In order for me to get into the mood of writing, I often refer to my favorite scenes from horror movies. On this lazy Sunday, I’m going to share with you a rather inconclusive list of what made my heart race in both the best and worst way. In no particular order, I present to you segments that hit high on my creepiness factor and made me run straight for Nopesville.
- Phantasm II (1988): Plot Holes. Cemetery after cemetery is emptied. We know from earlier that our “dearly departed” will return and not as we last remember them. Whether they are diminutive versions of themselves or not, they have one thing in common: they’re homicidal. And while one could argue that the Flying Orbs of Certain Death is rather gruesome, that didn’t bother me nearly as much as the empty graves. After all, it begs the question, “Where are the bodies?” This scene makes you look over your shoulder, wondering when you might see an army of the dead. (There’s a Sam Raimi reference in Phantasm II, so you may wonder even more.)
- In The Mouth of Madness (1994): “I’m Losing Me.” It where character Lydia Styles (played by Julie Carmen) grabs John Trent (Sam Neill) and tells him she has read the book and What Was Seen Could Not Be Unseen. Something from beyond space and time entered her, was changing her and there was nothing she–or anyone–could do about it. This, to me, more than anything else, exemplified what it was like to be in the mouth of madness.
- The Others (2001): Picture Perfect. When Nicole Kidman flips through this macabre photo album, all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The fact that Victorians actually did take snapshots of their deceased only makes it worse. I can’t do my usual routine of telling myself, “This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real.”
- Poltergeist (1982): This one movie gets THREE scenes (because it’s that awesome).
- The Fucking Clown. This joker is no joke! I don’t have coulrophobia but this toy looks so sinister, you just know the parents must have been stoned out of their minds when they bought it. Short of Chucky, I don’t think there’s a scarier toy out there. What possessed mom and dad to think this was a good idea? The only thing that made sense was the toy came to be in their possession because it possessed someone into bringing it home with them. Either that or it was a gift from an aunt. One that hates children.
- Face Off. The grisly scene really starts with the maggots in the meat which grosses the man out enough that he runs to the bathroom to wash his face. And then he ends up tearing himself apart. Literally. I watched Poltergeist when I was seven years old but I couldn’t fully watch this scene until much, much later. Even though it was nothing more than a hallucination, the fact that this guy nit-picked his own face off down to the bone had me cringing and gagging long after I turned away. While the special effects look laughable by today’s standards, it was very effective in getting the point across and deliver the intended results.
- Tonight, She Swims With the Corpses. What the hell?! We’ve heard of “out of the frying pan and into the fire” but out of the haunted house and into a swimming pool of decomposed bodies?! And I know she’s drinking in all that water while she screams and splashes in place. No, no, no thank you! (I may just be a germophobe.)
- The Fog (1980): A Hello to Arms. Ghosts that resemble the lovechild between a mummy and a pirate seek the death of the descendants of those that wronged them. The way those arms smash through the glass to reach the occupants inside had me backing away from all windows for a week. This movie scared the fuck out of me as a child and yet again as an adult. I will say this: that’s no easy feat. I’m not easily scared by horror movies these days. Many of them are either full of jump-scares or with so much over-the-top gore that I’ve become desensitized. This movie has a slow build but the payoff at the end is huge. If I have to pick one movie as my top favorite horror of all time, this one is it.
- A Haunting in Connecticut (2009): Up Close and Personal. I don’t like people up in my personal space on a good day. I’m the kind of person that, if I’m shopping and someone stands too close to me, I will get up and go to an entirely different aisle. So imagine my terror when the protagonist is stuck in a circle of the lidless dead in the worst stare-down in the history of stare-downs. And since none of these other motherfuckers have eyelids, it’s safe to say we know who is going to blink first. I almost wanted to see an impromptu mosh pit ensue because the tension was so great. (Though I’m sure it would have ended poorly for Matt Campbell.)
- The Grudge (2004): That Fucking Kid. OK, the Grudge might not make it as one of my favorite horror movies but that kid is too memorable for me to leave off this list. He’s like Pet Semetary’s Gage but so much worse. While no less deadly, he seems happy to be murdering you, like he truly wants to play. Moreover, this boy is like American Express–in the sense that he’s everywhere you want to be. In particular, I was bothered by the scene where he is on every floor the elevator passes. While his mom is also freakish with her over-the-eye hairdo and unsettling walk, it’s the boy that disturbs me the most. Perhaps it gives me flashbacks to my teen years where children chased me around for an impromptu babysitting session. Whatever the case may be, his character hits high on my “oh, hell no” scale.
- The Changeling (1980): Hell On Wheels. Only this movie could make something like an empty wheelchair frightening. While there are plenty of movies with ghosts occupying rocking chairs (i.e. The Woman in Black) or moving chairs in general (i.e. Poltergeist), as far as I know this is the only one that contains a wheel chair chasing a man around his own house. I have to remind myself that Joseph, though a ghost, is still a little boy. And kids are jerks when they don’t get their way.
- Psycho (1960): Just a Normal Talk With Norman. Perhaps the granddaddy of all horror movies, Psycho hits every little nerve with the precision of acupuncture. It’s subtle at first so you don’t notice. You just sort of nod here and there and maybe seconds later you feel the effect. For me, the most frightening thing isn’t the iconic shower scene and it isn’t the big reveal of Norman’s mother: it’s just a chat with Norman. It’s…off. Surrounded in a room of dead and stuffed animals and chatting about his love of taxidermy, you get the impression Norman has a hard time letting go. And he is getting a little attached. It was time to go sometime yesterday. Rain or no rain, you really ought to hop in your car and drive off. It would prove to be the less deadly of the two showers.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this list. If you have a favorite scene that I didn’t mention or you want to chat about one I did, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!