Oct 27, 2008

Movie scenes that traumatized me

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.

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.

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?


Mark said...

I know it's wrong, Corey, but I couldn't help but giggle insanely when I thought of you being terrified by the Vorpal Rabbit. Sorry.

James said...

The "Forces of Darkness" masks from the fantasy sequences in Terry Gilliam's Brazil still occasionally pop into my dreams and creep me out. Which is appropriate, since Gilliam put them into the film because he'd gotten a mask like that from his mother, and it creeped him out.

Anonymous said...

Just for the readers knowledge. I sat beside Corey when we went to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at the old Metropolitan theater in Winnipeg, by the end of the movie Corey had a card which he was holding at the bridge of his nose to quickly push over his eyes when the action got wild.

Great list Corey.

This may say something about my personality but one of my scariest memories of movies was 'A Midnight Clear' the WWII drama. At the time you knew it was about the horrors of war but the climactic scene was so shocking in the innocence of the protagonist juxtaposed against thier own inability to stop what is happening. That scene hung with me for a long long time.

Corey Redekop said...

Mark: I exist for your amusement.

James: Forgot about that scene. Definitely spooky. Gilliam's steer-skull monsters from Time Bandits also terrified me in my youth.

Colin: I'll seek out that film.

Cineteen said...

Great list, I had completely forgotten about the dinner scene from Mulholland Drive but when I watched the YouTube clip remembered. It's a testament to the skill of Lynch that it still works even when it's being watched in perhaps the worst conditions to watch a movie, but does.

However one think bothers me. What about The Shining. What about the twins, the hedge maze, the elevator of blood, or finally the room with the naked women. None of that scared you. When I watched it at age 14, already having lost my horror virginity many years prior it scared the shit out of me. I couldn't sleep for days. Granted I was munching the budgie at the time but still.

Corey Redekop said...

Oh, good one. But I saw The Shining for the first time on video, which lessened the impact. But good and creepy, nonetheless.

Nikki Stafford said...

My big one is the Zulu doll from Trilogy of Terror. For years I had this image of a tiny doll chasing a woman through her apartment and thought it was just a nightmare I'd had. Imagine my shock when I saw a picture of it one day in a store and was basically glued to my spot in absolute terror. It was on the cover of the DVD set for Trilogy of Terror. I went home and looked it up on IMDB, and it would have aired on television (it was a made-for-tv thing) when I was 2. So don't think little kids aren't taking in everything they see on TV.

You probably wouldn't like the fact that I have the stuffed angry rabbit doll from Holy Grail -- complete with giant teeth -- sitting by my bed. ;)

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