Reblogged from thedeathoffilm:
“The Scariest Movie Ever Made” is a Halloween series in which Film.com writers discuss and confront the most terrifying movie they’ve ever seen.
Describing what makes a film scary is a bit like explaining a joke — if you have to do it at all it isn’t likely to be very convincing. Fear is too personal, and thus too contingent: everybody responds to different things for different reasons. If you are afraid of clowns, you will doubtless be afraid of “It”. If dolls set you off, you’ll want to steer clear of “Child’s Play”. I know somebody so terrified of zombies that even “Shaun of the Dead” is a tough sit. There isn’t much of an argument to be had on this point. You can’t really convince somebody to find something scary, at least no more than you could convince somebody who doesn’t like mayonnaise to enjoy an egg salad sandwich. Which is to say that for all its enthusiasm in unpacking the psychological dimension of horror, criticism strikes me as rather ill-equipped to contend with fear. So in lieu of proposing an all-time scariest movie, let me change the parameters of the question slightly.
In 1971, experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage made “The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes”, a 40 minute silent documentary shot in a Pittsburgh morgue. The film is composed of nothing more than autopsy footage, captured candidly and graphically, and it has become almost a cliche to observe that, once you have seen it, its images cannot be forgotten. The bodies of men, women, and children are laid out on tables, undressed, wiped down, embalmed, and variously sliced open, cut apart, and skinned. Brittle chunks of ribcage are hacked away at, thick heads of hair are carved thinly off, and, in a moment that seems almost literally unbelievable, the skin of a man’s face is tugged down and peeled right off, the mortician’s gloved hands tearing flesh away like a bandaid. We tend to talk a lot about a sense of physicality in horror films, about a tactile presence of the body in the image. “The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes” is a film of pure physicality: it is the physical divorced from the cerebral and the spiritual. It is corporeal cinema. Anatomical cinema. If “body horror” were not already a genre it would need to be invented to account for this.