Inspired by Paul Tremblay’s revised post on his blog, and just in time for Halloween: a list of some of my favorite scary scenes from horror movies. Not all of my favorite movies made the cut – some, like Paranormal Activity, didn’t leave me with one defining scene, and others, like Lake Mungo, Paul already mentioned (and he’s right!).
Named after the formulaic, viral, irresistible little “copy+paste” stories, these scenes have that friend-of-a-friend, urban legend overtone. Mostly occur early in the movie. They elicit that sinking feeling of “oh no” because you know exactly where this is going, and it’s nowhere good. See also: jump scares.
Candyman: The Babysitter
Just like “don’t go in the attic,” “don’t say his name five times!” (go to 1:00)
The Ring: First Death
The opening sequence of The Ring is a master class of the urban legend.
Paranormal Activity 3: Sheet Ghost
The babysitter dressed up as a sheet ghost before putting the girls to bed. Then she went to do her homework.
Long psychedelic scenes where you, and the helpless protagonist, get thrown into elaborate nightmarish and bizarre worlds and you’re like, “yes, this is scary,” and then five minutes later, “why isn’t this goddamn over yet, are you serious right now?!”
Silent Hill: Bathroom
Rose is relieved that the HazMat squad hasn’t found her hiding in the bathroom with a corpse in the last stall. Then the screaming starts.
The Night Flier: Dwight Renfield
Dees has been chasing a serial killer that flies around in a Cessna killing people at small airports. Then he catches up to the guy at an “empty” airport.
MONSTERS IN YOUR HEAD
Pseudo-hallucinatory, dreamy, and deeply personal. Something Evil’s coming for you, just you. I noticed after the fact that almost all these are Stephen King movies: dude knows how to tap into the twisted, ugly little thoughts/memories we all have and can’t stop picking at.
Pet Sematary: Zelda
Like most Americans, Rachel can’t handle talking about death, having been traumatized by the death of her sister Zelda. Well, guess who shows up when shit goes down.
Twin Peaks: Bob
No introduction necessary (or provided).
Found footage is probably my favorite type of horror movie, because it’s so naturalistic, chock-filled with creepy details, and a great slow-build. The best found footage scenes are like the Fatal Frame video game – you’re playing detective, “trying” to find the ghost even though you don’t want to, and armed only with your ability to stand witness. Like the world’s worst “Where’s Waldo.”
The Descent: Night Vision
The cave spelunkers are lost, people are seeing things out of the corner of their eyes, and now they’ve found a lot of bones. So turn on the night vision goggles.
Noroi: The Woods
The premise of the brilliant movie Noroi: The Curse is an investigation into a series of mysterious, cult-related deaths. The entire thing deserves to be watched and savored, but here’s an incomprehensible taste.
Inland Empire: Laura Dern
Is that her? What is she doing? Why is she running? Oh she’s coming closer— I must warn that it took me about a week to burn this image out of my head.
These, for me, are the scariest types of scenes of all. They are happening now; they are happening to you, in waking life; you cannot snap out of it, you cannot put the photo down. You think it’s over; it’s not. And you’re reminded of this fact constantly. These usually come after the movie’s shaken your hand and introduced itself and the stakes (usually with a CREEPYPASTA). By the time you get to these scenes, you know: This is it. Welcome to your new reality.
The Sixth Sense: Tent
Cole sees dead people, and he has coping mechanisms. For example, he’s got his tent. His tent keeps him safe.
The Eye: Elevator
Blind violinist Mun gets a corneal transplant that unfortunately lets her see dead people. This movie’s got two great early jump scares, but this is the famous scene that stopped people from taking elevators.
When asked for the scariest scene of the original Grudge, I could easily just post the entire movie. But I’ll pick this one because the first time I saw it, I only watched about 10% of it (I had my eyes closed starting with the opening credits). This is a scene I actually did watch, and my best friend told me later she thought it was one of the scariest parts. Ironic!
Mulholland Drive: Diner
This is David Lynch as a Horror Director at his finest. It’s daytime. A guy’s sitting at a diner, telling his friend about a nightmare he had… about someone behind the diner.