The "scariest thing I ever saw" is actually a tie between three movies. Normally, horror movies don't bother us at all, let alone constitute the scariest thing we ever saw —age nine marked our first viewing of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and Krueger was hilarious—but these three horror flicks had that overall image, scene or theme that stuck with us. The scariest thing we ever saw isn't necessarily the movie itself, but something inside of the horror flick we couldn't forget.
"The Phantom of the Opera" (1925): Lon Chaney, Sr., a veteran actor of the silent film era, plays the "phantom" haunting a Paris opera house. Enthralled by the voice of the young singer Christine Daae (Mary Philbin), the phantom begins to tutor her, although she cannot see his face. Eventually, the opera ghost —really a disfigured, mentally deranged man named Erik—reveals himself to Christine, demanding her love. His unmasked face could certainly be the scariest thing we ever saw, despite the limited special effects available in the 1920s film era. As the phantom begins to wreak havoc on the opera house due to Christine's physical repulsion to him, Lon Chaney's performance makes his phantom one of the creepiest characters on film, and he didn't even need to speak.
"The Birds" (1963): A classic from Alfred Hitchcock, "The Birds" focuses on a sudden, violent pattern of attacks by birds on the residents of a small California community. We follow socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) and her family and friends as they attempt to defend themselves from the massive swarms of attacking birds. The flocks of birds pecking and ripple people to death still sticks with us today. There is no background music prior to the bird attacks, making the movie even more atmospheric.
"The Night of the Living Dead" (1968): George Romero's 1968 masterpiece, the original "Night of the Living Dead" visiting the grave of their father. As Johnny is teasing her sister about her fear of cemeteries, a strange man attacks her, and Johnny is killed trying to defend her. Terrified, Barbara runs off, only to find the man is the least of her worries. She hides in an old farmhouse with a small group of people as the living dead begin to swarm the area. Large sequences of this film are easily fall under the "scariest thing I ever saw", especially when the group is trying to fortify the farmhouse windows against the zombies.