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As a horror fan, the question I am most frequently asked is what I personally find scary. Everyone always wants to know what movies or books are “really”frightening, and I’m often at a loss to answer them. The truth is, more than two decades into my fandom, I no longer have a baseline for what “normal” (read: non-fan) viewers find scary, and rarely find myself truly upset by the media I consume. I can get caught by a jump scare in a movie like anyone else but being startled is not the same thing as being afraid, no matter what movie marketing departments might have you believe. 

In the spirit of the season, I want to know what’s frightened you from movies, television, or literature. In exchange, I’ll trade you some of the highlights from Slay’s Personal Reel of Shit That’s Scared Her.

No need to mention your student loan balance. That’s one fright we all share.

scary shit

E.T.

Specifically, that moment where we see E.T. when he’s sick and lying in the bathroom, and the mom gets upset and tries to run out of the house with Elliot? And E.T. is crying and reaching out for him, and Elliot is screaming back? And then there’s those guys in the hazmat suits at the front door? Ugh.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Aside from being some of the creepiest clown make up ever shown in pop culture — though this season of American Horror Story is putting up a good show with Twisty — the clowns abduct and drain people of their blood. I know logically, now that I am an adult, that should I rewatch this movie I will not be terrified by a scene in which the abductees are cocooned in cotton candy and a clown sticks an oversized straw into one to suck out the blood, because typing it out right now sounds incredibly ridiculous, but I don’t care to watch the movie again to find out. Once (or twice, maybe) was enough.

killer klowns

Salem’s Lot

I’m of the age where reading Stephen King religiously was a rite of passage. He’d have a new book out every summer, and every summer you’d get your parents to buy you the paperback from the gift shop down at the shore and read it on the beach. Salem’s Lot is King’s vampire book. While there have been two middling adaptations of it, nothing beats the spine-crawling prose of the book. It was the first novel I remember terrifying me — if I was reading it at night, I’d eventually have to creep over to my windows to make sure the curtains were drawn tight, because I always thought there was something outside my second story window watching me. Not that it would have done me any good anyway — they were lace curtains, and you could totally see right through them.

Any episode of Unsolved Mysteries involving aliens

I was a religious watcher of Unsolved Mysteries. A couple of years ago, Lifetime started rerunning the series and I resumed my fascination with it even though they didn’t produce any new episodes, so everything that aired was almost a decade old. Any segment about aliens or alien abduction would set me right off — the show frequently aired on nights where I was home alone babysitting, and I would inevitably freak myself out with stories of people who had been taken out of their homes. To combat this, I’d turn on every outside light, with the sound reasoning that at least I’d see them coming, right?

The opening credits to Tales from the Darkside

Tales from the Darkside was an anthology show that ran from 1984 to 1988 and was produced by George A. Romero. I don’t recall any specific entries that stuck with me despite episodes that adapted Stephen King and Clive Barker short stories. However, the opening credit sequence, which featured a shot of trees fading into a negative image would fill me with a deep dread. That one simple shot struck a terrible chord with me.

Tales

Fatal Frame

This Japanese survival horror game isn’t as well-known as titles like Resident Evil or Silent Hill though it really should be. You play a young woman, Miku, who ventures into the Japanese countryside to look for her missing brother. All you find of him is his camera abandoned in an old mansion and that’s the happiest thing that happens for the rest of your play through. Ghosts and demons haunt the mansion and you can only fight them off by taking perfectly timed pictures of them as they attack you. That’s it — you have no other weapons or resources. I, a grown woman, had to stop playing the game at night and only played it during the day when I knew other people were at home, because that shit was frightening. My husband once walked in the room to ask me a question during a session and I was so tense and engrossed that I screamed when he spoke to me.

fatal frame gif

Your turn. What’s frightened you?

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