Friday, October 30, 2009

FILM: The Best Barely Scary Movies for Scaredy Cats

I LOVE HALLOWEEN! But I hate scary movies. Ok, I don't hate them. I just hate the sleepless nights that come along with them. However, there are a few that I feel don't really qualify as "scary," which I would gladly recommend to you fellow scaredy-cats for a fright-lite Halloween weekend.

Teen Horror
These flicks are usually denoted by their young, dimwitted, horny characters, and the psychopath who's trying to give each of them their own gruesomely, melodramatic death scene. What makes them hardly scary is the semi-bad acting, the somewhat predictable scare tactics, and the soft core porn scenes.

Scream (1996)
Plot: A psychotic serial killer is stalking a group of teens.
Don't be afraid: This is more of a film lecture than anything else. It teaches you the basic rules of teen horror movies, while exploiting them shamelessly. It lives up to its title with some of the best screams in film history. Not to mention, David Arquette plays a push-over cop, his wife Courtney Cox channels her inner bitch, Jamie Kennedy provides the comic relief, and Neve Campbell delivers on the classic horror movie signifier of terror: the lip quiver.
Leave the lights on: Okay so the mask may not be scary, but when it's coming at you with a meat cleaver, that's a whole different story.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) &
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Plot: Four teens (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Ryan Phillippe) are in grave danger one year after their car hits a stranger whose body they dump in the ocean.
Don't be afraid: It's just a fisherman with a hook. It really isn't that big of a deal. Peter Pan's Hook is more menacing. However, I will admit that the sequel, which includes Mekhi Phifer ("Lie to Me"), singer Brandy Norwood, Matthew Settle ("Gossip Girl"), and Jennifer Esposito ("Samantha, Who?"), does get your blood-pumping when you realize the fisherman now has a mysterious partner who lured them to a deserted island to get picked off. But, of course, with all of the random nudity, Hewitt's overracting and skin tight clothing, and the handsomeness of Prinze Jr. amplified in pouring rain, your blood pressure will remain relatively steady.
Leave the lights on: Watching someone get stabbed is gross. Watching someone get hooked is unbelievably gross. You might join PETA after this.

Disturbing Behavior (1998)
Plot: The new kid (James Marsden) in town stumbles across something sinister about the town's method of transforming its unruly teens into upstanding citizens.
Don't be afraid: It's just commentary on how adults try to turn teenagers into law-abiding, mindless robots. Plus, anything involving Katie Holmes can't be that scary, right? I mean, intentionally anyway.
Leave the lights on: Hoards of teenagers losing their mind can be a little unnerving, especially when their gut reaction is to kill you for not conforming. Peer pressure at its worst.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Plot: Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time and now the life of her own son (Josh Hartnett) hangs in the balance.
Don't be afraid: Sequels are rarely as terrifying as the original. Twenty years have passed and we're all too familiar with this particular villain to be genuinely terrified of his white mask, bad wig, and kitchen knife.
Leave the lights on: You would think that such a giant man would make more noise while approaching and wouldn't be able to sneak up on a person who is clearly listening intently for his footsteps. But the quieter it gets, the louder your heartbeat becomes.

Urban Legend (1998)
Plot: A college coed suspects that murders around her campus are connected to urban legends.
Don't be afraid: You can drool over a post-"My So Called Life"/pre-rock band Jared Leto, swoon over a blond Joshua Jackson, and gawk at a pre-"Smallville" Michael Rosenbaum with a full head of hair. This is definitely one of those films that's filled with so many attractive people, including Rebecca Gayheart, Alicia Witt, and a pre-alcoholic Tara Reid, that it's hard to be frightened by or for any of them.
Leave the lights on: An urban legend is kind of like a cliche, they're well-known for a reason. Somebody had to have died that way...or so you'll soon believe.

Final Destination (2000)
Plot: After having a vision of his friends crashing in a plane, Alex (Devon Sawa) tells them not to board. After it crashes, the survivors start getting killed in accidents one by one.
Don't be afraid: Alright so maybe you won't want to board a plane any time soon, but you'll be so amped to see how each character is creatively picked off by Death that you won't even notice how unbelievably terrifying the notion is.
Leave the lights on: If you begin to overthink the film, you will drive yourself crazy. The idea of it being your fate to die at a specific time, compounded with the amount of people in real life who've escaped death only to die a few days or years later in the very same way they would've died before, will probably keep you up all night.

Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Plot: A brother (Justin Long) and sister (Gina Phillips) driving home for spring break through the isolated countryside encounter a flesh-eating creature on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree.
Don't be afraid: The victims are pretty proactive in this film. There's a whole lot of effective evasion going on, and even a pretty satisfying running-over technique that the heroine utilizes to a humorously repetitive degree. Plus, most of it takes place in the daytime.
Leave the lights on: Okay, I've gotta be honest with you. I would never watch this movie again. It scared the crap out of me! But that's mainly because anything involving the wide open road and farm fields, generally puts me on edge. Oh and the creature's license plate says "BEATINGU," which I first read as "beating u," but then realized it actually said, "b eating u." I know. Take a deep breath. He can't hurt you.

Reader Suggestions: When a Stranger Calls (2006)

Supernatural Horror
Vampires, werewolves, and witches, oh my! Every decade has a new batch of mystical characters that terrorize and manipulate the cinematic masses. Some are misunderstood outcasts and some are power-hungry lunatics. How scary they get all depends on how much they give in to their true nature.

The Lost Boys (1987)
Plot: After moving to a new town, two brothers (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) are convinced that the area is frequented by vampires.
Don't be afraid: It's the Coreys! That's right Corey Feldman is in this one too. When these two get together, goofy fun is usually the main objective. Plus, this film is probably the most realistic portrayal of how a teenager would react if they discovered that vampires really do opposed to how they react these days (by falling in love with them).
Leave the lights on: Um, like I said, these aren't Twilight vampires. You may find a vamped-out, 21-year-old Kiefer Sutherland hot, but you won't be falling in love with him. Not to mention, one scene in particular will pretty much ruin Chinese food for you until at least New Years'.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Plot: A flighty teenage girl (Kristy Swanson) learns that she is her generation's destined battler of vampires.
Don't be afraid: The vampires float, dress in punk and grunge clothing, and their maker tries to seduce his victims into submission. Plus, it's very light on the gore.
Leave the lights on: They're pretty relentless and they're everywhere.
The Craft (1996)
Plot: A newcomer (Robin Tunney from "The Mentalist") to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls (Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, and Rachel True) who practice witchcraft, conjuring up various spells and curses against those who even slightly anger them.
Don't be afraid: It's just a bunch of schoolgirls screwing with each other and using magic for mindless things, like levitation, changing their hair color, and controlling cute boys. It's like Heathers meets Teen Witch
Leave the lights on: High school girls can be a little vicious when it comes to getting the respect they obsessively desire. Plus, there are a few gross-out moments.

Blade (1998)
Plot: A half-vampire, half-mortal man (Wesley Snipes) becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires.
Don't be afraid: The hero is like the Batman of vampires, complete with martial arts and sword-fighting skills. Plus, his enemy (Stephen Dorff) will hardly get your blood pumping.
Leave the lights on: Evil vampires who blend into our nightlife and treat humans like cattle are a little creepy.

Practical Magic (1998)
Plot: Two sisters (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman) learn the price of their supernatural gifts the hard way. They must figure out a way to fight the family curse before they're doomed to a life without love.
Don't be afraid: Bullock's love story is very sweet and you root for her character to break the curse that plagues her family.
Leave the lights on: There's a scene with Goran Visnjic that has always creeped me out. He's just singing, but...he's supposed to be dead so...and when he possesses Kidman and whispers "hijaaaaa" in Bullock's ear all ghost-like, *shivers* it still gives me the heebee jeebees.

Queen of the Damned (2002)
Plot: The vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend) becomes a rock star whose music wakes up the queen (Aaliyah) of all vampires.
Don't be afraid: Have you read the plot? These vampires are a little more concerned with their looks than your average bloodsucker. Plus, the historical flashbacks, hero agenda, and female villain diminish the fear factor substantially.
Leave the lights on: There is a LOT more blood than you would expect this film to have.

Underworld (2003)
Plot: Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a beautiful vampire warrior, is entrenched in a war between the vampire and werewolf races. Although she is aligned with the vampires, she falls in love with Michael (Scott Speedman), a newly-turned werewolf who gets caught between the warring clans.
Don't be afraid: For one thing, there's a surprisingly romantic love story between a vampire and a human/werewolf, and for once the vampire is female. Plus, Selene rocks a sexy, skin-tight suit and has badass sword-fighting skills.
Leave the lights on: Those werewolves look like rabid dogs on steroids. Seriously, give your dog some NyQuil or something, because you will not want to come across them in the middle of the night.

Constantine (2005)
Plot: It's the story of irreverent supernatural detective John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), who has literally been to hell and back. Known for his knowledge on how to return, he is sought after by a woman (Rachel Weisz) whose twin sister committed suicide so she wouldn't have to be the vessel for the Devil's son.
Don't be afraid: Shia Labeouf provides the viewer with a little comic relief. And if that doesn't reign in your heart rate, try to become fascinated with the attempt at a philosophical debate about heaven and hell.
Leave the lights on: Demons come to Earth and influence human behavior, the Devil stops time to pay the antihero a not-so-friendly visit, and even an Angel resorts to sinful acts. Geesh, when you can't trust an Angel, who can you trust?

Cursed (2005)
Plot: A werewolf loose in Los Angeles changes the lives of two siblings (Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg), who, after being infected by a beast, learn they must kill their attacker if they hope to change their fate to avoid becoming werewolves too.
Don't be afraid: It has one of the least realistic werewolves you'll ever see, Joshua Jackson lays on the charm, and, this is one of the first times Eisenberg displays his mainstream humor—the best of which involve his confrontations with a homophobic jock (Milo Ventimiglia from "Heroes"), who has a secret of his own.
Leave the lights on: This probably has one of the most sadistic werewolves in film history, considering that most of the time such a personality is attributed to vampires.

The Covenant (2006)
Plot: Four young men (Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, and Chace Crawford) who belong to a supernatural legacy are forced to battle a fifth power (Sebastian Stan) long thought to have died out. Another great force they must contend with is the jealousy and suspicion that threatens to tear them apart.
Don't be afraid: There's nothing particularly terrifying about this film. It's basically five very attractive boys having a catfight.
Leave the lights on: Male witches are little more sadistic than female witches when trying to kill each other.

Jennifer's Body (2009)
Plot: A newly possessed cheerleader (Megan Fox) turns into a killer who specializes in offing her male classmates. Can her best friend (Amanda Seyfried) put an end to the horror?
Don't be afraid: Who's afraid of a naked Angelina Jolie doppelganger and girl-on-girl action? (Besides gay guys and the clergy.) Plus, Diablo Cody is the screenwriter and she's known for her biting wit. (Yup, corny pun intended.)
Leave the lights on: A combination of piranha teeth, a voracious appetite, and no moral compass makes for a pretty horrifying succubus.

The Wolfman (2010)
Plot: Upon his return to his (Benicio del Toro) ancestral homeland, an American man is bitten, and subsequently cursed, by a werewolf.
Don't be afraid: There's a sweet love story in the middle of it all and a sorrowful backstory that propels this cursed beast.
Leave the lights on: The big reveal in the end leads to a vicious fight, and the attacks throughout the film are pretty gruesome.

Let Me In (2010)
Plot: A bullied young boy (Kody Smit-McPhee) befriends a young female vampire (Chloe Moretz) who lives in secrecy with her guardian (Richard Jenkins).
Don't be afraid: The story is really about the relationship between two lonely children who learn the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice.
Leave the lights on: The little demon is insatiable and her suffering is graphically gory. Not to mention, when she doles out revenge, she makes a slaughterhouse look like a vegan restaurant.

Reader Suggestions: Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Reaping (2007)

Alien Horror
There's nothing more terrifying than the inexplicable. Extraterrestrials are the most frightening unexplained entities in film history, since they could actually exist—unlike supernatural creatures—and we've yet to prove that they do or don't. The idea of not knowing plagues the human race and has done so since even before "The Twilight Zone" debuted. They could invade our planet. They could abduct us. And, worst of all, they could look like us.

The Faculty (1998)
Plot: Students suspect that their teachers are aliens after bizarre occurrences.
Don't be afraid: The cast includes the cutie-pies Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, and Usher, and the "breakout" star Jordana Brewster (The Fast and the Furious). With this attractive of a cast, the sexual tension tends to heat up the screen, especially with a hot teacher like Famke Janssen and a hot nurse like Salma Hayek roaming the halls. Plus, the "creature" that we're supposed to fear comes in an extremely unintimidating package—a naked package.
Leave the lights on: If you've never been in your high school after-hours, this movie will single-handedly dissuade you from ever staying late. Ever.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Plot: During an archaeological expedition in the Antarctic, a team of scientists find themselves caught up in a battle between the two legends. Soon, the team realize that only one species can win.
Don't be afraid: While it's true that the Aliens and the Predators are trying to rack up the most kills in their competition, they are also more interested in killing each other than the humans, so you'll get into choosing a side and rooting for your favorite warrior.
Leave the lights on: Dude. Have you seen Aliens or Predator? There's no actual reasoning with them. They don't talk. This isn't Star Trek.

The Host (2006)
Plot: A monster emerges from Seoul's Han River after a company pollutes it, and attacks the people of the city.
Don't be afraid: At the center of the film is a dad who is on a relentless mission to save his daughter. With the help of his family, he goes head-to-head with a giant slimy beast.
Leave the lights on: The direction is clever enough to make those quick grabs and instant deaths just as terrifying even in daylight. Plus, any time a kid is in danger, you're bound to be on edge.

Reader Suggestions: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Signs (2002), Invasion (2007), Cloverfield (2008)

Action Horror
Watching a scary movie that has a lot of action and explosions isn't actually all that scary. It's more suspenseful than anything else.

Joy Ride (2001)
Plot: Three young people (Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, and Leelee Sobieski) on a road trip from Colorado to New Jersey play a trick on a trucker through a CB radio. His revenge turns into a deadly game.
Don't be afraid: You can take comfort in the fact that there will never be an instance where you yourself will feel the need to mess with a trucker on a CB radio. Hell, people don't even mess with them at truck stops. So, rest easy. It's a completely implausible scenario. Plus, Walker is smoking hot, especially when he makes his concerned slash exasperated face.
Leave the lights on: Generally, there's a lot of suspense even when you're driving on the highway beside a truck, so imagine if you were on the outside of one without a ton of metal protecting you from skin-to-truck contact. Warning: If you hear a honk coming from outside, you might pee yourself. (Not that I've ever done that.) Also, remember to turn off all your radios properly. You don't want to hear static in the middle of the night.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Plot: Survivors of the Raccoon City catastrophe travel across the Nevada desert, hoping to make it to Alaska. Alice (Milla Jovovich) joins the caravan and their fight against the evil Umbrella Corp.
Don't be afraid: It's the least scary of the trilogy, taking place mostly in the daytime and containing an incredibly evolved Alice, complete with telekinesis. Why does that matter? I believe the more zombies she kills, the less you should be afraid. Because if she can kill them, then so can you...sort of.
Leave the lights on: They're zombies. Flesh-eating zombies. And they're contagious!! If a simple virus like H1N1 can strike fear into an entire nation, then the mere idea of the Umbrella Corp's virus can pretty much render you catatonic.

Reader Suggestions: The Hitcher (2007)

Psychological Horror
Mind-freaks screw with your perception, the facts, the order of which the story is told, and your general grip on reality. They can be eerie and cause you to question life as you know it, but they're more about suspense than an easy scare.

Psycho (1960)
Plot: A young woman (Vera Miles) steals $40,000 from her employer's client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor (Anthony Perkins) too long under the domination of his mother.
Don't be afraid: Um, by now you should know who the psycho is and the twist at the end concerning the mother figure. But even if you don't, this is more of a psychological thriller, a study of a disturbed mind. It won't make you jump out of your skin.
Leave the lights on: Well, there's the famous shower scene, the big basement reveal, and the creepy-as-heck diatribe in the taxidermy-filled office. But really, when it comes to disturbed personalities, Norman is the king. After all, it's not every day that you check into your future murderer's hotel and have pre-death coffee with him.

The Birds (1963)
Plot: A wealthy San Francisco playgirl (Tippi Hedren) pursues a potential boyfriend (Rod Taylor) to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
Don't be afraid: Okay, so think of Jaws, subtract the aquatic flesh-eating machine, and add a few...hundred black birds—some of which look really fake.
Leave the lights on: I would advise against watching this if you've ever been afraid of birds. The scene where they're all sitting quietly on the front lawn lit by the moonlight might reaffirm that fear. And if you've never even considered birds as a threat...well, let's just say, I wouldn't make any plans to go to the pier any time soon.

Tesis (aka Thesis) (1996)
Plot: √Āngela (Ana Torrent from The Other Boleyn Girl), a Spaniard student, is writing a paper on the human fascination of violence. With the help of a student (Fele Martinez from Bad Education) who has his own private collection of violent films, she discovers a snuff movie in which a female student is tortured and killed. She soon becomes obsessed with finding the murderer/director, and begins to suspect everyone she comes across.
Don't be afraid: This is definitely one of those films where you are rooting the heroine on, screaming directions at the television, and rejoicing every time something goes your way. Plus, it's in Spanish, and if you don't know Spanish, subtitles tend to dilute the fear factor.
Leave the lights on: I know that it sounds more like a mystery than a horror movie, but I can assure you that the suspense will have you on the edge of your seat, especially since there are so many viable suspects that she interacts with on a daily basis. Could it be her adorably awkward, antisocial research partner, the dark and mysterious ladies' man (Eduardo Noriega from Vantage Point), or the unassuming, yet well-versed, professor? Or even worse, could it be all of them? dum-Dum-DUM!!!!!

Devil's Advocate (1997)
Plot: A hotshot lawyer (Keanu Reeves) gets more than he bargained for when he learns his new boss (Al Pacino) is Lucifer himself.
Don't be afraid: This is more of a game of cat-and-mouse. It proposes the idea of outsmarting the devil—can it be done and what are you willing to sacrifice to succeed? Plus, Charlize Theron and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) manage to fog up the screen in a few sexy scenes.
Leave the lights on: There's a little fire and brim stone, a few sadistic psychological torture scenes, and even a little encouraged incest—all of which will most likely give you nightmares, because how can you be sure you're not being tested by the Devil right this moment?

The Others (2001)
Plot: A woman (Nicole Kidman) who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted.
Don't be afraid: It's extremely slow-paced. It's not too big on the visual horror as it is on the eeriness of certain loud sounds and long silences.
Leave the lights on: The twist at the end will make you review everything you've seen so far in your mind, bringing you to the realization that it was all a lot more terrifying than you originally thought.

Identity (2003)
Plot: Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rainstorm, ten strangers (John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, etc.) become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.
Don't be afraid: When you realize what's actually happening and where it's happening, it's considerably less terrifying.
Leave the lights on: The surprise murderer will creep you the hell out.

Hard Candy (2005)
Plot: A mature 14-year old girl (Ellen Page) meets a charming 32-year old photographer (Patrick Wilson) on the Internet. Suspecting that he is a pedophile, she goes to his home in an attempt to expose him.
Don't be afraid: This is technically only scary for men, considering how she terrorizes him. For women, it's more of a feminist piece of girl-power cinema.
Leave the lights on: Seriously gentlemen, you don't want to see what she does to his lower regions.

The Happening (2008)
Plot: A strange, horrible and unprecedented crisis begins in Central Park. A high school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and a young girl (Ashlyn Sanchez) do what they can to survive it.
Don't be afraid: It's a very mellow and slow-paced film—its intensity isn't as exhausting as other films.
Leave the lights on: The random deaths and murders are pretty disturbing. It's one of those films that you scream "No! No!" to, hoping that'll save the inevitable victim.

Shutter Island (2010)
Plot: Drama set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is investigating the disappearance of a murderess (Patricia Clarkson) who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.
Don't be afraid: You'll be so entranced by the hidden messages that Martin Scorsese weaves into the allegory-filled plot, you'll hardly notice all the crazy people roaming the island.
Leave the lights on: It screws with your head a bit. You're never sure what the truth is and it might drive you a little nuts.

Reader Suggestions: The Forgotten (2004), Godsend (2004), Secret Window (2004), Taking Lives (2004), Flightplan (2005), Pulse (2006), Awake (2007), The Number 23 (2007), The Eye (2008), The Uninvited (2009)

Comedic Horror
I know the point of scary movies is to get scared, but isn't it so much more fun to have the erratic unbalance of being both frightened and amused? No? Is that just me then?

Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Plot: Two hapless freight handlers find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.
Don't be afraid: These two idiots falling over themselves to get away from the mysterious creatures will make you feel pretty silly about being afraid yourself.
Leave the lights on: Everybody else maybe goofing off, but the creatures aren't. They're acting like they're in a totally different movie...a scary one.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1984)
Plot: The Gremlins are back, and this time, they've taken total control over the building of a media mogul.
Don't be afraid: The first one isn't really all that scary, but the second one is even more enjoyable. Just imagine a bunch of Wall Street-types being driven crazy by a bunch of cackling, mischievious creatures.
Leave the lights on: They're really, really, really ugly. Whoever designed those things created them in the likeness of a grinning demon. It's the kind of image that sticks with you even after you close your eyes at night.

Monster Squad (1987)
Plot: Dracula is alive. In fact, he plans to rule the world and that is why he seeks the help of other legendary monsters. However, a bunch of kids, regarded by their peers as losers, uncover the devious plan and prepare for a counter strike.
Don't be afraid: It's basically like The Goonies, but with creepy characters—adorable kids running around, cracking jokes, and being rambunctious. And, they even have their own version of Sloth in the form of Frankenstein.
Leave the lights on: Dracula, a mummy, a lizard creature, and werewolf are all in the same movie. Need I say more?

Beetlejuice (1998)
Plot: A couple of recently deceased ghosts (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) contract the services of a "bio-exorcist" (Michael Keaton) in order to remove the obnoxious new owners (Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones) of their house.
Don't be afraid: Beetle Juice's first objective is to have fun. Scaring humans comes in as a close third. And getting laid (disturbingly) comes in at number two. Plus, let's not forget what fun you can have with ghosts.
Leave the lights on: You will be tempted to repeat his name three times...but you won't.

Elvira, Mistress of Darkness (1988)
Plot: Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), who is the host of a cheap horror movie program finds that she is the heir to an aunt's mansion in New England. The mansion is the home of some interesting magical items, but her first conflicts come from her attempts to bring some life to the small town, especially to the young people. The adults of the town are appalled by her dress, her tone, in fact everything about her, especially her sexual references.
Don't be afraid: There's plenty of raunch to offset the creep-factor.
Leave the lights on: You never know what could be stirring in that rickety old mansion.

The 'burbs (1989)
Plot: An overstressed suburbanite (Tom Hanks) and his paramilitaric neighbor (Bruce Dern) struggle to prove their paranoid theory that the new family in town is a front for a cannibalistic cult.
Don't be afraid: Okay, I know the plot sounds preposterous and potentially bloody, but really it's just a bunch of adults being driven mad with paranoia. It's fun to watch because it'll make you feel relatively normal for wondering if maybe that heavy black plastic bag your neighbor was dragging to the dump last night was filled with more than just food.
Leave the lights on: The suspense during their illegal investigations and breaking-and-enterings get a bit dicey, especially when they find body parts.

Nothing But Trouble (1991)
Plot: A businessman (Chevy Chase) finds he and his friends are the prisoners of a sadistic judge (Dan Aykroyd) and his equally odd family in the backwoods of a bizarre mansion.
Don't be afraid: Between both Dan Aykroyd and John Candy playing multiple characters and Chase trying to outsmart his captors, there's plenty to keep you laughing.
Leave the lights on: Being stuck in the "backwoods" of anywhere is a prime setting for an untimely and unexpected death. Being captured and taunted by a family of sociopaths, just sounds like you've discovered the perfect cast for your nightmare tonight.

Hocus Pocus (1993)
Plot: After 300 years, three sister witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it us up to two teenagers (Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw), a young girl (Thora Birch), and an immortal cat (Sean Murray) to put an end to the witches reign of terror once and for all before they kill all the children in the town.
Don't be afraid: The witches are like bumbling idiots, cartoonish and goofy.
Leave the lights on: They're pretty sick. I mean, they are trying to steal the souls of hundreds of children to regain their youth and beauty.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Plot: A man (Simon Pegg) decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.
Don't be afraid: Just imagine if the fate of the world were in the hands of two slackers. Now laugh.
Leave the lights on: Some of those zombies are really gross, and it gets a little nerve-wracking when they're surrounded by hundreds of them.

Zombieland (2010)
Plot: In the early 21st century, zombies have taken over America. A shy and inexperienced college student (Jesse Eisenberg) uses the rules he's learned to live by to travel to Ohio and find his parents. Along the way, he meets a boisterous, zombie-hating gunslinger (Woody Harrelson) headed for Florida, and a young woman (Emma Stone) and her little sister (Abigail Breslin), who are headed to an LA amusement park they've heard is zombie free.
Don't be afraid: Learning the rules gets addictive, and Eisenberg injects enough humor into every suspenseful scene to keep you laughing while screaming.
Leave the lights on: There's a reason you have to "double-tap" these zombies. They're relentless—"climb up a rollercoaster" relentless.

Plot summaries courtesy of IMDb.

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