Welcome to FTS’ feature Word Around the Campfire where all of the FTS’ contributors take turns answering the question or topic of the month. This month we’re talking about the scariest and most disturbing films ever.

Scariest Movie You’ve Ever Seen? Most disturbing?

The scariest movie I’ve ever seen is Insidious. Sometimes the FTS crew can be real assholes and let me become terrified beyond imagination. I lost some sleep over Sinister, but Insidious… weeks. I slept with the light on for weeks, would find myself waking up in the middle of the night and checking my house for demons or little blonde hair boys hiding in corners. I still can’t hear the song “Tiptoe Through The Window” without having a panic attack. Thanks FTS!

The most disturbing film I’ve ever seen is either Salop OR the 120 Days of Sodom OR Cannibal Holocaust. I remember after watching these films talking to Lindsay and questioning my humanity and who I am as a person. I felt really uncomfortable with myself for a few days.

Another tough question, because I love horror movies so much and it takes a lot for me to actually get scared. I think the last film that truly made me tense and terrified to my core was actually The Strangers. It’s a pretty standard home invasion movie, but there’s something about those masks, the pointlessness of the violence, the shots that find our killers creeping quietly and inconspicuously in blurry corners and nooks and crannies of the frame. There have been films since that are plenty suspenseful, and others that have had gore or jump scares that I’ve found effective, but I think this is an underrated horror movie that really succeeds at finding a chilling balance and sustaining the sense of dread and horror throughout. The movie that I find most disturbing, however, is not a horror movie at all but actually a foreign film– a Romanian New Wave drama called 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. It takes place in the 1980s in Communist Romania, following a young woman who must help her roommate get an illegal and ultimately dangerous abortion from sinister individuals, all within an oppressive political system and equally strict social structure. The camera angles and lack of movement are such that you’re a helpless observer, stuck with these characters, feeling claustrophobic and very uncomfortable with little breathing room and no relief to be found. The story’s content is in itself unpleasant, and the experience is made all the more dismal and devastating through those unrelenting shots that force you to stay with the situation when all you want to do is cut away.

The scariest film I’ve seen is The Shining. It was also the first horror film I saw, aged maybe 15 or so, and it put me off watching anything else horror-related for many years, other than the Scream and Final Destination franchises, which I always viewed as more comedic than scary. The Shining being my introduction to horror threw me in at the deep end of creepiness, watching it late one night on a taped-off-the-TV VHS my parents didn’t know about, and it messed me up. Something about those creepy-ass twins, the elevator full of blood, the sexy naked woman turning into a decaying, bloated corpse; it was terrifying. I’ve watched it once more time since, to cross it from the 1001 Movies list, and I’ll never be seeing it again.

I’m going to go with Martyrs for this one. The first half was one of my scariest movie experiences and the second half was on of the most disturbing. I almost wanted to stop watching the movie during the first half which plays like a twisted home invasion with a mysterious twist. I was so uncomfortably tense and freaked out. Maybe it was just the mood I was in, but I was so absorbed and frightened. The movie has two distinct acts, and the second part involves some brutal scenes of torture and pain. It was very hard to stomach. After the movie was over I couldn’t tell as a whole how highly I rate it, but based on pure emotional response it was fantastically effective.

Candyman scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. Watching it today, it’s not so scary but I won’t be saying his name in the mirror any time soon. For modern horror, I think James Wan & Leigh Wahnell have really been knocking it out of the scare park with some of their recent efforts.

Most disturbing is a tougher question for me. I’ve seen a lot of ‘weird’ films but I’m usually more disturbed by documentaries. There are too many disturbing docs to count so I’ll go with a fiction film that gave me the biggest emotional response – Gasper Noe’s Irreversible. It’s known for its infamous long rape scene that I can vouch, is no joke. While fictionalized rape of any sort is never easy to watch, the unflinching scene in Irreversible was so brutal and realistic that it moved me to tears. Thankfully, the movie as a whole is actually quite good so the scene does feel necessary for the narrative. Give it a watch if you can stomach it.

I actually think Insidious is probably the scariest movie I’ve seen. The high amount of tension that the film builds throughout stayed with me the rest of the night. Horror movies that I watched as a kid always seemed to have a campiness to them that allowed me to feel like the experience was more fun overall, but Insidious really lays the horror elements on thick. I also think that because I was an adult when I first watched Insidious and it still had this effect on me that the film should get some scary movie bonus points.

The scariest film I can remember seeing is The Conjuring. I think something about knowing it’s based on a true story makes it all the more compelling. The way every scene is set up and the tension (and fear) build gradually. The mark of a good horror film for me is that it doesn’t rely heavily on jump scares but rather builds a feeling of dread in the audience, so much so that when the film is over there is a lingering fear, and a sense that something isn’t quite right. The Conjuring did this for me.

The most disturbing film is actually a pretty tame film by most standards. That film is The Strangers. This film isn’t particularly scary or gruesome but it is very effective at inspiring fear and getting the imagination of the audience going. The idea that random strangers could come to your home and terrorize you for no other reason than to have a good time is deeply disturbing to me. Based loosely on the Manson killings, this is a story that could happen to anyone. While the film is somewhat lacking in the plot department, it poses a scary question to the audience, “what would you do?” and that is something I don’t even want to think about.

What’s the scariest movie you ever seen? What about the most disturbing?

Let us know in the comments below!