I remember back in 2001 when I worked in a movie theater, a lot of people were terrified by Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others, with Nicole Kidman – and I never quite understood it. I was bored by most of the movie, saw the end coming a mile away, and was never once scared. Typically ghost movies don’t scare me – again, I was more bored than anything by even well thought of ghost films like The Amityville Horror, The Orphanage or The Grudge (both the American remake, and the Korean original). Even when I do like a ghost movie – like Jack Clayton’s classic The Innocents (which The Others kind of rips off), or The Sixth Sense or The Devil’s Backbone, I’m more unsettled than actually scared by them. The one exception is probably the original Paranormal Activity, which did genuinely scare me.
The so-called “torture porn” movies have never really scared me either. There was nothing really frightening about the Hostel or Saw movies - because I’m not sure they were really trying to be scary – they just liked killing people in increasingly sick ways, which is not inherently scary in and of itself. The Friday the 13th series never scared me either – they were all John Carpenter’s Halloween with the artistry or genuine mounting terror – which is pretty much the case with most of the Halloween movies, come to think of it.
Give me a home invasion story, and I will be terrified for days – checking and re-checking my locks, and my sleeping two-year-old, multiple times before bed. It’s probably why I liked films this year like The Purge and You’re Next more than many did – and why I think The Strangers is one of the best American horror films of recent years, and why the French films Them (Ils) always springs to mind when talking about the scariest films of recent years. But ghosts, guys with hockey masks and those who want to torture don’t really scare me that much.