The Real Shawshank Redemption

Frank Freshwaters: first and last mugshots.

Frank Freshwaters: first and last mugshots.

 

One of my favourite works of fiction has long been Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which was turned into an equally brilliant movie.

But is it fiction?

The “real” Andy Dufresne was a man named Frank Freshwaters. In 1957, Frank pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a suspended sentence. However, unlike Andy, Frank wasn’t too bright–or maybe he was just reckless–and he violated his probation. In 1959, he was sentenced up to 20 years at the Ohio State Reformatory–the very same prison where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed.

Frank managed to form relationships with his captors, and convinced them he could be trusted…much like Andy did. As a result, he was transferred to what is known as an “honour farm”–basically, a farm that was owned by the prison.

He escaped during the same year, but his freedom was interrupted in 1975, when he was arrested in Charleston, West Virginia. When the governor refused to send him back to Ohio, he was freed and disappeared again.

"Freedom!"

“Freedom!”

And just like Andy, Frank enjoyed his freedom for a long, long time, until a deputy marshal decided to investigate this cold case. He found Frank in Florida, where the felon was living under the name William Harold Cox.

Frank had retired from life as a truck driver and was living on social-security benefits before he was again brought to justice…58 years later.

The “real” Andy Dufresne is now 79 years old and confined to a wheelchair. Do you think he should spend the rest of his life in jail? Are you glad he was captured?

Five Awesome Horror Movies You Probably Missed

Dan Stevens is The Guest who's impossible to resist.

Dan Stevens is The Guest who’s impossible to resist.

Horror movies are hotter than ever, but a few high-profile monsters of the genre gobble up the spotlight. If BabadookIt Follows, and the latest sequel followed by a sequel didn’t do it for you (or even if they did), you’ll appreciate the finds on this list.

Got a recommendation for me? Please let me know in the comments.

  1. The Guest. The best horror movies go beyond tight genre constraints. They’re a little bit thriller, a little bit mystery, a lot of suspense. Enter The Guest. A woman grieving the recent death of her soldier son is startled when his army buddy arrives at the front door. She’s never heard of him, but he’s in the photo of her son’s platoon, so he must be on the up and up, right? He’s so charming, after all.
     

    Things start to go wrong soon after The Guest arrives, but all the tragedies appear to be in the family’s favour–until they’re not. However, the soldier’s sister isn’t fooled and is determined to expose The Guest for who he truly is…but will her investigation get them all killed? The success of this fun, thrilling movie comes down to two things: an awesome script and an even more awesome performance by Dan Stevens.

    The Final Girls is one awesome horror movie you may have missed

  2. The Final Girls. This is another fun one for those who like their horror tongue-in-cheek. A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a scream queen from the ’80’s, reluctantly agrees to attend a film fest in honour of her mother’s biggest slasher hit. When a fire breaks out in the movie theatre, the woman and her friends slash the screen to escape and end up in the middle of the infamous horror flick. In order to save themselves and the girl’s mother, the friends have to decide who will be the Final Girl–the virgin who’s destined to vanquish the killer in the end. This film was so entertaining I didn’t want it to end. It’s similar in some ways to Cabin in the Woods.
     
    You're Next is one awesome horror movie you may have missed

  3. You’re Next. I loved The Guest so much that I took a chance on You’re Next because it was another creation of writer-director Adam Wingard, with great reviews. I wasn’t disappointed. You’re Next revisits the tired home-invader-slasher trope that has been done to death–with an unexpected twist. Wingard turns this genre on its head by making the would-be killers victims and one of the victims the most kick-ass hero I’ve seen in a long time. I cheered out loud while watching this one. Very intelligent and diabolical.
     
    The Boy is one awesome horror movie you may have missed
  4.  

  5. The Boy. A woman is hired to take care of a child while his elderly parents are on vacation. When she arrives, she finds her charge is not a toddler, but a doll. A creepy, life-sized doll. Even more disturbing, her employers insist she treat him as if he really is a child, and never, ever leave him alone. At first the would-be nanny suspects the “parents” are cuckoo, but then she starts to question her own sanity as strange, inexplicable things happen. Are her employers right? Is the doll really alive? Or is something far more sinister going on?
     
    The Invitation is one awesome horror movie you may have missed
  6.  

  7. The InvitationYour ex-wife invites you and your new girlfriend to a dinner party, along with a group of your closest mutual friends. Nothing odd about that, right? Turns out the ex has found a new love–and a new religion, one that appears to worship death as the ultimate release from life’s pain. The dinner begins with the hosts sharing a decidedly spooky infomercial about their new “faith,” and things quickly spiral downhill from there. A powerful thriller with lots of emotional drama between the characters, The Invitation has one of the most chilling endings I’ve seen in a long time.

How about you? Seen any good scary movies lately? I’d love to hear about them, and if you’ve seen any of my picks, please let me know your thoughts.

PS – If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your peeps. You may also like Cinema’s Baddest Bitches.

Murder at the Movies: The True Story Behind “The Stepfather”

stepfather-splsh“Daddy’s home and he’s not very happy.”

The Stepfather (1987) was one of the first truly chilling horror movies I ever saw. I’ll never forget the opening sequence. Terry O’Quinn calmly wipes the blood off his face, changes his appearance, and walks off into the night, leaving behind his murdered wife and children.

O’Quinn’s stepfather was a man who longed for an idealized version of family life. He’d marry widows with children, seeking perfection, only to murder everyone when they failed to live up to his expectations.

The Stepfather was definitely scary, but the true story is worse. Much, much worse.

On November 9, 1971, a quiet, unassuming accountant in New Jersey committed a horrifying crime. After his three teenage children had left for school, he crept into the kitchen and shot his wife of twenty years in the back of the head. He then climbed the stairs to his mother’s suite, and kissed her before shooting her in the face.

His name was John List.John_List2

Once he’d put his grisly plan into action, List reportedly felt he couldn’t back out. He cleaned the home, moved the body of his wife to the empty ballroom, where he’d laid sleeping bags on the floor, and then began to write. List stopped the family’s milk, mail, and newspaper deliveries. He sent letters to his children’s schools and part-time jobs, explaining that they would be out of town for an undetermined amount of time to deal with a family emergency. He closed both his own and his mother’s bank accounts.

This god-fearing, deeply religious man then wrote a five-page letter to his pastor, explaining the reason behind the murders. Once that was done, he had nothing to do but wait.

And eat lunch.

His sixteen-year-old daughter Patricia was the first to come home from school. As she walked inside the house, she was shot in the back of the head. List did the same to his 13-year-old son, Frederick, and then drove to his eldest son’s school to watch him play a soccer game. When they returned home, List murdered his last remaining child, but unlike the others, John Jr. didn’t go quietly. His body jerked as List emptied a 9 millimeter and a .22 into him. John Jr. was shot multiple times in the chest and face.

“I don’t know whether it was only because he was still jerking that I wanted to make sure that he didn’t suffer, or that it was sort of a way of relieving tension, after having completed what I felt was my assignment for the day,” List said.

After more cleaning (List was nothing if not methodical), it was time for dinner. List said that he ate a peaceful, untroubled meal while his murdered family bled onto the sleeping bags in the ballroom. (His mother was left upstairs with a towel over her face, as her body was too heavy for this mild-mannered monster to move.) What many people find incredible is that List then went to bed and “slept like a baby,” as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

The next day, he turned down the thermostat, switched on all the lights in the house, and turned the radio to his favorite classical music station.

No one saw John List again for eighteen years.

His crimes were discovered a month later, when neighbors noticed the house lights were going out one by one and called the police.

list_busts

List with the bust that helped bring him to justice.

List was finally brought to justice, thanks to the TV series America’s Most Wanted. The show’s producers had commissioned a bust of what List would look like nearly two decades after his terrible crime. Ironically, List was a big fan of the show, and even saw part of the episode that featured him. He was surprised by how much the bust resembled him, but otherwise he wasn’t concerned. He should have been.

His luck was finally about to change. List was arrested at his accounting job in Virginia when a neighbor recognized the so-called “Bob Clark” as the man the FBI were looking for. Even after police confirmed that “Clark’s” fingerprints were a match for List’s, List continued to insist that they had the wrong man. Confronted with evidence from the crime scene and the police’s knowledge of List’s scars and other unique physical characteristics, he eventually confessed.

Chillingly, List had managed to create a completely new life. He was remarried to a divorcee, Delores Miller, and reportedly happy.

Thankfully the couple didn’t have children.

So what would lead a Sunday School teacher to shoot his children, wife, and mother in cold blood?

List apparently had trouble keeping a job. There was something about him that just didn’t fit, and he was fired or laid off again and again. Meanwhile, the bills kept piling up. He had two mortgages on his Victorian house. He’d been stealing money from his mother’s account.

While he claimed in his infamous five-page letter that the 1970s were a “sinful time,” and that he killed his family to save their souls so they could go to heaven, his financial difficulties likely had a lot more to do with it.

His wife had contracted syphilis from her first husband, and the disease was affecting her brain, leading List to resent her and feel he’d been “tricked” into marrying her too young. He also no doubt resented his overbearing, controlling mother, who insisted on living with them.

All these pressures combined made List crack.

Ten months after the murder, the infamous home mysteriously burned to the ground. The ballroom ceiling turned out to be a signed Tiffany & Co. original worth over $100,000…more than enough to have solved the family’s financial issues.

If only they’d known.

 

Girls Gone Wrong: Cinema’s Top Five Baddest Bitches

Basic-Instinct

One of the most famous scenes in movie history. “What are you going to do, arrest me for smoking?”

 

The hair was big, the pants were parachute, and the women were bad. Very bad. The ’80s produced some of the very best psychological thrillers–and the most diabolical anti-heroines of all time. Men were no match for these brilliant, fierce, powerful women…and even though some of their motives and actions may have been questionable, you gotta admire their awesomeness.

From mildly disturbing to the queen of the sadists, here are my top five picks for the baddest bitches of all time.

1) Greta Scacchi in Presumed Innocent. When the movie starts, Scacchi’s Carolyn Polhemus is already dead, but that doesn’t stop her from almost ruining Harrison Ford’s life and career. She’d already ruined his marriage–all in a power-hungry quest to become the next District Attorney. Polhemus gives new meaning to the word “ruthless.”

2) Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. Over two decades later, people are still talking about Stone’s brilliant portrayal of sociopath Catherine Tramell (and her predilection for not wearing underwear). Is Catherine a cold-hearted killer, or is someone framing her? She keeps you guessing until the very last scene, and even then, you’re not sure. One thing’s for certain, though–when those closest to her are brutally murdered, she doesn’t care very much.

SCF1990002K2493) Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. Women everywhere thought twice about having a roommate when this movie came out. Leigh’s Heddy Carlson takes obsession to a new level as she becomes a carbon copy of her hapless roommate…stealing her style, her name, and even attempting to nab Allie’s boyfriend. But the most terrifying thing about Hedra? What she can’t steal, she destroys. And she still expects you to love her. Brr!

4) Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. We can thank this movie for the term “bunny boiler,” which is still used to describe a dangerously obsessed woman. Close’s Alex Forrest was chilling enough to keep men from straying, but a lot of female viewers secretly cheered as she refused to be another one-night stand. Nothing could keep her from her man–not even his wife and child. And if Alex can’t convince poor Dan Gallagher they’re soul mates, well…there’s always that butcher knife.

5) Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. No one can play a sadistic psychopath like De images-6Mornay. Those chilling ice-blue eyes, that sweet smile that manages to fool just about everyone…and who could forget that moment in the greenhouse bathroom when she completely loses her shit? Unlike the other women on this list, Peyton had a deep need for vengeance that we can almost sympathize with. She blames the Bartel family for ruining her life, so she vows to ruin theirs…by becoming the perfect nanny. Peyton is nothing if not creative, and before the Bartels realize this nanny is not what she seems, almost everything they hold dear has been destroyed.

Who is your favourite girl gone wrong? And I’ve got to ask–to those who’ve seen Basic Instinct, what did you think of the ending? Did she or didn’t she? That scene has always haunted me.

PS: If you like this post, you’ll love The Five Creepiest Children in Film.

Murder at the Movies: The Truth Behind ‘The Possession’

The Possession movie still

Laugh if you will, but horror movies are an art form. It’s extremely difficult to get them right.

At a conservative estimate, roughly 90 percent of the horror movies I’ve seen have been complete crap. I was thrilled that The Possession was not one of them (some, of course, will disagree).

The basics of the plot are this: newly divorced dad brings his two daughters to an estate sale; youngest daughter is attracted to a strange wooden box; family gets spooky warning about the box before they leave; box is haunted or possessed and begins to drastically affect the youngest daughter and her family.

What added to the creepiness of this movie for me was the legend behind the possessed item, which is known as a Dybbuk box (or as I like to call it, the dik-dik box).

Back in 2004, a man posted an unusual item for sale on Ebay. The owner of a furniture-refinishing store, he had bought the Dybbuk box, which he believed was a wine cabinet, for his mother’s birthday. Planning to refinish it, he left the box in the basement of his store.

About a half hour later, he received a call on his cell from his employee, whom he’d left in charge. She was hysterical, screaming that someone was breaking glass and swearing in the workshop. She claimed to be locked in before the man’s cell phone went dead. He returned to his shop at top speed, only to find the iron security gates locked. His employee was curled on the floor in the corner of his office, sobbing.

Even though no animals had ever been allowed in his shop, the man was overpowered by the pungent odour of cat urine when he ventured downstairs. All of the light bulbs in the basement were broken. Nine incandescent bulbs had been broken in their sockets, and 10 four-foot fluorescent tubes were lying shattered on the floor.

There was only one entrance to the basement, so the man should have seen the intruder as whoever it was attempted to flee, but no one was there. His levelheaded employee, who had been with him for two years, left while he was exploring the basement. She refused to come back or even speak to him about what had happened.

The real Dybbuk box

The real Dybbuk box

Not connecting the strange events to the Dybbuk box, the man gave it to his mother as planned. While she examined her gift, he left her to get ready for lunch, only to have another employee come for him in a panic five minutes later.

His mother was sitting in a chair beside the cabinet. Her face had no expression, but tears were streaming down her cheeks. No matter how he tried to get her to respond, she would not. She could not. His mother had suffered a stroke, and ended up suffering partial paralysis, losing her ability to speak and form words. However, she could understand things being said to her, and could respond by pointing to letters of the alphabet to spell out words.

When her son visited her in the hospital the following day, she teared up and spelled out the words: N-O G-I-F-T. He assured her that he had given her a gift for her birthday, but she became even more upset and spelled out the words: H-A-T-E G-I-F-T.

According to the man’s Ebay listing, misfortune followed everyone who owned the box. Reoccurring nightmares of a demonic hag, mysterious rashes and reddened eyes, and the overpowering smell of cat urine are just some of the symptoms the man reported. When he began to notice shadowy figures in his home, he knew he had to get rid of the box. After he sold the object on Ebay, his chronic sickness vanished, but similar ailments befell the next two owners, until the box was taken to a “secret location” and locked up.

It could be an elaborate hoax designed to push an item on Ebay, but I’ve seen interviews with the original owner and he seems extremely sincere. All three of the owners were interviewed on the show Paranormal Witness. In an attempt to test the quick-sale theory, I put a teddy bear on Ebay with an accompanying story about how it was haunted. I guess I did too good a job. Though I had some inquiries, in the end, everyone was too scared to buy it!

Have you heard of the Dybbuk box? Do you think cursed items are real, or was it a hoax? Have you seen Possession, and if so, did you like it? What would you do if you received the box as a gift?

How to survive a zombie apocalypse (or pretty much anything)

cabin in the woods

People in horror movies do some pretty stupid things. I guess they have to…after all, if everyone acted intelligently, there wouldn’t be much suspense.

Still, I love movies where the would-be victims have half a brain and actively attempt to outwit zombies, deranged killers, or sparkling vampires.

One of the many things I loved about Joss Whedon’s brilliant The Cabin in the Woods was its unique explanation for why people in these movies are so moronic.

With the spooky season approaching, I thought it best to provide you with my top-ten survival tips learned from horror movies.

Top Ten Survival Tips From Horror Movies

1. If you hear a scary noise coming from the basement or attic, don’t investigate it. Call the police and get out of the house. Or, preferably, get out of the house and then call the police. Better to look foolish than dead.

2. For God’s sake, grab a weapon. Almost anything is better than nothing. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

sleepwalkers7

3. Once you have a weapon, don’t leave it somewhere stupid–like right beside the deranged killer’s dead hand. He might not be dead.

4. Don’t cheat on your significant other. It’s just asking to get murdered in some horrible way. And if you’re a teenager, abstinence is best. (Unless you have a thing for sparkling stalkers, and if that’s the case, can’t help you.)

Twilight

5. Never volunteer to check out the generator, the boiler, or anything else that separates you from the group. You’ve just become the sacrificial lamb. This goes double if you’re a minority.

6. If you move to a new home and your child suddenly strikes up a friendship with someone you can’t see, don’t assume it’s an imaginary friend.

danny's imaginary friend

7. Don’t adopt a child whose birth records are mysteriously missing. Especially if people are pressuring you to take the kid.

8. If an old man (or woman) tells you not to go to that cabin, house, town, cemetery, etc…believe them. Go somewhere else for your vacation. Buy another home. The regular ol’ pet cemetery is just fine for your needs. Avoid ancient Indian burial grounds at all cost.

pet semetary

9. Maybe don’t buy the cursed object from Ebay.

10. If worst comes to worst and you find yourself running from a deranged killer, don’t turn around mid-stride to see how far back they are. Just keep running.

escaping Jason

What survival tips have you learned from horror movies? What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen a character do in a scary movie?

The True Story Behind “Child’s Play”

Child's Play

Since the first movie was released in the 1980s, the Child’s Play franchise and its cursed doll Chucky have become horror-movie classics.

But did you know Chucky is based on an actual voodoo doll? The real thing is so much creepier than the Hollywood version. It even looks creepier.

Image from the Key West Art and Historical Society

Image from the Key West Art and Historical Society

Key West artist and author Robert Eugene (Gene) Otto was given the homemade “Robert the Doll” in 1906, when he was six years old. One of his family’s Bahamian servants made the spooky-looking thing out of a wire frame, cloth, straw, and hair from Gene’s own head. This same servant was apparently mistreated by the family, had recently lost her own child when she was ordered to take care of Gene, and was skilled in black magic and voodoo. Of course she was. If you’re going to mistreat a servant, maybe choose one who doesn’t know voodoo. Or at least don’t let her use your child’s own hair on a doll.

Gene loved his creepy new friend, and his parents didn’t think much of it when their son began chattering away to the doll. However, it did give them pause when the doll answered back–in a completely different voice.

Robert the Doll was apparently the jealous type, and soon Gene’s other toys were mutilated. Neighbors reportedly saw the doll watching them from different windows when the family was known to be away from the house.

As Robert’s hold over the family grew stronger, Gene’s parents heard the doll giggle. They caught glimpses of it moving through the house. (This maybe would have been a good time to get rid of the doll.) When their son screamed in the middle of the night, they would rush to his room, only to find furniture knocked over and Gene terrified. Of course Robert the Doll was blamed for the destruction.

Soon people outside the family learned that Robert was not an ordinary doll. A plumber fled the house after it snickered at him. Other visitors swore the doll blinked and its expression changed.

Robert’s influence didn’t end when Gene grew up. Once Gene’s parents died, he moved back to his childhood home with his wife Anne, and was soon reacquainted with his old fiend. Anne took an instant dislike to the doll, swearing she had seen its expression change.

When the doll was confined to the attic, guests heard unexplained footsteps, laughter, and movement upstairs, even though no one was there. Pedestrians saw the doll staring at them from the home’s windows, and children began crossing to the other side of the street as they approached the house. Some kids claimed the doll taunted them. Gene found Robert in a rocking chair on the main floor time and time again. He kept putting the doll back in the attic, but it always returned to the chair.

Gene died in 1974 and his house was sold, along with Robert the Doll, who was in a trunk in the attic. The new family’s ten-year-old daughter claimed the ugly thing as her own, but soon regretted it. Her other dolls were mutilated, and it wasn’t long before she began having night terrors. She claimed that Robert moved about the room and had even attempted to attack her on multiple occasions.  When the family discovered their dog tied tightly with cord, they returned the doll to the attic.  As an adult, the girl still insisted that Robert the Doll was alive – and evil.

You can visit Robert in the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West. If you want to take his picture, you have to ask his permission. The museum is full of letters of apology from those foolish enough to snap a photo against the doll’s wishes.

Had you heard of Robert the Doll? Do you believe a doll can really be cursed? Would you visit or own a cursed object?

While I was researching this post, I was startled by the similarities between Robert the Doll and the cursed bear in my latest book, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave. Life really is stranger than fiction!

The Truth Behind “A Nightmare on Elm Street” – The Blood, Boobs & Carnage Blogfest

Blood Boobs Carnage Blogfest

It’s been over thirty years since Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street terrorized a generation. Thanks to a bunch of schlocky sequels, it’s easy to forget how frightening the original was. People were afraid to go to sleep. One of my friends watched it in junior high and was so scared that I didn’t dare to watch until I was an adult. It’s rare to see any modern horror movie wield that kind of power.

But as scary as Nightmare was, it pales in comparison to the true story that inspired it.

In the early 1980s, young Asian men were dying in their sleep. The men, seemingly healthy immigrants and refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, had no reported health problems, other than horrible nightmares and being terrified to sleep.

One particular young man was convinced a demon was trying to kill him through his nightmares. His parents didn’t believe him, and his father, who was a physician, gave him sleeping pills. After three full nights of staying awake, the exhausted man finally collapsed, and several hours later, woke up his family with his screams. They found him thrashing around on his bed, apparently in intense pain. Before they could get to him, he was dead.

They later found the unconsumed sleeping pills hidden in his room, along with a Mr. Coffee maker.

In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control began tracking these mysterious nocturnal deaths. Over 104 men, averaging 33 years of age, and one woman, have died in this manner, according to Dr. Gib Parrish, a CDC medical epidemiologist. Ninety-eight percent of the deaths occurred between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The condition is unknown in other ethnic groups.

Twenty-six men, often Hmong refugees from the highlands of northern Laos, died in their sleep in 1981. The victims were usually dead by the time they were discovered, but when medics arrived quickly, the men’s hearts were fibrillating or contracting wildly.

While there are several theories about what causes sudden unexpected nocturnal death syndrome, no one has been able to figure out why these men died.

Craven read about the deaths in the L.A. Times, and a monster was born. He created Freddy Krueger, the pedophiliac janitor who was burned alive by vengeful parents. Freddy, of course, gets the last laugh by continuing to torture the town’s children in their dreams.

a-nightmare-on-elm-street-800-75

Have you seen A Nightmare On Elm Street? Did you know it was inspired by true events? What is your favourite classic horror movie?

The short-lived Nightmare On Elm Street: Real Nightmares television series was quite good as well.

Be sure to visit the other Blood, Boobs & Carnage bloggers! (The list of bloggers can be found at the bottom of the linked post.)

– With files from the Los Angeles Times

The Five Creepiest Children in Film

Aidan ups the creep factor in The Ring.
Ah, children. They’re so sweet, so innocent.
Or are they?
Many a scary movie has used a child to up the fear factor. Maybe it’s a demon child, or a satanic baby, or just one creepy-ass kid.
I’ve learned some very practical things from a lifetime of watching scary movies. One of them is this: if your child suddenly strikes up detailed conversations with an invisible person, never assume it’s an imaginary friend. EVER.
Without further ado, here’s my list of the creepiest kids in movie history. (WARNING: HERE LIES SOME SPOILERS.)
1) Damien from the original The Omen (1976), played by Harvey Stephens. Who could forget that creepy smile? That complete lack of remorse? The lesson here–if someone is pushing you to adopt a child of unknown origin, Just Say No.
2) Kyra Collins from The Sixth Sense, played by Mischa Barton.

Kyra was the ghost who scared Haley Joel Osment’s character several times. She first showed up vomiting in his tent, and later grabbed his ankles from under the bed. Now, Kyra’s story is quite sad, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her. But did anyone not jump when she lunged out from under the bed? That was one creepy ghost-kid. (Note to kids in the same situation as Kyra–if you inexplicably get sick every time your mom gives you something to eat, you might want to question what she’s putting in your food.)

3) Joey Scavello from Servants of Twilight, played by Jarrett Lennon. Was Joey an innocent, persecuted kid, or was he truly evil? He keeps you guessing right until the very end, and even at his most charming, he is creepy beyond belief. Brr!
4) Danny Torrance from the original The Shining (1980), played by Danny Lloyd. Danny is another character we’re supposed to feel

sorry for. He’s snowed in at a haunted hotel where the ghosts can actually hurt you, his dad is going crazy, and his mom is one of the scariest-looking women to grace the silver screen. It’s not his fault that he can see dead people, is it? Perhaps not, but Danny is so unrelentingly creepy that if that kid woke me up screaming “REDRUM!” in that annoying voice of his, he’s the one I’d be running from.

5) And my award for the ultimate creepy kid goes to…Aidan from The Ring, played by David Dorfman. Why does no one in this movie ever acknowledge how strange Rachel’s kid is? It’s like the white elephant in the room no one talks about. For one thing, he calls her Rachel–is she his mom or not? It’s hard to tell–he seems so removed from her. You may be surprised that I chose Aidan–the little boy in potential peril–for this award over Samara, the undead girl who was thrown in the well, but if you ask me, Samara was by far the lesser of the two evils. The scene where Rachel awakens the creepy Aidan to tell him that she’d put Samara to rest and his eyes widen as he says, “You helped her? Why did you do that? She never sleeps.” It still gives me the shivers.
There are some obvious omissions from this list–namely Regan from The Exorcist and Rhoda from The Bad Seed. Why? Well, for one thing, I seem to be the one person on the planet who doesn’t find The Exorcist remotely scary. Regan’s character is gruesome, but she doesn’t scare me, and Rhoda is too campy to be terrifying.
Who would you nominate for this list? And why do you think children are so often used to scare us in horror movies?
Thanks for reading!

Ten Scary Movies That Are Worth The Time

For a while, scary movies were a dime a dozen. Production companies like Lion’s Gate were pumping them out left and right, and let’s face it–most of them sucked. It is really difficult to produce a truly scary movie. Most movies simply show too much.

Guillermo del Toro’s movies are lovely, and full of atmosphere–but they’re not scary. Ditto the other end of the spectrum, the good ol’ fashioned gore fest. Gory movies aren’t scary–they’re gross. There’s a big difference.
I love a good scary story, and I’ve spent years searching out the best ones. I’ve trolled lots of lists like this, but I’ve always been disappointed. Without further ado, here are my ten picks for the best of the genre, along with some bonus mentions. These movies don’t rely on the gross-out factor in order to scare you–they’re scary, not gory.
1) The Sixth Sense: Please, I beg of you, try to forget that M. Night Shyamalan made anything other than this masterpiece. The Sixth Sense strikes the perfect balance between scary mood-setting and excellent story-telling. I can’t think of another movie in this genre where I care this much about the characters. If you’ve watched it a lot, you may not find it particularly scary anymore, but the first time you saw it, I bet you jumped out of your chair a few times. Arguably the best role Bruce Willis has ever had.
2) The Others: The classic haunted house movie with a twist. This came out shortly after The Sixth Sense, and it is brilliant. Once again, the focus is on building atmosphere and telling a great story.
3) The Changeling: You’ll see a lot of movies from this time period on many top ten lists–The Omen, The Exorcist, The Entity. Well, this one is actually scary. Another haunted house story where a well-meaning man tries to help a ghost, with disastrous results.
4) Burnt Offerings: If you can get past the ’70s cheese-factor, this movie is highly disturbing. A family decides to look after a rambling estate and an invalid woman for the summer.

5) Woman in Black: There are two versions of this classic angry ghost tale. One is a British mini-series from the ’80s, which is very hard to find, and the other is a recent remake starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. Both are great stories of a terrible tragedy that has long-lasting repercussions.

6) Pet Sematary: I love Stephen King, but this is the only movie adaptation of his books to make the list. The special effects are getting dated, but this is still a thoroughly chilling story of a man who will have his son back at any cost.
7) Cold Prey: This is the classic horror movie set-up. A group of goofy, sexed-up, irresponsible twenty-somethings spend the night at an isolated location where they have no business being. Of course a crazed killer is going to pick them off one by one. But because this is Norwegian, it kicks ass. Both of the sequels are sequels in the true meaning of the word (they continue the story) and are very good as well.
8) The Conjuring: I’ve been hearing about paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren since I was a little girl reading my Grannie’s Enquirers. I was curious about this movie but didn’t have high hopes. It is much scarier than expected, and wins for spookiest horror movie doll EVER. Sorry, Chucky.
9) The Possession: Another modern pick. This one didn’t get good ratings, and I’m not sure why. It had me researching dybbuks for days. There is enough “based on a true story” background to make this movie truly creepy.
10) Based on a true story movies: A four-way tie between The Mothman Prophecies, The Haunting in Connecticut, Hostel, and Wolf Creek. Hostel and Wolf Creek slip too far into gory territory, and Hostel technically isn’t based on anything real, but both these movies are disturbingly believable. The website for the Mothman movie (now defunct), which related all the genuine Mothman sightings/events around the world, was much scarier than the movie. And to truly get the creeps after watching The Haunting, be sure to watch the interviews with the real family afterwards.
Do you have anything to add to my list? Any “scary” movies you’d warn people to stay away from?
Thanks for reading!