RAHS’ Guide to Scares on the Screen

Janet Leigh (as Marion Crane) in Pyscho, 1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Janet Leigh (as Marion Crane) in Pyscho, 1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock

T B, Staff Writer

Autumn, also known as ‘spooky season,’ sees some RAHS students in the mood for a good scare—cue the horror movie binging. To join in the festivities, The Ville brings you the top 5 scary movies RAHS students enjoy, along with what they think a successfully spooky film should have.

Students want a satisfactory plot. “Horror movies that give reason to why the horror is happening are always great,” Jocelyn Hales (9) said. There’s gotta be more than a start, and more than an end, there has to be a why. Granted, that ‘why’ is usually a matter of survival.

But a movie won’t hit box office records with just a good plot. A movie will also need good characters—the audience should care about what happens to Nancy Thompson as she runs from Mr. Krueger himself. And part of being a good character is making smart choices, and if not smart, then at least choices that make sense for the character. “Like why would you split up?” Mark Hug (9) said about his horror movie put offs.

So we got an interesting story, we got smart and witty protagonists. Next up is some convincing acting to sell the fear, and then filmingid done!

But all that alone still isn’t enough. the editing stage is equally important. Practical effects (and CGI for more modern movies), along with good lighting, camera work, and sound engineering are needed to make a movie worthy of repeatedly watching.

With all this in mind, 81 students from 9th to 12th grade recommended a spooky movie or two (or literally all horror movies, according to one response).


Coraline, 2009, directed by Henry Selick

“Be careful what you wish for. 

An adventurous 11-year-old girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets.”—IMDb.

Coming in with the most recommendations, Coraline is a stop-motion animation movie that was co-produced by Tim Burton. Give Henry Selick his due credit. This film knows how to use a color palette, and if you need proof, just look at Coraline’s yellow raincoat against the gray and grimy background. Thanks to its medium, this movie has much more freedom when it comes to manipulating posture to create characterization, and it pays off in the final scenes of this movie as things go from odd to disturbing. Still rated PG though.


IT, 2017, directed by Andy Muschietti

“You’ll float too.

In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.”—IMDb.

Ah yes. Clowns. My favorite. Really takes us back to that weird clown craze in 2016. On top of the general unnerving nature of clowns in sewers, there’s also some very convincing CGI that will make you jump (and leave the theater if you’re us). And much like Coraline, Georgie’s yellow raincoat contrasts with the gray background just enough to keep you watching, so don’t worry about missing any of the scares. Kierra Byrne (10) said that she wants a movie to be “something that’s scary but kinda funny,” when she recommended this movie, so we’ll take her word for it.


The Conjuring, 2013, directed by James Wan

“Evil Loves Innocence.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.”—IMDb.

For all those who were looking for a more ‘realistic’ horror film, look no further! For this movie is based on a true story—or rather, an investigative case conducted by the very real Ed and Lorraine Warren. Whether you think those two were the real deal or not, their in-movie expertise gives them an edge most horror movie heroes dream of having. This film relies on sound just as much as it does visuals, so if you think looking away from the screen will keep you from jumping, you might need to bring some earplugs too.


The Nightmare before Christmas, 1993, directed by Henry Selick

“Tim Burton’s classic returns in 3-D so real, it’s scary!

Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home causes confusion.”—IMDb.

Yet another Selick film! Once again co-produced with Tim Burton. Much like Coraline, the stop-motion medium brings a whole new world of odd visuals that live action can only dream of reaching. This is a bit of a goofier movie with comedic breaks, so if you have younger siblings and a parent who stresses about you watching R-rated movies, this one’s for you. It aims for less of a ‘you’ll be having nightmares for the rest of the night’ vibe, and more for a ‘things are about to get wacky,’ vibe, which is it’s own form of horror in some ways.


A Quiet Place, 2018, directed by John Krasinski.

“If they hear you, they hunt you.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.”—IMDb.

Behold! A monster movie has made the list. If you want quality special effects, this one is worth a shot with it’s long-limbed, eyeless, and incredibly fast monsters called the Death Angels. There are several brief scenes of corpses, so keep that in mind if you decide to sit down to watch it. When recommending this movie, Myles Hamilton (9) said that he looks for good acting and plot when he sits down to watch spooky movies during October.

All five movies listed above are available through check-out via the Ramsey County Library system for card-holders, and library cards are free for Ramsey County residents.


Some honorary mentions that tied, but didn’t make the list are:

Hocus Pocus, 1993, directed by Kenny Ortega

Halloweentown, 1998, directed by Duwayne Dunham

Scary Movie (series), 5 films released 2000-2013, directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, Malcolm D. Lee, David Zucker


Seen all the movies RAHS students have recommended? Want something new? Well, you’re in luck!

Mr. Engelking, film critic turned English teacher, said that he likes the idea of horror movies more than actually watching them. He still shared his opinion on what he thinks makes a horror movie truly scary, along with 5 movies he’s shown in his Art of Film classes. Note that Art of Film is available to only juniors and seniors, and that the following movies include more mature themes and/or visuals.


Night of the Living Dead, 1968, directed by George Romero

“If it doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead!

A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a horde of flesh-eating ghouls that are ravaging the East Coast of the United States.”—IMDb.

This black and white film opens with a dramatic chase—and the woman wearing heels getting rid of said heels! It also has zombies who know how to use rocks to break car windows. It’s free to watch on Kanopy, a streaming service for library card holders, and Tubi.


Halloween, 1978, directed by John Carpenter

“The trick was to stay alive.

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night in 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.”—IMDb.

This well-known classic is arguably better than any slasher movie that’s come after it, according to Mr. Engelking. From the iconic gray mask of Meyers to the theme song, this movie uses the properties of space and sound to create many tense scenes, but there are also some comedic breaks that come with 70’s horror films. It’s available through Ramsey County libraries, along with Shudder, a streaming site for horror only, and Amazon Prime, Sling, and Vudu.


Inland Empire, 2006, directed by David Lynch

“A Story of a mystery…A mystery inside worlds within worlds…Unfolding around a woman…A woman in love and in trouble.

As an actress begins to adopt the persona of her character in a film, her life becomes nightmarish and surreal.”—IMDb.

While IMDb lists this movie as a drama-fantasy-mystery film, and yet it’s made this list, Mr. Engelking stated that this movie’s unsettling nature comes from the fact that “anything goes,” so if you enjoy an exploration of the bizarre, this movie is available through Ramsey County Library, and on Disney+.


I Stand Alone, 2001, directed by Gaspar Noé

“In the bowels of France.

A horse meat butcher’s life and mind begins to break down as he lashes out against various factions of society, attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter.”—IMDb.

A French thriller, Mr. Engelking leads it’s introduction as “which is about a psychotic butcher?” A little more on the violent side, due to, y’know, the main character being a butcher. Additionally, the main character makes one bad decision after the other—to an outsider, he’s the monster of his own film—he’s been intentionally turned into someone you don’t want to meat. Unfortunately, it’s not on any streaming services, or available through the Ramsey County Library.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978, directed by Philip Kaufman

“Get some sleep.

When strange seeds drift to earth from space, mysterious pellets begin to grow and invade San Francisco, California, where they replicate the residents into emotionless automatons one body at a time.”—IMDb.

Crazy camera angles and practical effects create some incredibly suspenseful scenes as the story of Elizabeth and Matthew goes from concerning to horrifying. The start of this movie is a little slow, but it all pays off in the last 30 minutes, thanks to Brooke Adams (Elizabeth Driscoll), Veronica Carthwright (Nancy Bellicec) and Donald Sutherland’s (Matthew Bennell) expressivity. It’s available for free on YouTube, with ads. 


Some honorable mentions:

Hush, 2016, directed by Mike Flanagan

It Follows, 2015, directed by David Robert Mitchell