home, I probably wouldn't have gotten any sleep for about a week. He was very nice and personable, wore glasses and a blazer, not at all like his character. The thing I remember most clearly is someone asked him what kind of movies he liked and he replied, "I don't like horror movies, really, I like musicals". Everyone laughed for about 5 minutes, partially out of relief. BIG relief. See, it's just a movie, there's the actor right there, and ha-ha, he's actually very shy and charming and harmless, isn't that funny?

Even with all of that, I still find this one of the most disturbing, unsettling movies ever made.

Grade: A-

Greta - Haus ohne Männer (1977) aka Greta the Mad Butcher, aka Ilsa the Wicked Warden, aka Wanda the Wicked Warden

If this movie doesn't get to you, you're already dead.

I have seen all of the Ilsa movies several times (yeah, I know, I probably need therapy) and this one is by far the most well-made. First, a warning: if you are easily shocked, offended, or disturbed, you won't make it through this (or any other Ilsa) movie. It takes a lot to disturb me, but this movie did the trick. If you love campy women's prison movies, this is also a must-see, though it is WAY darker than most of them.

Yes, this is an exploitation flick and does not try to hide this fact, but it has a plot, and characters you care about. A reporters sister is being held in a women's prison in the heart of a South American jungle, so she goes 'undercover' to try to rescue her. The cruel, cruel bitch in charge of the prison is the most twisted, sick, evil, sadistic warden you will ever find in any women's prison movie--Ilsa, (or Wanda, depending on which version you see) the Wicked Warden. Her idea of a nice relaxing sexy evening is using one of the female inmates' most sensitive areas for a pincushion, and I am describing the scene tactfully. She lobotomizes some unlucky inmates when they get out of line. The woman's plan to infiltrate the prison and save her sister goes horribly awry when she realizes things in there are much, much worse than she could have dreamed of, someone kills the only people that know she's there, and there is no escape.

The movie's ending is a total show-stopper, when Ilsa comes to one of the most fitting, vividly grisly, ugly endings that you will ever see. Not the most pleasant movie to watch--the first time I saw it, I felt sick for not turning it off and continuing to watch the horrible acts being committed. However, I've seen a lot of really bad horror/shock/exploitation films, and this one really stands out amongst the rest, with realistic characters, the courage to have a very downbeat ending, and no glamourization of the violence or making it sexy. The images in this movie will stay with you for a long, long time. For some people, that's a warning, for others, a strong recommendation. You think you've seen it all? If you haven't sat through this, you're wrong.

grade: B

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Managed to scare the hell out of me and break my heart at the same time.

This movie definitely surpassed my expectations. Granted, my expectations weren't too high- I saw a matinee, just wanted it to be mildly entertaining. I had seen BWP a few weeks before at the time and had friends who said they almost cried BWP scared them so bad. Well, there's one of many moments in this (there's so many that just made every hair on my body stand on end, my skin crawl, and made me actually gasp- and I can say that I can probably only name 10 or scary movies that have 1 or 2 moments like that). I won't give the end of it away, but the moment that starts out with the kid appearing to Cole and whispering excitedly, "Come on, I'll show you where my Dad keeps his gun"- that one moment, to me, was 10 times scarier than all of the Blair Witch Project put together.

There were many times where I jumped, and it wasn't just a "fake" jump, it was something clever that I genuinely didn't see coming. This was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, and I've seen thousands. It would definitely go on my top 5 scariest list, along with Carrie and The Exorcist.

As far as the notorious plot twist, first of all, I've decided when it's hyped that a movie HAS a twist ending, that's a drag right there, because you-well, I do anyway--spend at least half the time trying to guess the twist. Having seen a hell of a lot of movies, and a hell of a lot of twists, I usually get it 9 times out of 10.) I'm pretty much the spoiler queen, it's like a drug or something, maybe 1% of the time I can resist reading them, I don't know what it is. Unfortunately, I read a review that gave it away without warning- it named a couple of movies (I won't name them, because it could give away the ending if you saw them) and said if you guessed the ending to those, you'll guess the ending to this. If I had to pick any movie where I could go back and not know the spoiler ahead of time, this would be it. My husband didn't see it coming, and he's pretty clever about guessing them too.

Something else I did not see coming was how emotional this movie made me. If you've seen the movie, you'll know why and how it hits you hard. If you've recently experienced the death of someone close to you (especially if you are not finished grieving) then in all seriousness, please think twice before you watch this movie. At the very least, see it with someone supportive who you are not afraid to get emotional in front of. During the second to last scene in the car, I surprised myself by starting to cry- not just getting choked up but actually crying to the point where I needed Kleenex-, and I didn't stop until the credits were part way over (and Bruce Willis is not one of my favorite actors). MAN that scene in the car got to me.

Re-reading the screenplay, I realized even more how great it was, and how heartbreaking. There are so many elements that just make your heart wrench. I read the last scenes of the screenplay at home, alone, and had a really good cry, which hasn't happened since I read the screenplay to The Green Mile.

Aside from that, again, this movie scared the you-know-what out of me. The premise is very scary but many filmmakers could have handled it in a way that bungled it up. In this movie, the filmmakers did it just right. Even if you *really* don't like Bruce Willis' acting, and were turned off by the trailer, give it a chance. Just try to prepare yourself first...

Grade: A+

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