'Tis the season to be frightened. What would Halloween be without those great scary movies? And I don't mean the comic kind, like Scary Movie and all its various clones. I'm talking about flicks with despicable villains or animals so ferocious they make your hair stand on end and your nerves tingle with terror. Not films dealing with the supernatural or computer-generated creatures, but ones about things that could actually happen in real life. I'm referring to movies like Jaws, The Ghost and the Darkness, The Edge, In the Company of Men and The Little Foxes -- each one available on video to scare you out of your wits again or maybe for the first time.
Can you take it? Not if you have a weak heart or a thin skin. But if you muster up the courage, start with In the Company of Men, Neil LaBute's controversial film starring Aaron Eckhart as an evil-doer who looks like an ordinary person you might see every day at work. As Chad, an unscrupulous mid-level executive, Eckhart depicts one of the most deliberately malicious characters ever seen on film. Chad hates everyone, particularly women. In order to get even with the opposite sex, he manipulates a naïve colleague into joining his scheme to shower an innocent woman with attention, then dump her. Eckhart portrays this type of villain with chilling realism. Brrrr.
Lions and sharks and bears -- oh my! Viewers who are more afraid of animals than people should take a look at the first three movies I mentioned. Although The Ghost and the Darkness, based on a true story and co-starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, didn't do well upon its release in 1996, it frightened me beyond belief. I still see those two mysterious African lions that killed 130 people in my dreams -- even more often than the hungry shark from Jaws. And the giant bear who gave Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin so many close calls in The Edge also plays a starring role in a number of my nightmares. Believe me, it's not a pretty sight.
Finally, if you're up to it, try The Little Foxes and watch Bette Davis stare stonily into space as her husband (Herbert Marshall) struggles up a flight of stairs to reach his medicine while having a heart attack. Sheer evil seeps through Davis's wide eyes and will stay with you for many years to come. Trust me. I saw The Little Foxes back in 1941 and haven't forgotten those ghastly orbs to this day. Now that's what I call reel scary.