It’s Halloween. We’re too old to dress up anymore—we’ve essentially been 43 since we were 14—so we thought we’d honor the day with each of us picking the five scenes that scare the living bejeezuses out of us. With clips, of course. Put on your headphones and lose your shit along with us.
Nazi faces melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark
Hey, sue me: I was just a kid when I first saw this movie, so even if they were nasty Nazis, watching people’s faces melt and then explode really messed me up. (By the way, a big thanks to the guy who added “new screams” to this clip. Totally hilarious.)
Danny goes for a ride in The Shining
The Shining is so iconic and has been parodied so many times it’s easy to overlook how genuinely unsettling it remains. The moments that still give me chills are the simplest: little Danny (Danny Lloyd) peddling his three-wheeler around the hotel. It’s not just the smooth, ominous low-to-the-floor Steadicam shots that track behind Danny, giving you the sense that someone is right behind him. It’s the silence: Hearing the wheels go from carpeting to floor to carpeting to floor, you feel the enormous emptiness of the hotel—which then sets you up perfectly for when he turns that one corner and sees those spooky Grady girls.
Lester talks a walk in Safe
One of Julianne Moore’s best early roles was in Safe, a 1995 drama about a young wife who suddenly finds herself dangerously allergic to everything around her. (Or is it just in her head?) The movie plays like a psychological horror film as Moore’s character gets sicker and sicker, eventually resorting to moving to a remote New Age clinic in the hopes of getting cured. But the place gives off nothing but creepy cult vibes—never more so than when one of the clinic’s longtime patients, Lester, walks by covered head to toe in clothing (at about the 86-minute mark in the clip). “He’s just very, very afraid,” we’re told about Lester, whom we see only from a distance. “He’s afraid to eat, afraid to breathe.” Between the twitching sound design and the odd way the guy walks, he doesn’t seem human, a frightening metaphor for a movie about the dangers of losing oneself to paranoia.
Milton Arbogast gets it in Psycho
Even people who never seen Psycho know the famous shower scene with Janet Leigh. That’s probably why the greater shock for me in this movie has always been Norman’s second victim: private eye Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam). Like with Leigh’s killing, the anticipation and anxiety are stretched out to just the right length before, bam, Norman strikes. Seriously, that overhead shot at the top of the landing? Killer.
The rats (and the zombies) are coming in 28 Days Later
In retrospect, it seems like the most obvious tweak to the horror formula: “Hey, what if zombies, you know, ran really fast?” But that’s the key conceit in 28 Days Later, and it’s an absolute doozy. There are so many great scary moments in this film, but my favorite is when our ragtag team of survivors’ car breaks down and, well, really, really horrible things happen.
The mirror scene in Poltergeist
It’s going to be difficult not to populate this list solely with movies that scared the shit out of me as a kid, so I’m going to limit myself to two. The first one is a relatively obvious one, but the first time I saw it, I was pretty certain it was the most horrifying thing anyone had ever seen. Needless to say, the special effects haven’t held up—to say the least—but that doesn’t matter: There’s no way the reality of these scene could be any scarier than my memory of it anyway. Every time I notice a blemish on my face, this scene pops up in my brain again, and I’m pretty sure it always will.
The oil slick in Creepshow 2
Like any self-respecting landlocked Midwesterner, I have a legitimate fear of water—I try to couch this as “a healthy respect for the sea,” but fact is, I could drown in a shot glass if you let me – and “The Raft” segment of the second, lesser Creepshow movie has always been an excellent illustration of why. You see a fun skinny dip through a lake, and I see a dark cauldron of unknowable terrors ready to strike at any point. The part that gets me here is always “It hurts! It hurts!” I have zero doubt that it does.
The dumpster in Mulholland Drive
This one (skip to 3:40 in the clip), hardly an obscure pick, is generally considered one of the most terrifying scenes in the history of film, and, good Lord, it’s impossible to say it hasn’t earned the designation. David Lynch’s films have always danced along that line between dreams and reality, but here, he taps into something primal, almost animalistic. I’m not sure you can capture a nightmare better. Of if you’d ever want to.
The 10 seconds of Hell in Event Horizon
The favorite film of the Columbine killers, and in this brief segment, you can sort of see why. This is a clip that the doomed passengers on the spaceship Event Horizon find in the ship’s log, and it’s pretty much what I imagine Hell is probably like. Only, you know, forever.
Everything going fuckshit nuts in Requiem for a Dream
Really, the best case I can make here is that Ass To Ass is not, in fact, the most disturbing part of this Crosscut From Hell. I’m not sure Darren Aronofsky should be allowed to have this much power. This clip isn’t any less horrifying for being in Italian. (And OK: Ass To Ass is probably the most disturbing part. But boy does it have some competition.)
Grierson and Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow them on Twitter at @griersonleitch.