In many of the momentous horror films in cinema history, the events of the story revolve around picturesque children. Among the best of these performances is Haley Joel Osment’s portrayal of a young boy who can see dead people in The Sixth Sense. The movie follows him as he is counseled by Philadelphia’s premier child psychiatrist (Bruce Willis). Besides one of the most stunning endings in the history of horror films, the film evokes a strong paranoia in its viewers. Every passing breeze becomes an unseen ghost after viewing. The Sixth Sense opened up a new, invisible world with plenty of frightening explanations for misplaced car keys or homework.
One of summer vacation’s traditional staples is a relaxing vision of sunbathing and constructing delicate sandcastles at the beach. With the arrival of Jaws in theaters early in the summer of 1975, the beach suddenly lost its appeal. The monstrous shark became synonymous with horror at its utmost. The movie was loosely based on a series of shark attacks that occurred near the New Jersey shore in 1916. Fearing that history would repeat itself, more than a few moviegoers shied away from the beach and the creatures that may lurk within the water.
Masks are regular components of the traditional Halloween costume, but even the most bizarre masks are rarely made from human skin. The mask donned by Texas Chainsaw Massacre villain Leatherface, however, is crafted solely from human hide. The chainsaw-wielding fiend is one of a family of cannibals who lure a group of college students to their human slaughterhouse. After four are brutally dispatched, the last is captured and treated to a banquet of human meat. At the feast, the cannibals praise their work. An appalled audience waits in horror with alongside the only surviving member for the film’s climax.
To many, dreams are a refuge from the menial tasks of everyday life. Dreams brush aside our lingering everyday life, but a nightmare has quite the opposite effect. A Nightmare on Elm Street capitalized on the timeless myth that someone who dies in their own dreams dies in reality. The film’s antagonist, Freddy Krueger, terrorizes teenagers within the realms of their dreams. Once Krueger’s victims succumb to their drowsiness, they will never open their eyes again. The audience, aware of the impending doom, can only watch the oblivious cast in horror.
A cross-dressing motel owner is not usually a candidate for most frightening movie villain, but Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho revolves around a murderer so dominated by his mother that her influence transcends her death. In an effort to fill the role vacated by his mother, motel owner Norman Bates begins dressing as her. Norman systematically eliminates any person or thing that could replace his mother’s influence. The degree to which his mother has managed to warp his mind and retain power over her son is even more sickening than the series of grisly murders Norman executes in an effort to protect his “mother.”