Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Joe Chianakas

So far we’ve heard from a lot of people from different aspects of horror but let’s hear from someone who writes horror. What does Joe Chianakas find scary? Let’s find out.


This 2014 movie features a super annoying child, and I must admit that when a monster starts to torment him, I cheer for the monster! The Babadook appears through the creepiest children’s book I’ve ever seen, and it haunts a single mother and her son. The creature and the book are incredibly chilling. This is a fun, creepy, and creative movie.


Another 2014 gem, this is a horror-comedy that is equally hilarious and spooky. Laugh-out-loud moments abound (wait for the “Oh, Jesus”) and nightmare-inducing scenes still haunt me in the middle of the night when I hear creepy noises. This story features a woman who is on house-arrest. She’s convinced she’s locked in a haunted house. For our sake, well, perhaps she’s right.


This amazing 2016 film is brilliant on so many levels. Directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Oculus, Doctor Sleep) and starring Kate Siegel (who played the wonderful Theo in The Haunting of Hill House), this is a cabin-in-the-woods story with a twist: The protagonist is deaf. Someone breaks into her cabin, but she can’t hear him. The story is clever, and the acting is exceptional. Bonus fun fact: Siegel and Flanagan both wrote the story. They struggled a bit with the ending. What did they do? They took a long weekend retreat, rented room 237 at The Stanley (the famous hotel and room from The Shining) and revised the ending of the movie in that room until they got it just right.


This is one of the best found-footage films in the horror genre (imo), but it got buried in an at-the-time overpopulated field. This 2014 movie takes us deep into the catacombs of France. Having explored catacombs in Europe personally, I’ve always found them to be exceptionally interesting and creepy. The found-footage filming puts you right into the spooky and claustrophobic setting with the characters. And there are definitely jaw-dropping, WTF moments that will keep you glued to the screen. This one’s a lot of fun, if you’re like me and find terrifying moments to be absolutely enjoyable. 


This 2015 horror-comedy is one of my all-time favorites. Surprisingly, it’s very touching and heartfelt, too. But at it’s core, it’s a slasher movie that spoofs slasher movies. It features a young woman stuck in her mother’s most iconic horror movie, and she has to find a way to stop a crazy killer. I love it because of the laughs but even more because it somehow creatively tugs at the heartstrings.

Joe Chianakas is a professor of communication at Illinois Central College and an author. His most popular work is Rabbit in Red, a horror trilogy that celebrates everything we love about scary movies and Halloween. It started with a basic premise: What if Willy Wonka made horror movies instead of candy and invited fans to look behind the curtain? And what if the things they loved about those movies started to happen to them in real life?

Learn more about Joe at  www.FrightFest4D.com or www.facebook.com/chianakas

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