Most horror movies come and go, but sometimes a scene in a horror movie is so scary that audiences are still talking about it decades later. psychology came out in the 1960sbut we always talk about Janet Leigh and the infamous stage of the show in 2022.
The same can be said for the late night swimmer in the first moments of Jaws or the tearful and close apologies of The Blair Witch Project. Some moments are so scary they stick with people. It’s possible that a few of the scenes on this list will be the type of scene people will be talking about decades from now.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
ten job interview scene, alley of nightmares
Stanton Carlisle is an unlucky man who finds a job at a carnival. There, becomes a swindler, cheating the rich out of their money. We meet a character called Geek at the start of the film. He eats live chickens as a performance for terrified paying customers. He is locked in a cell. Later, while having dinner with the man who hired Stanton, Clem Hoately (William Dafoe), we learn how the Geek ended up in such a sad state. Clem found him on the street and asked him if he wanted a temp job as a Geek, however, he didn’t know that Clem was drugging him all the time.
At the end of the film, Stanton is a broke alcoholic and returns to the carnival to try to find another job. The only problem is that Clem no longer works at the carnival. He’s a different man, and he’s offering Stanton a temp job as a Geek. Stanton takes the job, knowing what it will do to him. This scene is not scary in the typical sense of the term. It’s not a jump scare, and it’s not bloody. The pain of how human beings can be cruel to each other for personal gain can be felt in this scene, making it painful to watch as it unfolds.
9 Jesus speaks to Maud, Sainte Maud
Sainte Maud follows a reclusive nun nurse named Maud caring for a hospice patient. Maud feels like her mission is to save her patient’s soul, and the two pray together. At one point, when Maud hears what she believes to be the voice of Jesus, it’s demonic. After spending much of the film watching Maud lose touch with reality, this indicates things have suddenly gotten worse.
Many people pray every day, and for some the line between the spiritual and the physical can blur, but this scene clearly shows that Maud is experiencing something very different from ordinary prayer. Another reason it’s so scary is that it’s disturbing to see Maud’s grip on reality continue to loosen.
8 The bathroom scene, Aliens feed at night
In this classic home invasion setup, Mike and his family are on a road trip when they arrive at a remote trailer park. Three masked killers show up to torment them. They show up with knives, wearing scary masks, and mother and daughter rush into the bathroom to escape them.
They crash through the bathroom door and walls as the mother and daughter try to escape through the roof. What makes the scene so effective is that the two are trapped in an enclosed area and open to attack from any side. The home invasion subgenre still appears in movies today because it is so effective.
7 The bunker scene, A silent place
A silent place is about a family that must live in silence to avoid being killed by creatures that hunt by sound. What makes the film so unsettling is that it is so quiet that it draws the audience into the film. By using silence like many movies use sound, it creates an unnerving atmosphere.
The bunker is the family’s last escape location, but they discover it’s flooded. The creature is hidden in the water and can attack from all directions. To top it off, there’s an innocent baby in danger. It all combines to create a mini-masterclass on how to create tension in a horror scene.
6 The family together, Pet sematary
Dr. Louis Creed and his family move to a rural community. Creed discovers a hidden graveyard deep in the woods on his property. Family cat Church is killed but is resurrected in the Pet Sematary, but acts very differently. Yet, even knowing something is wrong, when Doctor Lewis’ daughter is killed by a truck, he takes her to Pet Sematary. She returns, but she is no longer the same.
Louis, his wife Rachel, and daughter Ellie are all dead at the end of Pet Sematary. The only thing to do now is get their youngest child, Gage, together, and then they can be a happy, dead family. What makes this scene scary is what is implied. Nothing is seen, so it’s left to the viewer’s imagination.
5 Chainsaw Massacrevan accidents
A small group of friends travel to a remote Texas town to start a business. they bother Leatherface, a serial killer who uses a chainsaw to kill his victims. A van transports Leatherface’s mother to a facility, but she crashes. Everyone in the van is dead except Leatherface and a woman in the front passenger seat.
What makes this scene scary is that Leatherface is definitely there – but or? The woman is trapped in the truck with very few places to escape. The audience knows it’s over, but that’s part of what makes the scene so excruciating to watch as it unfolds.
4 The doppelganger in the driveway, We
Adeline Wilson moves into the beachfront bridge house she grew up in as a child with her family. While we know from the flashback that kicks off the movie it won’t be a pleasant stay, it’s still a shock when the Wilsons see their exact mirror images standing still in the driveway.
Although they attempt to mitigate the threat posed by these duplicates, it’s clear from the start that the family is utterly unequipped to deal with what’s going on. What makes this scene so scary is the idea that somewhere everyone has an evil twin that represents the darkness within and people may one day come across their doppelgänger.
3 telephone pole, Hereditary
When a family’s matriarch dies, terrifying secrets about what she inherited are revealed. Peter takes his sister Charlie to a party where she inadvertently eats nuts despite having a severe allergy. She goes into shock and a terrified Peter rushes her to the hospital. She sticks her head out the window and is decapitated when he swerves to avoid an animal in the road.
The movie seemed to make Charlie the main character of that movie, so this scene was shocking on many levels. The graphic, irreversible and tragically accidental violence of Charlie’s death is only capitalized on by a devastated Peter returning home, unable to tell his parents what happened, leaving them to find Charlie’s body.
2 Restaurant, The invisible Man
The invisible Man follows Cecilia, a woman on the run from her abusive ex. He fakes his own death and uses an invisibility suit to track her down and gaslight her. He methodically cuts her off from people who think she is a danger to herself. In a last-ditch effort to make amends with her sister Emily, Cecilia arranges to meet her at a restaurant. Adrian attacks and kills Emily, and since he is invisible, everyone thinks Cecilia did it.
What makes this scene work is the subtext of being in a toxic relationship. The person does not need to be there to control the situation, which makes it omnipresent and inescapable.
1 The burning temple, Midsommar
Midsommar introduces us to Dani, a young woman grieving the catastrophic loss of her immediate family while enduring a toxic relationship. She unwittingly blocks her boyfriend’s trip to Sweden where he and his friends plan to attend the Midsummer festival.
The party ends up being the ritual of a cult. Eventually the temple burns down with human sacrifices inside. Dani was transformed and brainwashed by the cult. What makes this scene so disturbing is the way it is stacked. There’s one disturbing image right after another, and we’re powerless to watch Dani as she buys propaganda from a genuine cult.
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