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31 Days of Creepy: The Possession

11168615_oriI started out the month talking about some old favorites – classic scary stuff that’s given me chills over the years. Let’s finish up with something newer – the scariest movie I’ve seen in a long time!

The Possession is the story of a 10-year-old girl named Emily who comes across an intriguing old box at a yard sale. We’ve all had an object “speak” to us, I’m sure, in a way that says “take me home.” The box does that to Emily, but it’s not just the sense that she needs to add this battered old thing to her collection of treasures. It’s literally speaking to her… and that’s only the beginning.

Natasha Calis does a terrific job as young Emily, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick are spot-on as her terrified parents. The direction, photography and music add beautiful layers to the mood. A couple of questions remain unanswered at the end, but overall the story is involving, unsettling, and effective… to the point of making you wonder if you’re really hearing whispers in the middle of the night. Thumbs up to this one – my favorite recent scary movie!

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31 Days of Creepy – Testament and Threads

Testament1983I talked the other day about how deeply affected I was by the threat of nuclear Armageddon back in the early 1980s – the idea that any day could be our last. The movie industry was very much aware of that situation, because not one but three major films came out in 1983-84 focusing on the theme of all-out nuclear war: the enduring The Day After (which generally gets all the publicity), Testament, and Threads.

THREADS is a very small, intimate story, focusing on the residents of a small town about 90 minutes away from San Francisco – particularly on a mother (Jane Alexander) and her three children. When the unthinkable happens, she has to find a way to keep her family going: keep them fed, keep them safe, find as much normalcy as possible. It’s a heartbreaking story, and Ms. Alexander’s performance is masterful. Unlike The Day After, there are no happy endings here – no miraculous reunions, no closing scenes that insist that “humanity will persevere.” There is no hope for Carol Weatherly and her children – there is only love.

oB1h2CAUvTlnzrUJInahwR0HJBwThe British production THREADS is even more bleak than TESTAMENT (which reinforces my opinion that nobody knows how to do horror like the British). It focuses on two families, one working class and one middle class – but here, the characters aren’t as important as the situation. Everything’s irradiated. There’s no food, no water. Nuclear winter sets in, and the closing scene is truly blood-chilling.

What I generally find most frightening isn’t stories about ghosts or vampires or Michael Myers-type serial killers — it’s stories that make me think, “Man… this could happen to me. It could happen to all of us.” All three of these 1983-84 productions do that, each with a different focus. I’ve picked these two to recommend because they sidestep the (undoubtedly TV network-mandated) sort-of happy ending, the idea that families will be reunited, everything will be rebuilt, and life will go on. TESTAMENT and THREADS are deeply chilling because of their firm focus on things going bad — reminding us that sometimes, when it comes down to it, all you have to turn to is yourself, and the people you love.

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31 Days of Creepy – The Entity

516YDEWE8PLThere are scary movies – movies with scenes that make you jump and shriek. Scenes that make you cover your eyes – although that’s usually because somebody’s being dismembered onscreen.

Then there are movies that disturb you so deeply you can’t go home. That’s what happened to me back in 1983, when I had a solo movie night with THE ENTITY, starring Barbara Hershey. It’s taken from a supposedly true story involving a young single mother whose home was invaded by an invisible entity that raped her repeatedly over a period of months. In the film version, she enlists the help of a group of paranormal investigators who are at first skeptical… and then come to believe her.

Sometimes, when you live alone, the night gets very, very dark.  I watched this movie at the theater knowing I’d need to go home by myself… in the dark. I don’t honestly believe in supernatural home-invading entities, but THE ENTITY got under my skin so deeply that I couldn’t face being alone. Instead, I went across the road to another theater and detoxed with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. That eased my fears somewhat, but I still slept with a light on that night.

I don’t know if the movie would have the same impact on a guy, but… maybe. Turn out the lights, make sure you’re alone, and give it a try. I dare you.  🙂