Just in time for Halloween, the Communist Dance Party proudly presents:
The 20 Scariest Movie Moments!
First, the disclaimer. This is by no means a definitive list. These are just 20 movie moments I found to be frightening. They had to be movies that I’ve seen at least 1 time, and they had to be easily available and well-known. Let the countdown begin!
Honorable Mention: DUEL – (WHOLE MOVIE)
I wanted badly to put Duel on the list because I like it so much. While it lacks that one particular moment that would make you jump out of your seat, it’s a non-stop car chase that relentlessly messes with your head. Stephen Spielberg’s first movie is about a guy being pursued by a semi. That’s it. If you haven’t seen it, you must check it out. A cult classic.
Honorable Mention: WIZARD OF OZ – (WHOLE MOVIE)
The older I get, the more I realize that the Wizard of Oz is one of the most terrifying films ever made. Not so much the beautiful finished product, but the absolute nightmare that was the making of it. This is one of the most beloved films ever, but it never ceases to make me uncomfortable.
#20 – DEAD ALIVE – (ENDING)
Dead Alive is hands down the bloodiest, goriest, and most disgustingly funny movie ever made. To think that the Director, Peter Jackson, now holds an armload of Oscars for the Lord of the Rings movies, it makes you wonder just how hard this movie-making business really is. The list-making scene in particular is the finale, in which our hero rips apart about 500 zombies with a lawnmower. Enough said.
#19 – ROSEMARY’S BABY – (ENDING)
Rosemary’s Baby is a depressing venture, start to finish. Mia Farrow commands sympathy, and pulls off what I believe is the best horror movie performance ever by a female. The birth of her child leads us into the even-more depressing climax, where it’s stolen from her by a group of Satanists, all of whom she thought to be friends. The desolate nature of the movie, with its’ 70’s grain, make this a movie that you don’t forget.
#18 – THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT – (ENDING)
For all the crap this movie has gotten over the last few years, it did a lot right. First off, it was the most successfully marketed film in history. Secondly, it took a wonderful concept, and almost pulled it off. The way this movie was made overshadows the finished product. For all the people who stuck with it, however, they were treated with a great ending to a mediocre at best movie.
#17 – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD – (ENDING)
Night of the Living Dead was groundbreaking in that it showed on-screen Cannibalism, hopeless violence ahead of its time, and the most non-traditional Hollywood ending ever. For the decade in which it was released, to create a movie in which everyone dies was considered poison. This breaking of barriers has made it a influential horror classic. In the ending, our hero emerges from the basement of the abandoned home, happy to have survived the carnage. Just as he lurches for freedom, he’s pegged in the head by a cop, thinking he’s a zombie. The end.
#16 – EVENT HORIZON – (CREW LOG/AIRLOCK)
Event Horizon is the bloodiest sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen. It also contains 2 very frightening moments. The movie is about a spaceship crew sent up to retrieve the Event Horizon, a sister ship that supposedly passed through hell and left no survivors. Upon reaching the abandoned ship, the crew finds the logbook of the missing cadets. What they see are scenes of unimaginable torture, quickly realizing what they’re in for. People being ripped apart on hooks, intestines pulled from their bodies, and too much more. Secondly, one of the unlucky crew members finds himself on the wrong side of an airlock. As the team struggles to free him, he slowly implodes as the crew watches in shock. An underrated horror movie for those who dig Spaceships. And who doesn’t?
#15 – SEVEN – (SLOTH)
The idea that a man would keep another man strapped to a bed for years on end, feeding him nothing and letting him rot away, is pretty grim. To find out that this man is still alive, well that’s just awful. Seven is a solid movie with solid performances, and to me, Sloth was the worst sin to die from.
#14 – A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – (THE TREATMENT)
The older I get, the less I like Stanley Kubrick. I love Malcolm McDowell, though. A Clockwork Orange is an overrated movie that contains a career-defining performance by Mr. McDowell, who plays Alex, a gang leader in a 70’s looking future. For me, the most groundbreaking scene was after he was captured. They try a new technique on Alex, where he might learn to hate the ole’ ultraviolence, and be reformed. They strap him down, and make him watch hour after hour of raw, violent propaganda. It works, and he becomes a new man. For the time being, that is.
#13 – REAR WINDOW – (LISA BREAKS IN)
Rear Window is one of my all-time favorite movies. For one, it’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Secondly, it’s so groundbreaking it has never been duplicated. Jimmy plays a photographer who’s stuck in his apartment with a broken leg. Soon, he begins spying on his neighbors, and suspects one of murder. Grace plays Jimmy’s girlfriend, who begs to get involved with the “case”, much to his repeated efforts to stop her. In a gut-wrenching scene, we watch Grace break into the apartment of the accused, only to have him come home early and confront her. We’re stuck across the street with Jimmy in his wheelchair, binoculars in hand, as he can only watch in terror at what unfolds. A true classic.
#12 – SIGNS – (ALIEN ON THE NEWS)
Any movie M. Night Shyamalan makes after the Sixth Sense will be a disappointment, but he almost pulled it off with Signs. This movie contains moments of almost unbearable suspense, leading up to a really insulting climax. Before it turds out all over us, it gives us the jump-out of your-seat scene to beat the band. We see news footage of a birthday party in Brazil that’s interrupted by an alien. The gritty feel of the broadcast, coupled with Joaquin Phoenix’s reaction, will freak you out every single time you watch it. Don’t forget your tin foil hat.
#11 – THE OMEN – (NANNY HANG)
“I did it all for you, Damien. I did it all for you.” The nanny of the Spawn of Satan says these words just before she jumps out of a window with a rope around her neck. Disturbing, unexpected and scary as hell.
#10 – POLTERGEIST – (CLOWN/FACE PEEL)
A researcher in a haunted house runs into a bathroom and rips his face off.
A clown drags a child under a bed, in one of the best “Gotcha!” scenes EVER. You really should see poltergeist if you haven’t already. It’s a classic, and it was before Spielberg decided he could make a lot more money with Dinosaurs and Jews.
#9 – THE BIRDS – (EYES ON THE PRIZE)
The Birds could very well be Hitchcock’s most frightening film. In an age where special effects didn’t exist, this genius managed to use a cast of thousands of birds, and pulled it off perfectly. This movie sticks with me because I first saw it as a young child. When the character stumbles onto the corpse of the farmer, eyes completely pecked out, I couldn’t sleep for 2 days. Still scary, this movie has lost none of its charm.
#8 – THE SHINING – (TWINS/JACK)
Jack Nicholson gives his greatest performance in this Kubrick raping of a Stephen King novel. This movie contains enough imagery and beautiful violence to go around, but when Jack finally snaps, it becomes film history. The axe, the chase through the hedge maze, his frozen body staring right through you. In a movie full of holes, the climax never fails to deliver.
There’s another stand-out scene in the Shining, where young Danny sees twins in the middle of the hotel hallway. Using his “gift”, he realizes what had happened to them, just before the elevator doors open, releasing about two thousand gallons of blood.
#7 – THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – (LECTER ESCAPES)
Everyone looks to the final scene with Jodie Foster + Buffalo Bill as the scariest point in the movie. While I agree to some extent, I believe the scene where Lecter escapes from his cell is truly nerve-wracking. Once we realize that he has the key to his handcuffs, we know that the 2 cops there to serve him dinner are about to become dinner. In about 2 minutes of breathless ferocity, Lecter manages to kill them both in a beautifully graphic fashion. When the other cops show up, they find Lecter gone, and one of the cops strung up in his cell, totally disemboweled. We later find out that he removed the face of the other cop to wear as a mask in order to escape. When he’s in the back of the ambulance, and removes the flesh mask of the fallen cop, we realize that this guy’s going to get away. Very much deserving of the best picture Oscar in 1991, this is one of the greatest psychological films ever made.
#6 – MISERY – (LEG BREAK)
Need I say more? Misery is timeless in the suspense, insanity and hopelessness surrounding the 2 lead characters. Go rent Misery and watch it again, everything about it is still great. Kathy Bates gives one of the best performances of all time.
#5 – THE EXORCIST – (HEAD SPIN/SUBLIMINAL)
When the Exorcist came out in 1973, people fainted. People vomited. People up and died right there in the theater. To this day, many refer to the Exorcist as the single scariest movie ever made. I would have to agree with them. This story of demonic possession in a young girl is full to the brim with things we’ve never seen before or since. This scene is no exception. Regan’s head spinning around is still cringe-inducing, even for those who’ve seen it a hundred times.
But wait, there’s more! William Friedkin used subliminal messages to heighten the fear to a subconscious level. Does anyone remember seeing this in the film?
Nope? You saw it though, you just don’t know you did. I dare you to stare at that for more than 3 seconds without getting completely weirded out. The Exorcist raised the bar of the horror genre to an unreachable level.
#4 – PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE – (LARGE MARGE)
“On this very night, ten years ago, along this very stretch of road in a dense fog just like this. I saw the worst accident I ever seen. There was this sound, like a garbage truck dropped off the Empire State Building… And when they pulled the driver’s body from the twisted, burning wreck. It looked like this…”
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. When I first saw this scene as a tyke, my head almost exploded with fear. Watch it on DVD frame-by-frame for some amazing claymation.
#3 – UN CHIEN ANDALOU – (EYE SLICE)
In what is considered to be the first surrealist movie of all time (1929!), Salvador Dali teams up with Luis Bunuel to create about 20 minutes of random images. In one infamous scene, a woman’s eye is sliced straight across with a razor blade, popping and oozing just like you’d think an eye would. To this day, it’s notorious as the most shocking moment ever put on film. The achieved this feat by quickly cutting to the eye of a dead cow right before the penetration of the razor, but the effect is never forgotten by anyone who sees it.
#2 – THE RING – (CLOSET CORPSE)
I tried to make this picture small, so you wouldn’t have to look at it if you didn’t want to. The Ring is a modern horror classic. It made a ton of money, it outdid the original Japanese feature of the same name, and it LIVED UP TO THE HYPE. The Ring instantly rates as one of the scariest movies of all time. The lush images, matched with the horrifying footage of the cursed videotape tell an amazing tale of a modern Urban Legend. Early on in the movie, 2 characters discuss the death of a friend who had viewed said tape. They mention the look on her face when they found her, as if the life had been scared right out of them. Then, without warning, they cut to the most frightening corpse I’ve ever seen in my life. It indeed looked as if the life had been scared out of her. The Ring is a great remake that deserves all the respect it has received.
#1 – TRILOGY OF TERROR – (ZUNI FETISH DOLL)
And so it has come to this, my choice for scariest movie moment. Trilogy of Terror consists of 3 stories told in “Tales From the Crypt” fashion. The first 2 suck out loud, but the third piece is nothing short of horror movie gold. Karen Black gets this doll as a gift, laughing off the warnings that it will come to life if the necklace is removed from its’ neck. What follows is the 10 scariest minutes in movie history, as this doll destroys her apartment, bent on killing her. Sounds stupid? SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s the coolest and scariest scene I could ever recommend.
So, with that in mind, have a great Halloween. Get outside, take a walk in the leaves, hand out some candy and scare the crap out of a few kids. If you have any scary movie moments to share, please, PLEASE post a comment or 2. I want to have a discussion about it leading up to Halloween.
Remember, nothing beats the look on a kid’s face when he takes a big bite out of a caramel-covered onion.