What Kind of Scary Books and Movies Scare You?


photo credit: OhKyleL via photopin cc

photo credit: OhKyleL via photopin cc

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.

One of the best demonstrations of a movie that kept me hooked throughout and rewarded with a huge surprise is The Sixth Sense, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan

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?

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6 Responses to What Kind of Scary Books and Movies Scare You?

  1. Eve Paludan says:

    What scares me?

    PROTAGONIST: The person in danger is almost always a woman or a child. She is usually innocent and undeserving of such a heinous experience. You root for her to get through this unscathed. And you are on tenterhooks the whole time because the author makes you care about her.

    PLOT: At each turn of the plot, the worst possible scenarios happen. Examples are: a woman’s car breaks down and she walks to a dark house and goes in because she has no other choice. The thing she fears happens the most happens, but first, suspense builds. And each twist of the plot gets scarier, and more suspenseful.

    ENDING: A surprise ending fits the twist and makes me say, “Aha!” even as shivers go down my spine. Even better is when the climax or epilogue takes me back to the title or fulfills something the heroine needed in her life.

  2. sharla says:

    Yes, Eve. I love it when a woman comes out fighting and wins against evil. Any story that empowers women is a winner with me. Sometimes the character surprises herself with how strong she is and that’s even better. 🙂

  3. Red says:

    I LOVE scary movies, the kinds like The Sixth Sense. I love smart thrillers where I’m not sure what is what until the end. Love ’em so much! I really haven’t read too many scary books though. I’m not too sure why. But I do love a good thriller mystery.

  4. sharla says:

    Me too, Lani. I’ve read some of Tess Gerritsen’s books, good mystery thrillers. She also writes the Rozzoli and Isles books/TV show. She never disappoints.

  5. Ted Jensen says:

    “Watcher in the woods” is one that is scary for adult and child. Maybe was a tv movie.I think Red might like this one.

    “The Shining” scared me because psychopaths in general do, and the suspense was built up in this one to a painful degree by a talented writer.

    “Psycho” is older and well-known and maybe (I don’t think so) out of date, but it was revolutionary when it came out. The audience in our theater was not allowed to leave before the end. It scared the heck out of me as a youth, and affected a friend so much that he went home and hatcheted his mother to death, then rode around aimlessly in his car. His father, advisor to my junior Toastmaster’s Club, came home from fishing to find his wife tied up in the kitchen amid all the blood.That was in Great Falls, MT about 1960.

    In the classic categories, I think “The Cask of Amontillado” by Poe, and others were very scary.

  6. sharla says:

    Wow, Ted, had no idea about the Psycho movie being that scary for it’s time. They talk about kids now days being influenced by such things but I think as you pointed out, it’s been happening for a long time. Our news today is more readily available with the Internet etc.

    When I was a kid I remember House of Usher with Vincent Price was pretty darn scary but it didn’t have even half the intrigue and tangled web that most really scary books and movies have today.

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