It's Halloween! 'Tis the season to carve jack-o'-lanterns, wear ghoulish/sexy/ghoulishly-sexy costumes and defend the virtues of candy corn to your disgusted friends (THEY'RE DELICIOUS). It's also a time to get cozy and watch your favorite horror movies...and maybe revisit one that scared the bejesus out of you as a kid?

This year, the PopCrush staff did exactly that — our editors each looked back at a movie or particular scene that stayed with them for many a sleepless night. Okay fine, for years, if we're being honest. As you'll see below, most of our picks are less than terrifying to grown adults. But to a more impressionable and imaginative young mind, even the wind is a possibly-sentient threat.

Read on, and do let us know which "fun" movie gave you adorable bags under your eyes as a child...


Gremlins is a kids' movie (sort of) but it's also one of the reasons the PG-13 rating exists. While the film is meant to skew equal parts funny and scary, that's a hard concept to grasp when you're five and your frontal lobe has yet to fully develop. I was too young to appreciate the nuanced nature of a dark horror-comedy when I first saw it, because it's a straight-up nightmare plot with truly creepy visuals — especially for a young child existing in a pre-CGI era.

The whole concept is disturbing: The idea that these ugly, anarchical, corrupt monsters intent on decimating the human race can come from something as cute, cuddly and seemingly harmless as a Mogwai felt so far out of the realm of possibility. But it isn't, really. That's a weird lesson to learn (if it's a lesson at all), and the worst way to learn it.

Though all of 'Gremlins' scared me, the worst part was that horrifying scene close to the start, when clumsy moron Pete spills water on poor, sweet Gizmo and small tufts of fur leap off his back as though possessed -- it sounds less awful than it is, but the entire time Gizmo is writhing around, shrieking in pain and neither unfeeling Pete nor simple Billy bothers to console him or check to see if he's fine. They're too busy being curious about the multiplying Mogwai and, all right, I get it, it's bizarre, but the lack of compassion for an innocent creature got to me. It still does. I hate the gremlins, I hate their leader Stripe, but I almost hate those two stupid kids more. It's at least fitting that the non-human Gizmo saved the world in the end. - Ali Szubiak


When I was a kid, I didn't sleep with a nightlight, diminutively cower from clowns or demand my parents check under the bed for monsters. I did, however, cling to big-trunked trees if I noticed their bows were bending.

Yes, while Pocahontas saw the wind as nature’s color palette, it functioned around southern New Hampshire as my greatest fear. I may never know why, or where exactly it was rooted, but I can say this much: Seeing 1996’s Twister in cutting-edge surround sound wasn’t my favorite.

Mock me if you will, but could Freddy Krueger clear a goalpost with an 18-wheeler? Did Beetlejuice ever swallow a drive-in theater’s afternoon crowd? A TORNADO COULD, AND ANOTHER TORNADO DID. AND IT DID BOTH WHILE I WAS SITTING BY MYSELF BECAUSE MY PARENTS ARE AN UNPUNCTUAL PEOPLE WHOSE LATE ARRIVAL ENSURED OUR FAMILY SUFFERED THROUGH SINGLE SEATING.

“But if you constructed a storm shelter, you’d probably be fine!” you might argue. Guess what? Helen Hunt’s dad probably thought the same, and an F5 still went ahead and ripped him right from her hands, up through the hideout’s bulkhead and careening into the brown-green ether. He never even got to see her [spoiler alert] divorce Bill Paxton, realize she still loved Bill Paxton, and remarry Bill Paxton.

Twister is the scariest movie ever filmed. - Matthew Scott Donnelly

The Gate

There were plenty of over-the-top elements that spooked me in The Gate, a 1987 horror movie starring a pre-teen Stephen Dorff: The horde of tiny sharp toothed demons, a monster version of an absent father who attacks while booming, “YOU’VE BEEEN BAAAAD,” a hand with a damn eyeball in it. But the moment that kept me simultaneously fearing and hoping to catch another showing on HBO didn’t involve special effects; it was the scene in which Dorff’s nerdy onscreen best friend Terry lip-syncs along to a metal album based on a grimoire called the Dark Book.

The Gate was made in the “Satanic Panic” era, when the evening news brought constant alarmist and largely false reports of black masses and ritualized child abuse in the name of Lucifer (Google “the McMartin Preschool case” for a refresher). We were a nation obsessed with devil worship back then — “I hear if you play this record backwards you'll hear demonic messages!” was a frequent schoolyard claim, and here was Terry, just a few years older than me, casually beckoning the evil we were warned about.

He was just so good at lip syncing, and I was maybe a little too young to be watching this movie alone? Sure, much scarier events ensued, but this scene is what fueled my nightmares-slash-lifelong obsession with horror. – Samantha Vincenty

Hocus Pocus

 Look, I'll say it: I startled easily as a child.

There are way, way too many family stories I could share to support that statement, including the time I once hurriedly crawled across an entire row of strangers' laps while trying to escape from Honey: I Shrunk The Audience! at Epcot when I was about 7. In my defense, the floor started rattling when a bunch of 3D snakes on the screen were "unleashed" into the crowd. Excuse me? No. I stand by my decision to this day.

Theater getaways were kind of my thing in retrospect, because the same thing more or less happened when my mother took me to see Hocus Pocus, which, like Honey: I Shrunk The Kids, ISN'T EVEN SCARY. Except, it was. Oh, it was.

The memories are fuzzy, but I remember certain things: I know that it was one of those roomy theaters where you can eat while you watch (Or my mom just brought food and I ate in my oversized seat — foggy memory, need more ginseng in my diet.) I know I was eating a ham sandwich, and I don't even like ham sandwiches, so the night was already looking grim.

And of course, I remember watching the opening scene, when the Sanderson sisters lure little Emily into their home, brew a potion and then suck out her soul until she's sitting there limp in the chair, presumably dead. That was it. I was done. I booked it right out of that theater, and there was no convincing me to come back. No, ma'am!

Had my mother been successful in getting me to sit through the whole movie, I would have (maybe?) realized that the film is actually a delightful, quotable Halloween camp classic. Maybe I would have developed an affinity for Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler much earlier than I did in my life.

Or, most likely, I would have just booked it after another few minutes. - Bradley Stern


I’ll set the scene: I’m 7, maybe 8, camped out on a patchwork quilt on our living room floor wearing nothing more than a pair of Jem underpants I’d probably had on a day or two too long. As one does. It’s early evening, close to bedtime. I’m eating a salami sandwich with mustard on white bread. No plate, just a paper towel. There are cold sores developing on my tongue and on the roof of my mouth because the meat is too spicy.

Jane Fonda is on our big wood-paneled TV with blond hair and a glittery space bikini. She’s been discovered by a group of girls in flowing tunics and bangs so aspirational they’d make Zooey Deschanel jealous. Like mine, these girls’ parents are somewhere else. Now Jane Fonda is bound and tethered to a poll as the children surround her with creepy dolls. When activated, the dolls shriek and march toward our heroine, chomping razor-sharp teeth. Well, this is not cool. Jane Fonda is not appropriately alarmed by any of this, but sleepy, salami-scented me is crapping her already pretty crappy underpants.

Yes, dear reader, I was watching 1968’s sci-fi sexploitation classic Barbarella. Which, by all accounts, I had no business doing before the age of … let’s say 15. (I also saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show well before puberty, so like, way to be super diligent, Mom and Dad!) That night my Kid Sister doll (from PlaySkool!) did not go wherever I was gonna go. That bitch spent the night in the closet.

And I still can’t stand the smell of salami. - Nicole Sia

Stars' Halloween Costumes