The Scare List

- by Chris Marie Green

I love a good scare.

Since I write about vampires, this makes a lot of sense. But it’s Halloween time, when the nights get chillier and the darkness takes on a layer of “what else is out there?” eeriness, so I thought this would be the perfect time to dwell on a few isolated visuals that have shaped my psyche and inspired me in some of my writing.

It’s a list that doesn’t just contain movies (although most do come from the silver screen). These are just media-driven “moments” that have scared the ever-livin’ daylights out of me at some time in my life, and as writers, we all know that it just takes one of these flashing seconds to inspire us to construct anything from the flow of a scene to the details of a paragraph.

Now, without further ado, here is that list, in no certain order.

1. The Nurse Scene from THE EXORCIST III

Before I present a YouTube link, I’m going to ask you to picture yourself sitting at home, alone, with the lights off because that’s how movies look the best on your TV. You’re watching a flick about a serial killer who may or may not be related to that Georgetown exorcism we all experienced in the first movie. You know you should be on the edge of your seat, but the action is unfolding so slowly that you’re leaning back.  But it’s still making you wait, anticipating.

Then you come to this (warning–it does contain a jump-start shock moment). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH8ynu0jRvY

These kind of EXCUSE ME BUT WHAT JUST HAPPENED??? moments don’t happen often enough in horror movies. The long shot down the hallway, the lack of music, the everyday tedium of these people doing their jobs, then…

Yikes. I don’t know how well this moment would translate into a book (I should probably read William Peter Blatty’s LEGION to find out.), but to capture this kind of build up and its horrifying release would be gold on the page, too.

2. The ending of MULLHOLLAND DRIVE

Quite honestly, I can’t really remember the details of what severely freaked me out so much about this moment, but I know it had something to do with a dirt-caked man behind a diner and a box with small people. Whatever happened startled me and stuck with me until I forced myself not to remember it.

3. The Original Bride in the Attic in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion

Yeah—you know what I’m talking about. You’re having great fun in the Doombuggy, cruising through the mwah-hah-hah hallways of the mansion, giggling at the head in the crystal ball and jumping a little when the fluorescent skeleton things pop out of attic boxes. Then you hear a heartbeat, and it unsettles you ever so slightly.

That’s when you come upon her.

The ghoulie I’m talking about is the bride on the far left (the one in the middle is a newer version and the one on the right is from Disney Tokyo) .  As you can see, back in the day, she used to be scarier than what they have on display now: she had a pair of blank, pinpoint-lit eyes staring out from a face that wasn’t there. Her heartbeat was muffled yet red and visible in her chest as you passed her, wondering how something that frightening made it into the Happiest Place on Earth.

4. The Last Fifteen Minutes of DON’T LOOK NOW

I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it except to say EXCUSE ME BUT WHAT JUST HAPPENED???

5. Sound Effects that Created Some Pretty Horrid Visuals in My Head in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

Okay, this is technically more than one moment, but you must forgive me while I present the evidence: children giggling outside a tent. Branches snapping in the woods just outside that tent. Cackling. The echo of a lost party member screaming in terrified agony somewhere out there.

What we didn’t see in this movie kept me up at night, thinking that there was something just outside my own window. The use of the five senses in our writing—especially sound—has never been so well taught as in this film.

6. Some Trash Commercial I Saw in Grade School

This was another moment I’ve pretty much blocked out except for a few details, which I’m probably not even remembering correctly. All I know is that there was no music—just visuals of a vague black figure in the near distance, loitering near streams and lakes and stuff. In the end, the camera drew closer and closer to reveal the face of whoever/whatever was lurking, but by that time, I was so whacked out on the suspense of seeing this individual that I couldn’t look. Funny thing is that, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure that this commercial wasn’t even meant to be scary.

The lesson here? Dread, when used properly, is a fierce weapon.

7. The end of SLEEPAWAY CAMP

This movie isn’t for everyone. It’s a rip-off of Friday the Thirteenth, but with cussing and bullying teenagers who feel uncomfortably real. They pick on this poor girl named Angela who clearly has issues and, one by one, the bullies die in creatively graphic ways. (Seriously, there’s a murder with a curling iron that’s…. I can’t even tell you on this site.)

But the clincher comes at the end, when there’s a reveal so creepy and unexpected that there’s no way you can ever erase it from your mind. It’s the kind of visual that sticks with you at the worst moments—like when you’re trying to get to sleep or when you’re walking home after dark and you really should’ve called a cab.

And there you go.

But what about you all? Are there any “scary moments” that have shaped your psyche?

Tomorrow, I’ll be picking one commenter to win a copy of THE ULTIMATE BITE, a “hot” vampire Blaze I wrote under my other pen name, Crystal Green. It’s the prequel to this month’s GOOD TO THE LAST BITE, so enjoy!

16 comments

  1. I loved this list! I’d add the moment in The Ring when the girl comes out of the TV set…oh, and the part in The Sixth Sense when….well, that whole movie. I watched it through my fingers. Once. And never again. I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night with my eyes closed for years just so I wouldn’t accidentally see dead people.

    And I *LOVE* horror movies! You’d think my tolerance would be higher!

    :)

    M

  2. Hey, Megan! Oooo–I love THE RING, too. The first sight of that girl coming out of the well with her hair over her face is particularly effective for me!
    ; )

  3. I don’t like to be scared, so have never watched any scary movies.
    I do enjoy your books, Chris!

  4. LOL, Estella–and thank you! : )

  5. ALIEN. The moment when the monster first, um, emerges.

    That movie freaked me out more than any other since I was a kid.

    I do remember being scared by the skittering of the Martian in the original WAR OF THE WORLDS (on Dialing for Dollars!).

  6. P.S. – Megan – THE SIXTH SENSE didn’t bother me – I loved the movie, though!

  7. Pati! Oh, my, that alien. Yes! Besides all the slimy stuff going on, there was such a sense of oppression to that movie. Truly disturbing in so many ways.

  8. Chris — every part of The Ring freaked me out. All the hair!

    Pati — I don’t know what it was about the Sixth Sense, but it really scared me (I was pregnant at the time, maybe that had something to do with it!)

  9. The original Fly caused me many sleepless nights as a young child.

    And while it’s not a traditional horror movie, Jaws gets an honorable mention for getting movie goers to jump out of their seats (even when you know what is going to happen), and for music that causes your heart rate to go up every time you hear it. It’s also responsible for causing a whole generation to wonder if it is safe to get in the water. I still think of that movie every time I dip a toe in the ocean.

  10. I love some scary, but not too much, I think because some horrible things do happen in real life, so allitle it better. :)

  11. Welcome, Maggie and Dina!

    I’ll be back much, much later for the drawing. (I’ll be “out of the office” today, but keep those scary moments coming!)

  12. Sorry for not showing up later yesterday, but in the drawing for the contest, here’s the winner now….

    Dina! Your name came up. Please email me at cgreenwrite@aol.com with your address so I can send you a copy of THE ULTIMATE BITE, okay? : )

    Thank you, everyone–have a happy and safe Halloween!

  13. Thank you, I looooove vampire books!!

    Happy Halloween to you also! :)

  14. Scariest movie scene ever – “The Haunting” (original black and white version) where the ‘whatever it is’ in the corridor is pushing on the huge wooden door and the door is slowly, ever so slowly, bending inward. Still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

  15. You’re welcome, Dina!

    Nancy–yes, the original THE HAUNTING! That scene where the lights go out and one woman asks the other to take her hand? Aaaaaahhh!

  16. Hey, cool website. I actually came across this on Yahoo, and I am really happy I did. I will definately be revisiting here more often. Wish I could add to the post and bring a bit more to the table, but am just absorbing as much info as I can at the moment.

    Thank You