When I was a kid, I was terrified by three movies: Robert Wise's The Haunting, which featured a menacing house that pounded, turned doorknobs, wrote notes on the wall to "Eleanor" and morphs a young girl in her bed into a old woman banging on the ceiling with a cane. That'll scare anyone.
The Window is a tight little thriller about a little boy (Bobby Driscoll, who won a special Academy Award) who witnesses a murder. No grownup will believe him while he is being chased--and caught--by the bad guys. He's utterly on his own.
In Mirage, Gregory Peck keeps seeing the image of a watermelon splatting on the pavement--he's traumatized by having seen someone fall out of a high rise to their death. He's lost his memory and keeps getting lost in the wrong stairwell.
Nothing has ever scared me as much since.
There is that wonderful moment at the end of Brian De Palma's Carrie (my favorite film of his) when the arm reaches up through the grave. Ridley Scott's Alien has the creature busting out of John Hurt's stomach. George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead is one of the creepiest movies ever made. And this list's number one choice, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, is packed with truly scary stuff--like the blood rising out of the elevator. Redrum. Redrum.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]