Atmosphere is really what it's all about when it comes to a creepy movie. It's that feeling you get, a little prickle at the back of the neck. You know something bad is going to happen, but you can't pinpoint when. There's a bit of mental imbalance to the plot which makes it that more unpredictable. Then it happens and you jump! Personally, I love a good scare, but I'm not into horror or slasher films. The scariest movies in my book aren't about being graphic, it's the "creep factor." Only a strong plot and excellent acting can make it happen. The filmography-angles, shadows, etc. are crucial. All take place in benign settings, which up the ante as well.
Gaslight - 1944 with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, and the debut of 18-year old Angela Lansbury. An emotionally fragile Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) meets the charming Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). He whisks her back to England after years in Italy to soothe her anxieties from witnessing the murder of her mother years earlier. The term "to gaslight" someone came from this movie, and if you haven't seen it, please do. A suspenseful, psychological thriller, you won't be disappointed.
Cape Fear - 1962 with Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen. Gregory Peck made this movie right after the blockbuster hit, To Kill a Mockingbird. An atmospheric Southern film, Cape Fear is all about being stalked. Peck plays another attorney, Sam Bowden who's trying to protect his family from a convicted rapist (Robert Mitchum), Max Cady. Bowden testified against Cady eight years earlier, and now he's out for revenge. You'll find yourself gripping the arms of the chair in the last 20 minutes.
|Robert Mitchum - The Night of the Hunter|
There are a few more that should be in top ten and here they are: Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte with Bette Davis, Shadow of a Doubt with Joseph Cotten, Village of the Damned with George Sanders, and The Innocents which is based on Henry James' short story, The Turn of the Screw. The most recent movie that gave me a good scare was a Harrison Ford film, What Lies Beneath. It was made in 2000.
So what scares you? I'd love to know. Leave a comment and let me know.