Greatest Scariest
Movie Moments and Scenes

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Greatest and Scariest Film Scenes
Movie Title/Year and Brief Scene Description
Screenshots

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

Director Jacques Tourneur's zombie supernatural horror film, a variant of the Jane Eyre novel, was produced by famed RKO producer Val Lewton. The low-budget film was very effective for its moody and atmospheric tone and visually-stylistic terror regarding dark family secrets, voodoo rituals and legends.

The brooding, mystical melodrama told of the work of a trained Canadian nurse named Betsy Connell (Frances Dee). The retrospective film was her description of how she had "walked with a zombie."

She was hired to care for matriarchal Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon), the invalid and comatose wife of melancholy Paul Holland (Tom Conway), a sugar plantation owner on the West Indies-Caribbean island of St. Sebastian. Jessica's doctor claimed that her catatonic, zombie-like condition (with no will of her own, no speaking, and seemingly lobotomized) was caused by an incurable tropical fever. As Betsy cared for Jessica, she slowly began to fall in love with guilt-ridden Paul. She also learned that Paul and his younger, alcoholic half-brother Wesley Rand (James Ellison) had earlier quarreled over the love of the afflicted woman in a love triangle, and Wesley had an affair with Jessica.

Betsy was convinced that she could cure the "living dead" Jessica with a shot of insulin, but the shock treatment failed. She then learned from Jessica's native maid Alma (Theresa Harris) that a local voodoo priest cured a woman with her condition. Alma drew her a map to the "Home Fort" where a local voodoo ceremony would take place.

In an unsettling nighttime scene, Betsy took her patient, without permission, on a haunting, dream-like walk through billowing cane fields to the ceremony. She had to pass animal sacrifices along the way. As she went through a crossroads, there was the abrupt appearance in the darkness of a huge, eerie, bug-eyed and towering zombie-like guard Carre Four (Darby Jones). It was a shocking moment!

A major plot twist occurred next - Betsy entered a shack to consult with the voodoo witch doctor priestess, and discovered it was the mother of the family, Mrs. Rand (Edith Barrett). When Mrs. Rand had discovered that her sons had fought over Jessica, Paul's wife, and threatened to break up the family, she had put a zombie curse on her. One of the film's lobby cards described Jessica's fateful condition: "Doomed to be one of the 'walking dead' by weird and wily witchcraft...her radiant blonde loveliness ravaged through the curse of vengeful voodoo!"




An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

In this cautionary ecological documentary about climatic science, ex-Vice President Al Gore presented before-and-after slides of the disastrous effects of global warming. He refuted critics with data

He clearly illustrated a number of major developments, including:

  • the shocking, frightening sight of the state of the Patagonia Glacier in Brazil after 75 years of global warming
  • the near-complete melting of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro's famous ice cap in the last 30 years
  • Antarctic ice coring data that illustrated how CO2 levels were higher now than in the past 650,000 years
  • the danger of massive ice sheets breaking off in Greenland or West Antarctica

Gore predicted higher temperatures, stronger storms, deadlier floods, and higher sea levels unless humanity's course was reversed in the next decade.


In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

John Carpenter's horror thriller was told in an extended flashback. Its tagline provided a clue to the film's plot: "LIVED ANY GOOD BOOKS LATELY?" This was the third film in what Carpenter called his "Apocalypse Trilogy". (1) The Thing (1982), (2) Prince Of Darkness (1987), and (3) In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)

The protagonist was strait-jacketed private insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) in an asylum's padded room, who told his story to Dr. Wrenn (David Warner). The insane and psychotic Trent had been arrested and then institutionalized after axing to death the reader of a newly-released horror book, after he had asked: "Like the book?"

Trent described how he had been hired to investigate the claim of New York-based Arcane Publishing and its director Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston). He was to look into the disappearance of popular, best-selling horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) who was just about to release his newest and final book in a popular series titled "Horror in Hobbs End." Trent was to recover the manuscript for Cane's latest novel, In the Mouth of Madness, although he believed it was all a hoax and a stunt designed to promote Cane's book. [The Sutter Cane character was based on John Carpenter's novelist friend Stephen King.]

He had traveled to the northern New England, New Hampshire town of Hobbs End with Cane's book editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen). [Hobbs End was fictional - it existed entirely as a product of the writer's mind.] There, they found that civilization had entirely broken down.

In one of the film's scary sequences, he dreamed that he was standing next to a ripped hole in a page, a fissure or gateway from the real world to the black abyss beyond, while Linda read from Cane's book:

"Trent stood at the edge of the rip, stared into the unlimitable gulf of the unknown, the Stygian world yawning blackly beyond. Trent's eyes refused to close, he did not shriek, but the hideous unholy abominations shrieked for him, as in the same second he saw them spill and tumble upward out of an enormous carrion black pit, choked with the gleaming white bones of countless unhallowed centuries. He began to back away from the rip as the army of unspeakable figures, toiled by the glow from the bottomless pit, came pouring at him toward our world."

Trent was then pursued down an immense corridor (or portal) by monstrous creatures brought to life out of the pit - all creatures from Cane's writings. Cane was revealed to be the puppet (through the portal) for monstrous evil creatures from another dimension who wanted to take over Earth. It seemed that reading the stories themselves caused disorientation, lost time, memory loss, hallucinations, and paranoia - particularly infecting "less stable readers."

There were many other shocking images when Trent found himself part of the imagined town. These included strange apparitions, townspeople mutated or turned into psychotic zombies, surreal and hallucinatory nightmare sequences, an ancient race of otherworldly creatures, and people with facial deformities and tendrils whipping out of bodies.

Additional scary scenes included:

  • Linda kissing the missing writer Cane - who was composed of sinew and bloody muscle tissue from the back view
  • the final segment - the sight of madman Trent sitting in an empty movie theatre with a giant tub of popcorn watching his own film - and laughing hysterically







Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

#88

This influential science-fiction film was based upon Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers.

In the film's most memorable and frightening sequence, the town's doctor Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) and fiancee Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) fled from the town's space pods to try to elude the enemy and get help, while struggling to stay awake and remain human. As the last two humans (non pod-people) left, they escaped into a hilly wooded area and found refuge in an old abandoned mine, as scores of townspeople followed after them.

Weary and desperately exhausted, they were again compelled to hide in a constricted place - under floorboards in a pit, located in the dark, deserted cave or tunnel that was perilously close to their pursuers. When the aliens departed, Miles left the faint Becky, who was falling asleep, to discover the source of beautiful singing or music that they heard.

Becky couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. She fell asleep briefly. When he returned to the mine, he found her lying slumped over and prostrate with fatigue. He tried to force her to go on, started to carry her, but fell in a puddle at the mine entrance.

He took her in his arms to kiss her, and then drew away from her unresponsive lips. In a tight closeup shot of her face, he looked into the blank, dark, expressionless and staring eyes of his fiancée, realizing with a look of utter fright that she was now one of "them" - her body had been invaded and snatched. He knew instantly that this was not Becky but a treacherous imposter and victim. She confirmed: "I went to sleep Miles, and it happened...They were right." He was unbelieving: "Oh, Becky...I should never have left you."

His sweetheart of a moment ago now asserted: "Stop acting like a fool, Miles, and accept us." She screamed to the pod-people searchers as he fled:

"He's in here! He's in here! Get him! Get him!"




Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

In the despairing, climactic ending of this horror remake by director Philip Kaufman, San Francisco health department field investigator Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) had seemingly escaped being replaced by a pod likeness. After leaving work near City Hall, he was summoned by the still-human Nancy Bellicec (Veronica Cartwright) - the last to not be absorbed. After she called out his name ("Matthew, Matthew"), he turned to confront her.

He screamed with a piercing, accusatory howl (and the camera descended into the blackness of his open mouth) while pointing his finger at her. She also screamed, realizing that he had become a cloned pod person.

Recognition by Cloned Matthew of Still-Human Nancy!

Other earlier scary scenes included the first examining views of a still-forming pod person, a near-perfect duplicate resembling Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum), when a sheet was pulled back. Matthew noted that the creature had adult characteristics but was still like a fetus without fingerprints - and then slightly later, the creature opened its eyes when Nancy was looking at it by herself. She jumped back and rushed to her husband Jack, trying to rouse him from his sleep. When he was jolted from his sleep and opened his eyes, the eyes of his pod double closed.

Also near the end of the film, Matthew and Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) were exposed as human when Elizabeth screamed after seeing a talking, human-faced mutant dog. Matthew and Elizabeth ran from the pursuing pod people, and jumped into the back of an open truck. They were driven to a giant warehouse at the docks where they saw pods being grown before being loaded into cargo ships.



Pod-person Take-over


Mutant Dog

Irreversible (2002, Fr.)

Frenchman Gaspar Noe's hard-hitting, graphic and violent film about rape revenge was told in reverse-order. It was noted for its excruciatingly-long, painful-to-watch, nine-minute anal-rape and real-time beating sequence.

In a Parisian pedestrian underpass lit by a reddish glow, beautiful and erotically sexual Alexandra (or "Alex") (Monica Bellucci) accidentally came upon rapist/pimp Le Tenia/Tapeworm (Jo Prestia) beating up prostitute Concha in the tunnel. She found herself to be his new victim.

When she was assaulted by him, she begged to no avail: "Let me go." He ordered: "Shut your mouth, slut" as he threatened with a knife: "Is this what you want, slut? You gonna shut your mouth now?" He called her a "f--king high-class bitch," causing her terror when he stroked her face with the blade: "Stinking c--t. This turn you on, tell me?...You know, you're hot for a c--t."

He then lifted her skirt, forced her onto her knees to lay down, and then coerced her: "I'm gonna take care of you." He laid on top of her, covered her mouth, pulled on her hair and began to prepare to anally rape her: "Damn! You must have one tight ass." He untied her dress straps, stroked her bare breast, called her a "little whore," and threatened to strangle her if she didn't keep quiet. He commanded her to spread her legs, told her "I'm gonna f--k your ass...I'm gonna blast your s--thole," and then raped her while using one hand to cover up her muffled screams and moans.

As he endlessly thrust into her, he continued to call her foul names ("F--king high-class swine"), and asked: "You bleeding or you wet?" Afterwards, she attempted to crawl away, and he kicked her in the face ("I'm gonna fix your face, I'm gonna fix it good"), beat her with his fist, and smashed her face into the pavement until she went into a coma. He pronounced her "dead meat" when he was finished with her.




It's Alive! (1974)

#43

This classic over-the-top horror film from writer/director Larry Cohen, reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973), told about the Davis middle-class family expecting a baby in Los Angeles.

The scariest scene was the opening jaw-dropping birthing scene - with a ghastly twist. Joyful anticipation turned to torturous damnation when a monstrous mutant with an enlarged vein-studded head, bug-eyes, fangs and claws was born during a difficult procedure. When the infant beast child was born in the Community Hospital maternity ward's operating room, the killing creature attacked the nurses and doctors, creating a bloodbath massacre, and then escaped through a ceiling skylight. It went missing, and continued to attack unsuspecting victims (including a musician and a Carnation milkman). When the milkman was killed, white liquid spilled against his red and white vehicle.

The low-budget film's tagline warned: "There's only ONE thing wrong with the Davis baby... IT'S ALIVE."

PR consultant father Frank Davis (John P. Ryan) became obsessed with destroying the monstrosity that he had helped to father, and joined the hunt. He compared himself to Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein (1931) who created the original Universal Studios monster creature (Note: hence the title of the film, with its most famous line of dialogue shrieked by Colin Clive). Frank was suspended from his job by his boss Bob Clayton (Guy Stockwell) and was hounded by reporters.

Eventually, the child - who was mostly hidden and only seen in brief glimpses, quick cuts, and extreme closeups throughout most of the film, to create further tension - returned to the Davis home. There, Frank's protective wife Lenore (Sharon Farrell) and young 11 year-old son Chris (Daniel Holzman) became sympathetic to the scared and frightened creature, offered it food and love, and hid it in the basement.

It was revealed that the baby was possibly the result of untested birth control pills prescribed by a Doctor (Shamus Locke) for Lenore, or environmental pollution (from pesticides, lead spills, smog), or extensive exposure to radioactivity.

The anguished Frank went on a shooting rampage to kill his 'infant' son - his own flesh-and-blood. He wounded him in the basement, just before the marauding infant bit and killed Chris' friend Charley (William Wellman, Jr.) in the neck. Later, when Frank found the infant in the city sewers during a hunt, he too had a change of heart and cradled his son to rescue and protect him before federal authorities closed in. However, during an ensuing confrontation ending with a lethal hail of gunfire, the child attacked the Doctor, forcing the cops to kill both the Doctor and the child.

There were two sequels - It Lives Again (1978) and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987), and a remake of the original It's Alive (2008).





Jacob's Ladder (1990)

#21

In the prologue of this psychological thriller, Vietnam vet soldier Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) suffered a serious bayonet wound to the stomach, and was helicoptered out of the fighting zone to an army hospital.

The film led one to believe he survived, but in reality, he died in combat on an operating table (revealed in the final scene). Singer's horrifying, hallucinatory visions of horned creatures and demons were the fantasies and dreams of a dying (or dead) man (experiencing death-bed visions) who couldn't accept his death and was unwilling to let go. Jacob's hallucinations upon his return to NYC were not caused by the drug, or battle stress, but because he wasn't freeing his soul.

  • The troubled and lethally-wounded Vietnam vet Jacob Singer had a frightening vision when he was at an erotic disco dance (to the tune of James Brown's Ma Thang (Sex Machine)) on a crowded dance floor with his temptress Latina girlfriend Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena).

    He saw a snake-like devil with a scaly reptilian tail curled around her and then a horn abruptly ripped open her mouth.


  • Later when Jacob was being wheeled on a table-gurney down to hell/purgatory, he was bluntly told by an Evil Doctor (Davidson Thomson) in the blood-stained underworld hospital that he was dead:

    "You've been killed. Don't you remember?"

    He was injected in the center of his forehead by a featureless-face.



Jaws (1975)

#1

This masterful, visceral and realistic science-fiction suspense/horror-disaster film tapped into the most primal of human fears - what unseen creature lurked below the dark surface of the water beyond the beach? The tagline for the tensely-paced film: "Don't go in the water," kept a lot of shark-hysterical ocean-swimmers and 1975 summer beachgoers wary.

The ominous, well-known, 'shark theme' - the two-note (E and F) 'da-dum...da-dum' cello and bass chords of John Williams' moody, driving musical score, played under the opening credits, followed by a subjective camera view of an underwater creature swimming along. The sound signaled an imminent shark attack in the opening scene, shot day-for-night. It was marvelously visual and terrifying.

A carefree blonde Christine "Chrissie" Watkins (Susan Backlinie) was skinny-dipping during a beach party, followed by her brutal, unexpected murder. It was the most remembered, gripping scene in the film, and prominently displayed on the film's poster in distinctly Freudian terms (showing the ventral view of the shark's gigantic, pointed head, positioned vertically in a phallic position, with a dark mouth filled with voracious, jagged teeth). A metal buoy's bell on the surface of the water 'tinged' at various intervals. In what may have been retribution for teen immorality, her nude body was suddenly jerked under, and then dragged helplessly (pulled this way and then that way) on the surface by the unseen shark underneath, as she screamed: "God help me!" For a brief moment, she desperately grabbed the buoy and rang it for help (sounding a death knell), but was then attacked and submerged for the last time in a horrifying sequence. The water surface was again still and deathly quiet.

Another shark attack was on young Alex M. Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) swimming off the Amity Island beach. The familiar score was repeated. Gyrating, wiggling leg movements were photographed from underwater. Another underwater view showed Alex's legs vulnerably kicking off the back of his raft. There was a momentary view of a giant fin slicing through the water. A strange shape surfaced beneath Alex's raft, grabbing him and overturning the raft. A vacationer on the beach remarked: "Did you see that?" Blood gushed from Alex's body like from a fire hydrant or fountain. The boy screamed and then was dragged underwater - his yells turned to bubbling gurgles. Around the raft, the water became red - Alex was the great white's second victim.

Honorable Mention: Diving into the murky, claustrophobic water, shark specialist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) found a huge, serrated tooth embedded in a large hole in a sunken boat's hull. Then, in the biggest, single-most shocking moment of the film, when he examined the tooth and came in for a closer look, the severed head of shark victim Ben Gardner's (Craig Kingsbury) corpse appeared in the gaping hole of the hull - he was a local fisherman in Amity. Hooper, scared to death (with the audience), accidentally dropped the tooth as he struggled to the surface of the yellowish water.

Many others noted the first terrifying appearance of the gigantic shark behind Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) as he spooned out chum.

In one of the concluding scenes, the shark devoured Quint (Robert Shaw). Screaming, he slid down the slippery deck into the open jaws of the monster Giant Great White - kicking his feet to prevent the inevitable. He was bitten in half - and blood spurted from his mouth. Quint stabbed at its eyes with a splintered piece of the deck as he was swallowed whole and devoured by the killer shark in a horrifying scene.









Jurassic Park (1993)

#95

The spectacular Jurassic Park was located on the secluded island of Isla Nublar 120 miles west off the coast of Costa Rica.

A horrifying chain reaction of events including the scary breakout of the giant ferocious, carnivorous Tyrannosaurus Rex, which attacked the tour cars. There was a scary build-up to the T-Rex's first appearance, with the glasses of water vibrating on the car's dashboard from the dinosaur's ominous footsteps - signaling the coming disaster.

This was followed by the sudden dropping of a bloody goat's leg onto the windshield after teenaged Lex (Ariana Richards) wondered: "Where's the goat"? The first site of the giant monster was it chomping on the animal.

The T-Rex suspensefully stalked around the vehicle with the kids trapped inside, including the monster's giant eyeballing of Lex and then crashing through the vehicle's viewing roof with its giant jaws. The monster also stalked and devoured cowardly lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) cowering in a thatched-roof toilet.

Toward the conclusion, there was a tense, hide-and-go-seek scene (with mirrors) in the restaurant kitchen. A pair of velociraptors stalked the young children while Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) quipped that they were probably safe ("Unless they figured out how to open doors...) - with a cut to a close-up of the kitchen door handle turning and the velociraptor pushing the door open, allowing them to enter and further stalk the kids.








Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title, illustrated)
Intro | #s-A | B | C-1 | C-2 | D-1 | D-2 | E | F | G | H
I-J | K-L | M | N-O | P | Q-R | S-1 | S-2 | S-3 | T | U-Z

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