Today we begin our monthlong “Fearful Five” feature. Throughout October, we will post lists devoted to various scary movie and TV topics to help you get the most enjoyment out of this spooky Halloween season. Many of the titles referenced will be on TV this month (check out the online movie database at to find out if and when), others you will have to seek out on your own. Where available, we’ve included video clips of the titles to give you a terrifying taste of what to expect from each (Note: Videos may contain disturbing images and language.)

So let’s begin, if you dare!


Suddenly, a call from a telemarketer doesn’t seem so bad when compared with the dial-ups featured in these scary films. Interestingly, most of these are older movies, so perhaps the phone was a greater instrument of terror in the days before caller ID, *69, et cetera:

5. Halloween (1978)

“Lynda, if this is a joke, I’ll kill you!” Well, too late Laurie. Lynda’s already been strangled, and that heavy breathing you hear on the other end of the phone line comes courtesy of “boogeyman” Michael Myers. Of course, the scariest scene may have come right before this, with Michael in disguise wearing Lynda’s boyfriend’s obnoxiously large ’70s glasses over a creepy ghost sheet.

4. Scream (1996)

“Do you like scary movies?” Writer Kevin Williamson obviously does, as he was spot-on in this clever homage to ’80s slasher films, particularly in this opening sequence. Drew Barrymore ranks with Janet Leigh as among the most famous short-lived cameos in horror history.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Freddy Krueger calls up Nancy and gives her a real tongue-lashing.

2. When a Stranger Calls (1979)

The second film to use the old “the calls are coming from inside the house!” urban legend (after Black Christmas), Stranger quickly loses its connection after its initial opening gimmick. But stay on the line for the scenes touched on in the trailer.

1. Black Christmas (1974)

Near the end of this clip, Margot Kidder and her sorority sisters take a call from a gibberish-spewing wacko about 20 years before Kidder had her own gibberish-spewing incident.