I don’t write scary stories or even mysteries but I appreciate the heck out of the writers that do, especially when they surprise me. And since Halloween is almost here, I thought it would be fun to discuss what kinds of books and movies succeed in creeping you out and why? No lessons here, just a fun discussion of what’s scary and what’s not.
First, I have to acknowledge that it’s harder to keep writers in the dark for long – pun intended. Lets face it, writers know all the plot lines and that makes it more difficult to surprise us. At my house, when we’re gathered around the TV, everyone gives me the “look” the look that says don’t you dare tell us the ending.
I must also confess that I have no patience for so-called scary movies with characters like Freddie and Jason. For me, it’s like paying money to watch a Halloween party at the theater. They’re too silly to be scary. Mind you, this is just my opinion.
I think some of the scariest characters/entities are those that remain a mystery throughout the story. I love the stories that offer clues along the way but still scare me spitless or at least genuinely surprise me at the end.
Scene from The Sixth Sense
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In the The Sixth Sense there are scary, bloody and mangled ghosts that pop up at odd times and make us yelp. But there’s also a sense of … more, something we are not being told, a mystery that we need to untangle.
Does the boy who sees ghosts, Cole Sear, played by Haley Joel Osment really see them or is he mentally disturbed? I came to believe Cole saw ghosts but sensed there was something more I wasn’t grasping. Was there something evil after the child? His child psychologist, Dr. Malcom Crowe played by Bruce Wills appears to be bewildered too, which adds to the intrigue.
The tension grows as one of Cole’s ghosts points to evidence that she was slowly murdered, evidence that can’t be denied by Dr. Crowe. We think this answers all the stories mysteries – yes the boy honestly does see ghosts — but it doesn’t. Not until Dr. Crowe realizes that he himself is dead. This surprise ending wasn’t the result of red herrings. Hints were in front of us the whole time and yet … The surprise. I was inordinately pleased to have been royally stumped.
Dean Koontz is one of my favorite authors of the scary and mysterious. Oh yeah, I’m a huge Odd Thomas fan. In Koontz’s books we learn who the bad guy is but Koontz gives readers a sense that evil is also a character in his stories, an entity if you will that motivates the bad guys. It hangs out in the mists and in the dark corners and it’s scarier than the human bad guys because fighting true evil is like trying to grab a ghost, far harder than the fighting flesh and blood we can see.
Okay, it’s your turn. What kinds of scary books and movies scare and thrill you the most? Why?