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The scariest movie of all time
by T.J. Tranchell

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This image is Photoshpped. The real traps are much more human.

This image is Photoshpped. The real traps are much more human.
People often ask me what the scariest movie I have ever seen is. They say, "Hey, T.J., what scares you? Please tell us."

I for a long time, I had to stop and think about it. I hadn't been legitimately scared by a movie since I was a kid. What scared me then is not necessarily what scares me now, although I know for some people it is. When I was five, what scared me the most was the library ghost in the opening of GHOSTBUSTERS. I screamed; I ran; I hid behind a curtain, barely peeking through the opening. Eventually, I knew what was going to happen and made it through the rest of the movie. Nothing is as bad as that for me, when it comes to a pure jump-scare moment.

Then I got old (as opposed to growing up). I've seen a lot of horror movies and I can honestly say most of them don't scare me. I watch other people get scared and I laugh. When the monsters come out, I laugh. That is my response. It is a pleasurable feeling. I laugh like a maniac on roller coasters, too, and have occasionally found myself standing near the coasters in Las Vegas, grinning at the sounds of people screaming in fear and joy.

But I'm not scared. I'm not afraid of spiders or snakes or chupacabra. I'm not afraid of werewolves or vampires or mummies. The truth is, only one thing really scares me: women. And the scariest of them all, all-time for me, isn't Glenn Close in
When I was five, this was the scariest woman I knew.

When I was five, this was the scariest woman I knew.
FATAL ATTRACTION, Sharon Stone in BASIC INSTINCT or the Angelina Jolie computer animated version of Grendel's Mother in BEOWUL. It's cute, little, innocent Ellen Page in HARD CANDY. Sure, she's an indie darling now and everyone loves her. She still scares the crap out of me.

When people ask me that question, the one about what scares me, that's not really what they are asking. They are looking for a recommendation. They want me to tell them what I think will scare them. So I say THE EXORCIST or DAWN OF THE DEAD. They don't want to know that I am afraid of a teenage girl. I have to really know a person to recommend HARD CANDY, which is sad because it's an amazing film. It is tense and suspenseful. The direction by David Slade is superior to his efforts in his follow-up 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. HARD CANDY is also and editing gem, with 99 percent of the violence and anything truly disturbing (or illegal) happening off-screen. Hitchcock would be proud.

The script and the performances bred from it are also a far sight better than much that comes out of the horror genre. Properly, HARD CANDY isn't even really a horror movie, but it is scary enough to be one.

In terms of plot summary, Page plays Hayley who meets Jeff, played by Patrick Wilson (you know, Nite Owl from WATCHMEN). He's a late 20s fashion photographer and she is a teenager. They meet up and
Glenn Close is wicked pissed that a teenager scares me more than she does.

Glenn Close is wicked pissed that a teenager scares me more than she does.
go to his house. At first it looks like poor Hayley is about to be the victim of a pedophile but the tables are soon turned and turned again. Much mayhem and some surgery ensue until both are pushed over the edge.

Deciding who is predator and who is prey is part of the genius of the film. Jeff may or may not be innocent of the previous violations against a girl Hayley knew. If he is innocent, then we should be on his side, hoping Hayley stops herself before she goes too far. If he is guilty, he deserves everything that Hayley can dish out. As for her, either way she won't be able to go back to being an innocent little girl. She may avoid becoming a sexual victim, but the mental and emotional turmoil she endures (much of it of her own making) will scar her for life.

And that is what scares me. Not only am I afraid for this girl and what could happen to her physically, I am also afraid she will become a worse monster than she thinks Jeff is. I am on her side but it is different than cheering for a slasher like Jason Voorhees. For most of the film Hayley feels the remorse that a creature like Jason does not. Yet she proceeds to carry out her plan. It is also difficult to be on her side because, well, I'm a guy. No man wants to imagine the girl behind the counter at Burger King coming for his balls just because he was maybe a little too
So, who is the predator and who is the prey?

So, who is the predator and who is the prey?

As such, it is easier to stay opposed to Jeff. Innocent or not, he brought an unaccompanied minor he'd never met before into his home. It is difficult to believe he had only the noblest of intentions. He is a monster of his own sort, perhaps not fully formed yet but on his way. In serial killer parlance, Jeff has killed a few stray cats and been in a fight or two but hasn't killed a person yet. At least, that is what he tries to convince Hayley of. As far as she is concerned, he's diddled her entire high school home economics class and is going to pay. In the end, no one wins.

What makes HARD CANDY the movie that scares me the most is that it is 100 percent plausible. There are super intelligent girls like Hayley out there and it will only take one pervert to focus that intelligence and turn it into something cruel and remorseless. When I first saw the movie, I avoided eye contact with any woman who looked under 20, which was hard because I worked at community college bookstore that was also next to a high school.

You never know which girl is going to go berserk because you looked at her wrong, so it was just best not to look anywhere. I memorized a book's worth of cloud shapes in two weeks.

So next time you ask me what movie scared me the most, make sure that is what you want to know. Much like HARD CANDY, the answers can be difficult to swallow.

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Other Columns
Other columns by T.J. Tranchell:

Feeling (Rob) Zombie-fied

Hit the road, Jack

Camcorder Carnage

Universal's forgotten fiend

Home is where the horror is

All Columns

T.J. Tranchell
Born on Halloween and raised in a single screen theater managed by his grandpa, T.J. now spends more time than should be healthy staying up past midnight reading Stephen King and watching Friday the 13th movies. Part 3 is the best one.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to T.J. Tranchell by clicking here.

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