Tuesday, October 09, 2007

5 Off The Top Of My Head - Scary Scenes

When I was making my list for Shoot The Projectionist's 31 Flicks That Give You The Willies, there were a few movies that came to mind because of a single terrifying scene within the film that was scary enough, all on its own, to place them there. Unfortunately for a few I decided that the films around these scenes didn't quite sustain that uber-willie-ness enough to get them onto my final list. So here, to make it up to them, are five select scenes (beware of spoilers below!) whose films missed the ultimate cut but still deserve some recognition for their specific willie-ness:

Fanny & Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)

The scene where Alexander wanders into the puppeteer's workshop in the middle of the night and is confronted by a disembodied voice claiming to be an angry God pounding on the other side of the door. The threat of God proving he really exists to a doubtful person. And then a creepy puppet bursts through. And then I shit my pants. Out of nowhere Bergman captured something so simple, primal and scary, this scene gets me every time. Perhaps it's just the fact that I'm an atheist but was raised within a very strict Christian family that makes this scene so utterly terrifying to me - the fact that, in the back of my head, there is always that nagging fear that they are right.

Enduring Love (Roger Michell, 2004)

This film is actually book-ended by two of the most frightening scenes of the '00's - the hot-air balloon crash that opens the film is another out-of-nowhere harrowing moment, as an idyllic countryside picnic is shattered by horror literally falling from the sky, and the second-to-last scene, my choice here, which consists of the final confrontation between hapless Daniel Craig and his stalker Rhys Ifans, with poor, poor Samantha Morton getting in the middle. The suddenness of it, the helplessness of it... her wails... it's giving me goosebumps just thinking about it.

The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola 1974)

"Never go to the toilet again!" should've been the movie's tagline. The scariest use of the bathroom outside of Psycho. Coppola gets the same sense of audience participation in this scene as Hitchcock did in the scenes of Norman Bates cleaning up after Marion's death - we, the audience, feel ourselves prodding Harry along to figure out the mystery, and as he searches the hotel room for clues we find ourselves thinking "Look there! No, look over there!" Only, like Harry, we are not at all prepared for what we end up seeing. So much of this moment's horror comes from Gene Hackman's fantastic performance - he nails how wrong a thing it is we are witnessing with just the trembling of his mouth. The inclusion of some sort of white fabric in the bowl of rising blood just makes it altogether even ickier and more disturbing - again, hitting at our fundamental human revulsions - to watch.

The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)

The entirety of the film swirls around this one moment, but it's not until just before an hour into the film that we actually see what happened to ruin an entire town's worth of people's lives. Egoyan's decision to keep the camera far away, back up on the hill with the bus practically a speck within an enormous vista, and to keep the sound effects duly muffled - the ice cracking, the screams - only makes this moment all the more chilling. It's a shot that still haunts me ten years later.

Paperhouse (Bernard Rose, 1988)

I think, only now that I've seen the film several times, can I begrudgingly admit that Paperhouse is not really a horror film. It's a great film, one of my all-time favorites, but its ultimate goal is not to horrify, as the forty-five minutes that precede and the forty-five minutes that follow the scariest stretch of the film will attest. But that center chunk of the story? Where Anna, stuck in her dream-world, is being hunted by some mutated nightmare version of her own father, his eyes scratched out, wielding a hammer? Those are the scenes that stuck with me as a kid, and it still stands in my opinion as one of the most terrifying sequences ever put on film.

So tell me in the comments: what individual scenes in otherwise mainly non-horrific films do you remember chilling you to the bone? I could - and very well may before the month is over - pick an entire other five scenes that are entirely worthy.


Marius said...

Yeah, that scene from Fanny & Alexander was quite memorable. If my memory serves me right, shortly after that scene, Alexander meets the store owner's androgynous nephew. I had a few issues with the film, but it was brilliant in a lot of ways. All the elements worked together so well.

RJ said...

Don't Look Now, the red cloaked figure turns around.
Deep Red, Dario Argento's masterwork, the face in the mirror is revealed

RJ said...

I know it's out of context, but I watched the first bit of Enduring Love on YouTube and that kid had so much time to jump out of the damn balloon.

Glenn Dunks said...

The red lipstick scene in Wild at Heart and the discovery of the corpse in Mulholland Drive. Lynch is good like that. I could list scenes from Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, INLAND EMPIRE and Lost Highway but they already are horror films so they don't count.

Eddie Hardy said...

I was going to say Mulholland Dr. as well, for that ridiculous scene behind the restaurant after the speech about what we're going to see behind the restaurant. But then I started realizing that almost every good moment in that movie is kinda scary and came around to a similar opinion as Kamikaze Camel--Lynch doesn't really count in this conversation.

Glenn Dunks said...

Okay, I just watched Paperhouse. That scene was terrifying. That first moment where you see her father's shadow in the distance was just... aagh