October was horror month at Heard Tell, a thirty-one day celebration of the genre that scares us all senseless. Despite the decidedly not fun nature of the genre, horror is a genuinely great and interesting thing to talk about. Everyone has a favorite horror film or a favorite ghost story or, if nothing else, a favorite Halloween candy. For the people who can stomach the scares and the dread that float all around us like dying leaves throughout October, it’s a great time to be alive. For the people like me, who hasn’t been home in six weeks because I think I may have seen a spider in my shower, it ranks somewhere near the bottom tier of months (along with the Napoleonic February and the aggressively soggy April). However, the one thing that scares me more than spiders is being left out, and so I’ve come up with a solution for all the big time wimps of the world. I’ve come up with a list of movies that only sound scary. The descriptions of these movies sound similar to some of the more terrifying and gruesome films the genre has to offer, but they all play out much differently on screen.
If you want to impress your friends with your bravery but don’t want to deal with the night terrors, check out these five films.
Shortly after giving birth, a young mother is senselessly murdered during a terrifyingly random home invasion. Her widower, still trying to piece together a life for himself and his young son, is thrown into further turmoil when his son is kidnapped on his way to school. In a quest to find the boy before he loses him forever to an international trafficking ring, the man encounters violent, murderous cannibals and a multitude of other death traps. Meanwhile, his son is living on borrowed time, soon to be handed over to a new “owner” with a history of suffocating her victims. If you loved Silence of the Lambs, you’ll love this hair-raising story of kidnapping, murder, and a last minute rescue. Look for Finding Nemo on streaming services and DVD.
Daniel, a middle-aged man with the personality and maturity level of a pre-teen, is divorced by his wife after a series of dangerously juvenile stunts. In the nasty family courtroom battle that follows, Daniel is deemed unfit to see his children without court-mandated supervision. Unable to deal with the consequences of his actions, the increasingly unhinged Daniel posits himself as an elderly British woman in order to gain unsupervised access to his three young children. Without his family’s consent or knowledge, he acts as their “nanny”, taking special delight in punishing the children and attempting to sabotage his ex-wife’s new relationship. The ruse is discovered after he accidentally exposes his genitals to his teenage son. The ending, considered by many to be as shocking as the last ten minutes of Se7en, Daniel pleas out of jail time and continues to portray the elderly woman as a TV character, often speaking directly to his children through the screen-surrounded by puppets. If you can’t handle The Shining but are interested in a deranged father mentally tormenting his family, Mrs. Doubtfire is the movie for you.
WHAT ABOUT BOB?
A highly phobic, psychotic, slovenly man unexpectedly shows up at his psychiatrist’s family summer home. With more than one eye towards the home-invasion antics of Funny Games, the patient slowly integrates himself into the doctor’s own family. Perhaps succumbing to Stockholm syndrome, the disturbed individual gains ardent ally’s in the doctor’s wife and children. In an ironic twist, the successful, confident doctor is driven to madness by the intrusion. Slowly losing his grip on reality, he kidnaps and attempts to murder the patient, only to fully and completely lose his mind when the patient makes a final escape. His violent rampage ends with his vacation home exploding, nearly killing his entire family. If Primal Fear and The Strangers makes you squeamish, give a look to What About Bob?
TOY STORY 3
After a case of mistaken identity, a group of lifelong friends find themselves as prisoners in a jail run by a sadistic warden who masks his penchant for physical and psychological torture with an air of kind benevolence. Part OZ, part Stanford Prison Experiment, this intensely emotional and challenging film turns friends into enemies, features a series of increasingly intense escape attempts, and focuses largely on a main character “short circuiting” and losing his mind. The gonzo, Lynchian ending, which includes a volcanic incinerator and a botched extra-terrestrial led rescue, is not for children. For the grown-up viewers who aren’t interested in Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption, check out Toy Story 3.
DUMB AND DUMBER
Two men, carrying a stolen briefcase filled with cash, drive across the country in search of a woman they hope to impress enough with their newfound riches that she agrees to sleep with one, or both of them. Further muddying the waters, two assassins, the rightful owners of the briefcase are trailing the men with murder on the mind. This neo-noir evokes both Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers in equal measure, as both No Country for Old Men and Blood Simple are both widely derivative of this story about sex, deceit, lies, murder, and robbery. If the wood-chipper scene in Fargo is too much for you to handle, perhaps you’ll enjoy the slightly less gory but no less disconcerting Dumb and Dumber.