Is Halloween Really Scary?

October 31st, 2012 by Ben

It’s that time of the year again, when people dress up as their favorite monster or villain and try to give everyone a scare!  And it’s that time of year when movie screens are flooded with horror tales, trying to do the exact same thing, because Halloween is the trademark of fear, gore, terror and horror.

It is the only genre that flourishes on precise plot-lines and twists. Lovable notions such as premarital sex that usually lead to systematically and creatively killing off characters one by one with lots of blood and gore. And all that is combined with a slasher-killer that never seems to die when he’s supposed to (or that simply is immortal). Horror is also an iconic genre for the male audience, who seek it rigorously.

And so, it’s time to reflect and compare how well classic horror films work in light of the modern ones. Let’s start the chainsaw!

Classic Horror

Halloween (1978)

We can’t start this post without naming one of the movies that started it all! And just as important, it’s the movie that introduced Jamie Lee-Curtis to the big screen. I can personally say that despite the fact that this movie is not up to par with modernized scares, it still is highly suspenseful and impressive with it’s storyline and with the legendary Michael Myers that will always be notoriously known for killing his own sister.

Scare-Meter: 6/10

The Exorcist (1973)

The AFI calls this the scariest movie of all time, and this humble writer thinks it’s for a good reason. For a movie that was made so long ago, the makeup is just unbelievable and I think nothing beats running down the stairs upside-down to give you a really good fright. This movie takes a great use of excessive profanity and the innocence of a young child to shake you off your seat.

Scare-Meter: 9/10

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

A group of teenagers drive to the middle of nowhere only to find a bunch of inbred cannibals who terrorize their lives to the brink of sanity – sounds familiar? Of course it does! Since this is the movie that started the group-slaughter trend. Nothing says massacre better than a good chainsaw to slice people in half multiple times. Leatherface haunts his victims for several more sequels and remakes.

Scare-Meter: 8/10

Friday the 13th – (1980)

It’s become widely known in the horror genre that whenever you have sex it means you are probably going to die. This is the movie that started that common idea. A tragedy ensues in Crystal Lake when a kid drowns in the middle of summer camp. During the attempt to re-open the camp, the workers are terrorized by an unknown assailant. Another horror cult classic which in its merit we owe all the “Friday the 13’s” for being completely dedicated to horror.

Scare-Meter: 7/10

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Undoubtedly one of the most original concepts for a horror movie. It’s the pioneer of psychological horror: the murderer is in your dreams making it impossible to run or hide anywhere, which triples the scare-meter for audiences. Kids resort to coffee to stay awake and sing frightening songs to keep the famous Freddie Kruger away from their dreams. For if they fail, it will turn into a nightmare that they will never wake up from.

Scare-Meter: 10/10

Since “classic horror” set the bar for the “conventional horror,” it was hard for modern horror to create films that aren’t predictable and corny. They had to resort to clever storylines, unconventional photography and even humor in order to throw the audience off-balance.

Modern Horror

Scream (1996)

Just when audiences thought Horror was completely dead, Wes Craven came along and re-invented it. He reflected the horror genre within itself, pointed out all the clichés and broke them with a great many twists and turns in this small town-serial killer flick that spawned 3 more sequels. I remember seeing this in the cinema and until this day I’ll never forget the startles and scares that this movie gave me.

Scare-Meter: 7/10

Blair Witch Project (1998)

One of the trendiest sub-genres today is the Fake Documentary, which was born through this magnificent film. It was so well-marketed that it was believed the actors in this movie were actually missing. Three film-making students travel to the woods of Maryland to investigate the mystery of the Blair Witch. When they get there, they get caught up in all sorts of trouble. This movie is also the highest earning movie in history. It was made with only 60 thousand dollars and earned 250 million in return.

Scare-Meter: 9/10

Saw (2004)

A movie that became just as big a franchise as Jason Voorhees or Freddie Kruger, this movie brought the definition of Torture-Porn into the movie vernacular. “Saw” revolves around a serial killer that plays mind games on his victims in order to psychologically force them out of their everyday depression and lack of purpose, although along the way there is a great deal of suffering, trauma and very often – you guessed it – death in a most disturbing ways.

Scare-Meter: 6/10

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

You didn’t really think I’d forget Zombies, did you? This remake revolves around a plague that inflicts human beings worldwide and turning them into flesh-eating zombies. A small group of survivors try to make a stand in a local shopping mall. It is one of the most visually stylized, suspenseful, and rough zombie movies of the 21st century coming from visually-emphasized director Zack Snyder.

Scare-Meter: 6/10

Cabin in the Woods (2011)

And we wrap up this modern fare with director Joss Whedon who is widely known for suspenseful and clever films that always keep the audience guessing. Despite this film following all the regular conventions of horror movies, it still manages to keep surprising you the whole way through. Unlike regular horror movies, it is more fast-paced and has a humorous side (take it from me, I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the entire movie.)

Scare-Meter: 7/10


So let’s review: The classic horror movies have spawned 31 sequels combined, whilst the modern horror spawned only 13 (including 1 as a remake.)
The total scare-meter score for the classics is 40 points while moderns score 35. Pretty close, but still doesn’t cut it.
It’s safe to say that the classics knock this one out of the park. They introduced the formula, they proved it works, and have lasted till this day because of it.

Despite the classic film’s victory, it is this humble writer’s opinion that all of these movies are winners. None can exist without the other. Modern horror would never have been as clever and witty today without it’s predecessors to set up the groundwork. Yet they find ways to look better and feel scarier, and to me it’s always something to be thankful for. Have a Happy Halloween! And don’t let the Zombies get ya!

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