Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Scariest Scene in a Horror Movie


In Sunday's NYT, a few horror movie directors were asked the single scariest scene in a movie and this scene from THE SHINING was mentioned often.

I think the sound of the wheels of Danny's bike going down the hallways was even scarier.

What about you? What is the scariest scene you have watched?

41 comments:

Dana King said...

That's a good one, but I think the scariest scene I ever saw wasn't in what most people would call a horror movie. Picture Richard Dreyfuss digging at the shark's tooth in the hull of the sunken boat when the dead man's head--sans one eye--drifts into the breach. I was in an old, single-screen theater with wooden seats the first time I saw it. You could hear everyone everyone in the theater slamming into their seat backs.

A close second is also from JAWS, when Roy Scheider is shoveling chum into the water as the shark makes its first appearance. People weren't leaning forward in their seats this time, but the collective gasp was audible.

Honorable Mention. THE EXORCIST, when Regan's head turns completely around to keep an eye on Father Karras the first time he enters the room. Creeps me out thinking about it.

Thomas Pluck said...

Poltergeist always got to me. The end, where the mom is trying to save her kids and there's a godawful spidery 'thing' filling the doorway and she's forced to climb the walls to escape it was so bizarre that it got to me.

The Shining is creepier than scarier for me, but it's one of my favorite films. I wrote a little humor piece for McSweeney's on The Shining, it's on my stories page.

Anonymous said...

Dana's choices are good ones, but the one that still gets me is in Polanski's REPULSION, which I won't ruin for those who haven't seen it. Even the second time when I knew what was coming it scared the crap out of me.

Jeff M.

Ed Gorman said...

Cool topic, Patti. Being a geezer I have to say that the shower scene in Psycho scared me like no other.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Since I had heard about the shower scene, I was prepared by the time I saw it. But what scared me was when he whipped the chair around and you saw him mother.
Poltergeist is potent because of the kids. (And even more because of what happened to those kids in real life) After seeing JAWS, my legs wouldn't work and THE Exorcist-again kids. You hate to see kids threatened.

Jerry House said...

All the above are good scary scenes. I had forgotten about REPULSION. I agree with you that the mother scene in PSYCHO was more effective than the shower scene.

(THE EXORCIST has warm memories for me because Kitty was reading the book in between contractions awaiting the birth of our eldest; she refused to give birth until she finished the book. God, I love that woman.)

The scariest, though, has to be any scene with Max Schreck in NOSFERATU. He was one frightening dude.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would like to chime in with Repulsion but it has faded away, but resee. Never have seen NOSGERATU. What about Night of the Living Dead. Those zombies are pretty scary.

Heath said...

I don't really scare easily, having spent the majority of the '80's watching horror films obsessively, but I gotta say that the bit in Blair Witch Project, when the unseen... thing... was beating the hell out of their tent while they were inside scared the crap out of me.
And the American re-make of The Ring is worth mentioning just for managing to make you feel creeped out non-stop for an hour and a half.

Eric Beetner said...

There are so many single scenes adding up to the scariest movie I've seen in a long time in Paranormal Activity. Haven't seen the sequels but that movie did it right. You barely "see" anything. All implied and the more terrifying for it.

Todd Mason said...

The best "jump-scare" sequence of any horror film for me works only in a theater, or at least with a similarly impressive sound system and non-distracting circumstances, the pursuit of the Other Woman by Irena in the original CAT PEOPLE. The attempt to replicate it in the remake is tepid in comparison.

The "breathing" door in THE HAUNTING (the first film).

Nearly the entire first segment in THREE CASES OF MURDER.

The final encounter in QUATERMASS AND THE PIT/FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH.

Lots more.

pattinase (abbott) said...

CAT PEOPLE is terrific. And THE HAUNTING as well. Didn't see Paranormal but my husband loved it. The original Ring scared me to death and BLAIR I watched with my eyes close. Hardly open for a scene.

Laurie Powers said...

I'm not a big horror movie watcher, mainly because I'm a big chicken. But I loved BLAIR and thought it was as scary as hell. Very real. I think the opening scene in JAWS is horrific, but the all time tops for me is watching the zombies in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD fight over...ahem..food.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, that first scene in JAWS was just a knockout. I never recovered. I watched quite a bit through my fingers.

Dave Zeltserman said...

I was only 13 at the time, but the scene that scared me the most (as opposed to grossing me out), was Martin Balsam getting stabbed in Psycho and falling/floating down the staircase.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ah, yes. There were many gruesome moments. And such a surprise to have Janet Leigh die so quickly.

Anonymous said...

Maybe not horror and maybe not even scary except I was around eleven when I saw "Lady in a Cage." Then "Play Misty for Me" when the disc jockey knows someone has been in/is in the house.
Michel

pattinase (abbott) said...

Misty was scary and I'll tell you another one that scared me. Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark when the guy opens the refrigerator.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and Ross Martin in "Experiment in Terror." Yikes!
Michel

Anonymous said...

Patti, I saw WAIT UNTIL DARK on stage, starring Lee Remick, and it was indeed scary. Michel, I agree on EXPERIMENT IN TERROR.

Now, BLAIR WITCH, on the other hand, I thought was stupid and boring.

Jeff M.

Cap'n Bob said...

Horror movies bore me now, but when I was a kid they'd scare me so badly I have to sleep with a light on. A little pic called The Crawling Eye had me hiding under my covers after I saw it.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

JAWS and THE EXORCIST. I saw the latter on a cousin's VCR one late night and had no hesitation in sleeping next to my parents. You did this sort of thing at the age of 12. Switch off the sound and JAWS is a yawn. Another horror/sci-fi movie that had me sufficiently spooked was THE FLY, the original version starring David Hedison. This is fun...

le0pard13 said...

For me, it's the 'hair-raising' scary, not the 'jump' scene variety, that meets your criteria for me, Patti. And the first that comes to mind are the two scenes with the bouncing ball and the child's wheelchair at the top of the stairs in Peter Medak's The Changeling from 1980. They still creep me out.

Deb said...

I'm sure I've posted this before, but the scariest scene to me is the one in "The Conversation" where Gene Hackman is in a hotel room and knows that a murder has been committed in the next room. He flushes the toilet and a head and lots of blood gush up into the toilet bowl. I think one of the reasons I find the scene so scary is that it's so quiet, you're simply not expecting what happens.

Charlieopera said...

The Excorcist ... any number of scenes in that one, but the one that got me the most was one that was cut out; her spider walk down the stairs. I scare the shit out of myself to this day whenever I look up at the stairs leading to our 2nd floor. That movie ...

The weird thing is kids today (my kids for sure) didn't flinch at it; probably because they weren't brought up as catholic as I was. They have no fear of that stuff. Me and my wife ... forgetaboutit, scared shitless.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't know that I have ever seen a play that was scary. Interesting.
Yes, kids today are inoculated more than then.
So interesting about the music. I never thought about how big an impact it must have.
I was always scared as a kid with Twilight Zone. I remember checking under my bed after that one.
Some scary ones from Tom Tryon around then but I don't think I saw THE CHANGELING or EXPERIMENT IN TERROR OR THE CRAWLING EYE>

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Yvette said...

I remember a play that had one very frightening scene. I think it was DEATHTRAP. (Not a hundred percent sure about the title.)

There's a scene when a person thought dead suddenly lunges onto the stage through a window. My daughter and her friend and I jumped out of our seats. Literally.

The most frightening scene in a film for me has always been one in an old black and white noir movie, THE LEOPARD MAN.

A girl is being killed by an escaped leopard out of sight of the audience. The action takes place behind a closed front door. We are inside the house as her frantic family tries to open the jammed door.

We hear thuds,screams and the dreadful snarls and scratching of the cat.

Then suddenly, black liquid seeps under the door into the room. Blood.

We never see the body.

For years I could not watch the movie again. Even now, I have a problem. The scene gave me nightmares when I was a kid.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Somehow imaging what was going on was worse than watching it.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

True. Days after I saw THE ENTITY and POLTERGEIST I had a foreboding that something awful was going to happen to everyone at home. I find movies based on the paranormal more terrifying than the normal horror fare, because they seem so real. Everything within your peripheral vision starts coming to life, especially at nights. And what's worse, you can't shake off the dreadful feeling.

Richard R. said...

I'm not sure what the difference might be between "scared" and "white-knuckled anticipation of something bad" but if the latter counts then for me it's any one of several scenes in ALIEN. I watched it in the afternoon in an otherwise empty theater and gripped the chair arms so hard I had trouble losing my hands. Yikes. Dark, wet, creeping horror.

I also agree with Todd on the final confrontation in FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Phil saw it at the theater but not me. On TV is lost a bit but not all of its power.

Erik Donald France said...

Yes, those two from The Shining are up there. Cool stuff. The Goebbels lookalike in the bar is pretty scary, too.

Todd Mason said...

THE CRAWLING EYE was one of the films written by Brit hero Jimmy Sangster (appropriate surname), who just died (I like other of his films better, but that one made for a good MST3K).

THE LEOPARD MAN (Harlan Ellison's favorite from childhood, too), like CAT PEOPLE, was from the Lewton Unit at RKO. THE BODY SNATCHER from them is my next-favorite, certainly for horripilation...though their suspense film, THE SEVENTH VICTIM, deserves every good thing Ed Gorman writes about it.

My friend Steven Durost, still in high school, was brilliant in a community(!) stage production of an adaptation of Poe's "The Black Cat"...it's a pity he probably wouldn't want to do that sort of thing as an adult.

Todd Mason said...

THE BODY SNATCHER being the best film to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Though THE BLACK CAT wasn't too shabby.

Charles Gramlich said...

The exoricist would be my choice too. Several really creepy scenes. Ghost story when the woman is pushed under the water in the tub and comes up screaming.

Cap'n Bob said...

Jerry Lewis singing You'll Never Walk Alone at the end of his telethon scares the pants off of me, too. Seriously, I saw a film about polio when I was a shcool kid--before they had a vaccine--and it creeped me out badly. Ditto a film about frostbite I saw in the Army.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Polio scared all of us to death, I'm afraid.

John said...

I can't think of too many contemporary movies that are classified as horror that really scare me any more. Most horror movies these days do nothing but repulse me with gore, torture porn and brutality. I have to think of the first movies I saw when I was a kid. How about the scene where the mutants are worshiping the "strange god" in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES and pull off their masks to reveal their true selves and the "god" is revealed to be... All that weird chanting and the music. I was freaked out. Terrified! I was only nine years old. It was the first movie we were allowed to see at night in a movie theater on our own.

Usually claustrophobic scenes and people in perilous situations terrify me and scare me as an adult. The movie about the mountain climber in Peru who is cut from his lifeline and plummets into a crevasse scared the hell out of me. That whole movie to me is a nightmare come true. People trapped in caves, trapped underwater, trapped in elevators. Adult everyday fears more so than spook stuff. Kristin Scott Thomas being left in the cave in THE ENGLISH PATIENT thinking that Ralph Fiennes will return but he is detained and he can never go back to rescue her. So horrifying and so sad. That haunted me for days afterwards.

Cap'n Bob said...

One last note. When I was a very young lad there was a joke running around that went like this:
"I hear you have polio."

"No I don't."

"Then how come your middle leg's so short?"

So this kid comes up to me and says, "I hear you have polio." Not having herd the joke before, I thought he knew something that I didn't and a cold knife of fear went right through me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Memories of polio scare me even now.

Cap'n Bob said...

I need to point out I know the difference between "herd" and "heard."