Time for the spooks and scares, folks. This Friday is Halloween, and while I think we can all agree that it's not what it used to be, we can still have a good old time with a scary flick or two.
I thought, instead of simply a list of my favourite horror films, I'd take a little time and discuss those specific scenes that, for one reason or another, caused me to soil myself. These are the little snippets of film that traumatized me the deepest, and left me the bitter, cynical wreck I am today, God love 'em.
NOTE: I'll have a clip when I can, but likely as not, these scenes may not be suitable for all viewers. Please show some respect to your co-workers. Also, while these scenes terrified me, in clip format the impact may be somewhat lessened. But in the context of the movie as a whole (which is how every scene in every movie should be discussed), these scenes forced childish screams from me.
It goes without saying (but here I am saying it) that spoilers are indeed ahead.
So, in no particular order:
1) JAWS - the pond attack.
This was the first attack by Spielberg's mechanical beast where the shark was glimpsed. That first image, the man scrambling to get out of the water onto the boat, the blurred head of the shark just beneath the surface pulling him under...I still hate deep water. Hate it hate it hate it. This was one of my first experiences with cinematic terror, and I still get nervous when I watch the film alone.
2) THE EXORCIST III - the hospital hallway attack.
This under-appreciated second sequel to one of the seminal horror films of all time contained one absolute doozy of a suspenseful scene. The nurse works in silence. The camera tracks back and forth down the hallway. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. For minutes, nothing happens. Then - BAM! I screamed in the theatre, and believe me, I was not alone. William Peter Blatty (the author of the novel The Exorcist) has directed only two films, and this scene proved to me that he should direct more.
The scene begins at 5:06 on the following clip:
3) MULHOLLAND DRIVE - the diner scene.
David Lynch has never directed a full-bore horror movie, and for good reason; it would likely be unwatchable in its intensity. Has any other director gotten such suspense out of dark rooms? But in Mulholland Drive, the scene is far different from Lynch's penchant for black backgrounds and red velvet curtains. In this scene, two gentlemen meet in a diner, and one describes a dream he had. He talks about having the conversation he's having now, and then walking outside to a wall. At the end of the wall, a man appears. That's the dream. Then the men walk outside, and the entire dream occurs. Lynch tells you specifically what is going to happen ahead of time, and then shows you, and somehow he makes it terrifying.
4) THE THING - the walking head.
We need some gore here, and John Carpenter's nihilistic classic has buckets of it. In this scene, a member of the arctic team has a heart attack, and in the course of applying a defibrillator, the movie reveals the man to be infected with the alien. The scene up to that point is grotesque and horrifying, as the alien is set ablaze. But the worst is to come: the man's head detaches itself from the body, sprouts legs, and scuttles away. For an overly impressionable fifteen-year-old, this was the ultimate amalgamation of gross and cool. See also; Cronenberg's The Fly. That movie freaked me right out.
WARNING: DEFINITELY NOT FOR KIDS!
5) MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL - the rabbit.
A little backstory is necessary here, as obviously Holy Grail is not a horror movie. But my parents had gone out to see the film, and had taken along me, a tyke of approximately three years of age. The majority of the film went right over my head, but that rabbit, that damnable rabbit haunted me for decades. I had never seen so much blood, so much gore, and I had nightmares for years. I never understood where they came from, and it was only when I was seventeen or so did I watch the film again. When I saw that scene, everything came flooding back. I tell you, the rabbit was a subconscious deliverer of everything evil to me (followed closely by the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrggghhh).
6) SCANNERS - exploding head.
How could I fail to mention this, the most startling effect I'd ever seen up to that date. Still a classic. Plus, it began my lifelong love affair with all things Michael Ironside.
7) 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA - giant squid!
Sure, it's more of a family film, but it's still one of the best family movies Disney ever produced. And that squid? Disney has NEVER filmed a cooler scene. Ever.
8) INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM - insects galore!
I have a real bug phobia, I admit it. And this scene took me many, many tries to get through without squirming.
9) INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) - the ending.
This is one of those rare instances where the remake is superior to the original, which was damn fine to begin with. Director Philip Kaufman expands on Don Siegel's original vision, and keeps intact Siegel's original vision of a downer ending. There's Donald Sutherland, on a planet where he may be the only true human left. Veronica Cartwright sees him on a street, and motions to him. They're still human, right? And then, that godawful screech from Sutherland's mouth. He's an alien. Either he gave up, or he was overcome. Man, what a depressing finale, and one of the most haunting endings in film.
Start at about 7:12 into this clip.
And there you have it.
What about you? Any favourite scenes I missed?