Maybe it seems counterintuitive to reach for the scariest movies in the spookiest time of year, usually in the dead of night, when every dark corner of your living room suddenly becomes home to ghosts and goblins just waiting to gobble you up. Surely a sunny spring morning or summer afternoon would be better suited to helping you sleep when the hum of the television fades away—but where’s the fun in that?
Whether it’s a film you hope to never see again, or a flick you can’t help but return to for a healthy dose of cultivated fear, everyone has a scary-movie experience that sticks with them through the years. Keep reading to see what scares the mere mortals of the inRegister staff, and tell us your own experiences in the comments down below!
“A dozen fifth-graders watching The Shining—what could go wrong?! When my friends and I all went trick-or-treating and then headed back to one of their houses for a slumber party afterward, we were excited to settle into the living room without any parents around, dig deep into our candy bags, and press play on the VCR. It was all going well until a deranged Jack Nicholson poked his head through an axe-split bathroom door and said, “Here’s Johnny!” over a soundtrack of screeching violins. Or maybe it was all the running through tall hedges that scarred me the most? To my surprise, some of my friends seemed unfazed by what was happening on screen, but I wasn’t the only one covering my face with a pillow; one sleepover attendee even became a sleepover dropout when she ran out of the room to call her mom to come and pick her up. I still truly cannot handle a scary movie to this day, and I have been known to walk out of a theater mid-movie if things get a little too creepy. I’ll stick with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, thank you very much!” – Kelli Bozeman, editor
“I had already seen more than my desired share of scary movies by the time The Witch came to America in 2016, but its period-drama overlay (authentic Puritan New England costumes, anyone?), 1630s Yorkshire syntax (“What went we out into this wilderness to find?”), and enticingly brittle string-laden score convinced me to attend a screening when a horror-movie buff friend suggested we check it out. The film itself is a beautifully shot slow-burn of gray skies, dried-up crops and suspenseful discomfort, and although its climax is gruesome enough to throw anyone’s hands over their eyes, the spookiest part for me involved a candlelit closeup, a sickly sweet whisper and a certain family goat by the name of Black Phillip. I’ve watched it almost every year since and I still can’t cure the goosebumps.” – Christina Leo, community editor
“My memory was of seeing the first Halloween movie back in the ’70s. I was at a drive-in with my then-boyfriend, and we were in a Volkswagen Beetle. What I remember is watching maybe the first 30 minutes until the truly scary parts started. Then I covered my eyes and only listened to the rest of the entire movie. Without having seen most of it, to this day, I think it is the scariest movie ever.” – Tricia Reed, senior account executive
“As a self-proclaimed horror-film fanatic, I’ve had my fair share of frightening cinematic experiences. But my earliest memory of a horror movie wasn’t a horror movie at all. In fact, it was Jan de Bont’s 1996 disaster-classic, Twister. Now you might be wondering, how could this cheesy-action movie be deemed terrifying? I’ll tell you. As the youngest of five children, subject to my siblings’ will, I sat curled up on the couch as a child completely unaware of Twister’s drive-thru scene. As I watched along, suddenly the Grady twins from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining appeared on the television screen. The twins’ eerie calling of ‘Come play with us,’ along with the sound of crackling lightning from the impending tornado was enough to make me tremble with fear–no matter how hard I tried not to show it.” – Eleanor Fetzer, editorial intern
“When I was about 10 years old, the older kids in our family friend group suggested we all watch The Sixth Sense. With no parental supervision, there was, quite unfortunately, no one to stop us. Now, I am aware that this movie is not technically a horror movie; it is a thriller. However, I was not thrilled once the movie began. Of course, I had to pretend to think the movie was no big deal in order to retain what street cred I thought I had. Carefully, I hid my sweating palms and horrified facial expressions, but once a young Mischa Barton took the screen profusely vomiting, I was done. I still think about this scene and how much it disturbed me every time I get sick. It’s a curse. But I guess you see what you want to see, right?” – Riley Bienvenu Bourgeois, assistant editor