When I was an adolescent, it was right around the “golden age” of splat films. The Friday the 13ths were not only going on, Kane Hodder was playing Jason. The Nightmare on Elm Streets were going on. The Hellraisers, the Phantasms, the Halloweens, and the Sleepaway Camps. At the time, these absolutely TERRIFIED me. Night terrors, all that stupid stuff. Still, I couldn’t wait to set up the VCR to tape these movies off of HBO or Cinemax and set myself up for another sleepless weekend.

That started to change around the late 90’s though. There were two movies that got into my head and just really, really messed me up. The first was Event Horizon and the second was The Ring.

We’re going to have some spoilers for both of these after the cut (middlin’, if not major) so…

Now, if you’ve seen both, you might be tempted to say that they’ve got nothing in common with each other. Event Horizon was “The Shining In Space” and The Ring was “Japanese Horror in America”… but stay with me. The main thing that both had going on was an Evil Something From The Otherside as its main antagonist.

While it’s true that Event Horizon dealt with the slowly dawning horror of the evil, evil spaceship (and, seriously, has one of the worst scenes I’ve ever watched through my fingers (the airlock scene, if you’re wondering)) and The Ring had little more than nightmare imagery (and, I suspect, serious subsonic sound work) to activate the lizard brain, both filled me with a great sense of nigh-Lovecraftian dread for what just might be leaking over from The Nevernever.

The eponymous ship in Event Horizon used a black hole drive that was supposed to jump from hither to yon through something akin to a wormhole but, on the way, took it through a dimension of chaos and evil and came out the other side a malevolent entity. It was seriously creepy watching each of the astronauts slowly figuring out that the ship was bad news and trying to figure out how to escape or destroy it or *SOMETHING* while each of them was getting eliminated. (And, seriously? The airlock scene? I’m freaking out over that even now.) The idea that there was nothing that they could do to fight against their doom (and all of the tools their doom had at its disposal) struck me as spectacularly unfair on top of everything else. I mean, say what you will about the Friday the 13ths but there were ways to go to Crystal Lake and not end up on the wrong end of some gardening implements. When Cthulhuship comes back from its period of waiting/sleeping/dreaming, you’ve no choice but to be eaten.

The Ring, by comparison, centered on Samara whose mother tried to drown her after suspecting demonic possession (but was, of course, prevented) allowing Samara to be adopted and cared for and fully grow into her Nevernever self before, of course, being drowned. This won’t stop Nevernever people, howeverever. She figured out a way to leave… via videotape and manipulation of Naomi Watts. Remember that line where we think everything’s going to be okay and the kid just opens his eyes wide and says “SHE NEVER SLEEPS!”

And, yep, there’s nothing that you can do to stop her. (Assuage her, maybe… but not stop her.)

Those are the last two splat films that I watched. Event Horizon scared me for 5 years and then I saw The Ring and I’ve yet to recover. Haven’t watched a splat film since.

So… those are my recommendations to you this week.

But only if you really, really like scary movies.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com


  1. I detest scary movies. I find them intensely, viscerally unpleasant. I actually have rules for watching them with people, which I tell to them with utter seriousness. I will cover my eyes during the scary parts. When I ask, you will not tell me the scary bits are over if they are not. You will not poke me or otherwise unsettle me during the film for your amusement. People often react with amusement when I tell them this, until I restate with a bit more firmness than most people are used to from me that no, these aren’t joking suggestions, they are serious rules, and if they are violated people will see me angrier than they’ve ever seen me before.

    I hate scary movies. Conversely, any scary movie I can sit through is by definition not scary. (I’m looking at you, original Friday the 13th.)

    With all that said, somehow (I really don’t remember how I got talked into it) I ended up seeing Event Horizon in the theater with a good friend at the time. It was… unpleasant. The Latin, the shrieking, the eyeballs… yeah, I think I had PTSD for months. And my friend never, ever suggested we see a horror movie together again.

    It is with wry amusement that I read this post and learn that I, an absolute hater of scary movies, somehow managed to find myself in the audience of a scary movie that was too scary for a dedicated fan of scary movies.

    • Don’t see The Ring. Seriously. If I were to describe the scariest parts of the movie, they wouldn’t sound scary at all. There’s a lighthouse. A mirror. A rocking horse. A ladder.

      When Maribou and I were walking to the car, I was complaining about the plot holes. But we were walking in sunlight…

      By the time bedtime rolled around, I was holding the blankets in the middle of the bed, staring at the ceiling, yelling for Maribou to come to bed early.

      • I remember during the whole Blair Witch mega-phenomenon, when audiences were apparently having collective cardiac arrests in the theater, my brother (who had nothing but the rankest disdain for the film) said to me “[Real Name], it’s not a scary movie. Not even you would be scared.”

        I still haven’t seen it, just in case. But from what I understand, I probably could make it through. I was raised a fundamentalist Christian in a town surrounded by dense forest, so I’m pretty inured to being told there are satanic forces in the woods wanting to sacrifice me ritually.

        • I *DID* see that. I didn’t think it was scary. Irritating? Yes. Scary? No.

          (A rot13 for those of you who have seen it: V gubhtug gur thl jnf crrvat ng gur raq. Lrf, V xabj nobhg gur fgbel bs gur xvyyre bs puvyqera jub znqr gur xvqf fgnaq va gur pbeare. Zl svefg gubhtug jnf abg “vg’f gur xvyyre!” ohg “ur’f crrvat.”)

        • My friends used to have a movie marathon every new years. First 12 hours, then 24, then 36. At the end of the 36-hour one, they watched BWP as the second to last film. It’s apparently different when you’ve been up for over 30 hours. The last movie they watched was a Jackie Chan flick. It’s apparently a bad idea to watch something with a lot of noise and sudden movement after having watched BWP after having been up for 30 hours.

      • Kitty and I were driving home from watching The Ring, late at night, and the Pasadena residential streets were just a bit misty, and I forget what I was talking about but I was turning around this one corner and she touched me on the shoulder and I seriously *jumped* in my seat.

        I didn’t think it was that scary while I was watching it.

      • Plz note that Maribou feels much like Russell Saunders, and saw something OTHER than The Ring in the movie theater that day. I don’t remember what, but it wasn’t scary.

        • Every so often the Better Half will say that he wants to go see some scary movie (though, for the record, he never actually goes), and I always wish him well without me.

    • I like a bit of twisted fun. No splatty movies though — twilight zone is creepy enough for me. Or boogiepop phantom. Things that depend more on intelligence than on “booga booga.”

      My husband can’t go to haunted houses — because he doesn’t scare easy. He’d enjoy them if people didn’t Try Harder — generally in the “must create a flinch response” venue. My husband, he doesn’t flinch. He has to think about it to get a patellar response (which tends to freak out doctors, understandably).

      • I flinch all the time. There is somethign about knowning something is about to happen that always gets a reaction out of me when it does happen. My wife thinks it is funny.

  2. Those films are absurd, not frightening. In the same way Friday the 13th films are farces.

    Scary films for me deal with gas prices, people experiencing crushing debt among other adult horrors.

    I’m old.

    • Avoid the movie Shattered Glass. It stars young Darth Vader in an awesome role about Stephen Glass… a reporter who made stuff up out of whole cloth (and how he got caught).

      I needed a backrub afterwards.

      • This was the movie that really made me realize how bad of a director George Lucas really is.

        I mean, anybody can mess up one good actor. Maybe two. Three? Four?

        • I don’t really blame Lucas for directing those horrible, horrible performances. I mean, the poor guy was working from a truly awful script. That romantic dialogue in the second prequel between Shattered Glass and Black Swan? Knitting-needle-in-the-ear bad.

          Whoever wrote that screenplay was terrible. But I’m sure George Lucas learned his lesson, and will never try to direct another one of that guy’s movies again.

          • I saw an award winning screenplay butchered by hollywood. I think it was vaguely about D&D… (what I remember was a final battle with flying dragons — and something that looked suspiciously based on the Aes Sedai — suitably masked)

          • I don’t like episodes 1, 2, or 3. They’re coarse and rough and irritating and they get everywhere. Not like Episodes 4, 5, or 6. 4, 5 and 6 are soft and smooth.

  3. Event Horizon did not bother me, but the Ring was just creepy.

    Event Horizon’s doom for me might have been me wondering if Games Workshop was given money for this. In the 40k universe, people travel through scape by moving through The Warp, which looks to be Hell. Often things cross over on the ship.

    • The whole “If you break the laws of physics, you will pay the price” trope goes back quite a ways.

      I’m thinking of Stephen King’s “The Jaunt” short story (it’s googleable) which goes back to 1981 (and I’m sure that it goes back earlier than that).

    • I was creeped out by Event Horizon until (spoiler) Fnz Arvyy fubjf hc nyy qrzbavmrq bhg. Ur jnf perrcl nf gur fyvtugyl-bss fpvragvfg thl. Jura ur’f erfheerpgrq nf gur yvivat crefban bs gur fuvc, vg xabpxrq zr bhg bs zl fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs. Fnz whfg pna’g qb “zranpvat”.

        • Fbzr bs gur qryrgrq fprarf ner sernxl perrcl. Gurer, Fnz’f npghnyyl perrcl, orpnhfr ur qbrfa’g *ybbx* yvxr Fnz. Gur qverpgbe jnf pbeerpg nobhg vg orvat n onq vqrn gb gnxr gubfr fprarf bhg*

          * va gur frafr gung vg ehvarq gur perrcsybj. Gurl’er rssrq hc fprarf.

        • V oryvrir V rzretrq sebz gur srgny cbfvgvba, qrrc jvguva gur gurngre frng jurer V unq oheebjrq, ybat rabhtu gb guvax “V nz abg npghnyyl fpnerq ol guvf cneg.” Naq gura V erghearq gb zl greevsvrq oyhoorevat nf gur erznvavat fpnevarff jnfurq bire zr narj.

          Sbe fbzr ernfba, gur vzntr bs gur thl punagvat qrzragrqyl va Yngva juvyr ubyqvat uvf bja rlronyyf vf jung pbagvahrq gb unhag zr, synfuonpx-yvxr, sbe zbaguf.

  4. I haven’t seen Event Horizon or The Ring.
    I’ve always had a fascination with the horror genre, but I don’t get scared.
    The only movie that ever really scared me was Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.
    It was the scene at the end where the credits are rolling that did it.

    • My suggestion to you is to see The Ring. They, somehow, pipe stuff past your filters to get straight to your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

  5. I’ve loved scary movies ever since I saw Poltergeist when I was younger than I probably should have been to watch Poltergeist. TV People. Dude tears his face off. Boy-eating tree. These things have taken up permanent residence in my underpsyche, and I grew to love that.

    The Ring did that for me. (haven’t seen Event Horizon, though it was on my list. Will move it up now.) But the movie that did that for me so bad that I still find myself deeply terrified in bed some nights (9 years later) was The Mothman Prophecies. The silence and calm pierced by absolutely horrifying abstraction of sight or sound means that, after a certain hour at night, every abstraction in the dark and quiet makes me feel like my soul is chilly. Russell, do not watch the Mothman Prophecies. You can’t cover your eyes and ears fast enough, nor at the same time.

    • Duly noted. It is fleetingly rare that I allow myself to get talked into seeing scary movies at all these days, and I’ll add it to my “under no circumstances” list.

    • I’m trying to think of a scarier character than the preacher in Poltergeist 2.

      “I AM NOT DEAD!”

  6. It’s a truly weird world that we inhabit. I saw part of the “Excorist” with a friend. The reason I only saw part of it was because he started to sweat and shake so much that he had to leave the theater. This is the same man that I saw make a 6foot six inch 250 pound biker dude back down in a bar one night.

    • I saw The Exorcist when I was just 15 or 16 and I thought it was dumb. Silly special effects, silly voices, people screaming.

      When I was around 22, I realized that it wasn’t about the little girl at all, but about the priest. In that moment, the movie that I hadn’t seen for years and thought was dumb suddenly became terrifying.

  7. I generally like the scary ones. One of the reasons that one of my friends didn’t like to see such movies with me is that I like to see them at night. (Preferably the late show so I can go to bed afterwards but I’m willing to settle for an earlier show as long as it’s dark out after the show.)

    One of the most amusing things that came of this was watching the ad campaign Tales from the Grudge shortly before I went to bed. At the time, I was using an old frayed blanket and one of the parts that was fraying wrapped itself around my ankle. This prompted a brief internal debate on whether I should get up or not in case it was Kayoko. (My decision was that, if it was Kayoko, I was screwed anyway so I couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed.)

    http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/thegrudge2/site/ (This had a place to enter a number which would allow Kayoko to call your mobile number.)

    I find it unfortunate that I haven’t seen many movies in the past few years but I just toss them on my “Rent this one day” list. It’s something that I plan to correct once the new generation of consoles comes out. As it stands right now, I only have the scary video games to get the same thrill.

    • From what I understand, it’s possible to enter a state where the movie becomes a comedy. Open a cabinet? It’s a dead Japanese kid! Look in the closet! It’s a dead Japanese kid! What’s behind the door? You’ll never guess!

      I haven’t tested this myself, mind.

  8. I’ve learned to embrace my masochistic streak when it comes to scary movies.

    At the age of 17, I begged my then boyfriend to take me to see The Exorcist. To his credit, he didn’t take my request lightly: It’s a very dark theatre, are you sure? It’s a really big screen, are you sure? You have an irrational fear of anything Satan related, are you sure?

    He ultimately agreed (boys, god love ’em) but smartly insisted it be a matinee.

    Shortly after the pea soup spewage, I was shaking so badly he literally dragged me from the theater into the safety zone of daylight. I was in tears. Not sobbing tears, mind you, just whimpering tears.

    A week or so later, I made him take me back so I could finish the stupid movie. I’d like to say it was me being tough–no scary movie’s gonna get the better of me!–but it really wasn’t. I was very simply, masochistically, fascinated. Hadn’t yet learned my limits.

    Since then I’ve enjoyed 30-odd years of, on occasion, shaking and crying my way through scary flicks. But I have indeed learned my limits:

    1) Slasher. After Halloween, I decided they weren’t so much scary as stupid and gory. If I must endure gore (and the requisite eye covering) there must be a good cast and smartly written suspense, a la Silence Of The Lambs.

    2) Psycho-horror. Never saw the Saw films, or The Ring. Never will. This genre disturbs my psyche in a way that makes Devil Scary seem like Sesame Street to me.

    But what I’m a sucker for, and can rarely resist, is SciFi scary. Like the Alien franchise. (Yes, I’m very psyched about Prometheus. I’ve been waiting over 30 years for the backstory on that dang space jockey.) And so, it was with my comfy blankie and a bucket of popcorn that I settled in to watch Event Horizon. SciFi? Check. Decent cast? Check.

    Hands down, it is the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. Adding insult to injury, I didn’t see it coming.

    • I’m perfectly fine so long as the sun is out. I can look at the movie and think about the plot holes and the improbable physics and the atrocious metaphysics and even be irritated that I wasted money.

      The second the sun goes down? It’s 400,000 BC and I wish I had a bonfire.

      • The Sunlight Safety Zone is real. My boyfriend knew it oh so many years ago, and clearly you know it. You’ll get no argument from me.

        Then again, I’m also way into vampire lore and that might have something to do with my opinion on the subject. (Apropos of nothing, I’m not sure what I think of the Dark Shadows remake–oh, how long I’ve longed–being turned into a comedy. I’m gonna need some time on this one.)

  9. Late to the party, as usual (work has been hellish). But scariest movie EVER made? “The Changeling” with George C. Scott. No splat, hardly any blood, but relentless creeping terror.

    • When I was a kid, I thought that “based on a true story” made horror films EVEN BETTER. AMITYVILLE, BABY!!!

      Now? The part of me that knows better knows that Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were all “based on” the exact same true story.

      The lizard brain part of me knows that it happened in Colorado Springs. In my house. If I leave my foot or hand over the side of the bed.

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