My Top 5 Scary Movie Moments

I was contemplating those burned-in movie moments. The ones from horror flicks I saw as a child or young adult, the ones which I just can’t shake. I couldn’t find video of all of them, but here are a few clips from the movies they came from.

Creepiness is situational. I don’t assert that these are the top five scary movie moments of all time. But they’re my top five, the ones that spring to mind when I think “Which scary movies have frightened me out of my wits?”

5. The Birds

I caught just a bit of The Birds by accident as a child, and have avoided it ever since. I can’t have been more than seven or eight. It was at a gathering of families, and I walked into a room where they were watching it. Whenever magpies are swooping, I get echoes of this. I think it was this scene that got me – this, or one very much like it.

http://www.clipser.com/Play?vid=900574

4. The Innocents

I watched The Innocents as a preteen, in one of those overnight TV movie marathons. I’ve never watched the movie again, because I was completely wigged-out-to-burbling by it. I’m trying to remember the details of the scene that really got me, but I have just an echo of it, blurry visuals accompanied by a vivid visceral memory of the sensations I was feeling at the time. Here is one compilation of clips.

3. Psycho

Not the shower scene, though! For me, it’s the scene where Lila descends the stairs into the cellar, to find the mummified mother in the rocking chair. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

2. The Omen.

Possessed children get me every time. There is so much to be terrified by in the Omen series; the archaeology scenes got to me especially. But even more so, the hanged nanny at the birthday party, which opens this trailer. “Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!”

1. When A Stranger Calls

I saw this movie in the cinema when it first came out, so I must have been about 13. This is the only time I can recall literally screaming and screaming in a movie theatre.

We’ve traced the call…it’s coming from inside the house!” I know, I know, it’s a ludicrous cliche now. At the time, I was freaked all the way to the bottom of my blue ‘n’ white Adidas Romes.

Which scary movie sticks with you? Which moments haunt your nightmares?



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36 replies

  1. I hate being scared, so consequently I haven’t seen many scary movies. The two moments I can really remember scaring me as a kid were not from horror movies.
    I remember being absolutely terrified by the torture scene in The Princess Bride– it freaked me out even when the Torture Machine was on Level 2– Level 10 was horrifying. And I remember being terrified by The Posiedon Adventure (the original one, obviously), particularly the bit where they go into the kitchen and find all the singed corpses of the cooks.

  2. Oh what a delicious combination of memories here Lauredhel. I’ll have a think today of what my own top 5 would be, though there is going to be some overlap.

  3. – Chigurh flips the coin for the storekeeper, No Country for Old Men
    – Jack discovering the woman in the shower, The Shining
    – Winkie’s Diner, Mulholland Dr.
    – Picard’s dream sequence open, Star Trek: First Contact
    – the discovery of Lecter’s Memphis cell, Silence of the Lambs

  4. I’m not much on horror movies, but I have stayed in the place where The Birds was filmed: Bodega Bay in California, North of SF. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place where friends of mine used to live.
    M-Hs last blog post..Depressing, isn’t it?

  5. I haven’t really been scared of movies since I was a kid; mostly because I avoid scary movies as not really my genre. I did watch The Exorcist with a friend of mine, though. I was into it, but it was hilarious to watch my friend: we were lying back on on her bed, and when the movie started the blanket was kicked down to her feet, but as the movie went on she kept pulling it further and further up until, by the time we got to the exorcism, all I could see were her eyes.
    I’ll jump really far at “gotcha” moments, though. The ones sort of like your number three, only faster. Like if suddenly a hand claps over someone’s mouth. Ooh, I jump.

  6. My Silence of the Lambs moment is the one where Starling arrives at what she doesn’t yet know is Jame Gumb’s house, and then while she’s talking to him the death’s-head moth flutters up and she realises it’s him and then he realises that she’s realised it’s him. Not an EEEEEE moment, more a stomach-drops-out-through-your-feet moment.
    Oh and the moment in Cape Fear (de Niro not Mitchum) when the killer puts his thumb in Juliette Lewis’s mouth.

  7. Not quite a moment but: David Wenham in The Boys scares the hell out of me.

  8. When the veliociraptors figure out how to open doors in Jurrasic Park. And the tap, tap, tap, of that deadly claw on the stainless steel industrial kitchen. Ohhhhh I was TERRIFIED!!! I was in grade six at the time, and dug my nails into my poor best friend’s arm in terror… mind you, she was doing the same to me…
    Oh I had horrid dreams of stalking raptors for nights afterwards!

  9. One of the earliest scary moments I can remember was not from a scary movie. I would have been about 4 or 5 and we went to see Huckleberry Finn. Huck was trying to rescue Jim. I remember the rope around Jim’s neck and the red, raw welts it had made. For some reason at the time that scared me quite a lot and I’ve never forgotten the scene, or the fact that I crept underneath the old canvas seats to hide.
    After that it would have to be when Fred Gwynne gets hamstrung by the baby in Pet Cemetery.
    Grendels last blog post..Happy Anniversary Mrs Grendel – an Equation

  10. It’s also that penultimate scene from ‘Psycho’ for me as well.
    And all of ‘The Innocents’.
    A great early ‘6o’s ghost movie called ‘The Haunting’ – many moments from that.
    My real nightmare film (which I love) is ‘Don’t Look Now’. 1973, Nicolas Roeg directs with Donald Sutherland anf Julie Christie. It involves a small, murderous figure dressed in red. What was very scary was that I used to have a recurring nightmare as a child, involving the exact same figure. Before I even saw the film. It made me literally jump out of my seat. It also has the most erotic sex scene ever, which makes a for an intriguing combination.

  11. It was only after having seen Psycho about fourteen times that I finally noticed, in that sequence, that as Norman comes through the door, interspersed with the violin screeches, Anthony Perkins says ‘I am Norma Bates’. It’s in voiceover, not issuing diegetically from the character’s mouth, and that little supernatural touch made my blood run cold for a moment.

  12. This is kind of embarassing. I wasn’t even a child. I had a lot of trouble watching Donnie Darko the whole way through. The rabbit was just so freakin weird, the sense of impending doom, but I think it was the “why are you wearing that man suit?” bit in the cinema that made my skin crawl. Everyone I’ve told has said I’ve obviously missed the point of the film. But it still freaks me out.

  13. Oh, as for a childhood memory it has to be Stephen King’s IT. No-one can convince me that clowns aren’t inherently scary.

  14. I’m a wuss. I can’t watch stuff like Chucky (scary dolls terrify me!) or The Exorcist (waaaa! supernatural religious-y stuff scares me a lot a lot). I can’t watch the new version of Cape Fear (I can’t handle rape scenes, and overt sadistic cruelty for the fun of it make me ill) – the old version was AWESOME, that whole scene on the riverboat? OMG!!
    And The Shining. YOIKS!!! I watched that early one morning when I couldn’t sleep, and the scene Bene refers to? With the door creaking open? My son opened the door to the loungeroom right at that point in the movie and I screamed so loudly the poor kid did well not to wet his pants!

  15. I’ll second that bit with Jack and the woman in the shower in EITHER version of the Shining. It traumatised me as a kid. I’m shuddering just thinking about it.
    In the Mouth of Madness was one of the scariest frickin’ movies I’d ever seen.
    I also jump really badly at the Sudden!Loud!Noise! thing in horror movies… as a synasthete, the music can really get to me. I always feel kinda cheated if it’s not an actually scary moment, though.

  16. Oh the moment in Pet Semetary where he decides to bury the dead kid there – because you KNOW what’s going to happen but can’t DO anything to stop him…

  17. Anything with Our Nicole in it scares me so much I won’t go to it. That Carey guy too.
    Francis Xavier Holdens last blog post..red meat curry

  18. Oh yeah, Pet Semetary and any movies like the Omen involving freaky little kids makes me too scared to watch too!

  19. hexy: I’m not a big fan of the Mick Garris Shining, even if it is closer to the book. Which is not to say anything against Garris–The Stand is one of the better miniseries ever on US telly…
    But yeah. I think that’s honestly the scariest bit in that film. Beats the dead girls or the blood from the elevator or ‘Here’s Johnny’, in my mind. Though possibly not the bit with the scary dude with the drink while Wendy is running from Jack late in the film.

  20. When the wife character in The Shining finds the book Jack Nicholson’s character has been writing in and it’s a ream of pages saying nothing but “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

  21. When the protagonist discovers her friend’s been “made over” in the original Stepford Wives (the remake was a farce and dreadful).
    Not to mention that final, supermarket scene. It’s SO AWFUL and chilling. Not happy the remake shoved it in prior to the denouement.

  22. When the top of the car shuts suddenly in Nightmare on Elm St and you realise that Freddy has her again.
    The Nanny bit in the Omen (as previously mentioned).
    I don’t remember much of The Birds, but I do remember it was scary.
    The Others where the servants are walking toward them and the kids are screaming and running (first time I saw it)
    Cape Fear where De Niro is holding on under the car.

  23. When the wife character in The Shining finds the book Jack Nicholson’s character has been writing in and it’s a ream of pages saying nothing but “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

    Aiee, Zoe, this one for me too. By far the scariest moment in The Shining.

  24. Pretty much the whole of ALIENS first time I saw it; final scene of the original STEPFORD WIVES (because you can never work out which is worse – Katherine Ross being changed or having to PRETEND she was changed); alien kids making the adults kill themselves in original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, all of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (I have trouble with killer plants since Dr Who did “Seeds of Doom” – a Quatermass/The Thing mashup – during the Tom Baker years), undead knocking at doors in THE FOG (although my favourite John Carpenter movie of all time is actually Prince of Darkness, where the devil is psychic slime and evil awaits on the other side of mirrors).
    Wasn’t The Fog filmed along the same stretch of coast as The Birds?

  25. The end of the Wicker Man, original version.
    All of the remake of the Wicker Man, just for the bad acting and horrific misogynous subtext.

  26. I can’t think of specific scary scenes from them, but Village of the Damned and 28 Days Later both creeped me out beyond belief. In 28DL it wasn’t so much the zombies as it was the military unit; I could easily see that scenario playing out in a squad isolated from command and control.

  27. I first saw Terminator 2 when I was in year 8. I saw it the same day I read a rather graphic non-fiction book on the bombing of Hiroshima. That book + Sarah Connor’s Nuclear Death nightmare gave me nightmares that night and I couldn’t sleep at all. Everytime I tried to sleep I kept seeing charred human bodies.

  28. Purrdence, that bit was my number six, actually.

  29. Purrdence, there was also Threads and The Day After.
    Also: Civil Defence.

  30. THe Indrid Cold encounters from the Mothman Prophecies did their job on me.

  31. Purrdence, there was also Threads and The Day After.
    When did they come out? I’ve never heard of them.

  32. I’d forgotten THREADS, that gave me the screaming meemies too. Both Threads and The Day After were about the immediate results of post-nuclear attacks made in the mid 80s – Threads was the British version and The Day After the american (with Jason Robards and an early Steve Guttenberg – and incidentally the junior centauri guy from Babylon 5).
    Should have remembered 28 Days Later – was three days before I could sleep having watched it at the cinema and needed the lights on for the next week because I kept expecting ‘the infected’ to come crashing through my windows. (It’s now one of my favourite films as I made sure to buy the DVD as soon as it came out and desensitize myself with repeated viewings).

  33. Speaking of Terminator 2 – Channel 10 is screening the Special Edition. While it’s now OK to swear your head off and show breasts etc on Channel 10, apparently seeing the carbonized body of Sarah Connor being blown apart by a nuclear blast is still a no-no.

  34. Oh Purrdence, that’s so wrong! Slasher gore and rape are just fine but that scene isn’t? It’s a pretty important part of the movie’s essence.

  35. I know! They show up to the point that the bodies of the people in the playground getting blown apart, but they stop there. No Sarah’s flesh being blown off her skeleton part, which is what *really* scared me the first time I saw it.

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