Friday, October 21, 2011

Top-ten dream-haunters

I common with a lot of folk, ( horror fans included I imagine ), I find nothing horrific about horror movies, so I figured with Hallowe’en coming on, and people getting into all things spooky, I’d put together a personal Top ten of fillums that genuinely freaked the bejesus outa me:, for whatever reason. 

WARNING all manner of unpleasantness ahead.

This is my Top Ten films that have frightened me, with emphasis on the word ‘me’ ( it’s all about me folks). In other words, personal factors, such as my age when I saw them and what exactly I was expecting to see, weighed heavily in how frightened I was, and have weighed heavily in my choosing.

I thought I’d mention the ones that nearly got in  first, and they are: ‘Jaws’, ‘Darby O’Gill’ and ‘The Butterfly Effect’.

‘Jaws’ lost out, because for me, there was only one individual crap-my-pants scary instant. It was a brilliant instant, but over-all it’s other ‘shock’ moments didn’t upset me and Jaws didn’t weigh heavily on my mind. I still think that it’s an excellent film mind you, and for my money, probably Speilberg’s best,- but for this list: no dice.

 Darby O’Gill had the Coiste Bodhar and The Banshee which, of course, were familiar to me already so seeing them come alive on screen was utterly terrifying, but, as I was scared of the Death Coach and The Banshee anyway, I’m
not sure how much credit goes to the fillum for frightening me and how much to
my parents and their love of (and fervent belief in ) the supernatural, so it’s
off the list. 

 The last of the also-rans is ‘The Butterfly Effect’ specifically the prison scenario. All of this  ‘young man on his own in prison gets eaten alive and violated e.t.c.’   bothers me: it bothered me watching Scum, or Shawshank, or Oz or American History X, but for some reason the scenario in ‘Butterfly Effect’  bothered me the most: something about how, after they've abused him, they’re reading his diary out loud and laughing at him and also the fact that he only escapes by ‘magic’ made it worse than those others.
Still, it doesn’t make the list either just because I found the rest of the film so
reassuringly ludicrous.
So lets begin theTop Ten of fillums that haunted my dreams,




An oldfilm, a black & white film, a badly-acted and fundamentally silly film but
freaky not only because of its genuine menagerie of freaks but its whole oppressive atmosphere. The film’s attitude ( to the people it depicts ) is freaky in and of itself . I only saw it once and I’ll never forget it despite its age. It was still scary except for the very end: without the final scene, it would have been be further up the list.

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Last Exit to Brooklyn.

 This film follows the fortunes of various characters and not only do things not go well for one character in particular, they go truly horrifically badly, and in a way that I found totally believable and consistent with the darker side of human nature. Nightmares ensued.

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Don’t Look Now.

All the way through its story, Don’t Look Now has an atmosphere which I find engaging and unsettling. The grimy Venician canals, the echoes down the labyrinthine passages, the careful balance of showing the audience what might be psychological disturbance or supernatural or just plain dangerous. The entire film feels haunted to me.

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Like the couple in Don’t Look Now the men of Deliverance are displaced in a foreign environment. There is no hint of the supernatural here, just a group of rash and foolhardy city-slickers who find themselves adrift and at the mercy of quasi-human inbred weirdoes ( who they’d probably laugh at if they saw them on TV but suddenly on their own turf in the middle of nowhere don’t seem so funny ). This one's a head-haunter.

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Requiem for a Dream.

Perhaps one of the most frightening things about this film was that I could figure out more or less what was going to happen in the first 10 minutes, but like all of the main characters, I became hooked. I’m glad I saw it, I’m glad that they had the artistic integrity to highlight their subject warts and.... maybe more warts, I felt for the characters, I never want to see it again.

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Man Bites Dog.

The reason this frightened me so much was the circumstances under which I saw it. If you for example had never seen of heard of ‘The Blair Witch’ and the first time that you came across it was when you found a video camera  in the woods and the Blair Witch was the film inside on the little mini DV tape this would be different from seeing it in the cinema.- I thought when I was watching  Man bites Dog that I was watching an old French documentary about an architect or artist or something, so when it started to go strange, it was very freaky.

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The Vanishing. (original Danish version)

So utterly believable and that feeling when it ended, almost as if everybody in the cinema really needed a hug but were too scared to ask. Perfect. I know that there’s an American version; I’m not interested. The film I saw was perfect, and terrifying.

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A brilliant film this, about a Russian/Estonian girl who dreams of experience of the world and gets it. True and terrifying to me and if you’ve never seen it I recommend
you do. I saw it alone which may have made it either easier or more difficult -I’m not sure. Do something nice afterwards.

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This is an awful film. A mean-spirited, angry, audience-hater of a film that tries from the very outset to show you as much ugliness as is humanly possible, and then
throws in the ‘Memento’ editing trick to justify its nastiness as ‘art’. It was such a transparent attempt to shock and disturb that I didn’t think anything could bother me about it, and then there was one very long scene in a red tunnel.
I’ll say this for it, it was realistic. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the whole world has been an uglier and more frightening place since I saw this trash: it frightens me to know that there are people who would make something like this on purpose and feel good about themselves afterwards. Not recommended. 

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There has been so many zombie-apocalyptic or epidemic-apocalyptic films in the past few years, it’s easy to see why Blindness hasn’t been seen by more people. As a film, it’s similar to, and probably not as good as, Children Of Men, and doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact-- but maybe it’s just because personally I have one scarred retina, the idea of waking up one day blind and living in a blind world with only other blind people stumbling about into one another terrifies me.  This film combines that fear with a demonstration of the ugliest side of human nature which is also far from reassuring. I saw this film late at night on my own, ( when I should have gone to bed earlier ) and I couldn’t sleep afterwards, I was shaking.  Blindness scared the living bejesus out of me. ( I did enjoy the film though, mind you ).

So that's my Top Ten, not all good films but all of whom ( for better or worse ) haunted Darren's dreams.


  1. What about "Event Horizon"? Had me dry retching for days. Although I did see it in a haze of near alcohol induced psychosis (thanks to the good offices of an individual that is well known to both you and me) which may explain it. It certainly didn't add to the experience in a "2001"+dope way that's for sure. On top of the fact that it's an utterly execrable film.

    Or that Hannibal Lecter film where he makes Ray Liotta eat his own brain? Aside from the usefulness of it as an analogy for certain types of activity common in the IT banking industry, it did nothing but put me off a perfectly nice dinner later on, much to the hilairty and delight of the Public School toff with whom I was dining (who actually expressed his utter delight and amusement in the cinema, to the chagrin of the packed Clapham picture house that were, to be fair to them in their stupidity, trying to take it seriously).

  2. Well, as regards the inclusion or inclusion of those fillums on this particular list— I can only site my own blissful ignorance of 'Event Horizon' and The Silence of The Lambs sequel(s?).

    Apparently there is also a cinematic work called 'A Serbian Film which has also has folk reaching for the mind-bleach, but from what I've heard of it, I'm happy to report that I've never had the displeasure.

    Event Horizon I do intend to check out at some stage though, as it's been referred in comments about The Black Hole.

  3. Two Hubert Selby Jnr's in there (requiem and Last exit) but you really want the frighteners put on you check out his "the Room" possibly the most disturbing thing ever written.

    Oh and saw "A Serbian Film" well disturbed reputation.

    As always the book of "Blindness" by Jose Saramango is way better than the movie. He also wond the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    Irreversible is only disturbing in the fact that for the second half (the first half chronologically, nothing happens at all) waste of time with a particularly vicious anal rape scene.

    I would have to add "Ghosts of the Civil Dead" that one kept me awake for days, like "Man Bites Dog" only got the humour much much later.

    Oh and anything my friend Nik recomends, it amazes me how many child abuse movies are made, anything along those lines I steer clear from, it pays to remember the line "there are some things you can never unsee", which is doubly true of some areas of the Great God Interwubs Brain.

    Peace and Hope