by | Oct 28, 2021 | Lisa Black | 7 comments

by Lisa Black

I love scary movies. I mean love. If you look at my streaming watchlist, it’s 90% horror movies and 10% British crime dramas. And I’m picky—if it doesn’t give me nightmares, it’s not scary enough (only 3 have ever given me nightmares)—and I’ve never found one scary enough if it doesn’t involve ghosts. If done well I’m okay with zombies (28 Days Later), vampires (Interview With the Vampire), serial killers (Silence of the Lambs) and the undead (The Mummy [1999, Brendan Fraser, Rachael Weisz] is my #1 all-time favorite, but not because it’s scary, it’s just so bloody entertaining), and but nothing is really scary except ghosts.  

#1 The Ring. This is that one about there’s this videotape and if you watch it you’ll die in 7 days. Sounds like the stupidest plot ever, right? I would never have seen this movie if it hadn’t been recommended by someone whose opinion I trust, but it turns out to be beautifully crafted and well-acted and a great lesson for writers: you can take the most far-fetched plot in the world, and if you do it right, if you set it up with care, the plot becomes not only plausible but inevitable.  

#2 The Blair Witch Project. I don’t care what anyone says, this movie was genius. Not just because it was shot with three kids and handheld cameras for an astronomically advantageous profit margin, but because it is a triumph of misdirection (also another great lesson for writers).  It’s also the only movie at which I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack in the last three seconds.  

#3 Paranormal Activity. Obviously, I’m a sucker for found-footage movies. This is sort of the inverse of Blair Witch—instead of teenagers in the deep woods, this is a young married couple inside their cute little condo. But while after Blair Witch I went out and walked my dog along a tree-lined dark street without a qualm, after watching Paranormal Activity I slept with the kitchen light on. And I was 50 years old.  

(In my defense, my husband was out of town so I was alone in the house. Yes, knew that was a bad idea, but I really wanted to see it, and so rarely get control of the remote.)  

#4 Nomads. This is a little-remembered odd thriller with Pierce Brosnan, in which he is technically dead, his body possessed by an evil troupe (led by Adam Ant, believe it or not) but his spirit is passed to the female ER doc who worked on him. She/him go to help his wife flee before the evil clan can find her; the wife thinks this ER doc is crazy as she’s rushing around their bedroom packing stuff up while trying to explain it all—until the wife realizes the strange woman knows where hubby kept his underwear. Eerie and unique. 

#5 Hell House LLC. This is a cheap little straight-to-streaming video of the, yes, found-footage style in which a group of friends who make their living creating haunted house attractions each Halloween season meet their match in an old hotel. No nightmares, but I did physically cover my eyes at one point. There’s few things creepier than dark basements and mannequins dressed like clowns. That’s all I’m going to say.   

Honorable mentions: It Follows, different and terrifying. Identity, which was both tense and interesting. And The Grudge, because nothing’s as scary as big-eyed little kids.

What about you? What do you watch when you want to see something really scary?

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  1. Rogue Women Writers

    What a list! I guess I can understand why a terrific forensic specialist like Lisa Black would be fascinated by these types of films. But, alas, I have to admit I have not seen any of them and don’t want to test my ability to avoid nightmares! However, in the spirit of the coming Halloween night on Sunday — thanks for a great blog! (Meanwhile, I plan to watch a Hallmark movie tonight)…..Karna Small Bodman

    • Lisa Black

      Not a Hallmark Christmas movie! Not before Halloween!

  2. Jenny Milchman

    Ooh, love some of your picks, and at least one–Nomads–is new to me! I love scary movies too. Usually with a psychological edge. One of my faves is The Orphan. Happy Halloween!

    • Lisa Black

      I’ve seen The Orphan! That was good.

  3. Sue

    Personally I’m a Hitchcock fan. “Rear Window” was terrifying without showing one drop of blood.

    • Lisa Black

      That is so true!

  4. William Burton McCormick

    The original Blair Witch was the most scared I’ve ever seen a movie theater. Glad it is high on your list. An absolute favorite.

    I’d have Jaws somewhere on there. Who can go swimming in the ocean without thinking of that John Williams score?