I first saw this film in a movie theater at midnight, as part of an October horror-movie festival. I almost didn't go; I had always had this movie figured as another stupid Hollywood remake of a great film from the past, and thought they were probably only showing it instead of the original because of that weird, vague prejudice against black and white movies that still for some reason permeates this country, even though the novelty of color wore off about forty years ago. But I figured what the hell, it wouldn't hurt to check it out, and when will I get a chance to see any of these movies in a theater again? So I went, and was almost immediately sucked in by the mind-bending direction and the terrific acting. But not only that; it was after midnight, remember, and I was getting sleepy, and I found myself in that kind of hypnotized, pseudo-dreaming state you can get into when you're watching a movie really late at night. I was really into the movie, mind you, but it was like a dream, I wasn't wholly conscious. And just as I was at my most out-of-it, as I was almost technically asleep, the movie hit me with that last shot, you know the one I mean, and jolted me wide awake like a bucket of ice water. It was just like waking up from a nightmare. I thought I was gonna start crying. I haven't been that freaked out by a movie since I was a little kid. As the end credits rolled and the house lights came up, I heard some other people in the theater talking about what a stupid movie it was, man, was that a waste of money, I'm glad it was only three-fifty, and it was a really surreal moment; I've just had one of the most horrifying moments of my waking life, and they're talking about how silly it was (although, truthfully, they may have been a little shaken up themselves and just covering for it, I dunno). A week or so later I was talking about it with my dad, who had seen it when it came out, and I mentioned the ending, and he did a dead-on mimic of the last shot, and I said "God! Don't do that!" I was STILL shaken up by this movie.
There aren't a lot of movies that even try to be frightening--most horror movies (and novels and so on) actually have other concerns: being funny, or shocking, or gory, or surprising, or bizarre, or whatever--and even fewer actually pull it off, actually scare you. Man, does this one pull it off.