The Criticwire Survey: Movies You're Afraid to Watch

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by Matt Singer
October 29, 2012 9:57 AM
4 Comments
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"Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom."
Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week's question:

Q: Time for a Halloween confession: name a movie you've never watched because you're afraid it will be too scary.

The critics' answers:

Alan ZilbermanBrightest Young Things/Tiny Mix Tapes:

"I only avoid horror movies when I think they'll be too disgusting. I'll never watch 'The Human Centipede,' for example, or 'A Serbian Film.'"

Mark YoungSound on Sight/New York Movie Klub:

"This is a tough one, because I tend to pride myself on a strong stomach and willingness to sit through any scary movie (even if I have to cover my eyes on occasion). However, there is one particular thing that I simply can't stand to see on screen, or even think about. Rather than describe it, I will simply say that I've never seen 'Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom' for exactly the same reason that I refused to watch 'The Help.'"

Chase WhaleNext Movie/Twitch/Film.com:

"If I were 12, I would have a pile of movies ('Candyman' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' to name a few), but at 29, nothing comes to mind that I'm too scared to watch. That said, I won't watch movies with a lot of gore because that carnage sticks with me and I can't eat a pepperoni pizza without thinking about a prolapsed anus."

Andrew WelchAdventures in Cinema:

"The one movie I’ve always been too afraid to watch is 'The Exorcist.' 'Creepy,' I think I can handle, and even 'spine-tingling' to a certain point. But we’re talking about one of the most terrifying movies ever made here, and 'terrifying' is something I just won’t do."

Scott WeinbergTwitch/Movies.com:

"'Sex and the City 2.'"

Anne-Katrin TitzeEye For Film:

"'Snakes on a Plane,' because the concept is so scary, it doesn't even matter what the filmmaker does with it. Think of the most frightening scene in the closing night film of the 50th New York Film Festival, 'Flight,' combined with the opening night film, 'Life of Pi.' John Gatins, a terrified flyer, and the writer of 'Flight,' told me that Zemeckis, who is a pilot, took him up in a plane and wanted to work on the crash scene, while in the air. Ang Lee, on the other hand, said he had four Bengal tigers to play Richard Parker, in the little boat on the ocean, in 3-D, no less. But I would go to see 'Tigers on a Plane.'"

Andreas StoehrPussy Goes Grrr:

"For a lover of horror movies, 'too scary' sounds less like a threat than an incentive. If I'm told that a movie is unwatchably violent or disgusting, my response tends to be a curious 'Oh, really...?' That said, certain subject matters do strike preemptive fear into my heart: terminal illness, nuclear war, 'real world' stuff like that. As a result, I've yet to watch 'Threads' or 'Testament,' and don't know if I'll ever see 'Collapse,' the 2009 documentary about peak oil. I have enough debilitating anxiety in my life; I don't need movies about global catastrophe adding to it. (Special mention goes to 'Irreversible' and 'Men Behind the Sun,' both of which sound utterly nauseating. I'll still probably see them someday, however, because dear-god-what-is-wrong-with-me.)"

Josh SpiegelMousterpiece Cinema/Sound on Sight:

"My answer is Tobe Hooper’s 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.' I don’t love horror films on the whole, though I’ve seen more than I realized (or at least, I’ve seen more beloved or well-liked horror movies). And though I was unfortunate enough to see the execrable and disgusting 2003 remake, I haven’t seen the 1974 original. There are a few reasons -- I’m sure the original isn’t as excessively gory as the redo, I really can’t stand tons of blood and guts in movies, for example -- but I will admit that some part of the concept freaks me out. The idea of a road trip going sour, of driving in some rural area, having no help available, and being beset upon by evil forces, is a foolish fear to have, but one I constantly harbor when I go on a long drive. One day, maybe when I know I’ll never drive anywhere again, I may check this out, but it’s not happening anytime soon."

Jason ShawhanNashville Scene/Interface 2037:

"I've not been afraid to watch a film because it would be too scary since around Junior High. I will avoid films that from what I've been told would be too disgusting ('Cannibal Holocaust,' 'Men Behind The Sun' -- I don't go for actual animal slaughter as an atmospheric effect)."

Katey RichCinema Blend:

"For a long time the answer to this was 'An Inconvenient Truth,' because I totally didn't think I could handle a movie that laid out just how fucked we are in terms of global warming. I eventually watched it and dealt with the existential terror, but I think I've spent up all my courage about scary movies, because now I avoid all of them, documentary or not."

Jordan RaupThe Film Stage:

"I'm usually down for anything scary, but it is the gratuitous, disturbing horror films that I usually avoid -- 'A Serbian Film,' 'The Human Centipede,' etc."

Kristy PuchkoCinema Blend:

"I love horror movies. I enjoy being freaked out for days on end from the weird and terrifying things within them. But I've never watched 'Open Water.' I've been told it's not even that scary, but as someone who watched 'Jaws' at a very young age (possibly too young) nothing scares me as much as sharks. I love 'Jaws,' and watch it again each year... usually before going to the beach. It frightens me, but at least its familiar and people survive. The idea of being left to float defenseless on the open water with hungry sharks with their rows of pointy teeth below -- Just no! I'm out."

Matt PriggePhiladelphia Weekly:

"I don't mean this to be boastful, but I'm simply not scared by movies, especially horror films. The odd 'boo!' effect aside, the effect of which is too transitory to get worked up over, horror just doesn't frighten me, particularly to the point of my not wanting to watch them. I take truly messed-up movies ('Salo,' 'Antichrist,' 'A Serbian Film') as a dare, and even films that actually do succeed in unnerving me and giving me nightmares ('The Human Centipede,' the murder of [spoiler] in 'Looper') I can handle. Ditto films about death. I have a crippling anxiety over dying, and yet I will soldier through, say, 'A Lion in the House,' the 4-hour documentary about kids with cancer. So I'm going to go with 'Finders Keepers.' I am a massive, unstoppable, unapologetic, borderline obnoxious partisan of director Richard Lester, and I've been happy to discover that even his less respected work -- 'Cuba,' 'The Ritz,' 'Superman III' -- has at least isolated pockets of merit. I've never found a copy of his cross-country chase comedy, starring the always hilarious Michael O'Keefe. (Not that I've tried very hard.) And that may be for the best, because it sounds horrendous, and I like few things less (artistically speaking) than watching favorites of mine make total asses of themselves. Perhaps it's secretly great and the critics and audiences of 1984 were wrong? That may have to be for someone else to discover. I'm good (for now)."

Dan PersonsMighty Movie Podcast:

"'The Passion of the Christ' - There are some places too terrifying to venture, and the inside of Mel Gibson's head is one of them."

Rudie ObiasShockYa.com:

"I rarely say, 'I'm never going to watch that film.' I want to be fair by giving every movie a chance, no matter how gruesome, scary, or horrific the movie may be. But there are often times I say, 'I will never re-watch that film.' The #1 movie I will never re-watch is Harmony Korine's 'Gummo.' I am so afraid to re-watch this film because of the strange nightmarish imagery, inexplicable structure and tone, and horrific setting and characters. I watched it once and I don't think I need to watch it again. Even writing this entry gives me chills. Yuck!"

Jenni MillerJenniMiller.net:

"The movies I'm afraid to watch aren't necessarily spooky Halloween movies; they're in the realm of extreme horror that I find deeply upsetting. I'm more afraid of the physical effects of a movie -- nausea and dizziness because of shaky handheld motion, for example -- or really violent and disturbing content. That said, I am pretty freaked out by scary movies when I watch them, even jump scares that I know are coming. I try to keep a lid on it, but I do sometimes yelp a little when things get scary!"

Mike McGranaghanThe Aisle Seat:

"This might sound like boasting, which I don't intend it to, but there are no movies I'm afraid will be too scary. I don't scare easily at all. In fact, out of all the films I've ever seen, there are only seven that I would say legitimately scared me. There is, however, one movie I've never seen -- and never will -- not because it's too scary but because it's too disturbing. I'm talking about 'Faces of Death.' Even though I know portions of it are fake, certain parts, especially those involving animals, are legitimate. I have no interest in watching any living being die for real. When I was a teenager, watching 'Faces of Death' on VHS was a rite of passage, a way of proving one's mettle. I never took the plunge because I knew it would only disturb and depress me. By the way, my joke answer was 'The Oogieloves.'"

Calum MarshSlant Magazine:

"Adam Sandler's 'Jack And Jill.' It sounds terrifying."

Vince ManciniFilmdrunk:

"I've never avoided a horror movie because I was afraid it would be too scary, in the traditional sense. I tend to think the idea that you're just dead after you die is much scarier than any ghost or werewolf story. In the non-traditional sense, I avoided 'Hairspray' (the Shankman version) because that publicity shot of John Travolta in drag smiling like a mongoloid legitimately gives me nightmares. I rarely avoid 'scary' movies, but I do avoid depressing ones. For instance, 'Babel.' I couldn't stand '21 Grams,' because as well put-together as it was, it felt like it was just trying really hard to make me sad, and 'Babel' seemed like more of that. Critics excuse movies like that with 'Yeah, but every movie is manipulative!' Maybe so, but I can understand the gesture of manipulating reality in order to entertain people or make them think or make them laugh much more than I can understand manipulating it in order to make people feel like shit. That I don't get."

Joey MagidsonThe Awards Circuit:

"I was unfortunate enough to have seen about half to three quarters of 'Arachnophobia' when I was a kid, and it scared the crap out of me. Also, it informed me that I have that same fear of spiders that gives the film its name. In that regard, the movie fortunately pointed that out to me... unfortunately though, it's one of the only movies that I've only seen a part of, since I'll never finish it. Yuck..."

Scott MacDonaldToronto Standard:

"Ah, if only. I fell in love with horror movies around the age of eight. I recall it vividly: my parents were out, and my older brother was watching 'Psycho II' in the 'TV room' (as we called the tiny room at the back of our house). I snuck quietly into the living room (which abutted the TV room) and watched through the doorway, completely hidden. I got about halfway through, then totally freaked, giving myself away. I can't remember if my bro let me watch the rest with him, or if I saw the rest later. All I remember is that I had to sleep with my parents the next couple of nights, and that my brother got in big trouble. After that, I was hooked, and the scarier a movie's reputation, the more eager I was to see it. I've honestly never been reluctant to watch anything. I WISH I could be that scared again. Maybe the closest thing I can think of is 'The Human Centipede.' I haven't seen it, not because I think it'll be too scary, but because it just looks totally grody and un-fun."

Joanna LangfieldThe Movie Minute:

"'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.' I was a kid when it came out and 'somehow' never 'found the time' (ok, I'm a chicken)."

Max LalanneSmell of Popcorn:

"'The Shining,' 'Rosemary's Baby,' 'Jaws,' 'The Omen,' 'Nosferatu,' 'The Silence of the Lambs,' 'The Others,' and 'Alien.' That's basically all the movies that could be considered 'scary' that I've seen, and they are a pitiful few indeed, but as I previously noted last week, I was never an aficionado of the horror genre (for a purely primal reason). So putting aside 'Psycho,' 'Carrie,' and some golden classics of the '30s like 'The Mummy' or 'Frankenstein' that I do plan to watch, you have your pick of dozens of undoubtedly great horror movies that I'm too, yes, scared to watch. How's that for a confession?"

Jonathan LackWe Got This Covered:

"'A Serbian Film.'"

Glenn KennyMSN Movies/Some Came Running:

"There is no such film. I tend to shy away from movies featuring slaughter of live animals if I can help it, but even then you never know. Look at '1900!' Or 'Time Of the Wolf!' Or 'Maitresse!' None of them Halloween oriented or otherwise 'scary.' (Okay, the Haneke's pretty scary.) I don't always relish the prospect of being scared, but I don't scare that easily and I'm sufficiently arrogant to have a 'bring it on' attitude toward nearly everything in the category."

Adam KempenaarFilmspotting:

"I'm not sure I'll ever be able to watch the 'Paranormal Activity' movies, but I'm going with 'The Descent.' It combines my two greatest fears: flesh-eating creatures and cramped spaces."

John Keefer51Deep.com:

"There is no film too hair-raising, too terrifying, for me to tackle. And I'm too old to get scarred at movies anymore... which makes me a little sad."

Jordan HoffmanScreenCrush:

"Well, I'll confess something you, Matt Singer: I am absolutely terrified of plane crashes. This is a hassle, because I fly quite a bit. Also because plane crashes, horrible horrible plane crashes, are in a lot of movies. And ever since I suffered a massive panic attack during a screening of 'Alive' in January of 1993 (which may have been chemically induced -- I was a freshman in college, after all) I have been unable to watch movies with plane crashes since. I haven't seen 'Cast Away.' I won't see 'Flight.'  I saw 'The Grey,' because I had to, but I raced out of the theater before the crash and came back once I heard the cessation of booms from the lobby. I recognize this is crazy, but, hey, I've gotta be me."

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

"Not sure I've avoided it for the traditional 'too scary' reasons, but I can't bring myself to watch 'A Serbian Film.' Avoiding it may disqualify me as a horror fan completist but, in this case, I think I'm pretty okay with that."

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4 Comments

  • Archer Slyce | November 4, 2012 9:29 AMReply

    I don't think you could just blame it on the recent torture-porn fad, but it's interesting to see that when asked about movies "to scary to watch" most people will actually give titles of movies that are not frightening but disgusting (It's even implied in jokes about terrible flicks like Jack and Jill !). Martyr is a great/interesting example because the first part really is quite scary (and great) but the second part is just gross (and bad/boring).

  • Mike White | October 30, 2012 3:32 PMReply

    Aw, poopsie, don't be afraid of Salo. We did a podcast on it and didn't manage to ralph. http://projection-booth.blogspot.com/2012/05/episode-63-salo-or-120-days-of-sodom.html

  • Michael | October 30, 2012 2:38 PMReply

    The problem with A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede is that they utterly fail to live up to their enormous hype. Both films are not nearly as disturbing as their reputation's would suggest. They were both huge disappointments for me and it's actually rather funny that people get so worked up over movies that don't deserve the attention. I do agree with those who refuse to watch Cannibal Holocaust because of the actual slaughter of animals. That is reprehensible.

  • Philip Concannon | October 29, 2012 12:11 PMReply

    Like many people here I avoided Salò for a long time, despite being a fan of many Pasolini films. Anything with a notorious faeces scene is a major obstacle for me, but I finally mustered up the courage to watch it a few years ago... and it really is bloody horrible. This week I'm going to finally overcome another stomach-churning hurdle with a big screen viewing of Pink Flamingoes. I'm half excited, half dreading it.

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