Here’s another discussion poll in honor of “Jaws Week.” Steven Spielberg’s film is one of the scariest of all time for two reasons. One is that it’s filled with suspense. Jaws deals with a monster that is very easily concealed and so not even a wide shot provides us with safety from the possibilty of attack. Well, unless it’s a scene on land, of course. The other reason is that it involves a very real threat. Yes, the demonization of sharks is an issue for certain activists, but there’s no denying the fact that these animals do sometimes kill and maim people. It’s not that common, but neither are a lot of things humans fear tremendously.
I tend to be more scared by films dealing in real dangers, and the more possible the threat the scarier the film is. So while Jaws might offer something that can happen, living in a landlocked area keeps me from being too worried (fortunately the suspense element also gives me chills). Supernatural horror, meanwhile, rarely does it for me, including any slasher films led by an immortal figure. And yet Poltergeist has always frightened me more than any other fiction movie, again thanks to the way it’s made scary, in part through the way it’s directed, edited, scored, etc.
As for things that can happen and films that scare me most for their actual possibility, documentaries tend to take the cake there. Recent nonfiction films that haunted me during and long after include the nuclear attack doc Countdown to Zero (fictional apocalypse-based disaster movies are also fodder for my nightmares), any of the numerous docs about wrongfully convicted people (Paradise Lost was very scary for us “freaks” in high school) and the brand new British doc Dreams of a Life, a perplexing look at a woman whose dead body went undiscovered for years.
The Columbine surveillance camera footage in Bowling for Columbine also affected me terribly, and I should note that the lab massacre scene in The Bourne Legacy is one that scared me recently, obviously because of recent real-life shootings.
As for Jaws, this scene always makes me jump:
Which film scares you most? Here are some responses via Twitter:
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