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Everyone comforts themselves in the scariest of horror movies by telling themselves "It's only a movie, and a little girl with dark, wet hair is not going to climb out of my television and kill me." But what about when it's not just a movie, but real life? Documentaries used to have a reputation for being boring, but recently documentary filmmakers have unearthed some seriously scary stuff, from power-mad executives to brainwashed little kids. Yeah, it could be the stuff of horror movies, but there are some things so scary you can't make them up. Here are five movies that'll snap you right back to reality and scare the living daylights out of you-- no silly costumes or fake blood required.
Man on Wire
This is actually a happy movie, and an example of how something fairly magical (a man walking across a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers) happened during one of the darkest times in New York City's history. But when Phillippe Petit finally accomplishes his dream and steps out on that thin wire, over 1,000 feet in the air, anyone with a fear of heights will feel paralyzed in their seats. My hands sweat just thinking about it. With just black and white photos and some well-chosen music, a tightrope walk became one of the scariest things I've seen all year.
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
We've all enjoyed watching the smarmy, money-grubbing Wall Street bastards get what they deserved amid this financial meltdown, but are we ready to really look at what their type got away with? Enron is long gone, but Alex Gibney's documentary about the guys who built it is a cautionary tale about how a lot of money can make a few people really, really powerful. And just because capitalism as we know it is falling apart doesn't mean these kinds of guys won't strike again. They're like the serial killer who climbs out of his grave after getting his arm knocked off, or the endless swarms of killer bees. Don't ever, ever think they're dead.
A movie about the way a segment of America’s population is slowly brainwashing its kids towards hatred and intolerance would be scary enough on its own. But what’s really scary about Jesus Camp is the way many people reacted to it. For some, Jesus Camp isn’t terrifying at all. It’s a portrait of what they do on a Tuesday. It’s uplifting, inspiring even. What’s really terrifying about Jesus Camp is that its supporters didn’t launch smear campaigns to discredit it. They simply nodded their heads and said: “Yep, that’s how it is. See you later, when our zombie kids are scooping your eyes out with a melon baller at the Apocalypse!”
An Inconvenient Truth
It's like those nightmares you have about slowly suffocating, or drowning, or burning, except it's happening to the entire world. Put all Al Gore jokes aside; An Inconvenient Truth is scary, and always will be, because it's about something so horrifying that's been happening right in front of us. You know, like Carrie getting drenched with pig's blood at the prom... except it's happening to the entire world. For maximum scary effect, turn the movie off before you get to the uplifting ending-- it would send a chill down your spine if it weren't so unseasonably warm outside.
Got a brain tumor? Cancer? Boy are you screwed. I mean, we all know we’re screwed, but Michael Moore’s documentary outlines just how completely screwed we all are if we ever get seriously sick. To add insult to injury, he hammers the point home by showing how much better everyone else has it. While you’re laying in your bed dying and being assaulted by angry creditors, or arguing with your doctor over which appendages you can afford to keep, there’s a guy with the same ailment somewhere in France, completely cured and recovering on a sunny beach, free of charge and with all his limbs intact. Got insurance? It doesn’t matter. It won’t help you. Sicko’s out to convince you that push comes to shove, America’s citizens are screwed. If that doesn’t scare the diabetes right out of you, then I don’t know what will.