|Movie Title/Year and Brief Scene Description|
Pacific Heights (1990)
Director John Schlesinger's psychological thriller was set in the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, and was about a difficult tenant for yuppie landlords of an expensive, old 19th century Victorian house. Mismatched Patty Palmer (Melanie Griffith) and her boyfriend-partner Drake Goodman (Matthew Modine) had stretched their finances to the limit for the purchase. Its tagline described the film's essential plot:
A psychotic tenant (a nefarious individual who had been disowned as a black sheep by his own wealthy family) named Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) began to cause trouble almost immediately - by not paying his rent (with a promised wire transfer), creating unnecessary loud noises at all hours (sawing, hammering, drilling), changing his apartment locks without permission, infesting the property with cockroaches, and causing other exasperated tenants to move out. Carter's ultimate evil con plan was to manipulatively drive the financially-struggling couple into foreclosure and then buy the house at a cheap price.
Their initial efforts to evict him failed, and their relationship suffered - with Drake becoming an out-of-control, incensed monster who was heavily drinking, and Patty suffering a miscarriage. Hayes had been stalking and harrassing Patty, and making creepy phone calls to her. When an eviction order was finally processed and Hayes (whose real name was James Danforth) was legally barred from entering the house, he had disappeared, and left his apartment stripped to the bare walls. In further developments, the wily Patty tracked Hayes/Danforth and learned he was using 'identity theft' (assuming the identity of Drake Goodman) in order to bankrupt the couple.
In the film's most frightening sequence, however, he had returned to the Victorian house where repairs were being made on his old apartment. He suddenly popped out from behind a door, grabbed Patty, and forced her back while covering her mouth. He accused her of wrongly entering his apartment ("You're in my room. You're in my privacy."). He threw her to the floor and muttered: "You and your boyfriend! You insult my intelligence." He threatened her for ruining his life with a large hydraulic nail-gun:
With the nail gun in his hand, he told her: "Look what you're making me do here." He kept asserting that he now had lots of people who were dependent upon him. As they struggled on the floor, he placed the nail-gun against her forehead and asked: "How does it feel? Huh, Patty? Does it feel good?" He accused her of 'crossing the line' by snooping into and destroying his private life.
His menacing psycho-swindling ended when he fell backwards after losing his balance, and was impaled on two water supply-line metal pipes sticking up out of the floor.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
This breakout independent horror film hit of the year from Paramount and writer/director Oren Peli was budgeted at only $15,000 and filmed in 2007 in only ten days. It was first shown in limited release, in college towns at midnight shows, and came into wide release in 2009 with a successful social-media viral marketing campaign. The suspenseful 'bump in the night' minimalist thriller (completely bloodless) was filmed as a faux-documentary, combining elements of The Blair Witch Project (1999), Open Water (2003) and The Exorcist (1973). Two sequels included a prequel Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) and Paranormal Activity 3 (2011).
The scariest scenes involved the late-night inexplicable incidents over a three-week period that occurred in a two-story suburban San Diego house of a young couple, day-trading Micah (Micah Sloat) and his teacher-girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston). With clueless bravado, Micah used a night-vision video camcorder set on a tripod to document the menacing forces in their bedroom and the entire house.
Dread and anticipation of what might happen next provided most of the terror. There were also:
About the broken glass, Micah asked: "How come my face is scratched and yours isn't?" as Katie felt its spooky presence: "I feel it breathing on me."
The main view of the "found footage" was mostly a slightly wide-angle shot of their bedroom, showing the bed, and the open doorway and hall beyond. Sinister hauntings increased when Katie, on Night # 20 (October 7th, 2006 at 4:32 am) was suddenly dragged from the bed and down the hallway in the middle of the night. Soon after, the two discovered a massive red bite mark on her back. At times, she would sleep-walk in the middle of the night and stand motionless and trance-like by the side of the bed.
And in the abrupt, surprise-jolt ending, after a two hour stance at the bedside, Katie walked downstairs, then screamed out Micah's name to come to her aid. He rushed to her and sounds of a struggle were heard. Katie carried his dead body up the stairs and hurled it at the camera, dislodging it. Wearing a blood-stained shirt, she came into the room, sniffed at Micah's body on the floor, and stiffly looked into the camera lens. She growled-smiled at the camera - and then lunged at it as her face mutated into a demon. The film cut to black.
An epilogue note stated: Micah's body was discovered by police on October 11th, 2006. Katie's whereabouts remain unknown.
Peeping Tom (1960, UK)
Director Michael Powell's British horror film was a chilling and disturbing film about voyeurism, child abuse, and serial murder. It was originally widely hated, universally loathed and denounced as sick, especially by British critics, who drove it off the screen. The disturbing thriller about a tormented murderer was called perverted, necrophilic and trashy. It was considered nauseating, depraved, depressing, filthy and stench-filled -- and allegedly destroyed the career of its director. It suffered from the devastating, vitriolic reviews and was removed from theaters and excised by its distributor.
It was a twisted portrayal of shy studio cameraman (and morbid, psychopathic serial killer) Mark Lewis (Karl Boehm) who filmed call girls and then killed them with the metal-spiked leg of his hand-held camera tripod (with a mirror attached so that victims could watch themselves dying).
In the film's shocking opening, filmed from the point-of-view of the voyeuristic camera's cross-haired viewfinder, a prostitute on a dark London street negotiated for two quid, walked upstairs, disrobed, and then gave a look of horror as she was being murdered. The photographer would then watch the projected grisly footage over and over in the darkness of his lab-studio. His viewing of this particular death was accompanied by the film's opening title and credits.
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Director Tim Burton's adventure-comedy starred Paul Reubens as Pee-Wee Herman - on a quest to find his beloved stolen bicycle. He wrongly believed, through a fake psychic, that his bike could be located in the basement of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.
On his journey, he hitchhiked in the desert where he had a startling and hysterical encounter with fat trucker Large Marge (Alice Nunn). In one of the film's rare scary moments, she was transformed into a bug-eyed ghostly victim of a horrendous auto accident.
Pet Sematary (1989)
This supernatural horror film from director Mary Lambert, with the tagline: "Sometimes dead is better," was adapted from Stephen King's novel. (It was followed by the sequel, Pet Sematary Two (1992)). It told about the Creed family who had moved from Chicago to an old farmhouse in rural Maine - next to a busy highway. Creed often experimented with the resurrection of the dead (corpses after burial in the pet sematary became zombies). The Creed family consisted of:
The first hint of resuscitation of the dead was via a pet sematary (built on the remains of an Indian burial ground) near a busy highway (filled with trucks). When the Creed family's cat Church was killed by a truck and buried in the pet sematary, it was resurrected as undead - with a foul stench and glowing eyes. Other instances also occurred:
A backstory that took up much of the plotline was about Rachel's continuing torment from her mad and diseased sister. Emaciated, terminally-ill and crippled Zelda Goldman (Andrew Hubatsek) was kept bedridden in a back bedroom for her entire life until her death from spinal meningitis. Zelda continually haunted her sister Rachel with threats of:
In a scary scene, Rachel described how Zelda was "a dirty secret...We wanted her to die. We wished for her to be dead. It wasn't just so she wouldn't feel any more pain. It was so we wouldn't feel any more pain. It was because she was starting to look like this monster." She told about the night that Zelda died when she was caring for her as an 8 year-old (Elizabeth Ureneck as child): "She started to convulse and I thought, 'Oh my god, she's choking'." Rachel also told how she was worried that her parents would come home and blame her for choking her sister - since she wasn't seen crying afterwards, but laughing.
In the film's haunting climax, Rachel was killed by Gage and buried in the pet sematary by her husband Louis, but then his bloodied and dirtied undead wife (moaning "Darling") returned as a resurrected zombie. She entered the kitchen where he was playing cards. He unwisely kissed her as she was about to murder him with a long knife - when the credits began to roll.
Don Coscarelli's imaginative, low-budget independent horror-sci-fi film was a sleeper film and soon became a major cult hit. Its tagline was: "If This One Doesn't Scare You, You're Already Dead." It was followed by many inferior sequels, Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), and Phantasm IV: OblIVion (1998). The scarily-suggestive film introduced three major elements:
In the chilling, dream-like and surrealistic tale, teenaged Mike (Michael Baldwin) (who was experiencing nightmares and feared abandonment) had just lost his parents - under mysterious circumstances. And then a friend-acquaintance named Tommy Pearson (Bill Cone), making out with a date on the grounds of Morningside Mortuary, was killed by an attractive and sexy Lady in Lavender (Kathy Lester), whose murderous face melded into the Tall Man's leering grin at the moment of death.
After the funeral, Mike spied on (with binoculars) the pale-faced mortuary attendant - a sinister, arachnoid mortician named the "Tall Man" (Angus Scrimm), with supernatural strength for a slim and gaunt individual. He watched as the mortuary attendant picked up the 500 pound coffin by himself and put it in the back of a hearse. Suspicious, Mike and his 24 year-old brother Jody (Bill Thornbury), Tommy's best friend, explored the Morningside Mortuary, a mausoleum managed by this Tall Man. They investigated with the help of ice cream vendor Reggie (Reggie Bannister).
The menacing, disturbing Tall Man appeared to be ordering fresh corpses, to be carried off by his enslaved army of shrouded, Jawa-like dwarfish creatures (or minions) - grave robbers. The corpses were resuscitated, then crushed (to conserve space) down to dwarf size, in order to be transported to another alien planet or world to be used for slave labor. There was a bridge or gateway between Earth and another world. Mike suspected that the Tall Man was responsible for his parents' deaths.
The Tall Man haunted the young boys with a flying metallic sphere or silver pin-ball that had deadly spring-loaded blades, that bore or drilled into the skulls of victims to extract or suck out their brains in a spray of blood. [Note: One of the film's many taglines humorously referred to the ball: "If you're looking for horror that's got balls...IT'S FOUND YOU."] In the film's most memorable scene, the sphere implanted itself into the forehead of the graveyard's grounds-keeper and then spewed out blood.
The two were left to defend mankind against these forces of Evil. However, in the twist ending, it was all revealed to be a nightmarish dream. And then somehow, the Tall Man materialized out of Mike's dreams and snatched him in the end - an ending similar to the shock finale-epilogue of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Universal's silent film The Phantom of the Opera (1925) was both a classic horror tale, a love story, and a melodrama. Its most celebrated scene was the startling unmasking of the Phantom himself. The film's other highlight was the two-strip Technicolor ball sequence featuring the Phantom's "Red Death." Various other versions of the film have been made: Arthur Lubin's Technicolored Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Claude Rains, Terence Fisher's and Hammer's bloody reboot The Phantom of the Opera (1962, UK) with Herbert Lom, and the most recent musical The Phantom of the Opera (2004) with Gerard Butler.
The film posed the question - was the Paris Opera House haunted? There was a lurking, mysterious creature known as the Phantom, who made demands that young new performer Christine Daae (Mary Philbin), a soprano understudy at the Paris Opera, appear on stage. To strengthen his threats, the Phantom sent a chandelier crashing onto opera patrons during a performance. Soon after, the masked and eerie Phantom kidnapped Christine and brought her to his subterranean world beneath the Opera House.
The most frightening, eerie moment occurred when the mad Erik (Lon Chaney, Sr.), the horribly disfigured and deformed Phantom of the Opera, was unmasked by Christine from behind while he played the organ. He showed his "accursed ugliness" to her. His grotesque face with artfully-applied makeup showed round, darkened eyes, jagged decayed teeth, flaring nostrils, and a corpse-like skull visage.
Disney's second feature length animated film was an adaptation of the dark children’s novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by 19th century Italian writer, Carlo Collodi. It was the simple, yet sophisticated story of a kindly woodcarver/toymaker named Geppetto who carved a wooden puppet named Pinocchio. After being brought to life as a lively puppet by a magical and angelic Blue Fairy, Pinocchio was challenged to become a real boy if he proved himself "brave, truthful, and unselfish." His conscience and wise friend for his journey of self-discovery was an impish cricket named Jiminy.
In the morality tale and coming-of-age story, the simple-minded wooden Pinocchio boy with an impetuous curiosity overcame temptation and learned courage in the face of fear and danger. But first he encountered terrifying and frightening adventures - he was assailed by grifters, caged, threatened with slave labor, transformed into a jackass (literally), swallowed by a giant whale, and almost drowned to death. He made some bad choices and faced the dire consequences:
He finally triumphed over fear and saved himself and his father.
Director Alexandre Aja's R-rated exploitative action thriller (with lots of bloody violence, horror and terror), available also in 3D, was a reworking or reimagining of Joe Dante's original cult horror film Piranha (1978). It told of the town of Lake Victoria which expanded in size during spring break (filmed at Lake Havasu, AZ), when 20,000 drunken revelers arrived in huge numbers for sun, sex and carousing.
An underwater tremor ("heavy seismic activity") caused pre-historic man-eating, razor-toothed fish to erupt from a subterranean lake and cause havoc amongst the town's inhabitants, including the coeds. Although the film was basically an excuse to show lots of 3D boobs and naked carnage, it also had some genuine scares regarding the ravenous fish that hunted in packs and were considered "killing machines."
Torn in Half
Director Gore Verbinski's and producer Jerry Bruckheimer's fantasy swashbuckling blockbuster was initially derived from Disneyland's theme park ride. It told an exciting tale of four main characters:
Barbossa and his crew, who (years earlier) were questing for Aztec gold with betrayed Captain Sparrow, became immortal skeletal beings after finding the cursed Aztec treasure and spending it. Their true forms were revealed only under moonlight. In a major reveal scene, Captain Barbossa explained to captive Elizabeth Swann how the effects of the curse could be reversed if the gold was returned, along with the bloody sacrifice of each pirate:
She unsuccessfully attempted to stab him in the heart and escape from his ship the Black Pearl, but was seized and forced to look at the skeletal forms of his crew of 'undead' pirates in the moonlight - as he extended his bony skeletal hand toward her, and his whole body was transformed. He warned and advised her:
Clint Eastwood's first film as star and director, was a suspenseful, thrilling film of psychotic sexual obsession ("...an invitation to terror..."), advertised with the tagline: "The scream you hear may be your own!"
In the town of Carmel, California, cool-talking, all-night DJ, Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) received regular requests to play "Misty", the Erroll Garner classic, from seductive listener/fan Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter). When he first met her in a local pickup bar, The Sardine Factory, and they had a one-night stand, he was not aware that she was the mysterious voice who always asked: "Play 'Misty' for me."
However, she often dropped in on him unexpectedly, causing him problems, especially when he resumed his relationship with ex-girlfriend Tobie Williams (Donna Mills). He became increasingly terrified and upset by her. Evelyn became angry and jealous, and knifed his cleaning woman and destroyed his possessions. She was put away in a mental institution. When she was later released, and resumed her nightly requests for Misty, she promised him that she was cured.
This supernatural thriller-horror film from co-producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg, who teamed with director Tobe Hopper, was about a California suburban family - the Freelings - whose home was invaded by malevolent ghosts (or poltergeists). It all began when their youngest daughter was abducted, and paranormal investigators and "house cleaning" experts were summoned to the house. The ghost story's key point was that the home had been built over a local cemetery - where developers had never removed and relocated the corpses as promised - and the angry spirits sought retribution.
There were many classic scare moments!
Prince of Darkness (1987)
The horror-sci-fi Prince of Darkness (1987) was the middle cult film in director John Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy," beginning with The Thing (1982) and concluding with In the Mouth of Madness (1995). And in some ways, it was very similar to Quatermass and the Pit (1967, UK) (aka Five Million Years to Earth).
In this supernatural horror tale, in an abandoned LA church basement behind a locked door, English priest Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance) discovered a mysterious canister filled with a swirling, glowing green fluid substance. He worked together with prominent theoretical quantum physicist USC Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and top research graduate students in a local university over a weekend. They lived inside the church, using computer equipment to monitor and analyze the object. Upon analysis, the canister's corrosion dated back 7 million years. They also found that the canister-artifact was securely sealed or locked - from the inside.
They soon realized that the evil spirit of Satan's son (the embodiment of the Anti-Christ) was in the liquid inside the canister. An ancient 2,000 year old document revealed that Christ was an extra-terrestrial alien visitor who had come to Earth to warn humans of the danger the canister posed. The container was guarded by a secret sect of priests known as "The Brotherhood of Sleep." The Prince of Darkness would eventually find a way to unleash his father from the dark realm - to cause an apocalyptic end to the world.
The Prophecy (1995)
Writer/director Gregory Widen's directorial debut feature film was this complex and intelligent apocalyptic horror-mystery thriller about an Earthly war between angels. There were four direct-to-video sequels: The Prophecy II (1998), The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000), The Prophecy: Uprising (2005), and The Prophecy: Forsaken (2005).
The two main angels in conflict (over the Darkest soul on Earth) were:
In the first lines of the film, Simon described the coming War conflict:
Just before Simon's death (he was set ablaze and his heart was ripped out by Gabriel) when he was on the verge of victory, he passed on his secret weapon, the dark soul of a crazed killer (a recently-deceased American colonel Arnold Hawthorne, who served in the Korean War, and had been accused of cannibalistic human massacres). To protect the evil soul from getting into the wrong hands, it was transplanted into the body of an innocent, unsuspecting Native-American girl named Mary (Moriah Shining Dove Snyder).
Gabriel was in pursuit of the soul, to use the weapon for his own side to tip the scales. He was a merciless rebel (against God and humanity), who had raised up an army to battle against God for dominion of both heaven and earth. Gabriel described himself: "I'm an angel. I kill firstborns while their Mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why."
Those who opposed Gabriel, the only ones who stood in his way, were:
In two creepy scenes, the dark, sinister, sarcastic and captivating Lucifer revealed himself to Katherine (while tearing apart the petals of a yellow rose before devouring it) - and to Daggett:
Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense-horror film was an adaptation of Robert Bloch's 1959 novel based on legendary real-life, Plainfield, Wisconsin psychotic serial killer Edward Gein. It was ultimately revealed that the psychotic killer in the film was the disturbed son of a possessive, jealous yet deceased mother. The son - dressed with a wig and old-lady clothing - 'became' his jealous mother - and murdered a number of unsuspecting females.
In a shocking, carefully-edited shower murder scene, frustrated, attractive Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (major star Janet Leigh) in the first third of the film (unheard of in a film at this time), was stabbed to death in a shower tub within the reclusive Bates Motel. The assailant was an opaque-outlined figure (a maniacal older woman?) who whipped aside (or tore open) the shower curtain barrier, and wielded a menacing butcher knife high in the air that repeatedly rose and fell in a machine-like fashion. Marion vainly resisted and shielded her breasts while being savagely murdered - to the sounds of Bernard Herrmann's shrieking violins.
There were many other electrifying moments:
Director William Wellman's pre-code, box-office smash was one of the earliest and best of the gangster films from Warner Bros. in the thirties. The Public Enemy was even tougher, more violent and realistic (released before the censorship codes were strictly enforced), although most of the violence was off-screen.
Director Quentin Tarantino's stylish and inventive episodic thriller was about corruption and temptation. It featured guns, femmes fatales, deadly hit-men, and drugs. At the time of its release, it was indirectly criticized and cited by politicians as an example of the perverse and immoral direction that the Hollywood film industry was taking - with displays of casual violence and sex, "nightmares of depravity," and for promoting "the romance of heroin." The main characters were low-life criminals, thugs, drug-dealers, hitmen, a washed-up crooked boxer, and restaurant-robbing English lovers.
In one violent scene, LA mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) was raped over a pommel horse in the basement of a pawn shop by motorcycle-riding security guard Zed (Peter Greene) and bearded brother and shop owner Maynard (Duane Whitaker). Butch (Bruce Willis) intervened by killing Maynard with a sword-like katana and by Marsellus shooting Zed in the groin with a shotgun - while threatening:
Another terrifying scene was when overdosed Marsellus' wife Mia (Uma Thurman) was injected with a long hypodermic needle (with adrenaline) directly into her breastplate and heart to help her regain consciousness.
(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