HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (’85)
I thought maybe to switch things up a bit I’d share some movies that scared the crap out of me not as a kid but as an adult. The first title that came to mind was John McNaughton’s unflinching study of a guy named Henry (the great Michael Rooker in his all too convincing film debut) who has the nasty habit of randomly murdering people. It’s a brilliant film, I proudly own a physical copy of it but I have never watched it again after seeing it in a tiny Philadelphia art house theater during its original release. At the time I had recently moved from cushy suburbia to go to art school in the city and something about the film’s footage depicting a savage home invasion hit me with incredible force. I could not help imagining the same thing happening to my family (particularly my mother) who I was now so very far away from. Not to give anything away, but I also recall this film mercilessly disposing of its lone character with any shred of human decency. I’m going to challenge myself to watch this movie one more time before I die…I swear. Even If’s only to justify my purchasing of the DVD…I promise (gulp).
THE HAUNTED (’91)
Yes, I somehow got so legitimately freaked out by a made-for-TV movie that I had a hard time sleeping afterwards (full revisit HERE). I can laugh about it now but this televised reenactment of the allegedly true story of the haunting of Pennsylvania’s Smurl family had me worried that I was in danger of experiencing a supernatural interloper at any moment. I really got the true creeps. In my defense, it was rather late at night and my brain may have been a bit fuzzy with sleep but the fact remains that I gobbled up this questionable tale hook line a sinker. I’ve watched it many times over the years trying to decipher exactly what got under my skin and the closest thing I can come up with is that somehow Sally Kirkland of all people was so earnest in her performance that I couldn’t help but believe.
IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE (’98)
I doubt many people have heard of this (presumably) straight to video home invasion horror flick but for my money it scared me more than the much more popular THE STRANGERS (2008). I guess anyone with any sort of empathy can’t help being mortified by a home invasion flick. It’s just the worst thing to imagine happening to others and let’s face it, it’s even worse when you imagine it happening to yourself. To be honest I think what made this flick so much more disturbing than others to me is the non-Hollywood, unglamorous, no-name (unless you include I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’S Muse Watson as the head malicious intruder) cast who are convincingly presented as real people who could live next door to you.
EDEN LAKE (2008)
Handsome, happy go-lucky couple Steve and Jenny (Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender) decide to vacation at a lake where Steve eventually plans to propose. But wait, there’s a group of rowdy, rotten teens to contend with who are hell bent on triggering yours truly in a multitude of ways. Look, I can handle this movie fine (full review HERE), I even find it slightly cathartic in spots but oh my good lord, I cannot wrap my poor feeble brain around this film’s final gut wrenching, punch in the face, stomp on your toes, kick you in the shin, poke your eye out, land a shovel on your noggin’ final denouement. Oh, the cruelty. I want to hide under a table and just shake.
THE LODGE (2019)
I don’t know what was going on with myself psychologically when I went to see this epic monolith of relentless mental torture but it truly made me fear for my own sanity. There’s a sad, confused review of this cinematic mega-bummer lurking somewhere on this site (HERE) so I won’t drag myself through the punishing snow-covered briar patch yet again but suffice to say that never has a film left me with such an all-consuming sense of foreboding. Serial murderers, ghosts, home invaders, violent teen gangs are all frightening for sure but there’s something about the way THE LODGE fiddles with reality and mortality itself that truly chills me to the bone.