The results got me thinking of what would make my personal list of scariest movie moments. For the sake of not repeating myself, I’ll exclude the aforementioned The Shining and any of the other films that made the HMV list. And for brevity I’ve only included five moments, in no particular order.
Note: once again a massive SPOILER WARNING for all of the films mentioned.
The Descent (2005) – The Crawlers Attack
Neil Marshall’s bloody, claustrophobic and emotional 2005 cave-exploring horror is my favourite of the genre next to The Shining. Trust me, I don’t say that lightly. The genius of the film is how, despite its ultimate monsterific thrills, it’s all about setting up our caring for the six central characters – and all-female cast is extremely rare in a horror – and creating a truly palpable sense of unnerving claustrophobia. Put it straight it’s goddamn terrifying even before The Crawlers show up, not least in a sequence that sees our heroine Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) getting stuck inside a particularly small space.
But the moment when it switches things up and the disgusting, horrific Crawlers are introduced is the one that really sticks in my mind. It’s not the mere fact that the group has to deal with this new threat against their survival but the way it happens out of nowhere, showcased through night-vision while the ladies shout for help. Ghastly stuff.
Pulse (2001) – The Forbidden Room
Far less well known than the likes of Ringu and The Grudge, this masterful ghostly Japanese horror (aka J-horror) from acclaimed director Kyoshi Kurosawa centres on a group of university students investigating a series of mysterious suicides linked to a webcam website that purports to allow the viewer to communicate with ghosts. It can be viewed as an allegory for how technology rules our daily lives and a social commentary on the isolation of modern Japanese society but also enjoyed purely as a supernatural horror with some of the most unsettling sequences of the century thus far.
One sequence occurs when one of the character enters what is known as The Forbidden Room, marked with red tape around the door frame. I doubt I’ve quite gotten over the first time I saw what happens next.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – Family Dinner
A horror film that really needs no introduction – but I’m going to gush about it anyway – Tobe Hooper’s truly terrifying, grungy 1974 horror set the benchmark for full-on horror to come, being banned on its initial release – despite it’s surprising lack of actual on-screen gore – and influencing a raft of filmmakers to come.
The entire film feels like one big nightmarish set-piece but it comes to a head when the screaming Sally (the late Marilyn Burns) is captured and sat at the head of the dinner table of Leatherface’s crazy family that have been committing some truly heinous murders in middle-of-nowhere-Texas. The scene seems to go on forever and really gets under you’re skin. Everything about it just feels wrong.
Mulholland Drive (2001) – The Man Behind Winkie’s
You might not think of David Lynch’s 2001 film about big Hollywood dreams, lustful jealousy and fracturing identity as a horror movie but considering how nightmarish, unsettling and skin-crawling it can be, I’d say it absolutely counts.
The sequence will no doubt stand out to any viewer actually comes towards the beginning of the film, when a nameless man and his friend (therapist?) are having a meeting in the booth of a Winkie’s restaurant. He tells of a scary dream he had where it’s “kind of half night, you know?” and how he can feel the presence of a man lurking “in back of this place.”
“I can see him through the wall!” he exclaims. So the other man decides to have him confront his fear, to show him that there’s nothing to be afraid of and the two make their way there to see. As it turns out, it’s very real, at least to the man being plagued with the nightmare. Jump scare city.
Audition (1999) – Love Is Torture
One of the hardest working directors in his native Japan or beyond – he’s made about 100 films in less than 25 years at a rate of often multiple films a year – Takashi Miike is known for his mad, often frenetic style of filmmaking across a range of genres. One film will be a full-on crime horror like Ichi the Killer, the next a wacky children’s adventure like Ninja Kids!!!. Quick side note: I’m a such a big fan that I actually wrote my 10,000+ word dissertation on him.
But this masterful 1999 shocker-in-waiting was the film that showed a more patient side of his filmmaking, really put him on the international map and there he’s stayed ever since. The brilliance of experience is that, for a good 2/3 of its runtime it’s not really a horror movie at all but rather a subdued romantic, melancholic drama. It sets up the gentle, heartfelt story of a widower and father who finally decides to pluck up the courage to search for a new wife years after his beloved passed away. He auditions a series of women for a fake TV show in an effort to find the perfect woman – it’s less stalker-like than that makes it sound! – which leads him to the meek, unassuming Asami. The two start dating and things seem to be going well. That is until jealousy and suspicion takes hold, with Shigeharu beginning to wonder just who exactly Asami is.
The whole thing culminates with one of the most horrifying, nightmarish torture sequences I think I’ve ever seen, one involving razor wire, a big-ass syringe and acupuncture needles as Asami’s victims lays on his living room floor unable to move but able to feel everything. Shudder…
Those are, of course, just a handful of the scenes that I’d hold up in high regard in a genre that I find myself compulsively going back to time and time again.
What do you make of the results of the poll? And which scenes would make your list? Be sure to share them in the comments below!