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.