I’m not scared of sharks. In fact, Jaws is my all time favourite movie.
Nonetheless, after watching Blake Lively battle a great white this week in The Shallows, I can't say I fancy a dip in the ocean.
This started me thinking about how often movies prey on our deepest fears and phobias.
For example, in addition to The Shallows, this week sees the release of horror film, Lights Out. Meanwhile, images of the latest Pennywise the clown are flooding social media streams (brrr…).
As a result, I decided to explore films that exploit ten of the most common phobias…
(Warning... this article contains images that some phobics may find distressing.)
Films To Avoid If You Have A Phobia
Flying - Aerophobia
If you are a nervous flyer, steer well clear of Denzel Washington’s Flight. This tense thriller, directed by Robert Zemeckis, features one of the scariest plane
crashes I have ever seen.
In addition, avoid Frank Marshall’s Alive - the incredible story of the Uruguayan rugby team, who were stranded in the Andes after their plane crashed.
Plus, I would also give (at least the start of) Final Destination a miss.
Heights - Acrophobia
I may not be afraid of sharks, but I am scared of heights. For me, Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk in 3D was one my most uncomfortable film experiences in years.
While I still prefer James Marsh’s documentary, Man On Wire, The Walk really made me feel as if I was at the top of New York’s Twin Towers with Phillipe Petit - about to embark on a terrifying wire walk.
Enclosed Spaces - Claustrophobia
If you suffer from claustrophobia, I would suggest you skip Neil Marshall’s brilliant horror film, The Descent. As a group of friends make their way deeper into the narrow caves beneath the Appalachian Mountains, you have to remind yourself to breathe.
Danny Boyle’s bio-pic, 127 Hours, is also a film that claustrophobics should, perhaps, avoid. James Franco plays Aron Ralston, a climber who finds himself trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah.
Another film that might exacerbate claustrophobia is the Ryan Reynolds movie, Buried. For most of the film's one hour and 35 minutes, we are trapped in a coffin-sized box with Reynolds as he desperately tries to escape.
Clowns - Coulrophobia
I must admit that I suffer from coulrophobia. I blame Stephen King. Ever since reading IT, I’ve found that I can’t bear the sight of clowns.
There are, of course, many clown-related horror movies and many more will come. I’m not sure that I will be first in line to see Andrés Muschietti latest IT adaptation when it is released next year.
However, for me, nothing can beat Tim Curry’s Pennywise the clown for pure, malevolent horror.
The Dark - Nyctophobia
I think, deep down, we are all afraid of the dark. There is nothing scarier than the ‘thing’ you can’t see.
David F. Sandberg’s new film, Lights Out, plays on just this phobia. The fear of permanent darkness also pervades Spanish thriller, Julia’s Eyes.
Meanwhile, I recently watched Silence Of The Lambs again. The scene where Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) stumbles around that creepy house in the dark never ceases to terrify.
Sharks - Galeophobia
The oceans were emptier in 1975 - after the release of Steven Spielberg's Jaws. No film (before or since) has come close to conveying the sheer terror of a shark attack.
Of course, marine biologists reassure us that these creatures have been misrepresented. However, even the bravest sea swimmer would surely think twice after hearing Quint (Robert Shaw)’s description:
“Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. Y'know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'... until he bites ya.
"And those black eyes roll over white, and then... oh, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin', the ocean turns red, and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and they... rip you to pieces.”
Snakes - Ophidiophobia
If you suffer from ophidiophobia (the abnormal fear of snakes), you should probably avoid Raider’s Of The Lost Ark. Sharing a phobia with Indiana Jones will not make that Well Of Souls scene any easier to watch.
Oh, and it probably goes without saying, steer clear of Snakes On A Plane.
Spiders - Arachnophobia
Frank Marshall’s film, Arachnophobia, caused quite a stir when it was released in 1990. The film, starring Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands and John Goodman, tells the story of a species of South American killer spiders who find their way into the US and start to breed.
Even if you are not afraid of spiders, this film will give you the itchy scratchies (shudder).
Meanwhile, another film to avoid is Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, which features more than its fair share of creepy eight legged insects.
Open Spaces - Agoraphobia
The fear of open or public spaces is another phobia often exploited by cinema. Indeed, the home invasion genre is full of agoraphobic characters.
For example, I recently re-watched Copycat which sees Sigourney Weaver’s agoraphobic psychologist terrorised at home.
Meanwhile, most horror/thriller movies include scenes that are bound to disturb agoraphobics. For instance, Jason Bourne features a series of extremely tense scenes in crowded public places.
In addition, if there was ever a case for staying at home, Frank Darabont’s The Mist is it… the ending of that film still gives me the chills.
Dogs - Cynophobia
Cynophobia is the name for the irrational fear of dogs. However, these fears may not be so illogical if certain movies are to be believed (and, no, I’m not talking about the Beverly Hills Chihuahua trilogy).
The first movie to come to mind is, of course, 1983’s Cujo. Based on another Stephen King novel, the story sees a friendly St Bernard contract rabies and, well, things do not end well.
Meanwhile, Samuel Fuller’s film, White Dog, features another scary dog. However, this film is less canine horror and more interesting exploration of racism in society.
After accidentally hitting a German Shepherd with her car, actress Julie (Kristy McNichol) discovers that the dog has been trained to attack black people.
Horrified, she takes the dog to an animal trainer in the hope that this violent prejudice can be resolved and the animal be retrained.
Echoes of Fuller’s movie are found in Kornél Mundruczó’s, White God. This film (about a girl’s loving relationship with her dog) soon turns into a full on canine rampage. Certainly one for cynophobics to avoid.
What Are You Scared Of?
Do you have a phobia that is on this list?
Would you actively avoid any of these films because of that fear?
Let me know! Leave me a comment in the box below...