“The horror…the horror…”: 13 scary scenes (not in scary movies) SPOILERS…OBVIOUSLY

 

We are right in the thick of October and for any one on the internet claiming to know a thing or two about movies is coming up with some sort of “Best of” in relation to horror films. Scariest movies ever. Scariest movies of the past decade. Scariest scenes. Scariest kids’ movies. It goes on and on. Well, I’m here to add to that cavalcade because I have a one post a month quota to fill and there aren’t too many promising films I want to review scheduled for the month so why not a list?

Now I am in no way claiming to be outside of the box on this one. Given my outlet is the internet, I’m well aware hundreds of better written lists like this one exist.

So what makes mine different, you may ask?

Well…

Um…

This one…

This one is…um…

Mine?

Yeah!

This one’s mine!

Also, as you may or may not have surmised, I’ve pulled from non-horror films.

As an added condition, I’ve also avoided the typical “this scared the pants off me as a kid” scene you often find such as the boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Large Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. That isn’t to say any of these movies aren’t scary. No one here is arguing that. No one.

The point is I wanted more of a challenge. To think OUTSIDE of the box as it were. In other words, I had to think on this one. It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be once I set out. Like many, I go to horror movies to get scared. For whatever reason, I never assume fear is something that’s necessarily going to translate into other genres which is inherently absurd.

There was also an effort on my part to avoid documentaries as well. I could probably dedicate an entire, separate post on frightening documentaries. No real defense to their lack of representation here other than I wanted to keep things simple.

Now as we navigate this cinematic myriad, it may be important for me to preface with the notion that most, if not all, of these scenes are going to relate back to what I personally find frightening.

Words you’re going to see again and again will be “realistic” and “relatable.”

And possibly even….EXISTENTIAL. Ooooooooo scary.

So yeah there will probably be more than one moments while you scroll down where you find yourself asking, “Really, Tyler? Really?”

Then I’ll look down out the ground and get really quite for a bit.

I’m going to do my best not to ramble in the descriptions even that’s kind of like my thing at this point. I highly recommend you watch every one of the scenes because…they’re great. I’ll add a little commentary but kind of just want them to speak for themselves.

It’s also important to note that I am in no way arguing these are the scariest films of all time. They’re are just 13 that I happen to think of off the top of my head. If you have any to add, I’d love to read about them in the comments section.

Quotas. Am I right?

Why 13?

Um…

13 is unlucky, right?

That’s kind of spooky.

….

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SPOOOOKY NUMBERSSSSSSSSS!

1) “Not quite my tempo.” – Whiplash (2014)

It speaks volumes that I’ve had nightmares just like this after seeing this movie.

We’ve all had that one person we want to impress. Whether it be a parent, professor, boss or what have you. There’s always going to be THAT person who’s validation you’re going to be perpetually fighting for.

We all also harbor deep-rooted fears of failure. Failing in front of your person of reverence AND being called out on it by said person? Well, you have yourself one dandy of a nightmare cocktail.

Through in being an introvert, you have why this scene (and whole movie, really) got deep down in my psyche.

I almost thought it was a comedic scene the first time I saw the film because in as is oft the case when faced with any form of conflict, tension or general uncomfortableness, my immediate instinct is to laugh as to hopefully ease tension.

But this is not a funny scene. There really isn’t any aspect of it that is treated as a gag.

It could even be argued that the scariest aspect of all of this how it seemingly works in the long run. Fletcher’s methods of pushing someone to the very precipice of their limits through psychological (and even physical) torture comes back in a big, bad way by Whiplash‘s finale and it is as unsettling as it may be triumphant.

2) Plane crash – The Grey (2012)

We’ve seen a lot of plane crashes in film.

We never LEAVE the plane. Director Joe Carnahan and Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi don’t give us spectacle. Instead we’re right there with Ottway (the camera never trailing too far from his perspective) as the vessel goes down. It’s many of our worst nightmares brought to terrifying reality.

It’s scarier than anything with the wolves because it’s such a universal fear. I’m pretty damn sure anyone who has stepped foot on a plane has had this exact scenario in the back of their head. Many easily conquer that fear. After all, if they didn’t we probably wouldn’t have many airlines.

3) A festering pit of NOPE – King Kong (2005) 

By this scene’s inclusion, I think you may be able to ascertain that I am not OVERLY fond of bugs. It’s clear director Peter Jackson isn’t either.

Sharing his entomophia in interviews before, Jackson GETS what makes bugs scary. For those paying attention during Return of the King, Shelob acts and moves just like an actual spider. Moving lightening fast and then abruptly stopping. Waiting. Waiting. Then moving in an unanticipated direction. (Least we forget, spiders have eyes on every side of their heads.)

Jackson’s ode to creepy crawlies is no where expressed better however than in the revitalized Spider-Pit sequence in his 2005 remake of King Kong.

It’s surface-level horror, (not to mention a complete deviation from the main conflict in an already overstuffed film) but it works. All the bug designs are unsettling, with the meat-weasels and massive weta’s being the true-standouts.

To me, this is all the fears I had about jumping into a leaf pile or the mud made manifest.

4) The red dress – Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream is a movie I never need to revisit.

It’s a very good movie, don’t get me wrong. If you haven’t seen it, I fully recommend you do so at the nearest connivence.

It’s just a real bummer. Like, a HUGE one.

There’s no light at the end of the tunnel for anyone in it.

I know that’s kind of the point. It’s a film about the horrors of drug addiction after all.

Moving along though, this is the most “traditional” scary sequence in the film, and it’s pretty damn effective. That fridge gets me every time. There are a number of creepy drug sequences (some of the most famous come from this very film) but this is the one that I’d argue is the scariest.

Sara’s descent is probably the one that hits closest to home for many viewers as it’s hard not to project our own mothers on to her. Where she ultimately ends up is another key reason I avoid the film. Without getting too personal, it hits too close to home in things I worry about almost on a day-to-day basis. My mom is NOT a drug attack, but she deals with things and every time I see this film (or just this scene or this one), I’m compelled to give her a call.

5) “He’s coming towards us.” – Zodiac (2007)

Almost all of David Fincher’s cannon appears to have at least one memorable frightening moment in them. So many in fact, that is was hard limiting myself to just two (the other we will get to momentarily).

Murder is common element of any crime film. Other it’s dramatized via gore, score, or all of the above. In Zodiac, Fincher takes a different route.

The murders are so startlingly real, that you don’t recognize they’re taking place initially. There’s no build up to the violence. It just happens. No pomp or circumstance. Random violence is often the scariest as it cannot be defined. To cope with senseless death, we as human often do are best internally “make sense” of things. “Oh, he was crazy,” or “Of course that she killed them. We saw the warning signs.” But the Zodiac Killer(s) were never “found out.” To this day, we don’t know who he, she, they were or why they committed such heinous deeds, adding another layer to just how unsettling this scene is.

6) Sloth – Se7en (1995)

I’ve gone on record through multiple avenues to declare my undying love for Fincher’s Se7en.

I went with Mills’ and Somerset’s discovery of Sloth because, as with the last scene, it exemplifies Fincher’s knack for taking a well-worn troupe and making it fresh. In this case, it’s the jump scare.

The scene draws you in with every little detail. Much like the unnamed SWAT-member, we are drawn to this body under the assumption that of course it’s dead.

Fincher doesn’t even bother with racketing up tension. The cough comes out of nowhere and we’re flat on our asses once again.

7) The Pale Man – Pan’s Labyrinth  (2006)

I mentioned I avoided scenes that scared me as a child; opting instead to focus on those I still found frightening as an adult. This is the one main exception I made as it successfully plays to those fears we all had as a child but placed in an adult setting; something director Guillermo del Toro appears to have an absolute hard-on for.

Ever a slave to detail, del Toro builds up his monster masterfully through silent clues throughout the set.

As with any good movie monster, the Pale Man is slow, quasi-methodical. It doesn’t need to move fast because it nows the playing field. Run as fast as you like. It’ll get you. One way or another.

8) “LOOK AT ME.” – The Dark Knight (2008)

The initial horror in this scene is on-the-nose.

The Joker is on a crime spree as he attempts to goad Batman into facing him; a part of his larger scheme to bring the Caped Crusader down to his level and show that ANYONE can fall. Typical Joker scheme.

A common thread you’re going to see, and may have already noticed, is “real.” Joker’s tape is a video that could have easily been leaked to reddit, 4chan, or any other social sharing site. I’ve seen ones before, much more violent of course, that could have served as the inspiration.

Look to the on-air murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward last year. That is but one of many examples.

It’s the most frightening aspect of Heath Ledger’s Joker. He isn’t about elaborate death traps.

9) Curb stomp – American History X (1998) 

I really wrestled with including this scene. Not because it isn’t scary. It’s why it’s scary, and that gets into a touchy space that is a breeding ground for contempt and hurt feelings.

I hate how racists have recently begun to appropriate this movie. As if they only take certain scenes (like this one) without context. As if to say, “See, we were right! Ed Norton was right at the beginning!” And I hate that. Of course, there are multiple ways to view a movie but revising a movie altogether and making it out to be representing something it isn’t is moronic and insulting.

The main message of the film, at least in my opinion, is how hate is taught from one generation to another. It’s not the glorification of one man’s racist ideals; it’s the deconstruction of them altogether.

This scene could easily be considered a “fuck yeah” moment in a piece of action junk.

It isn’t though.

It’s horrific, and director Tony Kaye treats it as such. Yeah, these guys were robbing Danny but we’ve seen the chain of events that led them there. No one is innocent truly innocent in the instance.

Violence begets violence. It’s a cycle that continually loops.

“Hate is baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it.”

10) “Hi, this is Nikki. Leave a message.” – Swingers (1996)

Well, well, well.

My old nemesis.

To many, Swingers may be nothing more than a comedy and it truly can be experienced as just that. I love the movie, but I rarely re-visit it, largely due to this scene.

It’s so frighteningly real, particularly as a guy who continues to struggle with forming relationships. I’ve been in this exact position with women I liked in which I had a little voice saying, “Leave it be,” but another, much louder one saying “No, don’t make it weird. KEEP GOING TO MAKE SURE SHE KNOW’S YOU’RE NOT WEIRD.” I don’t think I’ve ever left quite this many voicemails, but we are in the texting/Tindr age.

Last night I just found out about “ghosting.” If I’m relating this correctly, this is when one half of a relationship abruptly stops communicating with the other.

Every time I sit through this scene, I’m verbally yelling, “STOP IT” at the screen before it’s over.

Relationships are scary.

Actually getting into one is a whole other beast.

11) “Is it safe?” – Marathon Man (1976)

I guess this scene is pretty much a given. But classics are classics for a reason, right?

To be honest, I don’t remember the rest of this movie all that well. It’s been a while since I sat down and watched it. It seems to be on TV every time I visit one of my parents (who have cable) so I definitely could point out where it is alternatively. I just couldn’t relate specifics to you…the main exception being this fucking scene that plays through my head every time I have to go to the goddamn dentist.

There are a lot of torture scenes I thought about including on this list which is a statement that sounds really creepy with or without context but I went with this one because it pinpoints a fear I think a lot people share and that’s an evil dentist given full-reign to do whatever they want with your mouth.

12) The other side – 50/50 (2011) 

Behold, another comedy. Like Swingers50/50 is a fairly consistent comedy (jokes land more than they miss) that nails frighteningly realistic situations. In this case, it’s dwindling minutes before we are put under the knife.

You may be thinking,”Tyler, you coward. This scene is relaxing. If anything it’s melancholic.”

I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, nor have I had to have a life-saving surgery. I have, however, had more than one procedure. Ranging from outpatient to several days in the hospital. Every. Single. One. Stressed. Me. The. Phunk. Out.

You’re kidding yourself if you think that any time you go in for ANY surgery, you’re guaranteed to wake up. The odds are minimal, but that doesn’t stop your brain from going to darker places right as the needle is hooked into your arm or the mask slipped over your face. And being alone sucks. You want someone there. Whether it be a parent or friend.

The conversation with the mom here has played out with me and my own mother every time I’ve laid on that bed in my gown.

 13) The war begins – War of the Worlds (2005)

Having grown into adulthood in the post-9/11 landscape, I’d argue it’s very easy for someone my age to become…how do I put it…detached from the 9/11 imagery that utterly dominates popular culture’s depiction of mass destruction.

I argue that imagery has largely fallen flat for me with the key exception being Steven Spielberg’s take on the H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The War of the Worlds. As with any good science fiction, the book zeroed in on contemporary anxieties. In Victorian England, that was the threat of foreign invaders. Wells, clever as he was, took those fears and flipped them on them right back around on your average English Joe, making the book a clear commentary on imperialism.

“For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one the poor brutes we dominate know only too well. I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow, and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy navvies digging the foundations of a house. I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer master, but an animal among animals; under the Martian heel.”
Flash-forward to 2005. You’re 4 years after two planes struck the Twin Towers, 1 hit the Pentagon and another a field in Pennsylvania. Two years into our dual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The anger is still palpable. Fear of outside invaders striking again is ever present.
Spielberg, like Wells before him, is using his craft to give us a skewed view of our present through the prism of science fiction. In this case, America’s post 9/11 anxieties as well as our various dealings within the Middle East that took place in the early 2000’s. Some are a bit more on the nose than others. (Tom Cruise frantically attempting to cleanse himself of the dust of those unlucky enough to be vaporized, a boy screaming “WE HAVE TO GET BACK AT THEM,” a girl literally screaming, “IS IT TERRORISTS?!,” etc) but it all services a point. Spielberg isn’t exploiting a tragedy in the same way Zack Snyder did in Man of Steel. He’s actually making a point.
The first tripod’s assault is a clear allusion to a terrorist attack, sadly given new relevancy month after month with conflicts in Syria, the terror attacks in Paris and so on. I picked this scene because it highlights how well science fiction be in representing real life, skewed just enough to allow some distance.
Advertisements

‘Crimson Peak’ makes up for its lack of innovation with its utter beauty and oozing atmosphere

Halloween season is upon us once more, and you know what that means!

…well, yes that too but also an influx of new scary movies! This year’s offerings, while fairly light on the emphasis of horror, has some pretty heavy hitters coming to a theater near you, perhaps none heavier than the latest cinematic offering from forever fanboy, Guillermo del Toro.

Now, you put Guillermo del Toro’s name before just about any movie, particularly as a director, and you are guaranteed to have my ass in a seat. No matter the genre. No matter the subject material. I’ll be there and preferably be square, (As if I come in any other form.) ready for my eyes to be fed with some of the best visuals imaginable. Like Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, del Toro has become a brand. His movies come with the promise of utterly stunning designs, creatures, sets, etc brought to life through a pain staking attention to the man’s eye for detail. No where is this attention to detail expressed more beautifully than when he tackles a genre movie.

Even when he doesn’t hit the mark necessarily, he always delivers a memorable flick and that is really the most I can ever ask of any movie really. Lately though there seems to be an emphasis on the man’s work in the horror genre. While he hasn’t directed many strictly horror movies himself, he has produced quite a few (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Mama, The Orphanage, the upcoming Rings). So I suppose to say he is a “horror mastermind” may be a stretch, but who I am I to argue when I literally just said I’d see anything he is involved in, no questions asked.

Crimson Peak has been promised not only as a masterpiece in horror, but as the director’s defining masterpiece (according to the film’s marketing department oddly enough). While it most certainly isn’t either of those, it is one of his most gorgeous films to date that stumbles here and there due to do a problem many a great director has given into: an overwhelming interest in its visuals rather than its story.

 

MV5BNTY2OTI5MjAyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTkzMjQ0NDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_

The plot:

“In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.” – IMDb.com

The review:

I think it’s been said in just about every review written about this flick, but Crimson Peak is by no means a straight-up horror movie. Sure, there are horror elements but what it actually is is a Gothic romance. There is a line that basically equates to, “This isn’t a ghost story. It’s a story with ghosts in it.”

One common misconception about Gothic fiction is that it is exclusively horror. The marketing of this film has only exacerbated this misconception, but given that a “non-scary movie with ghosts in it” may be a  tough sell to a general audience. Some of the most defining works of Gothic fiction are horror (Dracula, Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, etc) but it really is a genre that goes beyond just being scary. To me, it was always a genre that revealed something that was much more revealing about human nature and used elements like the supernatural or moody atmosphere to get to the bottom of it. Anyway, this isn’t a lecture; this all to serve as a defense against complaints I’m hearing about this movie “not being scary enough.”

See in college I took both an American Gothic literature class AND a survey course over the works of Edgar Allan Poe, so in other words that makes me pretty qualified to talk about the subject of Gothic literature.

Hold on.

Did I say qualified? Shit. I meant like the exact opposite of that. Tyler, you ignorant slut,  I can’t take you anywhere. What I meant to say was that I am merely a fan of the genre. (A fandom that was put to the test in school as I was always told I was wrong about any given opinion I seemed to have or interpretation I gave, but that’s being a dumb person who up and decided to pretend to be an English major I suppose.)

By “revealing” my education, I simply want to convey a simple truth about this movie: if you have any familiarity with this specific genre you are probably going to have a blast with this film; picking up on allusions, dissecting the themes, looking for all the homages. Regardless of how snooty you may be, this is going to be a great talking piece for literature lovers ready for a good discussion.

Like with any Gothic novel, del Toro isn’t exactly subtle. We have a house that LITERALLY bleeds here, people. The metaphors aren’t exactly hard to find, and of those metaphors, none of them are exactly fresh. To me this movie is the result of throwing Fall of the House of UsherJane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, the original The Haunting and almost any period film staring Vincent Price and throw them all into a blender, and unsurprisingly this works given the talent behind all involved in the making of the movie as well as the cohesiveness of the genre. To me that’s the film’s biggest strength and its ultimate weakness. It clearly loves what came before to the point of avoiding subverting it all together. While there isn’t inherently wrong with being old, fashioned (Steven Spielberg did it with Bridge of Spies this very weekend with wondrous results.), I guess I was just hopping for something a little more fresh from del Toro here. What I wanted was a movie that floored me both visually and with big, shocking moments of revelation. I, at the very least, got the first. I just prefer a movie that takes me on a ride with its story-telling as opposed to one that I am able to easily stay ahead.  (Maybe that speaks more to me as a pretentious asshole…dammit.) The script telegraphs just about every major plot development with overwritten foreshadowing  from the get go rather than actually taking us for a ride. It’s a minor nitpick at best and this is still a refresher from the wave of sequels, reboots and “re-imaginings” that have flooded the market concerning anything remotely horror.

Perhaps the best element that shines through here however that del Toro and co-writer Matthew Robbins have cherry picked right from the best works of Gothic fiction is that notion that the ghosts aren’t what we should be afraid of. The ghosts are simply a device used to reveal the true monsters of the story, and that is the people. And those people do some pretty horrible and violent things to one another here. Heads are caved in, babies are murdered and faces are stabbed. While it never goes as big or ridiculous as movies like Brain Dead, this movie contains some of the best gore effects you’re likely to see this year which shouldn’t be at all surprising given its the same director that gave us this…

I need to say this once more just to make it abundantly  clear that I don’t view this movie as a horror film: gothic fiction isn’t exclusively a horror genre. I’d certaintly concede that this is a Gothic horror; just not a modern one. I used to make this generalization too, believe me.  This movie, while scary at times, is not a “scary movie” in the same way The Grey has several scary scenes, but is not considered a scary movie. Which luckily means I don’t have to give that same, tired, boring rant about the state of modern horror movies. (For said tired and boring rant, head on over to my It Follows review.) It also means I don’t have to go out of my way to defend  a fun movie that isn’t scary but it is a lot of fun but if you want to be scared you may be out of luck but it is a fun time but not a scary one that is really fun but not scary with a little bit of fun so see it you want to have fun but not be scared.

First and foremost, this movie is stunning. In terms of visuals (production design, costume, visual effects, etc), Crimson Peak is going to be a pretty heavy contender come awards’ season. The titular “Crimson Peak” (or Allerdale Hall) is a masterwork of set design. I’m already eager for this movie’s BluRay release so I may salivate every nook and cranny. Not fit to just have an elaborate set, practical effects such as leaves and snow appear as the mansion’s roof is in decay and as previously mentioned the walls appear to bleed due to a unique red clay mine upon the estate rests and gets its name. This is a movie haunted house so beautiful and intricate, and shot so decadently by cinematographer Dan Lausten, that you want to spend more than the allotted hour the film gives you.

crimson-peak-5-970x546-c

I must stress: this is a very del Toro house, filled with very del Toro ghosts, meaning each and every detail with some creepy yet beautiful detail that was lovingly thought out and drawn by the director before it was brought to life on the screen. There are visual cues lifted/inspired from past films, some of which del Toro has taken from his own work, particularly The Devil’s Backbone. (One of the final ghosts that appears is what I believe to be a direct allusion given its color palate and the way blood almost floats out of its spectral form.) I’ve grown fairly accustomed to the low-budget stipulations that afforded horror movies (I know I said this wasn’t a horror movie, but it was certainly marketed as one so my argument here still stands, jerks. -holds back insecure tears-) these days so to see one of this scale, with this kind of money to throw around and under the guidance of such talented designers is a real treat. I fully endorse seeing this on the biggest possible screen and just letting your eyes get lost within the production design. To any of you that got to go to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights this year with the Crimson Peak maze, you have my unbound jealousy.

Mia Wasikowska basically reprises her role as Jane Eyre, playing the smart, quasi-fragile cum unexpected heroine she has made a career out of. Like any good Gothic woman, there is something quite off (contextually) about her. She sees things that others don’t, which of course is important as she begins to deal with the supernatural. Besides the house however, the real scene-stealer here is Jessica Chastain as Lady Lucille Sharpe, who goes full on Hammer-horror in her role as the cold, not-even-remotely-subtle-in-her-ulterior-motives sister to Tom Hiddleston’s character, Sir Thomas Sharpe.

crimson-peak-jessica-chastain-hiddelston-mia-wasikowska-00063r

I guess it would go into full on spoiler territory if I were to go into what makes Chastain pop so much as her star really shines in the film’s last 30-40 minutes ranges and some pretty big revelations are made. I’ll just say it comes across as an actress having a shit ton of fun in role that could have otherwise come off as almost too cartoon villain(y). I could easily see someone like Bette Davis playing this part if this movie were made 50 years ago.

Hiddleston is serviceable as the “perfect gentleman” come to whisk Edith away. His nice character gets a few nice moments of inversion to the damsel-in-distress motif. He even gets some standout moments whereas Charlie Hunnam’s friend-zoned doctor sort of just fades into the background, only to reappear in the film’s climax.  Also a special shout out to fellow University of Central Oklahoma alum, Jim Beaver as Edith’s father! (Last time I remind readers I actually graduated college before returning to my grammatically-challenged mediocrity, I swear.) He isn’t in the film much, but given its been a while since I’ve seen the man in anything (I miss Deadwood.) and he is always a welcome face.

So as you may have surmised given the unevenness of this review, I was totally in love with more than one aspect of this film (the production design) and a little let down in others (the story). Such is my complaint with most movies. I only wish as much love went into the story as it did into the setting. Maybe when stacked against such visuals, any story would seem inadequate.