What's your favorite scary movie? We've been asking a variety of people this question, and we'll be posting their picks in a series... starting now. Turn out the lights and check out these recommendations from Ted Leo, Edith Zimmerman, Justin Warner, Chris Robbins, and Eugene Mirman.
TED LEO (Musician): The original The Changeling with George C. Scott is my favorite horror movie of all time, hands down. He loses his family in a tragic accident and moves into this mansion haunted by... something. I won't give it away, but it involves a ball that repeatedly bounces down the stairs, a manic old cob-webbed wheel chair, and that icy late 70s/early 80s pacing that just continually builds the tension and terror over the entire length of the film. I'll say this: my insane uncle Gregory took me to see this in the theatre when I was 10 years old (WTF, UNCLE GREG!?), and it took me another 10 years before I could see the name "Joseph" printed anywhere and not shudder.
EDITH ZIMMERMAN (The Hairpin): Omg scary movies scare the SHIT out of me, so I avoid them. I did have fun watching The Exorcist one time in high school, though, and shrieking and shrieking with my friend Lucy. And everyone will laugh at me, but I thought Signs was really scary. Whatever! Just thinking about aliens freaks me out, and the part where the aliens grab the butcher knife from under the door... aiee! Also Event Horizon, and I Am Legend. I mean, these movies were horrible torture, and I hated every second that I watched them. They should have made clearer how scary I Am Legend was going to be. But Cabin in the Woods—I'm not sure if it's a proper horror movie, but I thought it was perfect.
JUSTIN WARNER (Do or Dine; Food Network Star): 28 Days Later. Everything changes when zombies can run. I don't know why it took so long for someone to figure out that plot device, but it's a real game-changer. Quarantining all of England was pretty genius as well. It makes me shudder... Thank goodness I don't live on a densely populated island. Oh wait.
CHRISTOPHER ROBBINS (Gothamist): When I was 13, my dad made me sit down with him and watch the "original" Night of the Living Dead, which would have been fine had it actually been the black-and-white 1968 version, instead of the 1990 full-color (read: gory) remake. There's a scene where a lone woman wanders into her family's house in the country calling, "Uncle Reeg? Uncle Reeg?" as her corpulent, zombified uncle lurches behind her. She dispatches him with a fire poker to the skull, and his forehead collapses like a dented ping-pong ball—cheesy for an adult but petrifying for a kid who wasn't usually allowed to watch R-rated movies. Throughout my teens anytime I was alone in our house my dad would call "Uncle Reeg? Uncle Reeeeeeeg?" and I'd have flashbacks while I listened for the creaking in the floorboards to make sure my dad didn't have the jump on me.
That's a long way of explaining why I dig The Hills Have Eyes. It's got everything: zombie-mutants, creepy government conspiracies, a willingness to (gruesomely!) kill off cherished characters, RVs, and really gross villains. It's one of those horror movies that you laugh at for its campiness, but they're really loud, nervous, AHA-HA-HA laughs to mask how scared shitless you really are. I still need to see the 1977 original (which is online in its entirety for free).
EUGENE MIRMAN (Comedian): I don't really like horror movies, so I don't have one. Though I am still somewhat scared of the 2005 Heather Locklear film, The Perfect Man.