What makes your skin crawl? Ghosts? Monsters? Bio-horror?
What unnerves you? Terror without a face? That figure in the shadows? Gore?
No sooner did my colleague, John, and I debate nominations for scariest movie ever than totalscifionline.com e-mailed its slate of The Hundred Greatest Horror Movies. I'll let you guess what tops the list. But while I find said movie completely creepifying, it doesn't give me the shivers the way that Freaks (1932) -- cast with real-life sideshow grotesques who take revenge on a devious "normal," Olga Baclanova -- or Psycho (1960), where the horror is less in what is shown and more in what you imagine in your head.
Horror should be heard but not seen. I realize this is counterintuitive -- especially for the fans of modern torture horror, or "gorno," flicks, as the wags call gore that verges on the pornographic. The more the viewer has to infer from what is suggested, the more the movie worms its way into said viewer's nervous system and psyche. For this reason I've always been more vulnerable to the implicit horror in the 1940s movies from producer Val Lewton (Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, The Seventh Victim) and the hints of horror in Steven Spielberg's Jaws than I am to the explicit horror of The Exorcist and Hostel. Of the more recent terrormeisters, no one creeps me out as thoroughly as David Cronenberg, the implications of whose bio-terror flicks such as Rabid, They Came from Within and The Fly give me night terrors. For me, the threat of the monster or violence is much more unsettling than its results.