11 Apr

The greatest horror movie scenes. Ever.

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday April 11, 2012 | Uncategorized,Whimsy

OK, so maybe they’re not the best scenes ever, but they’re certainly some of my favorites. Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out and jaded. Nothing I see interests me. The horror genre is starting to slip away again and I don’t feel much like writing about how much I hate the horror movies that I’ve been seeing lately. I spend my nights reading and playing video games and there’s enough bloggery out there about Game of Thrones that me tossing in my two cents wouldn’t cause much of a ripple. Basically all I’ve been up to lately is playing Battlefield 3, watching Mad Men and reading until my eyes cross. So casting all that negativity aside and bucking the need to write about fresh new horror, here I go, turning my eye to the past; to better days. These are the movies I love so dearly. They either fostered my love of the genre or gave it longevity. I haven’t written anything horror-related in a while. So here you go. Let’s get nostalgic. Feel free to comment, too! I want to know what your favorite scenes are. Bonus points if you link to the clips on Youtube.

Poltergeist – The face rip
The first movie that I actually remember scaring the fuck out of me, actually scaring me, was Poltergeist. It was broadcast on TV one night back when the major networks actually aired movies as part of their nightly programming and being as it was a PG rated movie, it made it to air with no cuts. This meant going out to televisions all across the country with this famous scene intact. The year was 1985. I was almost ten years old and watched it with my mom. While most of the movie spooked me, much to my delight, this particular scene was just too much for me and I wound up covering my eyes through the worst of it. I don’t care who directed it, Hooper or Spielberg. Whichever of you two was responsible for this scene, congratulations.

Friday the 13th Part 7 – Sleeping bag smash
I am a life-long Jason Voorhees fan, as I have made abundantly clear in the past. I really don’t care for most of the 80’s slasher icons as the core three (Jason, Freddy and Michael ‘The Shape’ Myers) are the only ones worth mentioning and by the time that I was actually old enough to start watching these flicks, the genre was limping toward its inevitable doom having been bled completely dry by the time I was 7 years old. Even my favorite franchise, The Fridays, was a limping race horse as the sequels numbered higher than 5, but no matter how ridiculous the franchise got, each one had at least one good kill. Friday 7, as ridiculous as it is, at least tried to do something more than lumbering killer slaughters stoned camp counselors, what with it introducing Tina the pyshic. Plus it brought us the mighty Kane Hodder. So popular was this kill that they brought it back for the hologram kill in Jason X, a movie I like way more than any grown-ass man should. This is the uncut clip in workprint form, which shows far, far more tree smashes and gore than we got in the theatrical cut.

The Silence of the Lambs – The importance of putting the lotion in the basket
My favorite scene of all time comes from one of my favorite movies of all time. Silence of the Lambs is an amazing piece of film. It’s a sophisticated example of mainstream cinema saturated in the lowbrow conventions of exploitation film. It always seems like it’s raining. The color palette is drab and muted and the subject matter is torn straight from the pages of a dozen true crime books. Even though the film is dominated by the interplay between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, the true monster of the movie is Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill an amalgamation of America’s worst pathological murderers and this scene is clinically horrifying. There’s nothing explicit about it, either, which is why it’s so great. Most of my favorite scenes involve some sort of imaginative death scene, spectacular gore or in-your-face scares but there’s nothing in-your-face about this. It’s the subtle-to-forceful suggestion that his victim be properly moisturized so that her skin will be in good shape when he sews it into his woman suit. He uses the pronoun ‘it’ to deliberately dehumanize her and make it easier to kill and skin her. His cool demeanor, eventually blown sky high seals the deal. This scene is just plain disturbing for all the right reasons is one of many explanations for why The Silence of the Lambs is such a landmark horror movie.

The Sentinel – The truth is revealed
Director Michael Winner wasn’t really known for horror. His bag was actually action flicks and suspense with his best-known work being with Charles Bronson and the Death Wish franchise. It’s when a director a steps out of their comfort zone that they tend to shine and Winner really knocked it out of the park with a movie that I consider criminally underrated among horror movie fans, The Sentinel. This is an idea so strong that eventually Lucio Fulci would lift the concept and adapt it for his own landmark movie, The Beyond. Haunted house movies really get under my skin and this is one of the many that gave me actual chills. It’s mostly that idea of ‘there is something wrong here’ that gets to me. People and things being out of place. The scene below is the actual climax of the movie, so if you haven’t seen it, I don’t recommend watching it because the story is pretty cool and the resolution, what Cristina Raines is actually supposed to be doing in the apartment building, is fucking awesome.

That video, by the way, is the entire movie. I highly recommend it.

Zombie – Eye gouge
Speaking of Fulci, when I discovered the global horror fan club on the Internet all those years ago and connected with people over at the legendary (and probably the first message board dedicated to horror movies), Mortado’s Page of Filth, I finally connected the dots and realized that some of my favorite video store shelf goblins, those wonky cheapos I was drawn to after I’d exhausted all the recognizable American movies, were all directed by the same weirdo with a penchant for intense gore and scripts that made no fucking sense whatsoever. My favorite Fulci is actually The Beyond, but Zombie’s famous eye gouge is one of Fulci’s greatest moments of direction. Most of the time I got the feeling that he instructed his cast to stand around looking confused but this is a scene of pure directorial genius. It is so long. It is drawn out to an agonizing degree. See the girl. See the splinter. See the girl. See the splinter. It gets closer and closer. Slowly. You know exactly what’s going to happen and when it does, it happens in explicit, nasty detail. The splinter slowly enters the cornea as her head is pulled into it. Fulci had a thing for eyeball abuse. All of his noteworthy movies have something awful happening to eyes but this one takes the cake. The effect is great!

Shaun of the Dead – Killing Mum
Shaun of the Dead is a lot of fun and introduced Americans to the one-two-three punch of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s genuinely very funny, it appeals to everyone’s inner slacker and taps right into that zombie apocalypse survival plan you’ve secretly been working on for so long. Above all, it’s British and if there’s one thing Americans love, it’s British stuff. I’m guilty, too. British stuff really resonates with me. Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Benny Hill. I don’t know what it is but you folks in the UK really have quality genre fare down to a fucking science. Keep it up. This is a very funny, very ironic movie that is basically silly bullshit with zombies but if there’s one thing that struck an odd chord with me is that moment in the third act, having been holed up at The Winchester for a while, when all of a sudden, this comedy seamlessly transitions to an actual horror movie with a deadly serious confrontation revolving around Shaun’s mother having been bitten. All of a sudden, shit gets real. They do this again in Hot Fuzz and the effect is a very similar feeling to having the rug pulled out from under you.

Dawn of the Dead – The Man Comes Around
I went pretty soft on the Dawn of the Dead remake because it turned out a lot better than I thought it would. James Gunn’s script maintains the general vibe and it probably could have been called anything else and been a decent zombie horror movie. The original is pretty cartoony and the introduction of the mall shuttles as armored anti-zombie vehicles kept that rolling but the star of the movie to me wasn’t the story. It wasn’t Ving Rhames or Sarah Polley or that dude from Modern Family. It was the titles at the beginning of the movie. They took the art of the credit sequence and elevated it to a religious experience, melding AP newsreel footage of riots with staged news reports, White House press briefings and zombie attacks and the whole thing is set to a Johnny Cash song about Armageddon. I think Zack Snyder is a hack and his movies are universally terrible but Dawn of the Dead was a pretty good attempt and if you ask me, is far bleaker than Romero’s original.

Day of the Dead – I’m running this monkey farm!
Of the holy trinity, Day of the Dead is my favorite. It gets tremendous amounts of flack for being so chatty, with long periods of talking between bursts of action and violence. Personally, I love the talking. The dramatic bits are propelled forward at breakneck speed by Joe Pilato’s absolutely nutty and venomous Captain Rhodes. He spends all his time on screen yelling and freaking out and it. is. glorious. This scene in particular illustrates my point, precisely, and it’s my favorite piece of the entire movie. Here is Captain Rhodes in all his bug-eyed glory, yelling and screaming, coming up with some bug-fuck nonsense about being in charge and for all of Romero’s social critique, this is the moment in the movie where his point is made clear. Romero’s original script had to be scaled way back for budgetary reasoning and in the process of cutting out the expensive shit, most of his message gets lost in translation but the forceful interplay between Rhodes and Doctor Logan illustrates the intellectual vs. anti-intellectual butting of heads that was so present in 80’s America (and has resurfaced today).

I’ll cut it short here. I could go on and on but you get the idea. Let’s hear it. I want to know your favorites.


  1. April 15, 2012 7:11 pm

    Troy Z

    As many of your other readers may be, I am hesitant to respond because I am convinced that seconds after I post an entry, I am just going to be reminded of every possibility that I shamefully overlooked. That said, I might as well at least start the procedures.

    1. Poltergeist (1982)
    1a) That Fucking Clown
    1b) That Oddly Alluring Spider Skeleton Ghost

    That. Fucking. Clown. Amirite? You know, I won’t even say any more about that other than that I, as an eleven-year-old watching this in a movie theater, actually pivoted toward my then-friend’s ear to begin to say “Whew, I totally thought the clown was going to be under the bed,” thereby priming my vocal cords and breath for an unfortunately perfectly-timed shriek right into his eardrum. Well played, Mr. Director, sir. But this:


    What really resonated with me, and I couldn’t put a description to this sensation at the time, is how [i]Elegant[/i] the Spider Skeleton Ghost that guarded the door to the children’s room was. The ethereal translucency, the emaciated proportions, its haunting lowing; it all had the hallmarks of a devotional pietà that I knew others would consider obscene had I voiced it as such. I would thereafter surreptitiously scour special effects books at the bookstore and monster magazines on the shelf to catch another glimpse of this creature, and, in doing so, I realized I was more amenable to finding allure in the repulsive. Stolen peeks at gory heavy metal album covers, protoGoth imagery and underground comix would soon usher me in to the tastes of my teenage years, tastes that are fondly remembered as when I first could selectively develop my inclinations on my own accord.

    I also credit “Poltergeist” as the first film in which the sterile artificial suburban landscape of which I was so familiar actually seemed as if it had the potential for magic. Up to then, the haunted house archetype to me was the stuff of purple-hued Victorian mansions depicted in children’s books and, ultimately, the property of Elsewhere. After June 1982, the prospect of corpses boiling beneath the foundation of the tract home in which I lived seemed plausible.

    2. Ghosts That Still Walk (1977) — Supernatural Rolling Boulders

    I give tribute to the Kindertauma website for helping me track down what this movie was that left such an indelible mark on my young psyche, specifically, this one scene that I could recall generations later even after the rest of the details of this movie that had prepubescent me scampering from the TV had faded:


    Is it a good, scary movie? Oh Gott in Himmel, No no no no no, but despite its plodding pace and muddled narrative, this one scene is an inspired setpiece in which an elderly couple on vacation in the desert are attacked by large boulders rolling across the flat desert landscape. The genuinely terrifying part for me, both as a child and now in my adult years, was that the husband first was trying to find out what these heat-blurred dots on the horizon were by repeatedly walking further and further away from the safety of the camper to get a closer look with his binoculars. I think even back then, I suspected the massive boulders were “fakey,” but that was just inconsequential to the terror I felt at knowing something is completely and hostilely amiss and yet still being compelled to find out what it is at the expense of your protection. The fact that the distance between the man and his means of escape in their presumably safe RV was shown in a long shot just psychologically added to the danger.

    3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) — Freddy Longtorso

    Remember what the Writer said in the movie “Stand By Me” (as well as in its source of adaptation, Stephen King’s story “The Body”): “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Can’t we say the same thing about our horror movies? The sheer novel potency of the horror movie could rule the imagination of our younger minds just by the simplest suggestion alone. I recall even just reading the taglines for the 1981 movie “Scanners” in the newspaper as a child (“10 Seconds: The Pain Begins. 15 Seconds: You can’t Breathe. 20 Seconds: You Explode.”) had me writhing in an anxietyball at the prospect of a world in which I now know that not only do Scannerpeople possibly exist, but that their attacks happen so often that some writer can clinically document with a practiced detachment the chronological escalation of the effects upon you, as the potential victim. Only fourteen words, that took. Count ’em. Only fourteen words, and suddenly my worldview changed, ready to follow anyone who could tell me how to prevent an attack by Scannerpeople. Suck it, florid manifestos!

    The point is, perhaps there is a sweet spot in our development that makes us particularly receptive to the impact of horror imagery, one that we try, hopefully not in vain, to restimulate with the same intensity that we once felt. If so, there would be credence to the theory of a Rolling Golden Age, one in which The Best Movies Ever of a favorite genre happened exactly when one was at that adolescent stage in which discovery started giving way to personal control.

    In my case, this was the era of the late 70’s to the mid-80’s. Slasher heyday. Can I say that this was the definitive apogee of the genre? No, but I can say it was the fond time in which imagery had a particularly rousing effect on me. Even the trailers for horror movies alone could startle me into a frenzied lather. This, then, is the roundabout segue to introduce that scene in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” where Freddy stands with his arms spanning the distance of the alley:


    Just that one single image in a commercial showing Freddy Krueger with the elongated arms had me leaping up to the television to turn the dial (this was before the proliferation of remotes, whippersnappers). That is potency, in which A New Wrongness is introduced so casually in a single wordless scene. Freddy isn’t running at you, he just wants to let you know what the situation is simply by standing there: Killer with long arms. Wants to touch you with his claws. Running won’t help much. That’s a beautiful haiku of horror right there. (No, really! It’s a haiku! Check it and see!)


    I could ramble on more than I have, but I think I’ll press the pause button on this for now. I could go on all day about just the advertisements for horror movies that had as much of an impact on me as the actual horror movies themselves, but that might be another topic entirely. Thanks again for hosting the blog, Bryan!

  2. May 21, 2012 1:47 am


    Frank’s birth, from Hellraiser 1.

  3. May 21, 2012 9:26 am

    Bryan White

    Oooooh. Good one.

  4. June 3, 2012 9:17 am


    Janet Leigh in the shower getting the knife while the violin staccato plays from Psycho. Fifty years later and that scene still holds up.

    And the first chest buster in Alien, while its not as shocking now, was a real “holy shit” moment for me back in 1979.

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