It’s that time of year again. Yes, Halloween, but more notably, it’s the time of year when the lists of scary movies pop up like plastic skeletons in a bad funhouse. Yes, we know that The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever made—and we know it because we hear it every year.
But Halloween, to me, isn’t about “scary,” it’s about “creepy.” Scares make you jump out of your seat and scream, but then they’re gone. The creeps stay with you forever, and then sneak back up on you in the middle of the night and keep you awake long into the wee hours. Here’s what does that to me—cinematically speaking, at least:
Creepiest psychos: There’s Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates in Psycho, of course, which pretty much guarantees I can’t sleep in a roadside motel without wondering if I’m being spied on in the shower. And Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrence in The Shining has made me wonder who might be lurking down the long empty corridor of a big hotel, so I pretty much can’t stay anywhere away from home that doesn’t creep me out. Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs prevents me from ever eating fava beans or liver, and after Hannibal, I shall never ever eat a sauteed slice of Ray Liotta’s brains, no matter how nicely it is offered.
Creepiest kids: I must avoid schools, playgrounds, and anywhere else children congregate lest they all suddenly morph into those weird blond kids from Village of the Damned. Wells are right off the list of places I visit in case the little girl from The Ring climbs out and tries to slap me with her hair. Damien, son of Satan, from The Omen has ensured that I will never adopt a child, because you just never know where they came from. I could never go to a high school dance because Carrie (of the movie of the same name) might show up, even though no one wanted her around. And I really hope vampires aren’t real, because if they are, there are probably lots of them around who are like sinister Claudia of Interview with the Vampire—eternally a child, and damned unnerving because of that.
Creepiest gifts: I’ve been exaggerating for Halloween-y effect until now—of course, I really love children (even though they can be the only real monsters that exist). But I’m not kidding at all when I say that I almost cannot open a present without hearing Brad Pitt in my head screeching, “What’s in the box? What’s in the box?” Of course, in Seven, he received a terrible gift, and he pretty much knew what was in the box before he asked.
Runner-up: No matter how nice or expensive a beauty product it may be, the moment anyone presents me with a bottle and instructs me, “It puts the lotion on its skin,” a la Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs, I won’t do it—unless I’m in the bottom of a pit and must placate my psychotic kidnapper.
Other top moments of creep on film:
Creepiest aliens: Every time I see that news footage of the spindly ETs on Joaquin Phoenix’s TV in Signs, I am “ooked out” for days.
Creepiest circus folk: The sideshow denizens of Tod Browning’s Freaks. “One of us, one of us, one of us ...” Not that the mean normal girl who taunted them doesn’t deserve what they dish out to her.
Creepiest insects: The nonexistent critters in Bug, the little-seen 2006 psychological horror movie starring Ashley Judd. I cannot scratch an itch without wondering what could be crawling around under my skin, or what I could be convinced into thinking it could be.
Creepiest animals: The flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz. Needs no further explanation, does it?
Creepiest appliance: The TV in Poltergeist. The rise of cable means no more static on dead channels, but still …
Creepiest workplace: Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. If I had to work with Oompa-Loompas, I’d quit.