Updated: Nov 13, 2019
By John Kaufman – @ClevelandSpyder NFL Analyst (and Gigantic Movie Nerd)
This is the first part of a multi-part article. The second part will be posted soon. For now though, enjoy part one, if you dare…
I don’t know about you, but autumn is easily my favorite season of the year. The weather is still nice enough up here in Cleveland so we don’t have to pull out the winter clothes quite yet, but it’s cool enough to officially become #HoodieSZN which is just the best. College and NFL football are in full effect every Thursday thru Monday, plus the #MACtion will begin soon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well, and that is simply phenomenal because, well, you know…
More Football > Less Football. That is my kind of math, y’all.
But I really love the fall season because of all the scary movies that are released each year. We get to feast on the new flicks that come out such as IT: Chapter 2 and Zombieland: Double Tap. And if the new movies are too few and far between, we can just go revisit classics like The Shining, Halloween and The Exorcist. Scary movies can be slightly gory or super gross, terrifying or ridiculous, serious or silly. Horror films are one of my favorite genres of movies, and I love that they get their own month in the spotlight.
With all that in mind I thought it might be fun to look at scary movies and the 2019 NFL season through the same lens and try to figure out some of life’s most pressing questions, such as:
-What’s the scariest horror movie ever made? And which NFL franchise is the most frightening to watch on Sundays?
-Who is the best horror movie villain of all time? How about football’s most notorious villain? Who would that be?
I mean, who wouldn’t want to know stuff like that? Right?
Well, you’re in luck because I went ahead and dreamt up ten completely arbitrary – yet monumentally vital – questions about scary movies and the NFL, and then answered them for you. I know, I’m a nice guy like that.
So go put on some spooky music, grab a handful of your favorite candy, and then pick up a flashlight to illuminate the way as you and I creep hesitantly down the dark and twisted path that is…
SCARY MOVIE TRICKS & NFL TREATS
Oh, just a heads up really quick: huge, major, life-altering spoilers ahead. No joke. If you haven’t seen these movies and you don’t want them spoiled for you, go watch them and then come back here. My article will be waiting for you, I promise.
Okay, you’ve been warned…
1. Best Scary Movie Franchise:
Man, there are tons of choices for this one: the Halloween franchise, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, the Scream quadrilogy…
The list of scary movie franchises is quite impressive, so picking one to stand out alone as the best of all time among such worthy contenders is no easy task. For me, the criteria for picking the best scary movie franchise is about the scares its films provide, the popularity of the movies, and how much fun they are to watch not just once, but to go back to time and time again.
Michael Myers scared the bejeezus out of us in 1978’s Halloween. That film is easily on the list of the top five horror movies ever made. But some of the sequels are considerably painful to sit through even one time, let alone to try to re-watch every October. (I’m looking at you, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. Looking at you pretty angrily...) And don’t even get me started on Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake and 2009 sequel. Halloween 6 is Casablanca compared to those two piles of…candy corn. Perhaps Zombie’s versions are your cup of pumpkin spiced latte, but to me they were unnecessary abominations.
Sorry, Mikey. The bottom line is this: you simply can’t hold the title of Best Scary Movie Franchise if you’ve got five or six horrendously unwatchable films. (Although I will recommend the heck out of the 2018 Halloween. If you haven’t seen that yet, well, you’re just not movie-ing the right way at all.)
1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is an excellent film that gave us one of the most recognizable horror icons in cinema history: Freddy Krueger. The man in the striped sweater with that razor-adorned glove has been terrorizing teenaged dreamers for 35 years now, and although he hasn’t appeared in a film since the 2010 Platinum Dunes reboot, Freddy is more popular than ever. He is easily one of the most recognizable horror icons of all time. And you definitely can’t say that Freddy’s movies aren’t fun or re-watchable, because they are a lot of fun and have clearly stood the test of time.
Where does Freddy come up short? Well, beginning with 1987’s ANoES 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy started telling jokes and in doing so, stopped being scary. Being a stand-up comedian has made him iconic and ubiquitous, no argument there. But can you win a Best Scary Movie Franchise contest if your movies aren’t, well, scary?
No way. Keep dreaming, Fred.
Well then, it’s time to reveal my pick for the Best Scary Movie Franchise. This movie series has scares galore, is immensely popular all around the world, and the re-watchability pretty much can’t be measured. The winner?
The Friday the 13th movie series and Mr. Jason Voorhees. By a New Jersey mile.
As far as popularity and icon status goes, Jason is on the level of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Mummy. In fact, that should probably just be the Mount Rushmore of horror movie icons. Ever since he was introduced to us way back in 1981’s Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason has been killing it – pun absolutely intended. And while it is true that the first movie was a blatant Halloween knock-off, any movie that spawns 11 sequels simply cannot be disregarded as carbon-copied trash. Friday the 13th (1980) is a classic horror film, and evidence of its popularity and influence can be seen all over the world and in a multitude of ways.
This horror franchise had a major hand in creating the sub-genre of horror films known as slasher flicks. There seems to be a never-ending supply of toys and action figures to collect. You have a 0% chance of not seeing at least one person dressed up as Jason each Halloween. The original movie takes place at fictitious Camp Crystal Lake, which happens to be an actual working Boy Scouts of America camp in New Jersey called Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco. It is always closed to the public except when there is a Friday the 13th on the calendar. On those rare occasions they host overnight tours, and the tickets typically sell out in minutes. I have not yet gone, but I will at some point as that is very high on my bucket list.
And, Jason has even starred in two video games, the latest of which is easily one of the best video games ever made. (Quick shout out to my F13 crew – some truly phenomenal people who are living proof that the internet isn’t made up entirely of jerks and trolls. To Robinson, Jangle, Bear Toe, Shelby, Weldmeister and TK: y’all are just the best, and I’d never try to escape from Jason without you.)
But how does ol’ Jason stack up in the scares department? I mean, he only provided us with one of the best scares in horror movie history, that’s all. Go ahead and watch that clip from the original Friday the 13th… if you’re brave enough.
Jason Voorhees is the undisputed king of the slashers, and the Friday the 13th movies are far and away the Best Scary Movie Franchise of all time. All that’s left for us to do is to find him a crown that fits over his hockey mask. But, um, I’ll just stand over here while you go and fit him for one. Go ahead. He looks friendly. I’m sure you’ll be fine…
Best NFL Franchise:
Look, if this award were about the best NFL franchise overall, or if it were concerning multiple seasons, the New England Patriots would be the winner and it wouldn’t be close. To be at the top of this league for nearly 20 years even though pretty much every NFL rule is designed to nurture parity is one of the most impressive feats in the history of sports. I simply cannot overstate this: what Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots have done should not be possible, yet they have consistently sustained excellence as the other 31 franchises have had – at best – fleeting moments of success.
However, this award is solely focused on identifying the best franchise of 2019. And while the New England Patriots are a perfect 8-0 this year, they aren’t my pick for this year’s Best NFL Franchise Award. No, that honor must go a team that has had to deal with much more adversity than New England has. Therefore, my choice for Best NFL Franchise in 2019 is the New Orleans Saints.
(By the way, the San Francisco 49ers deserved to be mentioned here, as they were super close to winning this honor. But they have had less impactful injuries to deal with, which is why they came in a very close second place for this award.)
New Orleans is 7-1 so far in 2019. Their only loss came on the road in Los Angeles in week two, a game the Rams won by a count of 27-9. But to Saints fans, it sure felt like they had suffered two losses that day because their franchise quarterback, Drew Brees, injured a thumb ligament that would require both surgery and an extended absence from the field. Brees’ injury thrust backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into the starting lineup, and all he did with that opportunity was to lead the Saints to five straight wins, including three on the road at Seattle, Jacksonville and Chicago. To say that Bridgewater, Sean Payton and the entire Saints’ roster has been impressive this year is a massive understatement.
Payton deserves an enormous amount of credit for his team’s outstanding performance while Brees was recovering from his thumb injury. But he should get a dang trophy – or at least have a one named after him – for how he’s helped Bridgewater put up career numbers in Brees’ absence.
To get a sense of how much better Teddy has been this year than in prior seasons, let’s talk about two very important efficiency stats for quarterbacks: adjusted yards per passing attempt and touchdown rate.
(All numbers below were taken from Pro Football Focus’s website. Thanks again, Uncle Tom!)
Just so we’re all on the same page with these statistics, please allow me to establish a baseline here. Drew Brees’ career AY/A is 7.61 and his TD rate is 5.32%. Sid Luckman holds the NFL record for TD rate at 7.86%, but that was on only 1,744 attempts. Aaron Rodgers’ career TD rate is 6.13% on a much heftier 5,775 attempts, and that number is generally considered to be the de facto best mark of all time because he is posting it in the passing revolution era of the NFL. Rodgers also holds the record for career AY/A at 8.43.
Bridgewater’s career AY/A is 6.8, and his TD rate is 3.6%. But let’s remove from those numbers the 23 attempts he had last season while filling in for Brees in various mop-up situations and only focus on the two seasons he played with the Minnesota Vikings (2014 & 2015). Teddy “Two Gloves” started 28 games for the Vikings, posting an AY/A of 6.7 and a TD rate of 3.3%. Additionally, his interception percentage was 2.6% with Minnesota. In 2019, Teddy Bridgewater is 5-0 as a starter, has an AY/A of 7.5, a TD rate at 4.6% and an interception rate of just 1%. Those are phenomenally impressive leaps in efficiency statistics, and they did not occur by accident. Coaching matters, folks. Like, a lot. Sean Payton deserves all the credit in the world for turning an average, backup quarterback into a starter who is putting up elite, career-best marks. Oh, and the Saints’ defense is 11th in the NFL in defensive passing efficiency (6.0 Net Yards per Pass Attempt) and 13th in rushing efficiency (4.1 yards per attempt given up). To put it mildly, things are humming in The Big Easy.
New England and San Francisco are the only two undefeated teams remaining this season. Obviously, they are playing exceptional football. However, Sean Payton and his Saints are nearly perfect and they have done it without one of the best QBs to ever toss a pigskin. Therefore, New Orleans is my choice for the Best NFL Franchise in 2019.
2. Scariest Movie of All Time:
I’m not trying to be a tough guy here (like I have to try, right? Am I right? C’mon now y’all, you’re laughing way too hard at that.), but I can count on one hand the number of times that I have actually been truly scared watching a movie. And you probably feel the same way. I mean sure, when we were kids, adult horror movies seemed absolutely terrifying. I can remember being six years old and walking into my parents’ living room right at the end of the original Friday the 13th and accidentally seeing the scene when Jason pops out of the water (there is a clip of that scene linked above). Honest to god, that is the most scared I have ever been in my entire life. I did not want to go upstairs to bed that night, at least not without my mom and dad and Spider-Man and any available SWAT team members to escort me safely to my room. I am can vividly recall watching that scene simply because of how thoroughly and completely it terrified me.
But as adults, horror movies just don’t scare us like that anymore. Sure, when horror films use the jump-scare tactic and I’m sitting in a dark movie theater, it can startle me for sure. But I’m talking about being truly terrified because of a movie. That feeling is rare indeed, so the list of movies up for this award is very short.
For clarification, I’m not including torture-porn horror flicks in this list. Movies like Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede and their sequels are not scary at all. They are exploitation films, and their aim is to shock you by being absurdly over-the-top disgusting. Now, if that type of movie is your cup of tea, well then, your taste in tea is super messed up, my friend. But as the saying goes, to each their own.
Again, truly terrifying movies are exceedingly scarce. John Carpenter’s Halloween really scared moviegoers in 1978. Today we think of the masked killer who silently stalks the babysitter as an overused horror movie trope. However, it is important to note that movies like Halloween and When a Stranger Calls created that cliché. And while Carpenter’s horror masterpiece is just that – a flawless masterpiece – watching it today doesn’t have the same impact. It is slow and suspenseful like no other, but it does not fill you with dread anymore.
The Exorcist is the runner-up for this award, but it came in second place by the slimmest of margins. Not only was it incredibly chilling when it came out in 1973, but it was refreshingly original. Nowadays we seem to get two or three exorcism-themed movies a year. But we all know that those copies are faded and tired, and their quality is nowhere close to the original. Further, did you know that The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards? I bet that would surprise most people. It took home two Oscars as well – one for Best Adapted Screenplay and the other for Best Sound Mixing. So, not only was The Exorcist one of the scariest movies of all time, we can definitively say that it is one of the most well-made horror films as well.
Enough talking about the bronze and silver medal-winners though. Let’s get to the champion, shall we?
My selection for the winner of the Scariest Movie of All Time Award goes to the terrifying, the unnerving, the alarming, the disturbing, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
My reason for picking this movie is quite simple. It has to do with one of the coolest movie trivia questions I have ever heard. Feel free to use this one on your friends to win some bar bets:
When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out in 1974, what rating did it initially receive from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)?
Unfathomably, it was given a PG rating.
(Note that the PG-13 rating wasn’t created until 1984. Interestingly enough, it was created because of Steven Spielberg’s movie, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That film wasn’t mild enough for a PG rating, nor was it risqué enough for an R rating. It was Spielberg himself who suggested to the MPAA that a middling rating be created. Thus, the PG-13 rating came into existence on July 1, 1984. Here’s another piece of free trivia for you: The first American movie to ever be released with the PG-13 rating was Red Dawn, which was released on August 10, 1984.)
After first viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the MPAA gave it a PG rating because there is about a cup full of blood in the entire film, no nudity and no foul language. Obviously this movie is exceptionally violent, but most of the gore and scary stuff are suggested to the audience. They simply don’t show you any scenes of Leatherface actually cutting into people with his infamous chainsaw. A lot of the violence is just out of frame, or is heard but not seen.
Now, the film was actually released with an R rating on October 4, 1974, mostly because after the MPAA initially slapped the movie with the PG tag, they realized that you just can’t give a PG rating to a movie called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Even though by the MPAA’s own standards, it technically could have been rated PG, its R rating is clearly more appropriate. My point, however, is that this movie is widely regarded as one of the goriest and grossest films ever made, but that is simply not true. Our brains have filled in the gaps since the movie’s release. We are the ones who put the gore in there, not the film’s director, Mr. Tobe Hooper.
To me, that is why this picture wins the accolades for Scariest Movie of All Time. Like an Alfred Hitchcock film, this movie knows that suggesting violence and fear to you is much more impactful than actually showing it to you. Speaking about suspense and its raw power, Hitchcock famously said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” He strongly believed that the bomb must never go off, because once it does, you’re left with nothing. No terror, no suspense, no anticipation. Nothing.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre understood that philosophy and executed it to perfection. It is violent and filled with gore, yet it isn’t. It is terrifying and disturbing, not because of what you are shown, but because of what they chose not to film. To be that scary to so many people for just over 45 years now, even though the scares are mostly implied makes this movie the scariest horror film of all time.
Scariest NFL Franchise in 2019:
This dubious honor is going to go to a team that is scary-bad to watch, not scary-good. Just to be clear. And when I use the adjective scary-bad, one team immediately comes to mind.
The Miami Dolphins. Right?
Whoa. Just hold your horses there, Mr. Headless Horseman. Not so fast.
The Dolphins are not my pick for the Scariest NFL Franchise in 2019. You see, they are clearly tanking to try to set themselves up nicely for a powerful rebuild. In the past two months, they’ve traded:
-Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 2020 4th round pick and a 2021 7th round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 2020 1st round pick, 2020 5th round pick and a 2021 6th round pick
-Kenyan Drake to Arizona for a conditional 2020 draft pick
-Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and 2020 4th round pick and a 2021 6th round pick to Houston for a 2020 1st round pick, 2021 1st and 2nd round picks, Johnson Bademosi and Julien Davenport. (Wow. That’s quite a haul. I hope it works out for Houston because it seems that they won’t be making a first round selection until the human race is quite well established on the planet Mars.)
Additionally, in a Brock Osweiler-to-Cleveland type trade, Miami also acquired Aqib Talib from the Rams for a future draft pick. I think it’s safe to say that these Dolphins are swimming in the fish tank. In other words, they’re bad on purpose. And while they have been pretty ghastly to watch, it could be worse. You could be bad on accident. You could have a first-year head coach who looks totally lost. You could have an aging veteran quarterback who you inexplicably bench heading into your bye week instead of trying to trade him and actually get something for him. You could have a 31-year-old wide receiver with a foot injury who you were sure would be back early in the season, until he wasn’t. And you also could have traded that wide receiver to a pass catcher needy team to at least get something out of his aging carcass.
Yeah, things could be much, much worse.
You could be the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals are winless so far this year at 0-8, similar to the Miami Dolphins (0-7). But as I mentioned above, the Fins are essentially losing on purpose. Cincinnati, it seems, is trying to win, although that is basically an impossible statement to prove to be true.
What is easy to prove, however, is the Bengals’ ineptitude. Spend just a few seconds on Pro Football Reference’s website and you’ll notice that Cincinnati’s offense is 29th in total plays run (124), 29th in yards per play (4.9), 26th in net passing yards per attempt (5.6), 30th in rushing yards, 31st in rushing yards per attempt (3.2), 29th in 1st downs achieved via the run (28), 26th in the percentage of drives that end in an offensive score (26.7%), and 26th in turnover percentage (16.3%). If this offense were picking out a costume for Halloween, they wouldn’t even be allowed to be anything other than a sad clown. Or maybe Bengals fans are the sad clowns? It’s hard to tell which is more accurate. But the important thing to remember is that there are no winners in this situation. It’s just sad clowns as far as the eye of newt can see.
But if you thought their offense was ghoulishly awful, you may want to skip ahead past the next paragraph.
Cincinnati’s defense is disgustingly poor. They are last in the NFL in yards per play given up (6.6), last in total yards given up (3486), last in rushing yards per attempt yielded (5.1), last in first downs given up (76 – and Atlanta’s second place total is 11 fewer with 65), and last in penalties committed (70). To say they are a disaster would be incredibly offensive to Chernobyl.
There is absolutely nothing positive to point to when it comes to these Bengals. I suppose Bengals fans can look forward to them selecting either 1st or 2nd in the 2020 NFL draft. But somehow I expect them to screw that up as well. It would be so like this team to mess around and win a game or three and fall out of one of the top two picks in next year’s draft. This feels like a team that just can’t get anything right.
Of all the awards that I will be handing out in this article, truly this was the easiest decision to make. Neither the Miami Dolphins nor the Cincinnati Bengals have won a game this season. But at least Miami is losing now while keeping the future in focus. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is an abomination on the field this year, yet they clearly have no plan to turn things around next year and beyond. This franchise is the laughingstock of the NFL and are easily the Scariest NFL Franchise in 2019.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article coming soon…
Across the Board Sports