I’m a bit late for Halloween, but I figured I would make a quick list of things that legitimately creep me out. Being a skeptic, there aren’t many of them. I have noticed that skeptics tend to be very hard to scare, or rather, are not scared by your typical supernatural-based horror stories. Maybe there is a correlation between believing fictions in real life and believing fictions on the screen? It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. Anyway, here’s my list. The selections all have quite a few commonalities, as you’ll see…
#1 The Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
Ah, the Twilight Zone. Despite there being supernatural elements to nearly every episode, it is never the aliens or ghosts that get the legitimate scares out of me. This is almost certainly the most famous episode in the classic series, and it isn’t the aliens that cause the drama. The human characters are believably fanatical, irrational, and at one both frightened and frightening. This is a real fear for me: I know just how terrible people can be when they are in a corner, and that realism is what sends my spine a-shivering in this classic tale. The ending monologue is one of my favorite closers to any television show in history. “I am the Night, Color Me Black” gets an honorable mention here as well, although it deals more specifically with hate as opposed to fear. Interesting how those seem to coincide.
#2/3 Red State / Jesus Camp
One of these is fiction, and one of them is not. Both disturb me deeply for their realistic depictions of the extremely faithful and deluded. Nothing encourages irrational behavior in people quite like a good dose of religion, and these two certainly have that. Both include alarmingly charismatic leaders who absolutely terrify me, and I can’t honestly say which one is worse. If you haven’t seen either of these, you should. Red State certainly has its flaws, but the acting is eerie in its excellence. Jesus Camp is just plain mind-blowing. Both have made me feel highly uncomfortable, and legitimately fill me with a sense of dread towards the most impressionable and misguided in our species.
#4 Louvin Brothers – Great Atomic Power
It disturbs me that people have ever thought this way.
#5 Doctor Who – Midnight
People always think of “Blink” when they connect horror with Doctor Who. I certainly don’t have anything against the Weeping Angels, but I can’t compare them to the terror that is “Midnight”. Although the antagonist of the episode is an alien (a damned cunning one, at that), it certainly isn’t what I found creepy in this episode. This creature manipulated the fearful and hysteric passengers and crew of a small spacebus into turning on each other, not unlike the aliens in TZ’s “Monsters are Due…”. The difference here is that we have a protagonist who figures out what is going on by staying rational and collected. However, he is overtaken not only by the alien, but by his fellow passengers. The Doctor, in this episode, loses. Even when another character comes out in his support, she is derided and dismissed by the majority of the irrational and rabid passengers. That frightens me: not only the irrational nature of frightened humans, but the iron-fisted tyranny of an irrational and ill-informed majority. Yet again, this is not a supernatural fear, but one you might encounter any day in the real world. That, for me, is what makes this frightening.
The commonalities: Real life threats. People behaving irrationally. The tyranny of the majority. These things are all so familiar, and all too real. That is what it takes to scare a skeptic: show us something we’ve seen before, and have good reason to fear.