What one marks ?scary? is so highly subjective, and varying, firm opinions are the cause of endless debate over any sort of horror list. A particularly arguable type of film list is the commonly seen ?Scariest movie scenes of all time.? Scattered throughout the net is a plethora of said lists. If you were to compare all these pieces, you would of course find a lot of overlap. There?s perhaps more agreement than there is divergence. I hate to be the pompous ass taking issue with the majority of them, but it?s my disagreement with seemingly definitive selections that compelled me to compile a horror list in mid-May.
Horror film moments instill different sorts of fear in us: The jump scares shock us in horror. The gruesome killings disturb us, often to the point of complete discomfort. Purely eerie characters give us goose bumps. Whether it?s a creepy, gradually building atmosphere or a quick and terrifying surprise, the elements serve their purpose of scaring us. A perturbing bizarre scene requires more thought than a jump scare, which is why you?ll see more weird stuff that shock horror on the list. After all, this is based upon opinion from a pathetic goof who has heavily researched and viewed thousands of horror films in his day. Reasoning aside, here?s my compilation of what I personally believe to be the scariest scenes in all of horror.
10. The Shining ? Bathtub Lady
The Shining has quite a few moments that could be included in a ?scariest scenes? list, namely the twins in the hallway, but the bathtub woman best catches my disturbed fancy. The very idea is a nightmare for anyone: Making love to someone you believe to be a beautiful individual, but they turn out to be a grotesque, cackling monstrosity. Promiscuous alcoholics can probably relate, although no one-night stand could compare to the sheer terror of making out with a decaying demon lady. This broad is enough to leave a man impotent.
What?s creepier than the shuffling woman herself is the near pointlessness of the entire scene. Jack?s vivid fantasy quickly turns nightmarish, and it really plays no role in the plot nor story progression. It?s nothing more than repulsive nonsense meant to scare, and it undoubtedly meets its intended purpose.
9. Exorcist III ? The Hospital Scene
We all know and love or hate The Exorcist, and many would still rank it the scariest film ever made. It?s certainly up there. The staple in frightening film spawned a few sequels, most notably The Exorcist III: Legion. As a whole, it?s not an outstanding film, but it packs some eerie punches. For the listed scene alone it?s worth a watch.
A jump scare, when done properly, is one of the most redeeming features of the genre. This scene perfectly exemplifies what a jump scare should be. It opens in a hospital ward, and the score indicates something bad is about to go down. We?re well aware some shock is coming our way, but we?re not sure when or in what form. The scare exceeds every expectation. For this one, it?s best to provide little detail. You?ll just have to see for yourself.
8. Don?t Look Now ? Daughter Reveal
Renowned classic Don?t Look Now is haunting from start to finish, but the climactic scene in which John stumbles up his dead daughter is fever dream material. The film centers on a couple experiencing an onslaught of uncanny occurrences after the death of their young daughter. The collective of happenings is nonstop weirdness, but a horrifying sort of bizarre. It finds coherence in its incoherence, if that makes any sense. Don?t Look Now can be summed up as ?70s as Hell,? filled with daunting imagery, incessant unsettling atmosphere, and a whole lot of confusion. Mark it quintessential 70s horror.
The climax is essentially a sequence of upsetting flashbacks paired with a reveal that would make anybody?s skin crawl. That?s a trite descriptor, but it holds true. You won?t be able to shake the sight of John?s homely daughter. Not much of a looker, this gal.
7. The Exorcist ? Crucifix Pleasure
How could there not be an inclusion from the mother of all horror films? When discussing The Exorcist?s scariest scene, most mention the spider walk. It could definitely qualify, but Reagan?s diddle session is a tad more disturbing.
Nobody forgets seeing Reagan, a possessed and vulgar young gal, violently pleasuring herself with a crucifix. If you don?t find it outright frightening, it?s at the very least bothersome. As we age it grows to be somewhat comical, yet the mere concept is troubling. To make the display even more abhorrent, Reagan utters sickening ass words I don?t even feel comfortable repeating.
With time the film is becoming cornier, but it still pulls unmatched punches. As cheesy as the makeup and effects may be, something about The Exorcist remains effective and authentic.
6. Alien ? Chest Burst
Alien is a staple, and perhaps THE staple in sci-fi horror. Body horror isn?t for everyone, though I think we can all admit Ridley Scott did it seamlessly in Alien.
The film?s most remarkable scare is of course the chest burst scene. An alien erupting from a man?s stomach constitutes shock horror, but also an unnerving factor. It?s a jump scare and under-your-skin bit in one. Is it vile? Absolutely. Is it gory? Without a doubt. However, the grossness isn?t paramount. Scott?s alien explosion relies on shock and otherworldly creepiness. It also happens to be revolting.
5. Carrie ? Grave Ending
Fans of the genre know Carrie well, and it?s about time every average viewer gives it a watch. Within it lays several great horror tropes, from the supernatural to a petrifying psycho. To this day, Carrie?s mother from the original is one of the ripest for horror characters on film. She?s a true bible thumping, trifling ass bitch. Carrie herself is exceptionally creepy, which rightfully earned her the nickname ?Creepy Carrie.? The film?s freaky and endlessly enjoyable in its entirety.
Before you continue reading, this is your first and only warning: There will be spoilers for those who haven?t seen the film. If you?re new to Carrie and interested in watching, skip the remainder of this write-up and rent or bootleg that joint.
Now that amateurs have stopped reading, let?s touch on the movie?s standout action. There isn?t a scary film in existence that ends better than Carrie. The final moment holds the title of ?Most Unexpected Jump Scare in Horror History.? All is calm, and viewers are readying themselves for a smooth wrap-up. Then any potentially serene conclusion is destroyed by absolute horror. It doesn?t get better. Bear in mind my perception is skewed in Carrie?s favor because I saw it as a young teen and refused to walk home by myself after that ending.
4. Carnival of Souls ? The Climax
Don?t write Carnival of Souls off because of its 1962 debut ? It?s easily among the top 5 scariest films of all time. Only Rosemary?s Baby can hold a candle to the unwaveringly spooky atmospheric buildup in this one. Although Carnival of Souls is slow, it never ceases chilling your spine. It?s not so much overt scares that reign supreme. It?s the feelings evoked by mood and guesses in the dark that make it, scene for scene, one of the creepiest movies out there.
Sit down in a dark room and watch Carnival of Souls, in full, because it?s filled to the brim with scares. The climax, however, is what really sets it off. I don?t want to spoil anything, and I might, so I?ll just leave it at this: Once our heroine finally arrives at the carnival, we?re exposed to several minutes of petrifying horror. Forced upon us is a sequence of Hellish imagery, frightful faces, and annoyingly eerie music. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole movie.
3. In The Mouth Of Madness ? Bike Character
In The Mouth of Madness is a criminally underrated masterpiece from horror God John Carpenter. I?ll go so far as to say it?s the most overlooked treasure in the entire genre. It?s later work from Carpenter, which unfortunately gets a bad wrap, but from a purely horror standpoint In The Mouth of Madness is gold.
It plays out as if Carpenter simply didn?t care. He whips out his every conception of scary and throws it together in one hell of a horror flick. Whatever scares an audience is in there: Creepy children, the undead, body horror, and a whole lot of sickening sights.
The most sickening of sights happens as Trent, the hero, and Linda, his sidekick, are driving along a dark, empty road in the middle of the night. Trent?s asleep in the passenger seat, leaving Linda alone navigating a pitch-black stretch of road. From out of nowhere comes a person, if you could call them that, on a bicycle. That?s the extent of what you need to know. Check it out and try not to pee
2. Burnt Offerings ? Dream Sequence
You heard it here: Burnt Offerings is one of the most slept on horror films of all time. It?s a criminally overlooked 70s gem, but a real slow burner. Don?t expect immediate or consistent fright. Burnt Offerings is haunted house chiller driven predominately by disconcerting ambience and moseying suspense. It won?t grip you, which is why we can?t exactly label it a classic, but if you?re patient it?s very much worth the wait. Think old made-for-tv horror, but a big step up in terms of the few and far between scary scenes.
One specific scene needs entrance into the discussion. Ben, the man of the house and main character, is undergoing a horrific nightmare, loaded with flash backs to a funeral he attended as a young boy. The violin-heavy score and lack of dialogue make this sequence the legendary fright it is (arguably the best dream sequence ever on film.) He sees a lineup of lifeless, silent elderly folks staring without expression. They?re intensely creepy, but child?s play in comparison to the chauffeur. This man just may be the most unsettling horror character to bless a screen.
He?ll give even the most courageous individual the creeps, and he doesn?t need a single line to do it. As if one scene of that nut wasn?t enough, he pops up later for an equally hair-raising scare. I promise you, this guy will literally raise hairs. When I first watched Burnt Offerings I could hardly make it a week without seeing the asshole chauffeur in my dreams. He?ll likely invade yours as well. At 25 years of age this scene makes me as uneasy as it did when I was a young buck.
1. Pet Sematary ? Zelda
Regardless of what critics say, Pet Sematary is an incredible horror movie, and the third best Stephen King film adaptation behind The Shining and Carrie. They?re better movies from a general film critic?s point of view, but they?re not nearly as terrifying as Pet Sematary. This cult classic doesn?t get nearly enough credit for how haunting it is.
A few scenes shine and stick with you long after watching. Rachel?s return at the end deserves notice. The supposedly dead student speaking to Louis is nightmare fuel. Of course the notorious heel slashing from Gage is frequently talked about. Pet Sematary has an impressive amount of frightening moments, but none can match Zelda?s appearances. She is, in my humble yet well-versed opinion, the scariest thing ever on film.
Her echoing cries from the attic alone are enough to send shivers down your spine, but the sight of her is truly horrific. She shows up in a couple scenes; each one being beyond horrifying, but it?s her appearance curled up in the corner of the attic that propels her to the top of the scariest scenes ever list.
If you had the petrifying pleasure of seeing Zelda during your childhood, you?re well aware of just how awful she is ? All menacing and contorted, and shit. You?re also probably aware how prominent she becomes in your mind. One never fully erases the image of Zelda. Please, folks, have yourselves a look at this lady if you haven?t already.
Very Honorable Mentions:
Jaws ? The Head
Suspiria ? The Hanging
Poltergeist ? Toy Clown
Nightmare on Elm Street ? Glenn?s Death
Salem?s Lot ? The Window