Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Schulz: Where the scares are at

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With Halloween approaching, Chris Schulz makes his picks for the biggest scares of the year so far.

Lili Taylor and Joey King in true-story horror film The Conjuring.
Lili Taylor and Joey King in true-story horror film The Conjuring.

My knees were aching as I crawled around a dimly lit basement. With flickering lights, broken glass and blood smeared on the walls, the setting felt like a horror movie cliche - but I had very bad feeling about what was unfolding.

Then, stumbling out of the darkness, came the remnants of a man with what appeared to be a burst pimple for a head.

Through his gargled moans I managed to work out what he was saying: He wanted to eat me.

Starting with my neck, then moving on to my innards and finishing by licking the skin from my toes, this grotesque zombie-like creature wanted to devour me like a hot dinner.

My horror movie nightmare was complete.

But this was no horror movie. Mr Pimplehead is actually a monster called a "Clicker" from The Last of Us, a terrifically scary apocalyptic survival game that came out on PlayStation 3 earlier this year.

My first encounter with the Clickers, in that nightmare-inducing basement, managed to freeze me to my couch in sheer terror. How good is that feeling?

Ever since I met that creepy clown stuck in the drain in Stephen King's It, I've loved it - and I'll go out of my way to experience it. If you're a fan of getting the bejeezus scared out of you, there are more options than ever before to seek out your freak-outs.

With gaggles of ghouls and ghosties out trick-or-treating tonight - don't forget to stock up on mini Moros and Mars bars - it's worth revisiting some of the year's best.

Like, have you seen The Conjuring? The based-on-a-true-story horror film starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson graced big screens earlier this year and it provides a tour de force of frights. There's one scene that sent chills down my spine. Sitting in Devonport theatre The Vic - which itself is rumoured to be haunted - I was so scared all I could do was eek out the word "Mummy" and grab the hand of the person sitting next to me.

Luckily, it happened to be my wife. But I didn't fare as well at Spookers, the South Auckland fright night attraction that's bound to be packed out with thrill-seekers tonight.

During my visit, a zoned-out nurse offered us the opportunity to stick our fingers into the brains of her dead child. It was a generous proposition, but it was also the moment that I realised a mate and I had lost our partners. I looked down. In our panicked state, we were holding hands. Awkward.

Television is also getting into the fright fest these days. French drama Les Revenants (also known as The Returned or Rebound) recently screened on Sky's Rialto channel and provided some of the creepiest thrills yet on the small screen. It focuses on a small French town recovering from losing a bus load of school kids who plunged off a cliff four years ago.

As the title suggests, one of the girls who died in the crash comes back. Same hair, same body, same clothes, same age. Then more dead people return. The only difference for the "returned" is they don't sleep, and they can't stop eating. It's seriously unsettling viewing which comes with a "what-the?" finale- and better yet, there's a second season coming next year.

For Hollywood-based TV thrills, you can't look past American Horror Story, which this season is focusing on witches in Coven. It has aired on Four in the past, so hopefully it lands soon. But reviews have been good: The Hollywood Reporter called this season "grotesque" with "a healthy dose of humour".

But my all-time favourite spooky stories come in the form of games, which immerse players in blood-thirsty action in a way that movies and television can't.

So, once those pesky trick-or-treaters finish stealing all your chocolate, grab a pair of headphones, turn down the lights and check out Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Alone in the Dark.

Just don't do it on your own.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Schulz has interviewed some of music's biggest names during his career writing for various entertainment publications in New Zealand. He is a Herald and TimeOut feature writer who covers music, movies, TV and games both online and in print.

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