From the Archives: Now Fear This: 5 Film-Phobia Pairings

From the Archives: Now Fear This: 5 Film-Phobia Pairings

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

What are you afraid of? The best horror movies tap into our deeply held fears, sometimes even creating new ones in the process (Psycho left more than a few people un-showered). Personally, I fear becoming food more than anything in the world, so much so that Blood Beach ruined many a night’s sleep for adolescent Dan. Don’t even get me started on octopods. If a film involves tentacles, I won’t even watch it. In the name of the season, I compiled some of the most commonly held fears and paired each with an appropriately scary film. 

Fear of Clowns – Coulrophobia Clown (2014 – dir. Jon Watts)

Kent McCoy is a real estate agent who only wants the best for his family. When the birthday clown doesn’t show for his son’s party, Kent decides to take matters into his own hands by donning a clown costume he serendipitously finds in the attic of one of his properties. The clown is a hit, and it appears that Dad has saved the day, but when it comes time to remove the costume, it won’t budge, and thus is the beginning of a terrifying (and really, really gross) metamorphosis. The mix of body horror and the classic creepy clown is uniquely scary, and not for the faint of heart.

Fear of the dark – Nyctophobia They (2002 – dir. Robert Harmon)

This under-appreciated gem produced by Wes Craven was a creepy surprise amongst the early-2000s glut of PG-13 horror. In the world of They, the sleep disorder known colloquially as “night terrors” is actually the work of invisible creatures from a parallel world. Their attack is inevitable to those who are afflicted, and the only way to stave it off is by staying in the light. Even if you’re not the type of person to sleep with the light on after watching scary movies, you may rethink your nightly routine after watching They.

Fear of small spaces – Claustrophobia Buried (2010 – dir. Rodrigo Cortés)

Less of a horror movie than a suspense film, this single location thriller is not just a showcase for Ryan Reynolds’ ability to carry a film, but it’s also a cripplingly effective attack on the senses of claustrophobics. American truck driver, Paul Conroy, wakes up alone in a coffin, buried in the Iraqi desert. All he has is his wits and a cell phone, both of which are running out of juice. Upon initial release, there was a contest in which the winners had the chance to watch Buried in their own personal coffin fit with a movie screen. Nope!

Fear of flying – Aviophobia Red Eye (2005 – dir. Wes Craven)

While most airplane-based horror movies focus on the fear of a potential crash (or snakes that found their way onboard), Red Eye focuses on the idea that the plane itself is a prison in which all passengers are trapped, their lives at the mercy of a select few people. While flying home from a funeral, a young hotel manager is seated next to Jackson Rippner, a charming, hilariously named man with a deadly secret. As his intentions are revealed, the airborne location serves to ratchet up the helplessness that those who fear flying feel on even the most uneventful flight.

Fear of mirrors – Catoptrophobia Oculus (2013 – dir. Mike Flanagan)

Perhaps the fear of mirrors isn’t so commonplace, but if enough people see Oculus, these numbers could spike. Despite being produced by WWE Films, Oculus is one of the better horror movies of recent years, telling the story of a young woman who believes that a haunted mirror is the force which caused her brother to murder their parents. She sets up a camera and begins a series of tests which she hopes will obtain irrefutable proof, but it isn’t long before the mirror begins to distort reality in increasingly malevolent ways. This literal take on funhouse mirrors is creepily effective, and is up there with The Conjuring in terms of high quality modern horror. It’s also currently available on Netflix.

Here’s to hoping that whatever fears you may live with, they aren’t so crippling to effect your life too heavily … yet are strong enough to bring you the strange joy of trembling your way through a movie.

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