I'm a scaredy-cat. Horror movies and I just don't mix. But I do appreciate them, and the power of an indelibly scary image. So, in honor of Halloween, here's a list of things I've watched that led to me sleeping with all the lights on for a few nights afterward. Some are intentionally scary, some are not. In order from most to least recent.
  1. "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief"
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    After seeing this documentary on HBO a few months ago, I had recurring dreams about the disembodied head (a la Wizard of Oz) of L. Ron Hubbard. It would have been better for me not to see videos of that guy. Cree-py.
  2. "Game of Thrones" - Season 3, Episode 9, The Rains of Castamere
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    Too much blood. Too many horrible ways to die. I watch the majority of this series through the spaces between my fingers.
  3. "American Horror Story" - Season 1, Episode 1, Pilot
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    Even the perfect, lustrous hair of Connie Britton couldn't save this for me. It was too freaky. And I never watched another episode, which is a shame because I really would have loved to have seen the badass performances of Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Sarah Paulson. But watching just one hour led to a week of nightmares, and I like my sleep.
  4. "Rosemary's Baby"
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    Even though I always want to call this movie "Rosemary's Baby's Mouth" (thanks, Nora Ephron), the memory of lighthearted Harry Burns-Sally Allbright Pictionary hijinks (photo) could not quell the anxiety I felt when attempting to fall asleep for days after seeing this movie. After all, EVERY BAD THING that happens to Rosemary occurs while she's asleep. It was all very conducive to insomnia.
  5. "Suspiria"
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    We studied Dario Argento's stunning witches'-coven-disguised-as-ballet-school fright-fest in a horror and sci-fi class I took in grad school. It left me on edge for months afterward. I feared I'd meet a terrifying fate via nonspecific euro-witches and razor-wire in a highly-stylized landscape. And the soundtrack is, absolutely, the eeriest, most monstrous earworm that refuses to die. I can hear it right now and it's been at least 10 years since I last watched the film.
  6. "The Shining"
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    I love Stanley Kubrick without qualification. And even a horror-movie hater like me can appreciate the fact that Kubrick was masterful in this genre and probably should have done more. I saw (and still sometimes see) the Grady twins in my most hair-raising dreams, but even I cannot deny the greatness of this film, which means I've seen it multiple times.
  7. "The Serpent and the Rainbow"
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    Slumber parties were tough for scaredy-cats like me. Watching a horror movie was de rigeur when girls got together for sleepovers, and the terrifying visuals in these films would dog me for weeks. We watched this one my senior year of high school. Since I only vaguely remember it, I think I hid in my sleeping bag through most of the horrific proceedings. Here's what I do remember: Bill Pullman, voodoo, and someone gets buried alive.
  8. "It"
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    I somehow thought that reading this book would allow me to overcome my paralyzing night-time fear after watching this miniseries on TV. Didn't work. You want to know why? Because MALEVOLENT MURDEROUS CLOWN.
  9. "Children of the Corn"
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    Two friends had a slumber party in the 6th grade that was really wonderful in every respect except for the fact that the evening's entertainment included a screening of this little gem. I think I got over it, finally, two years later, but not without some really tense bedtimes and many nights in a sleeping bag on the floor of my parents' bedroom.
  10. "Carrie"
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    I was WAY too young to see this movie. My friend and I tuned in because John Travolta (my dreamy crush from Grease) was in it. Big mistake. I remember running home from her house after the end (when the corpse hand reaches out from the grave) and feeling very odd. Like I wanted to cry and bang my head against the wall to stop my brain from replaying the bloody prom death scenes. But I knew it wouldn't stop, no matter how many other, happier images I tried to stuff in there before bedtime.
  11. "The Day After"
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    It probably sounds weird now, but I was convinced when I was a kid that nuclear annihilation of the entire world was imminent. This terrifying miniseries did nothing to make me feel better, and I spent a few years being really concerned that we had no fallout shelter in our backyard.
  12. "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" Season 1, Episode 12 - Space Vampire
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    Good God. Just look at this guy. The horrible head. The unibrow that was terrifying enough on its own. This guy simply WOULD NOT LEAVE my brain. Not for years. This episode was the scariest thing I had seen in my young life, and I simply could not stop thinking about it. I was convinced that this bloodsucker, with his veiny head and dirty, long fingernails, was coming for all of us.