The scares start earlier every year. With Paranormal Activity 4 just a few weeks away we've sampled the current crop of shreikers to weigh in on what truly creeps, what's just annoying, and what's essential for horror fanatics.
1. Hot Leading Ladies Are a Must: The House at the End of the Street looks all gritty and terrifying but admit it, a huge reason this is a must see is because it's Jennifer Lawrence in a tank top. Fortunately, J.Law is also a terrific actress. Ever since Jessica Biel wore that little white T in the Texas Chainsaw remake, we're suckers for seeing scream queens rocking the closet staples. Plus, we just gotta see what has her so freaked in that basement.
2. Whimpers Are Scarier Than Bangs: Twilight's Ashley Green is a hot leading lady and the finale of The Apparition does deliver the goods, but nearly every other scene is ruined by a soundtrack that doesn't know when to let silence and tension build. There's even the obligatory "it's only the cat/dog/child" behind those mysterious noises followed by a loud bang that forces the viewer to be rattled.
3. Spooky Ghosts Beat Torture Porn: The creepy presence Rebecca Hall encounters in The Awakening got under our skin good—we'll never look at a dollhouse in the same way. A lot of what works is the mood and the unbearable silence. And most spirit tales are all gussied up with fine English period detail giving off a Downton Abbey meets Supernatural vibe. Unlike Saw, it's what we don't see that's so disturbing.
4. Put the Shaky Cam Down: Can the found footage genre just go away, please? Earlier this year, The Devil Inside would have been a perfectly serviceable possession tale, but the you-are-there-feel made us a little queasy. Seems like the Paranormal series is the only one that knows how to use a tripod. What's really frustrating is that too many feel less like complete stories, more like a stunt. An hour of annoying people who don't know who to hold a camera followed by 30 minutes of frenetic action is a copout.
5. Theaters Need to Exorcise Demonic Possession Flicks, at Least for a While: This weekend's The Possession delivers some good scares (don't look in the box!) and newcomer Natasha Calis is an excellent little psycho, but this is the umpteenth tale of possession we've seen lately. What makes Possession click are the fine performances by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick as the parents. Still, when your daughter's room is filled with thousands of evil moths you leave. Period.
6. The Best New Horror Flicks Are Hard to See; Go Directly to VOD: In Compliance Dreama Walker is a young woman with the worst night ever in a fast food joint. There isn't a killer on the loose, though. The fright comes from everyday people just following orders. But it's absolutely terrifying. And unfortunately, really hard to see. The same goes for The Awakening and the upcoming The Tall Man starring Jessica Biel. These flicks are either showing in very limited cities or available to rent through via streaming video. Sure, the big screen is always preferred but hey, at least there's a way to see them.