I would argue that it is surprising, all the remakes of classic horror films lately if it weren't so typical of Hollywood to remake anything it thinks might sell. From Carrie and the new Poltergeist to the TV series prequel to Psycho, Bates Motel, everyone wants in on some of the great scary movies of all time. Of course, all the true classics have been done over and over again. Dozens of variations of the Dracula story, zombies, mummies, werewolves and Frankenstein have filled theaters for decades.
But, when I saw that there was going to be an actual remake of one of the best scary movies ever made in Poltergeist, I thought it might be time to face up to my fears and admit there were a few terrifying films I enjoyed, some of them quite a bit.
I don't like horror movies. I'm easily startled by loud noises and things jumping out at me, so seeing The Omen, The Exorcist, Carrie, Friday the 13th, Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street as a kid left me traumatized, even if I didn't admit it to my friends. But, even through all the actual nightmares and freak outs, a handful of films made it to my list of all time classics.
5. Poltergeist (the original)
The fact they are remaking this is concerning to me. Yes, the original was cheesy, but it did something great scary movies do: It left you terrified as much by what you didn't see as what you did. Oh, sure, the toys floating around the room, the creepy ass clown (who likes clowns?) and the bodies floating up to the surface of the muddy swimming pool were scary, but that damn TV and the disembodied voice of little Carol Anne were bone chilling. Much like Hitchcock, often the most agonizingly awful stuff was what your mind could conjure without the need for CGI.
4. The Shining
In truth, the novel was scarier and Stephen King's adapted television version in the '90s had a more satisfying ending, but the freak show that was Jack Nicholson and the creepy minimalism of Stanley Kubrick makes this one of the all-time great films of any genre. I'm not a fan of Kubrick in particular, but the combination of his style and Nicholson's fury makes for one of the most fascinating and spine tingling scary movies ever.
3. Silence of the Lambs
I'll never forget the story a friend of mine told me about seeing this film in the theater. When Clarice, finally inside the home of Buffalo Bill in the movie's climactic scene, is confronted with pitch black after the lights go out, a large man near the front of the theater who had apparently been imploring her not to go into the house in the first place, stood up and said, "F*** this, I'm outta here" and left to the cheers of the audience. I feel his pain, but this is still an absolutely brilliant psychological thriller. The scenes between Jodi Foster and Anthony Hopkins are some of the best one-on-one moments in movie history.
2. Psycho (the original)
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Whoever thought Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche would make suitable stand ins for Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh must have been nuts. Legend has it that Leigh's famous shower scream was enhanced by a bucked of ice water flowing through the shower head, and that scene was horrifying, but the reveal of Norman Bates's dead mother will be frozen in my head forever. I love Alfred Hitchcock films and while this is not in my top 5, the very fact he made it puts it on this list.
To this day, this is one of my all-time favorite movies, partly because it is scary, but mostly because of why. Bruce, the giant mechanical shark, kept sinking, so Stephen Speilberg was forced to turn to other devices to keep people watching. The simple act of a diver pulling down on a swimmers leg at night or the tick-tick-tick of line off Quint's reel was enough. The look on Roy Scheider's face when he got his first up-close look at the shark followed by one of the most famous lines in movie history ("You're gonna need a bigger boat.") was more paralyzing than the shark itself. The shark may give us a direct visual of what we fear most when swimming in the ocean, but what we didn't see in the movie is what made us all scared to go back in the water.