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What Scares You? Here’s a Horror Movie for Every Phobia

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Feature Artwork by Cap Blackard

Fear is constant, fear is restless, and fear is always changing. Reason being, the human mind is susceptible to so many external conditions, all of which elicit a wide range of emotions, conditions … or phobias. Much of this has to do with our own life experiences, those nagging, unforgiving memories that are so traumatizing they’ve become a seed in our minds, one that has blossomed into a paralyzing fear we can’t shake off.

This is why horror films — or rather, most films in general — can often be so polarizing with audiences. What works for one person might not necessarily affect another and vice versa. Then again, some phobias are nearly universal: Heights, spiders, clowns, creepy dolls, and small spaces aren’t traditionally welcomed with open arms, which is why Hollywood tends to capitalize on those fears again and again.

But what about the unlucky bunch who can’t bear to dance, refuse to look in mirrors, or run away from shadows? What about those tortured souls who might faint at the sight of a bath? Or even their own hair? It’s a strange world, alright, made all the stranger by what gives us the willies. In light of such madness, we put together a cinematic glossary of phobias with the hope that the power of film might conquer everything.

Of course, you might also be afraid of film.

–Michael Roffman
Editor-in-Chief

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Ablutophobia (Bathing)

Cabin Fever (2002)

All kinds of grotesque things happen in Eli Roth’s debut feature, but by far the most horrifying of them goes down early in the film, when one of the attractive young people beset by the film’s flesh-eating virus attempts to bathe and shave her legs, only to take off a few more layers of skin than she expected beneath the shaving cream. Roth only got more visceral from here, but rarely has his penchant for buckets of gore been more skin-crawling. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Achondroplasiaphobia (Little People)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Yeah, it might not be PC, but people suffering from achondroplasiaphobia, the fear of little people, didn’t choose to be that way. Also, much of that fear probably stems from the disconnect of the uncanny: those slight shifts in appearance that break from normalcy. Couple that with the sense that you’re watching a series of off-color clones harmonizing through a series of stiff, choreographed movements and, well, how could you not shiver at the sight of an Oompa Loompa? –Randall Colburn
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Acrophobia (Heights)

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Even those who can stomach frequent trips to skyscrapers, or work in them on a daily basis, might find Tom Cruise’s stunts in the third Mission Impossible sequel nauseating. And that feeling is compounded when you learn that the hunky star actually did his own stunts atop Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, which, fun fact, is the world’s tallest building. It doesn’t help matters that director Brad Bird pivots all of the action around Cruise, making for an intimately suspenseful experience and one that feels all too real, thanks to the gripping cinematography, which was initially intended for IMAX screens. Barf bag, anyone? –Michael Roffman
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Aerophobia (Flying)

Final Destination (2000)

There’s often that moment right before every flight in which you briefly wonder: What if we die? The thought traditionally pops up as you’re standing in the gallery and your mind starts wandering off as you wait for your ticket to be scanned. The initial conceit being that the plane, for reasons far beyond your comprehension, just might not make it. Final Destination capitalizes on that what-if situation by painting Devon Sawa’s fiery pre-flight premonitions with terrifying colors. Altogether, the film is a tad on the nose, but what makes it work is how the horror stems from the type of paranoia that most of us try to write off as delusional. What if one day that pre-flight terror is justified? You’ll never know until it’s too late — and that’s why there’s a fear of flying.  –Michael Roffman
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Agliophobia (Pain)

Hellraiser (1987)

The fatal mistake of so many characters in the Hellraiser franchise is that they seek out pain as a form of pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy sadomasochism, of course, but as Pinhead and his legion of S&M nightmare creatures, The Cenobites, prove in the very first scene, no matter how good you think you are at something, there’s always someone better. So what if you can handle a bout of knife-play in the bedroom? That’s nothing compared to getting disemboweled by a room filled with sentient chains. Hellraiser just might make you think twice before visiting kink.com again. –Dan Caffrey

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Agoraphobia (Open Spaces)

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The sheer horror of Wes Craven’s 1977 masterpiece The Hills Have Eyes is how the situation feels so inescapable. For 89 minutes, we watch a poor Midwestern family suffer at the hands of a group of savages, who come and go in the middle of the Nevada desert. This is their home, you see, the expansive, forgotten sands of America that otherwise would be barren, desolate, and eerily quiet. Those suffering from agoraphobia probably don’t imagine terror of this magnitude when it comes to open spaces such as these, which is why the film is paramount to their recovery — or perhaps their ultimate demise. Come to think of it, there’s no way anyone with that phobia walks away from this film feeling cured. But numb? Absolutely. –Michael Roffman

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Agrizoophobia (Wild Animals)

Roar (1981)

Agrizoophobia be damned: this one will scare the pants off just about anybody. Roar, the 1981 Noel Marshall film released in the US for the first time in 2015, has been called the most dangerous film ever made, and for good reason. Exactly how many cast and crew members were mauled by the animals isn’t clear — upwards of 70, certainly — but not even the limp story can lessen the horror of watching people get attacked by wild animals. Real blood, real wounds, real terrifying. –Allison Shoemaker
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Ailurophobia (Cats)

Pet Sematary (1989)

Unlike the reanimated human beings in Pet Sematary, the Creed family’s cat, Churchill (“Church” for short), looks more or less the same when he’s (un)dead as he did when he was alive. That makes him look all the more like your own feline, and thus, it becomes easier to imagine Mittens or Sneakers or whatever your cat’s name is to start committing evil deeds, which range from run-of-the-mill clawing to dropping a dead rat in the bathtub while you’re in it. Sometimes, dog is better. –Dan Caffrey

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Alektorophobia (Chickens)

Freaks (1932)

Those who can’t handle a little chicken once in awhile will probably be OK watching most of Tod Browning’s controversial black-and-white thriller Freaks. (That is, if they’re not suffering from achondroplasiaphobia, coulrophobia, and/or a general aversion to carnivals altogether.) But then there’s the whole ending, where a certain someone is crudely, if not somewhat justly, turned into human poultry. It’s a haunting image and one can only imagine how Depression-era audiences reacted when the film debuted back in 1932. Nearly a century later, that last shot still makes us queasy from the Colonel’s fried goods. –Michael Roffman

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Androphobia (Men)

Rope (1948)

One of Hitchcock’s less heralded films, Rope is best known for its inventive techniques. But those unbroken shots of its predominantly male performers aren’t the only things that might frighten sufferers of androphobia. Two smug, self-involved dudes decide to murder a classmate. They do it because they can. Their former teacher (Jimmy Stewart) figures it all out, but that’s small comfort: he realizes his own smug self-involvement inspired these two creeps. –Allison Shoemaker
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Anglophobia (England)

Love Actually (2003)

Hugh Grant dances around. Colin Firth charmingly stutters. Emma Thompson cries in a bedroom. Martin Freeman’s a body-double. Even Rowan Atkinson shows up. If you’re afraid of British people, do not see this movie. It’s scary long before that guy from The Walking Dead shows up with some creepy signs. And, worst of all, it’s guaranteed to get Bill Nighy’s holiday version of “Love Is All Around” stuck in your head. The song? Bad. The accent? Terrifying. –Allison Shoemaker
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Anthophobia (Flowers)

The Ruins (2008)

Those poppies in The Wizard of Oz ain’t got a thing on The Ruins. Adapted by Scott B. Smith from his novel of the same name, this so-so movie features the most terrifying flora since Little Shop of Horrors. They make sounds. They eat flesh. They’ll crawl down your fucking throat and get inside your brain. If the movie was better, we’d all have given up gardening. –Allison Shoemaker
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Anthropophobia (People)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

People are strange, as Jim Morrison once sang, and ain’t that the truth. In all honesty, everyone suffers from anthropophobia, if only because people will always disappoint us. At some point along the road, we lie, we cheat, we steal, we fail one another. As such, there’s a lack of trust that will forever poison our fabric of society, and that mistrust is more or less the conceit of the iconic sci-fi horror story Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While Don Siegel’s 1956 original is a masterpiece on its own, it’s absolutely no match to Philip Kaufman’s 1978 vicious upgrade, which stars Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and Jeff Goldblum. Between the practical effects and the sonic atmosphere, this one will make your own skin crawl right off you, which is sort of the point. Who knew aliens were more terrifying as us? –Michael Roffman

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Anuptaphobia (Being Single)

The Lobster (2015)

One of 2016’s best movies so far, Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut sees Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz living in a dystopia where single people get turned into an animal of their choosing if they can’t find love. While an exemplary film, The Lobster feels like a bit of a low blow to those bummed about their love lives. Who needs more reasons to feel shitty about romance? –Allison Shoemaker
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Aphenphosmphobia (Intimacy)

Nymphomaniac (2014)

Though Lars Von Trier’s two-part treatise on the existential horrors of human sexual desire (and humanity in general) eventually surrenders itself to his most torturous impulses, it’s Charlotte Gainsbourg’s unreal performance that drives the film’s many central horrors home. Each of the film’s chapters (particularly in the film’s second part) paints a new picture of exploitation, manipulation, and horror forced on Gainsbourg’s Joe, simply because of the compulsive sexual appetite with which she happened to be born and the leering world she happened to be born into. It’s a bleak, savage vision of humanity, but the fearful truth somewhere in there, beneath all the agony, makes the film all the more difficult to watch. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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Apiphobia (Bees)

The Wicker Man (2006)

Honestly, what else did you expect here? One of the many baffling choices Neil LaBute made in his adaptation of the genuinely transgressive 1973 film The Wicker Man was the decision to make Nicolas Cage’s doomed cop allergic to bees, a fact that pays off at the end of the film in a sequence you probably know about as a meme, even if you’ve never seen the film. Taken on its own, though, and if you can get past Cage’s infamous exclamations in fear of the bees, the idea of having an entire hive poured onto your head as you’re bound is pretty awful. Just goes to show you how quickly a strong concept can go wonderfully, horribly wrong. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Aquaphobia (Water)

The Ring (2002)

What, you expected Jaws? Water plays a part in many of The Ring’s scares — a puddle here, a drip there, a well, a torrent — but none are more frightening than that shot of Samara’s water-logged face. When one thinks about The Ring, it’s probably that tape that comes to mind, but try to imagine even one of the most famous scenes from this movie without water. And then imagine getting home from seeing it and realizing that your kitchen sink is dripping. –Allison Shoemaker
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Arachnophobia (Spiders)

Arachnophobia (1990)

For many, Arachnophobia was no laughing matter. When the film hit theaters in the Summer of 1990, Frank Marshall’s directorial debut was billed as a horror comedy, namely because the arachnid-driven story leans heavily on genre tropes and campy scares dating back to the monster movies of the ’50s. (That’s without mentioning John Goodman’s pulpy performance as a brazen exterminator who fights the creepy crawlers alongside Jeff Daniels.) So, yeah, there was stuff worth chuckling over, but once the eight-legged freaks travel from the Amazon to the small California town, there’s no joke in the whole book of comedy that can distract those with the titular condition. Because of this stupid film, this Peter Parker-worshipping writer consistently checked his toilet and shower head for over a decade before he (kind of) fell in love with the critters. –Michael Roffman

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Astrophobia (Deep Space)

Alien (1979)

Alien could easily have qualified for the xenophobia entry on this list. After all, few movie monsters (extra-terrestrial or otherwise) hold a blowtorch to the original xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. But its acidic blood, elongated skull, and pharyngeal jaws double their terror when placed on a single spaceship that offers little means of escape for the (mostly) human passengers. Suddenly, the inhabitants of the Nostromo aren’t just thinking about the star beast they’re trapped with; they’re thinking of the infinite beyond, the far reaches of deep space. That sends the mind to some darkly philosophical places in a way that a predatory alien — an animal driven by pure instinct — never could. –Dan Caffrey

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Autophobia (Solitude)

I Am Legend (2007)

We can talk a lot about how effective the final third of Francis Lawrence’s take on Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic novel really is, what with Will Smith channeling his existential crisis through Shrek and all. But the early moments, which see Smith’s lone scientist trawling the abandoned, vampire-infested streets of New York City and living out the kind of fantasy life that could only be adopted by the partially mad, are as effective a vision of the world after the end of the world as you’ll see. Who wouldn’t break down before a mannequin after a few years of that? –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Bibliophobia (Books)

The Evil Dead (1983)

Being afraid of books is one thing. Being afraid of books that look like this is another. It’s obvious that Evil Dead’s Ash doesn’t have this fear, because the dummy not only picks it up, but reads from the damn thing aloud. There is power in the written word, however, so a fear of its influence isn’t the most insane thing I’ve ever heard. I’m curious, though, does a fear of books extend to audio books? Is it the words or the pages themselves? –Randall Colburn
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Blennophobia (Slime)

The Blob (1988)

Oh, you hate slime? The good news is that the stuff’s hard to come by IRL and that Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake of The Blob rarely gets any airtime on cable or network television. Meaning, you could live an entire life without ever encountering the nasty goo, which is probably a good thing because this film’s titular mess spawns some delectable carnage. Tony Gardner’s special effects wizardry heightens an otherwise laughable B-movie monster into the stuff of nightmares. –Michael Roffman

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Carcinophobia (Cancer)

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

Allegedly based on a real-life haunting, The Haunting in Connecticut centers around a young boy whose cancer treatments seem to be having no effect. The film itself is meh, but the central fear of one’s mind and body being destroyed — or possessed — by their sickness is a potent one. There’s a reason “cancer” is one of the heaviest words in the English language: Once it enters your life, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost all control. –Randall Colburn
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Catoptrophobia (Mirrors)

Oculus (2014)

Mirrors are a constant fixture in horror: they’re shattered, written on, and used constantly as a means to shockingly reveal what’s standing behind us. And while those scares are potent, there’s only one movie that’s effectively built an entire story around a creepy mirror, and that’s Mike Flanagan’s Oculus. Flanagan’s flick isn’t perfect, but he moves beyond the basic scares to explore more existential underpinnings. Is our reflection ever truly that? Or is there something off on the other side of that mirror? –Randall Colburn
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Chaetophobia (Hair)

The Grudge (2004)

If you’re afraid of hair, you definitely don’t want it touching you, let alone hanging you to death. That’s what happens in The Grudge, where the central spirit is essentially a sentient wall of hair. Sure, it’ll suck when that thing kills you, but it’ll be worse when that hair gets tangled in your screaming mouth. –Randall Colburn
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Chorophobia (Dancing)

Black Swan (2010)

A fear of dancing may have more to do with outside perception than the actual practice. Still, there’s enough room for both anxieties in Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan. As we watch Natalie Portman descend into madness amid the dog-eat-dog industry of professional dancing, the proceedings get colder and more severe. The film’s situational malaise and unsettling ultraviolence, two longtime trademarks of the filmmaker, offer up the greatest cautionary tale for anyone who ever thought ballet was simply beautiful and elegant. The pain, the anguish, the punishment, it’s all very disturbing. –Michael Roffman

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Chronophobia (The Future)

Children of Men (2006)

A sizable number of end-of-the-world stories have emerged in the past 10-15 years, but what makes Children of Men so singularly, beautifully unsettling is how everyday it makes the end of the world look. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare just a few nukes forward from the one in which many of us already live, where a mixture of global war and the end of childbirth have turned the entire planet into a gray-toned den of constant fear and paranoia. It imagines a future wholly within our reach, and that’s the scariest thought of all. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Cibophobia (Food)

The Stuff (1985)

The Stuff is very much born out of ’80s paranoia (which turned out to, uh, be completely warranted and reasonable) about exactly what we were starting to put in our bodies during the first true era of processed foods. What’s then most unnerving about Larry Cohen’s winking creature feature is how willingly the entire population jumps on board with The Stuff, with absolutely no concern for what might be in it or what could happen. So, the next time you’re at McDonald’s, just give that a few seconds of thought. Even if all these fast food places are now insistent on how their 30-second burgers are so “artisan.” –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Claustrophobia (Small Spaces)

The Descent (2005)

Yeah, The Descent eventually relies on other, more supernatural things to terrify the audience. But the most effective portion of Neil Marshall’s eternally underrated horror gem is its first half, when the film watches six cave divers descend into claustrophobic paranoia. The camera is aggressively invasive, ensuring that there’s zero comfortable disconnect between your couch and a collapsed underground cavern threatening the lives of every trapped woman inside. Monsters are bad enough. Monsters you can’t escape if you try are a lot worse. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Coulrophobia (Clowns)

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

In terms of plot and character, House of 1000 Corpses is somewhat of a mess. But it does get a lot of things right in isolated doses, namely Captain Spaulding, the grizzled clown that owns a roadside gas station and horror museum. When depicting clowns onscreen, the temptation is to make them raving lunatics. In a rare display of restraint, director Rob Zombie takes a more subtle route, portraying Spaulding as a cranky old dude who simply has a taste for the macabre and greasepaint. Or so it seems. Once it’s revealed that he is as deranged and murderous as any of the monsters and madmen in his exhibit, the realism of Sid Haig’s performance has set in. That carries over to House’s superior sequel, when his backstory and personality are expanded upon even further. –Dan Caffrey
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Cynophobia (Dogs)

Cujo (1983)

I’ve never seen a dog with rabies, so I have no idea if Cujo’s eventual hellhound appearance is all that accurate. Regardless, it’s certainly effective, his coat, jowls, and eyes getting more repulsive as the disease takes its toll on his brain. With every lunge at the car windshield comes a spray of infected blood and slobber. Couple that with the inherent sadness that comes with an innocent animal catching a sickness he never deserved, and you’ve got a beast whose horror works on multiple levels. –Dan Caffrey
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Deipnophobia (Dinner Parties)

The Invitation (2016)

Long before The Invitation gets around to the kind of thing that would warrant its place on a list like this one, it spends a substantial amount of its runtime preying on the simple horror of spending several hours with people you barely know or haven’t really known in years. Karyn Kusama’s film masterfully skirts the line between paranoia and genuine dread, as Logan Marshall-Green’s wayward soul tries to work out whether something’s weird about a dinner party or if it really all is just in his head. Anybody who’s ever wrestled with anxiety during one of these shindigs will know exactly how he feels. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Demonophobia (Demons)

The Exorcist (1973)

While The Exorcist easily transcends its gross-out effects — touching on the fears that come with parenthood, taking care of your elders, and lapsed faith — let’s face it: the scariest part of the film is still Pazuzu, the Assyrian demon that possesses poor Regan MacNeil. Armed with a foul mouth, smoker’s voice, and abilities that include levitating, projectile vomiting, and turning its head 360 degrees. Even if you find The Exorcist’s more intellectually challenging themes to be more horrific, you were no doubt drawn in by all the animal sounds and pea soup. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. And who’s responsible for all the visceral spectacle? A mother-effing demon, that’s who. –Dan Caffrey
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Didaskaleinophobia (School)

The Faculty (1998)

Even comedies about high school often have a certain menace to them, a pervasive sense that having to spend every day around people you’d never voluntarily interact with otherwise is the worst fear of them all. Robert Rodriguez’s extremely late-’90s horror flick just makes that subtext literal. As a group of Breakfast Club-style teen stereotypes struggle to survive when their school is invaded by bloodthirsty aliens, they struggle with the aliens milking every possible fear a high schooler could have: crushes, domineering coaches, and the general fear of being forced to be just like everyone else. (Christ, it’s such a ’90s movie. Still tons of fun, though.) –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Domatophobia (Houses)

Hausu (1977)

Spooky houses have fronted their share of horror movies over the years, but Nobuhiko Obayashi’s delirious 1977 film takes the subgenre to some of its furthest imaginable extremes. The story of six precocious young girls victimized by a possessed country house, Hausu finds menace everywhere it possibly can, from a piano devouring a victim down to the fingers to a clock dripping blood and ferally yowling. But outside of the gory camp surrealism also exists a story about lost loves and deep sorrow, the stories every house could tell if the walls could only talk. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Emetophobia (Vomiting)

Stand by Me (1986)

The physical act of vomiting is scary enough, but it also packs an added terror for being somewhat of a contagion. For many people, when they see someone ralphing — when they smell it — they have a hard time not ralphing themselves right then and there. “The Revenge of Lard Ass Hogan” capitalizes on this, the infectious nature of tossing one’s cookies. Presented as a short story told by the protagonist of Stand by Me, it depicts an overweight kid who induces himself to vomiting at a small-town pie-eating contest. First, he spews on one of the other contestants, who in turn spews on another contestant, who spews on yet another contestant, who spews on the host, and so on. Soon enough, the entire pavilion is a monsoon of blueberry filling and stomach acid. Outside of Lard Ass, who sits back and calmly watches the lung-butter battlefield he’s created, it looks as if everyone is going to puke themselves to death. And maybe they will. That happens in real life all the time. –Dan Caffrey
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Entomophobia (Bugs)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

“Feels like I step on fortune cookie.” So says Henry Jones, Jr.’s faithful compatriot Short Round during the crunchy middle spectacle of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Surrounded by literally every bug imaginable — in the dark, no less — the boy and his archaeologist stay strong and vigilant, moving effortlessly from the insects and into another perilous room. When the film’s damsel in distress, Willie Scott, follows shortly after, her shrieks and screams embellish the tension that comes from a bug- and spike-filled room closing in on itself. What makes this entry worse for those plagued by entomophobia is that most people catch Temple in their early, formative years, which is always a recipe for disaster. Hold on to your potatoes! –Michael Roffman

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Ephebiphobia (Teenagers)

The Lost Boys (1987)

The older you get, the harder it is to scold teenagers when they’re being rude. It’s not because they’re intimidating (even if they’re vampires). It’s more that it makes you question your own coolness. Are you no longer with it? What’s with their fashion? Their music? Their sleeping habits? That oiled-up, muscly guy playing saxophone with his shirt off seems lame as hell, but what if he’s not? What if you’re the one who’s out of touch? So bring on the vamps. They were already scary before the red eyes and the fangs. The generation gap, though? No amount of garlic or wooden stakes can put a stop to that. –Dan Caffrey
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Ephibiphobia (Youth)

Children of the Corn (1984)

Kids are scary. Their tiny, sticky hands, lack of societal grace, and fascination with culture that confounds your old-ass sensibilities; it’s repellent, all of it. Now imagine a town comprised entirely of those little bastards. That’s what Children of the Corn does in its comically unfaithful adaptation of Stephen King’s short story, which emphasized an ambiguous ancient evil over the film’s focus on creepy, religious kids with everything but daddy issues. Despite being critically panned, the movie ushered in a boatload of sequels, thus proving the potency of our nation’s fear of spawn. –Randall Colburn
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Ergophobia (Work)

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Mike Judge really nailed the workplace in his 1998 cult comedy classic Office Space, but who can be scared when Ron Livingston is such a hunky slacker hero? It’s hard to cowl when the story’s so dry and funny. So, when it comes to legitimate workplace scares, few are as jarring and surreal as Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s curious design for LesterCorp, specifically the low-ceiling offices on the 7½ floor of the Mertin-Flemmer Building in New York City. So much of Being John Malkovich is about the loss of power, and certainly the hard truths of emasculation, and the claustrophobic office space that John Cusack’s demented character works in only strengthens those themes. For some viewers, it’s likely the perfect caricature of their own office space, a cramped, lived-in headquarters of monotony. To quote Charlie Sheen, “It’s fucking genius!” –Michael Roffman

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Galeophobia (Sharks)

Jaws (1975)

We’ve covered this before, but the shark in Jaws doesn’t look all that much like an actual shark. It doesn’t matter. Its blunt, mechanical nature plays to its status as an unstoppable eating machine, and because Steven Spielberg delays its first appearance for so long, the audience has already painted a portrait of how scary it looks in their own mind. And that is very much like real life. Trust me, if a shark attacks you, you’re not getting a good look at what it looks like. Instead, you’re imagining what’s going on beneath the ocean’s surface via the horror movie in your mind. Hell, even when the film does grant an accurate, full-body view of the leviathan via documentary footage from Ron and Valerie Taylor, it’s still scary. Angel of death or insatiable aquatic robot — Jaws has got both looks covered. –Dan Caffrey

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Gamophobia (Commitment)

Anomalisa (2015)

It’s no coincidence that Charlie Kaufman’s work is listed three times in this glossary. What can we say? The guy really knows how to scratch our psychological itches in all the most disturbingly funny ways. Anomalisa, his second feature film as both writer and director, found him tackling themes of commitment and self-absorption. We follow a customer service expert named Michael Stone, who is so bored with his life and marriage that everyone sounds the same to him — in other words, they’re all voiced by Manhunter and Heat alum Tom Noonan. That changes, however, when he stumbles across a woman named Lisa Hesselman during an all-too-surreal work trip. Of course, this is Charlie Kaufman and the sun doesn’t stay out for long in his world, and it’s where we leave Michael that not only haunts us forever but confirms any suspicions held by those struggling with gamophobia. It’ll also ruin Cyndi Lauper for you. –Michael Roffman

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Gelotophobia (Being Laughed At)

Carrie (1976)

Is anything more ubiquitous than being laughed at? All of us, even those with charmed lives, have experienced it at some point. Hopefully, the experience hasn’t been as traumatic as Carrie White’s. The true tragedy of Carrie is how the perpetual taunting has clouded her perception. The ridicule has become so relentless in all areas of her life — at home, at school, in social settings — that she’s unable to recognize true allies when she sees them. When the bucket of pig’s blood gets dumped on her at the prom, most of the spectators actually do the right thing. They don’t laugh at Carrie. But it doesn’t matter. She’s been taunted so much that she thinks they are and end ups killing the people who could have helped her alleviate some of the awfulness in her life. Even her telekinetic powers could have been used for good if she had had some proper guidance. But no; the damage is irreparable. Jesus Christ, why can’t everyone just be nice to each other? –Dan Caffrey

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Genophobia (Sex)

It Follows (2015)

Hitting puberty and turning into a walking mass of weird needs you don’t fully understand is hard enough in life. But taking that next step into actually expressing those needs with another person is even more anxious. There’s been a lot of debate about whether David Robert Mitchell’s film should be read as a parable about the anxieties of maturation or a pro-abstinence screed, but in any case, the sexually-transmitted “presence” that tortures poor Maika Monroe and her friends taps into the scariest thing about any and every sexual encounter: you can never take it back once it’s done, even if sometimes you wish you could. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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Gerascophobia (Aging)

Amour (2012)

Getting old is our most unavoidable fear, which is why it’s one that the right film can use to cut to the very center of the human condition. Michael Haneke’s Amour isn’t a horror film on its face, but the existential terror it outlines is the kind that lasts long after your everyday jump scare has come and gone. The story of an elderly man attempting to care for his wife as strokes and bad surgeries claim everything recognizable about her, Amour simply watches as age overcomes one more person’s will as it so often does. And that makes it more singularly unsettling than any monster story ever can. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Gynophobia (Women)

Fatal Attraction

This one is probably better filed under ‘fear of deranged stalkers who boil family pets,’ but named phobias don’t often get that specific. Fatal Attraction racked up six Oscar nominations, probably because voters were terrified that Alex Forrest might show up if they failed to recognize Adrian Lyne’s psychological thriller. Luckily, it’s also terrifying, anchored by Glenn Close’s unsettling performance (and ‘unsettling’ is putting it mildly). –Allison Shoemaker
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Hemophobia (Blood)

28 Days Later (2002)

There are a lot of horror movies that could probably fit the bill for this one, but there’s something about the endless viscera of Danny Boyle’s pragmatic zombie feature that stands out. In part, it’s that blood becomes the means through which the rage virus is spread. Zombies are scary enough, but what’s truly unsettling is how Boyle plays with the modern tendency to envision the zombie apocalypse as a blood-spattered gore factory. If someone you knew ended up like poor Brendan Gleeson, who only requires a drop of the stuff to be lost for good, you’d be afraid of everybody around you. And everything it touches. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Iatrophobia (Doctors)

Flatliners (1999)

For those who get freaked out about going to the doctor — including, um, certain film critics who shall remain unnamed — Flatliners offers little in the way of reassurance. Medical students with judgment questionable enough that they willingly bring about their deaths, no matter how temporary, wouldn’t top anyone’s list of preferred medical providers, and their visions of an afterlife where you’re tormented by your deepest, darkest moments probably wouldn’t make for great bedside manner. –Allison Shoemaker
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Ichthyophobia (Fish)

Piranha 3D (2010)

Fish are kind of creepy. They just are. Anybody who’s ever had the misfortune of rolling up on a beach when the tide has washed up a legion of dead fish can attest to this. And in Alexander Aja’s campy, excessively gory remake of Joe Dante’s creature feature, fish become the ultimate menace. They travel in schools capable of tearing a body apart in seconds, essentially functioning as an autonomous buzz saw waiting to feast on nubile co-eds during spring break. Have fun trying to enjoy parasailing ever again after this one. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Katsaridaphobia (Cockroaches)

Creepshow (1982)

There’s not much to why cockroaches are so scary. They’re creepy, they’re crawly, they spread disease, and, as an order of insects, they’re damn near indestructible. As such, the final segment of Creepshow (still the gold standard for horror anthologies) doesn’t have a whole lot to chew on. But it doesn’t matter. Cockroaches are fucking disgusting, and the film syphons a whole lot of nightmare fuel from that simple fact. During a blackout in New York City, a greedy, mysophobic businessman has to contend with the nasty, little buggers when they infiltrate his panic room. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well for him, especially in one of the best gross-out final shots in cinematic history. If you’re afraid of cockroaches, you’ll be really afraid of ’em after watching “They’re Creeping Up on You”. –Dan Caffrey

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Kinemortophobia (Zombies)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

When George A. Romero unleashed Night of the Living Dead to American audiences in 1968, the black-and-white horror film arrived to a country ravaged by war-torn politics, racial discrimination, and endless bloodshed. It was a dangerous time, and the film is arguably an offspring of that vitriolic era, which may be why it’s still the best out of the zombie genre. Sure, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead makes a strong argument otherwise, but here’s the thing: That film is also a fun action film, and there is nothing fun about Night. It’s dark, it’s merciless, it’s gruesome, and it’s eerily timeless. The technology might be dated, but technology goes out the window during the apocalypse anyhow, which leaves everything else, and few will argue much has changed when it comes to interpersonal relationships in our society. On some days, most of us deserve to be eaten. –Michael Roffman

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Linonophobia (String)

Audition (1999)

Alright, so this one’s just a bit of a stretch. But only a bit. Though it’s wire, not string, that serves as the centerpiece of Audition’s infamous, climactic torture sequence, it taps into the simple fear of something thin, binding, and ultimately, dangerous. Granted, your everyday ball of string can’t generally cinch off your extremities in the blink of an eye, but if you’re phobic enough, you’d probably worry about that. And the fact that Audition isn’t really a horror film until the second it becomes the most horrific film only adds to that scene’s revolting power. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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Macrophobia (Long Waits)

Beetlejuice (1988)

The fear of long waits may deter sufferers from many things — amusement parks, the DMV, the Game of Thrones books — but the Beetlejuice plot makes those waits look like quick, little larks. Tim Burton’s film, now Broadway bound, sees Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis doomed to 125 years in their old home, now occupied by a young Winona Ryder and her lousy parents. Some may delight in the sandworms and the Harry Belafonte tunes. Those with macrophobia see only a nightmare come to life. –Allison Shoemaker
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Mnemophobia (Memories)

Session 9 (2001)

Rarely do we ever remember past events the way they actually carried out. Such clarity is best reserved for recordings, which is why the future should be interesting considering everyone’s recording the present at all times. Anyways, Brad Anderson’s 2001 psychological thriller Session 9 makes the most out of memories by constructing a few horrific narratives out of them. The story follows an asbestos cleaning crew commissioned to clean out a former mental asylum, and, naturally, things go awry. One of the men starts losing his mind, unable to shake a past memory that we eventually learn is more traumatizing than depressing, while another can’t stop obsessing over dusty files involving patients suffering from multiple personality disorder. Bottom line: Whereas most of today’s pop culture turns our memories into a swing set, Session 9 twists them into a torture room. –Michael Roffman

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Musophobia (Mice)

Willard (1971)

Both the 1971 and 2003 versions of Willard are worth your time, and though the newer version boasts a perfect leading performance by Crispin Glover, it’s the 1971 version that truly cements what’s so terrifying about rodents. “I was good to you,” Willard says to Ben, the rat who has been leading Willard’s rodent army. But Ben doesn’t care. And Willard knows it. And that’s why we should fear ‘em: They don’t give a fuck. –Randall Colburn
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Myrmecophobia (Ants)

Blue Velvet (1986)

When the camera in Blue Velvet pans to the ground and zooms in on a severed ear swarming with ants, they’re not just insects. They’re a stand-in for the darkness that permeates suburbia. It’s an apt metaphor, given how unseen the hymenopterans tend to be. Just think about seeing them crawling across the floor. Many times, it’s as if the carpet or hardwood is moving, somehow sentient until you take a closer look. As Blue Velvet proves with its bugs, there’s a whole other world going on beneath the surface, one that’s characterized by ickiness — by singular-minded beings looking to feast on more innocent flesh. –Dan Caffrey

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Mysophobia (Germs)

Contagion (2011)

You know what’s scarier than 1995’s Outbreak? A film that’s even more realistic, stars even more A-listers, and deals with a disease that’s even more likely to be contracted! We can thank Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion for that. His sprawling 2011 spectacle is equal parts thriller, disaster film, and medical drama, featuring some of the most unforgiving death scenes in recent memory. Kate Winslet’s storyline, for example, is enough to give anyone with mysophobia an anxiety attack. And that goes double for Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays patient zero in this goddamn mindfuck of a nail-biter. It took this writer four separate viewings to finish the damn thing, and he still won’t go near hotel elevators.  –Michael Roffman

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Nosocomephobia (Hospitals)

Halloween II (1981)

Lots of things can go wrong in a hospital, especially when there’s a masked killer on the loose. Halloween II has a lot of twisted fun with that conceit, turning devices typically used for medical care into deadly weapons. Under the steady hand of Michael Myers, hypodermic needles inject eyeballs, IV tubes drain bodies of all their blood, and hydrotherapy pools become scalding hot pools of death, capable of singeing several layers of skin off the face. Ultimately, a place that’s supposed to be a place of healing becomes a dimly lit dungeon of systematic torture, made even worse by the fact that if you’re an injured patient like Laurie Strode, it’s almost impossible to leave. –Dan Caffrey
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Numerophobia (Numbers)

Pi (1998)

I can’t imagine how terrifying Pi is for someone who’s afraid of numbers, because Darren Aronofsky’s debut feature accomplishes the unthinkable by making them feel truly dangerous. The concept of a 216-digit number that could very well represent the unspeakable name of God is its own particular kind of nightmare fuel.–Randall Colburn
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Nyctophobia (Darkness)

Under the Skin (2014)

Jonathan Glazer’s film is one of the scariest in recent years, and the things within it that can’t be understood are precisely what make it so uniquely terrifying. The story of an alien being, which assumes the body of Scarlett Johansson in order to lure unsuspecting men to their deaths, features the recurrent visual motif of “”her”” lair, an endlessly pitch-black landscape filled with a viscous fluid from which no hope or soul can escape. It’s like watching somebody else’s nightmares play out onscreen. Also, lest we forget: Stranger Things totally cribbed the Upside Down from this movie. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Ophidiophobia (Snakes)

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

They’re snakes. On a plane. And they’re a bunch of motherfuckers. And you get the joke. Look, snakes are terrifying, but being trapped with them in a confined space that’s thousands of feet above the sky? Well, the only thing scarier than that is being forced to watch this piece of shit in its entirety. –Randall Colburn
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Orinthophobia (Birds)

The Birds (1963)

The Birds does for birds what Jaws does for sharks, only they’re not sharks. They’re birds. Sharks might be scarier in real life, but in the world of the movies, the birds of The Birds beat Jaws’ “Bruce” any day — if only because Spielberg never locked Roy Scheider in a room with a bunch of big killer fish. –Allison Shoemaker
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Paraskevidekatriaphobia (Friday the 13th)

Friday the 13th (1980)

Let’s be real, Friday the 13th has little to do with the superstitious non-holiday. Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 blockbuster slasher only used the title to get some of that Halloween money, and they’ve since copped to that idea. Regardless, the date has become synonymous with the franchise, which has since amassed over 10 sequels and a remake to boot. So, if anyone actually shivers at the calendar whenever it happens to come up, odds are they’re thinking about the machete-wielding dickhead Jason Voorhies. Guy’s a real jerk. –Michael Roffman

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Pediophobia (Dolls)

Child’s Play (1988)

There will always be something terrifying about a non-sentient object with eyes. You just fuckin’ know that thing’s gonna blink one of these days. And while the Poltergeist clown is an iconic killer doll, there will always be something unnerving about Chucky, no matter how silly his quips. It’s the outfit, the hair, and, most especially, those tiny limbs. We laugh when we see them flailing, but we also cringe a little. It’s unnatural, that. –Randall Colburn
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Phasmophobia (Ghosts)

The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel might play fast and loose with King’s original narrative intentions, but it’s nevertheless one of the all-time great cinematic ghost stories. The horrors of Kubrick’s film are simply the echoes of wrongs done by everyday people, whether it’s Jack Torrance’s latent and abusive alcoholism or the murders committed within the Overlook. And that’s what gets us about ghosts, time and again: they’re the things we leave behind, the souls that didn’t make it to heaven or hell or anywhere else and just stuck around because of how they were sent from the world. Also, y’know, they’re terrifying. Especially that goddamn furry. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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Philophobia (Love)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

We told you Charlie Kaufman was gonna be on here three times! Way back in 2004, the screenwriting mastermind offered up his most ubiquitous picture to date with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, tapping into a topic that everyone can really relate to — love. We all want it, even when we absolutely hate it, and it’s because we need it. (Sidenote: What’s that line about the eggs from Annie Hall? Whatever, Google it.) In any event, this crazy, depressing romantic comedy argues that there’s no escape, that even if we could take back all the painful memories of ugly breakups, we’d wind up doing them all over again. When you think about it, that’s what we do anyway when we decide to step into another relationship, telling ourselves, “I’m exactly where I wannna be” until we’re no longer there anymore. Ouch. –Michael Roffman

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Photophobia (Light)

Poltergeist (1982)

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but the idea of “going to the light” was always a positive one for me as a child. That light was God or heaven or whatever; that sounds cool, right? That’s why I remember being so confused when watching Poltergeist for the first time. The light is bad now? What happened? Those questions went right out the window, however, when young Carol Anne’s closet proves to be a portal to a sinister dimension filled with stringy, sinewy monsters. And what was that closet filled with as it tried its damndest to suck her inside? SO MUCH LIGHT. –Randall Colburn
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Pseudodysphagia (Choking)

Maniac (1980)

William Lustig’s gritty and filthy 1980 slasher Maniac captures New York City at its finest: a disturbing wasteland thriving with commotion and energy. In this story, Travis Bickle’s rain has yet to come, and in his place is a garbage human being (portrayed to perfection by the great and late Joe Spinell) who roams the dirty, dangerous streets at night for a smooth, clean neck to squeeze. Once he strangles his victims, however, he scalps them for his extended collection of sex mannequins. Did we say this film is filthy? For Christ’s sake, it’s almost like a snuff film at moments, but that’s also its charm. Eh, take that back, maybe charm isn’t the right word. Let’s go with chutzpah. Yeah, that works! Chutzpah. –Michael Roffman

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Pyrophobia (Fire)

Firestarter (1984)

What’s scarier than a person who can start fires with their mind? Come on, that’s terrifying. You accidentally step on someone’s foot and whoops, your shoes are ablaze. You flip the bird to a bad driver and your passenger seat bursts into flames. While it’s actually the government agency chasing the McGees who are the bad guys, pyrokinesis is scary shit. So what’s scarier? The fact that the pyrokinetic in question is a kid (see: ephibiphobia). –Allison Shoemaker
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Ranidaphobia (Frogs)

Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

We don’t think we’re going out on too much of a limb to assume that if you’re already afraid enough of frogs, sentient humanoid frogs (the result of nuclear fallout) would be even worse, right? Well, Hell Comes to Frogtown might just help you overcome that fear, because Roddy Piper (as the titular Hell) has arrived to chew bubblegum and rescue a den of fertile women kidnapped by the frog people. Though Piper saves the day, it’s not before any shortage of having his genitals tortured and women being menaced by nuclear frog-men. Though it’s not a film for the ranidaphobic, for those who like exploitation filmmaking at its weirdest, it’s positively ribbiting. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Religiophobia (Religion)

Frailty (2002)

For much of Fraility, the audience is meant to believe that the Meiks family is driven by religious mania. Are the people killed by Bill Paxton actually demons disguised as humans? Of course not. Right? But as the film goes on, the answer isn’t so cut and dry. That raises an even more troubling question: If the Meiks end up being correct, what does that say about religious fanaticism? Can they even be called fanatics at all? What if every raving, seemingly insane street preacher has it all figured out? What happens when logic is replaced by something with more fervor, emotion, and general instability? Depending on which way your beliefs swing, that’s an even scarier thought than demons actually existing. –Dan Caffrey
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Samhainophobia (Halloween)

Halloween (1978)

We already recommended the second Halloween film, so why not the first one? This is the one that started the slasher genre and broke box office records for independent cinema, but that’s not why we’re recommending it. The film also captures a little fun holiday called October 31st, albeit subtly. There aren’t a ton of costumes, outside of whatever Tommy Doyle is wearing, but the spirit itself is alive and well. Horror movies? Check. Bowls of popcorn? Check. Jack-o’-lanterns? Check. Neighborhood pranks? Check. What makes you scared of this holiday again? Save for Michael Myers, we can’t think of a reason. –Michael Roffman

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Sanguivoriphobia (Vampires)

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

In Bram Stoker’s original novel, Dracula is more of a parasite than a lothario. He’s not concerned with elegance or love or any of the other traits that make him so melancholic (and likeable) in just about every film adaptation, even the most faithful ones. Nosferatu stands out for being one of the few that actually nails the count’s more animalistic nature. While it takes liberties elsewhere, its Dracula surrgoate, Count Orlock, is all fangs, shadows, pointy ears, and spindly fingers, thus reminding the audience of the only characteristic shared by all fictional vampires: they like (and need) to drink blood. That’s what makes them scary — not the loneliness or any of the other dark-night-of-the-soul crap. The villain of Nosferatu is devoid of compassion. He exists to feed, to take and take from the earth. That’s it. You shouldn’t feel romanced when a bloodsucker enters the room. You should feel terrified. That’s how Stoker wanted it. –Dan Caffrey

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Scelerophobia (Crime)

Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac has come to be hailed as one of David Fincher’s most accomplished works, and for good reason: it cuts to the emotional core of why we all love true-crime stories so much. The film is less one of those, though, than a three-hour fugue about the futility of understanding why people do the things they do to one another and the madness that can come from even trying to. In both the sudden brutality of its violence and the tense paranoia of living day-to-day in a world where someone like the Zodiac killer exists, the film is unsettling in how dully real it is. Plus, since they never even caugh the Zodiac, he even got to run for president this year. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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Sciaphobia (Shadows)

Ghost (1990)

On paper, Ghost shouldn’t be a scary movie. It’s directed by Airplane! and The Naked Gun mastermind Jerry Zucker and stars the likes of Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn, and Whoopi Goldberg, aka one of the funniest human beings of all time. And really, Ghost isn’t a scary movie. The film’s more charming and depressing than spooky and unnerving, although it does have its moments of terror. Death is quite a sobering topic here as we follow Swayze’s lost soul, and there’s an eerie scene where he haunts Goldwyn at his office. Of course, there’s nothing quite like those deadly shadows that drag the unlucky ones down to hell, what with their unshaply forms and coarse tongues. There’s no running from them, either — just like your own shadow! –Michael Roffman

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Scoleciphobia (Worms)

Squirm (1976)

What’s so scary about worms, aside from their slimy skin, uncanny movements, and squishy texture? Well, I guess that’s enough. One is gross enough, but Squirm is literally overflowing with them. They burrow into flesh. They droop from faces. People drown in worms. Doors open and walls of worms tumble out. Guys, there are so many worms in this movie. –Randall Colburn
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Selenophobia (The Moon)

Moon (2009)

If you’re on Earth, you look up at the moon and maybe you wonder what’s going on up there. Anything? Are there aliens? Moon bases for our military or the real-life equivalent of Bond villains? But in Duncan Jones’ haunting debut, the immensity and isolation of the thing becomes the story. Because that’s what’s really terrifying: the idea that we actually managed to send people to something so entirely unknowable as the moon and that for even a few moments (let alone Sam Rockwell’s long tenure), they’d have to be completely alone on the land they’re standing on, hundreds of thousands of miles from anything familiar. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Somniphobia (Sleep)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This one’s pretty simple: If you fall asleep, Freddy Krueger will kill you. Capiche? Even more disturbing is where writer and director Wes Craven came up with the idea for A Nightmare on Elm Street. He had originally read a story about a group of immigrants from South Asia who were dying in their sleep during nightmares, something medical authorities went on to dub Asian Death Syndrome. That term probably wouldn’t fly today, but it was enough to chill the bones of the late Master of Horror. Ours, too. –Michael Roffman
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Tapiophobia (Live Burial)

Buried (2010)

For better or worse, Buried never once cheats on its high-concept hook: an entire film that takes place inside the casket in which Ryan Reynolds has been buried alive. It’s the best, most succinct way of highlighting the various terrors that fall under that particular form of torture’s umbrella. From the claustrophobia to the lack of light to the awareness that you’re several feet from safety and never even trained under Pai Mei for this contingency, it’s a horrifying thought. That the film doesn’t cheat and ends exactly as it must only drives that terror home. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Technophobia (Technology)

The Terminator (1984)

James Cameron drew up one hell of a cautionary tale against technology with The Terminator, which is funny since he’s done nothing but play around with the stuff since his big blockbuster breakthrough, hallmarking all sorts of computerized wizardry for future filmmakers to use. Fun fact aside, The Terminator also capitalized on the PTSD terror that Vietnam veterans were feeling around the time of its release, channeling those anxieties into post-modern hero Kyle Reese. Both he and Sarah Connor, aka the future mother of the future savior of mankind, make for solid faces to identify with as they run from the deadly machine. As Reese explains, “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop … ever, until you are dead!” We’ve since slackened on fearing technology — especially since they’ve mostly become appendages of our human selves — but that should change when more drones hit the air. –Michael Roffman
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Telephonophobia (Phones)

Scream (1996)

Have you ever gotten a breathing call? You know, you say hello and just hear breathing. There’s really nothing more unnerving. Except maybe someone telling you they’re gonna, ya know, gut you. The opening scene of Scream has become iconic for a reason — there’s a good reason to be afraid of a voice you can’t associate with a body. There’s power in a voice, in the ambiguity a phone provides. All we can do is hope there isn’t a hand about to reach through the receiver. –Randall Colburn
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Thalassophobia (Oceans)

Open Water (2003)

Sure, the sharks in Open Water are the more immediate threat to its doomed protagonists’ safety. But the film’s real terror lies in the plausibility of its nightmare scenario, when two scuba divers are left behind by their tour boat. They have no means of contacting the shore, attempting to swim to safety would only make them look even more like delicious sea lions, and there’s nothing in any direction for miles. All they can do is sit and wait and hope that maybe luck stranded them on a shipping route. Otherwise, well, the sharks will come around eventually. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Thanatophobia (Death)

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Death is an inescapable fact of life, but that doesn’t mean we have to think about it all the time. Not something you can avoid with The Seventh Seal, in which death is not only a fact, but an actual physical presence. Like, an actual guy. Maybe when he’s done with his danse macabre, he’ll show up at your house. You don’t know. None of us do. Fuck. –Allison Shoemaker
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Theophobia (God)

What Dreams May Come (1998)

If the afterlife is anything like what goes down in Vincent Ward’s 1998 adaptation of Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come, then some of us are in for a strange, depressing journey. The concepts of heaven and hell are beautiful, sure, but also achingly grim, especially the latter where a cluttered field of sunken heads are left to moan for eternity. If you didn’t fear God’s wrath before, this should clue you in on what lies ahead when the two of you fall out of touch. –Michael Roffman
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Tokophobia (Pregnancy)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Even the most warmly welcomed pregnancy comes with its share of anxieties, and Rosemary’s Baby takes those very real concerns and dials them up to 11 by involving the devil. Rosemary craves, not peanut butter and pepperoni or olives with marshmallow or other weird foods, but raw meat. She suffers incredible pain and grows more and more waiflike. She’s surrounded by people who surrender her body and her fertility to mutilation, with no one she can trust. And, oh yeah, she has Satan’s baby. –Allison Shoemaker
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Trypophobia (Holes)

Bug (2006)

One of these days, some asshole director is going to totally capitalize on the trypophobia craze and leave millions quivering on their sides in anguish. Already, we’ve seen that weird tooth monster thingy from Channel Zero and the countless short films that continue to pop up on YouTube. (Just stay calm, Mike. Just stay calm.) But as for feature films? The images come, incidentally, whether it’s the way a mask is designed or how an egg looks or what have you. William Friedkin’s 2006 adaptation of Tracey Letts’ stageplay Bug comes close as we watch Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd wrestle with conspiracy theories and skin-leeching insects that do all sorts of psychological damage. Stay away, small holes. Stay the fuck away! –Michael Roffman
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Trypanophobia (Needles)

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Needles, curiously enough, often generate a stronger audience response than knives. And there is something quite visceral about watching a needle press, then pop into skin. But seeing it sink into a healthy, fleshy arm is one thing; seeing it dip into an open, infected wound is another. Requiem for a Dream is a tough watch by any standard, but the disintegration of Jared Leto’s arm might its most stomach-churning shot. –Randall Colburn
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Vehophobia (Driving)

Death Proof (2007)

Cars are scary as hell. They just are. You can be the best driver in the world, and all it takes is one stranger failing to hit the brakes to end your life. The menace of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) and his “death-proof” car goes beyond just a leather jacket and some cryptic dialogue. Just look at the scene halfway through the film, when Quentin Tarantino’s first group of women is suddenly and violently taken out of the film thanks to a late-night, head-on collision on a dark road. The worst part of a car accident is how you have no idea what’s coming until it’s well beyond too late. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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Wiccaphobia (Witches)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Technically, you never see any witch in Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s 1998 found-footage masterpiece, The Blair Witch Project. Instead, you hear all about one from the various townspeople of Burkittsville, Maryland, and it’s their would-be urban legends that magnify the cacophony of noises that haunt the Black Hills. Witches have always been mythologized in history books, which is why a film that leans heavily on the imagination would prove to be more frightening than those that are far more upfront with their terror. Because by the end, when the three documentarians are lost and broken, we start to believe that they could be real, too, and that’s ultimately this film’s greatest strength and why anyone with even a slight case of wiccaphobia should cast this sucker away by any means necessary. –Michael Roffman
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Xenophobia (The Unfamiliar)

The Thing (1982)

In the modern world (especially the current election), xenophobia is almost exclusively associated with a fear of immigrants, of people from countries other than your own. That’s part of it, but the word also applies to a general fear of the unknown. And really, is someone being afraid of someone from a different culture that different than being afraid of an actual extra-terrestrial? John Carpenter likely wasn’t thinking so politically or metaphorically when remaking Howard Hawks’ 1951 The Thing from Another World. The Thing is the Id manifestation of that fear, never showing its true form. Unlike the rest of us, though, the characters end up being justified in their fear. It is, after all, a deadly creature. But they’re also guilty of letting their paranoia get the best of them. If they were able to cooperate with each other, maybe they could have worked past the thing that scares them so much. Sounds familiar… –Dan Caffrey
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Phobophobia (Fear)

IT (1990)

Stephen King’s It is lauded for numerous reasons, but its ambition is something that isn’t spoken about enough. And I don’t mean ambition in terms of breadth – yeah, the book is long – but more in terms of topic. With It, King didn’t set out to create a killer clown; he endeavored to create a physical manifestation of fear. It isn’t Pennywise or a vicious bully or a giant spider; it is whatever it is that terrifies you. Because it’s never the object so much as it is the idea. Man, that Winston Churchill was onto something. –Randall Colburn

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