Phobias, whether we want to admit them or not, are something that we all have. Those who experience phobias can have feelings that range from slight annoyance to all encompassing debilitation. Last season, American Horror Story: Cult decided that along with their brilliant focus on social commentary, they would also hone in on phobias such as Coulrophobia (clowns), Trypophobia (closely packed holes), and Agoraphobia (open spaces). For the DVD release of American Horror Story: Cult, I’ve decided to put together a list of the five best horror films categorized by phobias.
Definition: extreme or irrational fear of confined places
Movie to Watch: I’m not someone who experiences claustrophobia, but I know many people who do and it can be quite debilitating. In regards to horror movies that feature this fear, the first one that comes to mind is Rodrigo Cortes’ 2010 film, BURIED, featuring Ryan Reynolds as a U.S. truck driver working in Iraq who finds himself buried alive inside a coffin. Those who have a fear of confined spaces may experience severe anxiety upon viewing, but it’s worth it for Reynolds brilliant performance.
Honorable Mention: Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT (2005)
Definition: an irrational fear of clowns
Movie to Watch: I don’t like clowns, I will never like clowns, and though I don’t have a fear of them anymore, I used to. I was that kid who, at a very young age, decided to go against their parents advice and watch KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1998). The movie traumatized me for almost two decades to the point that I found myself having a rather difficult time watching anything that featured a clown. The movie may not hold a candle to today’s clown-orientated horror films, but to me, it’ll always have a soft spot as one of the most terrifying clown films of my generation.
Honorable Mention: Jon Watts’ CLOWN (2014)
Definition: extreme or irrational fear of the night or of darkness
Movie to Watch: There has never been a short film that has terrified me more than David F. Sandberg’s LIGHTS OUT (2013). I like to think that I’m not scared of the dark, but truth be told, I think all of us have a slight discomfort in total darkness. Sandberg’s film made me recoil in fear while I simultaneously made sure all of the lights were on. It’s simple and effective in its ability to scare the viewer which is why, in my opinion, this short is a masterpiece. I still have the image of that creature embedded in my brain with no desire to revisit it any time soon… unless I’m with people and all the lights are on.
Honorable Mention: Wes Craven’s THEY (2002)
Definition: fear or strong dislike of flying
Movie to Watch: Nothing in this world scares me more than flying in an airplane. I have obsessive compulsive patterns and a ritualistic itinerary that I follow just to board a plane. Horror films have done a fantastic job of portraying just how terrifying going on a plane can be, but no movie has done a better job of putting the fear of airplanes in me than the first FINAL DESTINATION (2000) film. All of these films, in their own way, can easily check off a list of phobias for the masses, but none have done that as much as the infamous plane scene in the beginning. 18 years later I still think of that scene whenever I know I have to board a plane.
Honorable Mention: The Twilight Zone: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Season 5, Episode 3)
Definition: a person who hates, fears, or distrusts books
Movie to Watch: Some books have the power to alter our minds in which to think of things differently. This can result in either a waking nightmare or a peaceful dreamscape, depending on how that story plays out. The movie that best encompasses this fear is none other than John Carpenter’s IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994). In the film we see the monstrous effects that Sutter Cane’s books has on his readers. As each of his books are released the more his fans become ravenous, resulting in them turning to murder and eventually becoming insane. This is one of my all-time favorite horror films, and the fact that it’s influenced heavily by horror author H.P. Lovecraft only adds to my love for this film.
Honorable Mentions: Sam Raimi’s THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
American Horror Story: Cult will be available to own on DVD September 18th. The season takes place post-election 2016, and centers around Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson), a Michigan woman plagued by phobias, who attempts to find happiness as a restaurateur alongside her chef wife (Alison Pill) and son. But Ally’s family - and her grip on reality - are threatened by the arrival of Kai Anderson (Evan Peters), a politically motivated cult leader who’s plotting an unthinkable mass murder. Also starring Cheyenne Jackson and Billie Lourd, American Horror Story: Cult is a scrumptious scare-fest served up with social commentary, pinky swearing, clown suites and gas lighting.