The best really scary movies I have ever seen were filmed in black and white, either by design or because they were made before the popularization of color techniques.
Lest I be mistaken for a Cretan, I want to make it clear I am not talking about “The Blair Witch Project.”
The other night, when I returned from someplace — I don’t recall just where — “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” was on the movie channel — fortunately, the one which doesn’t have commercial interruptions.
Bette Davis’ portrayal of a woman enmeshed in her own delusions made me comment to my wife that there simply are no actresses like that anymore — none who could carry it off. I named a few wannabes whose fan clubs I won’t offend by doing so here.
She reminded me that, of course, there are — and there are. Meryl Streep, Katherine Bates, Sandra Bullock, to name a few.
In all honesty, though, returning to the topic of horror films — or scary films, to be more exact, the premise of fear isn’t built on blood and gore, and may not even be built on supernatural elements — the Baby Jane movie was simply a story of a descent into madness.
In fact, the presence of too much blood and explicit killing is a giant turnoff. I would much rather be scared within my mind, than within my stomach.
“Psycho” — the original Alfred Hitchcock version, I can’t honestly speak to the remake.
“Citizen Kane” — what, you don’t think “Citizen Kane” was scary? What could be scarier than ending up like he did?
A movie, the name of which escapes me, that my buddies and I saw one Halloween at a college movie fest, about Jack the Ripper.
The original Twilight Zone shows, the ones made when Rod Serling comes on at the beginning and talks to the audience. (By the way, how many knew that Rod Serling was one of the original 101st Airborne, back in World War II?) That might win a trivia game.
One of the best scary books I ever read, “Ghost Story” by Peter Straub, starts off with a group asking each other the question “What scares you the most?” To this, the main narrator responds “I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing I ever did.” Predictably, the two are linked events.
Real fear, for me, doesn’t occur within the context of some guy in a mask running around with a chain saw — that’s just stupid. Here, I know I date myself, but for me, real fear occurs in exploring the twists and turns of a mind that has become warped, like the Bette Davis character, or a trap that seems inescapable, like “Open Water,” which I foolishly watched the night before I left for a weekend of scuba training.
Think about it. Shock is not the same as real, nightmare inducing fear.
I’ll take the second any day.