|Movie Title/Year and Brief Scene Description|
Alfred Hitchcock's action thriller ended with an agonizing, breath-taking, harrowing death sequence - it was a terrifying, suspenseful bit of film-making and quick-cut editing.
After a cross-country chase, suspected saboteur Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) confronted (with a gun) the real fifth columnist and foreign saboteur Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd) on the top of the Statue of Liberty - on its torch held high above the water of New York harbor. Windblown against a cloudy sky, Fry lost his balance and fell over the side of the railing - he bounced once and was left clinging to the space between the immense base of the thumb and the forefinger that composed the concrete hand of the statue.
Kane climbed down to rescue the spy - he half-crouched and had one hand wrapped around part of the base of the torch. With his free hand, he could only reach and clutch Fry's coat jacket sleeve near the wrist. As Fry perilously hung there clinging for his life and perspiration beads appeared on his forehead, the sleeve began to tear apart at the seam where the arm joined the shoulder. The saboteur literally dangled by a thread.
As the split widened, Fry's terror-stricken face noticed that his entire coat jacket would soon separate. He cried out: "Quick, the sleeve, the sleeve!" And then his arm slipped suddenly out of the sleeve - in a disorienting, downward view from Kane's perspective, Fry fell away through space and dropped to his death many feet below. His face contorted, his body rotated awkwardly, and his screams became fainter as he approached the ground.
The Ripped Sleeve
and Plunge to the Death
Salem's Lot (1979)
Director Tobe Hooper's horror-mystery-thriller ("The ultimate in terror") was based on Stephen King's classic 1975 vampire novel (his second work), and aired as a two-part CBS-TV-miniseries.
It was Hooper's first Hollywood mainstream production after the cult success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). This early vampire film was said to have inspired other films, such as Fright Night (1985) and TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997).
The frightening haunted house vampire tale was set in the New England town of Salem's Lot (aka Jerusalem's Lot) in Maine. In the story, writer Ben Mears (David Soul) moved back to the small town where he had grown up. He was writing a new psychological horror story novel about a sinister haunted house, the Marsten mansion, where he had been traumatized 25 years earlier. The site overlooked the town from a nearby hill. Richard T. Straker (James Mason), the merchant owner of a new antique store, had recently purchased the mansion, claiming it was for his business partner, Mr. Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder) - soon revealed as the film's demonic, ancient, Nosferatu-like Master vampire, with a blue face, pointed ears, and bloodshot eyes.
A series of killings occurred - leaving the victims drained of their blood, after the midnight delivery of an otherworldly crate (containing Barlow) to the Marsten house. The police immediately suspected the newest members in town - Ben and Straker. Ben teamed with horror-monster movie and magic fan Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) in the belief that vampires had risen from their graves to torment the living.
There were quite a few striking and gripping set-pieces or sequences:
at Mark's Bedroom Window
Susan (Bonnie Bedelia)
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975, It./Fr.) (aka Salò o Le 120 Giornate di Sodoma)
Salò was directed by the notorious Italian poet, novelist, painter and film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was murdered before it was released. The art house film was based on a work 120 Days of Sodom by the notorious Marquis de Sade - to depict the short-lived, lakeside republic of Salo in Nazi-controlled N. Italy at the close of WWII.
Four ruling fascist male officials (with four similar females) in a secluded chateau near Marzabotto totally controlled, abused, tortured, enslaved, psychologically humiliated, and victimized an anonymous group of about 30 young and attractive peasant teenagers (both male and female). The group was rounded up, and then driven to the chateau - to be stripped and inspected over a period of a few days. They were instructed that every day would include these acts: "intermingling, entwining and copulating incestuously, committing adultery and sodomy."
The film was divided into various chapters:
The extreme exercise of power was supposed to symbolize the evil of fascism itself. The shocking, disgusting and disturbing film about the dark and atrocious side of humanity began with perverted acts of degradation, sexual and physical torture, carnal debaucheries, and atrocities -- toward the youth. One girl committed suicide by slashing her own throat to escape the humiliations. The imprisoned youth ("Weak, chained creatures, destined for our pleasure") were warned they were "beyond the reach of any legality." One lecherous official commented upon a stripped young female:
Breakfast in the dining hall was served by naked girls - one of whom was tripped and raped from behind, after which another male was penetrated anally. Soon after, the entire group engaged in a mock "wedding feast." A couple (hapless blonde Renata and Sergio), accompanied by dozens of naked flower-bearing bridesmaids and bridesmen, participated in a ring ceremony, often interrupted by unprovoked gropings of the nudes. The two were first encouraged to fondle each other and show their affection, but denied consummation, and then were anally raped by the libertines (and in addition, there was an instance of three-way intercourse from behind).
In another notorious scene, the youths were stripped, collared, leashed, and forced to act like dogs begging for pieces of meat (one girl bit into a piece of food laced with nails). In "Circle of Shit" (infamous for scenes of coprophagia), Renata was forced to eat fresh feces with a spoon. She was urged on by a male who had freshly defecated on the floor: "Come, little one, it's ready. On your knees. Courage. Go on, eat! Take this spoon. Eat!" Afterwards, during a second mock "wedding feast," a large urn of cooked human excrement was served to the guests as an "intoxicating dish." Another young girl was commanded to stand above a man and urinate into his open mouth.
A contest was held to judge the "loveliest ass in the villa" - the youths were arranged in a circle on the floor in the dark, bent over with their behinds facing upwards and inspected by flashlight during the judging, as the men commented: "The differences between boys and girls are enormous...let's try to be objective." Franco was picked as the male with the best buttocks - and offered death as a prize.
In "Circle of Blood," as punishment for breaking the rules, male youth Ezio was executed along with his black maid/slave girl, for illegally making normal love together. The teens were further tortured for their "misdeeds" - bound by their wrists and sitting in a tub of excrement, one girl cried out: "God, why did you abandon us?"
The teens were further tortured in excruciatingly-difficult to watch scenes performed in the courtyard, and viewed through binoculars, as the film ended.
"A pair of little breasts,
to revive a dead man."
Ezio and Black Maid Executed For Having Normal Sex
Torture in the Courtyard, Voyeuristically Viewed Through Binoculars (below)
Saw (2004), a psychological thriller and a prime example of "torture porn," was the directorial debut of filmmaker James Wan. In the endless series of Saw films (seven in all by 2010), sadistic mastermind serial killer and terminally-ill cancer patient Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), known as "The Jigsaw Killer," devised impossible live-or-die situations for victims (who lacked an appreciation for life). In them, individuals had to make outrageous moral choices to survive in the trap-filled environments, while self-inflicting lethal wounds and finding a new "life-purpose."
Two men were kidnapped and imprisoned in a large, sealed, derelict industrial bathroom - chained by their ankles to pipes on opposite sides of the room:
Between them was a dead corpse on the floor, clutching a hand-held tape player, and lying in a pool of blood from a self-inflicted gunshot wound (with a gun in his hand). There were tapes to be played by each man:
They were given saws - presumably both would use the hacksaws to saw off their limbs ("He wants us to cut through our feet!"). One of them had to slaughter the other within a period of time, or his family would die. They were part of a plan by a sick serial killer named Jigsaw. As the deadline approached, hospital orderly Zep Hindle (Michael Emerson), who was monitoring the two men with video surveillance, broke into Lawrence's house and attacked his family. Zep was planning to murder them if Lawrence failed to kill Adam by 6 am.
After Lawrence sawed off his own leg to break free, he shot Adam with the corpse's gun (but it was a non-lethal wound in the shoulder) and then crawled away for help (and presumably bled to death). When Zep entered the bathroom, Adam grabbed a toilet tank lid and bashed Zep to death. A tape revealed that Zep was also under the control of the "Jigsaw Killer" in order to save himself from a slow poisoning death and acquire an antidote.
Then, in the trick ending, the true mastermind behind the entire scheme was the man posing as the bloodied dead body. The dead body rose up, removed some of his makeup, and revealed himself as terminally-ill brain cancer patient, John Kramer - the "Jigsaw Killer." (Flashback: "He's a very interesting person. His name is John. He has an inoperable frontal lobe tumor"). As the killer left the darkened and sealed bathroom, Adam heard his words: "Most people are so ungrateful to be alive, but not you, not any more...Game over" - . Adam screamed back: "Don't! Don't! No!"
Another earlier victim, a 46 year-old male named Paul Leahy (Mike Butters), had to claw through a cage of razor wire to reach safety within two hours, but he didn't succeed. Detectives David Tapp (Danny Glover), Steven Sing (Ken Leung) and Kerry (Dina Meyer) entered a trap door and descended some stairs as they came upon the crime scene (lit in lime-green). Kerry noted the victim while black and white crime photos were taken of the bloody corpse:
Kerry also explained how they had found a cassette tape, instructing Paul about the 'Razor Wire Room' (with some flashbacks):
"Hello Paul. You are a perfectly healthy, sane, middle-class male. Yet last month, you ran a straight razor across your wrists. Did you cut yourself because you truly wanted to die, or did you just want some attention? Tonight, you'll show me. The irony is that if you want to die, you just have to stay where you are, but if you want to live, you'll have to cut yourself again. Find the path through the razor-wire to the door - but hurry. At 3:00, that door will lock and then, this room becomes your tomb. How much blood will you shed to stay alive?"
One of the additional wounds found on Paul's body was a piece of flesh carved out in the shape of a jigsaw puzzle piece - hence the name Jigsaw killer, although it was a misnomer: "Technically speaking, he's not really a murderer. He never killed anyone. He finds ways for his victims to kill themselves."
In an earlier flashback, another victim was Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), who was outfitted with a bizarre booby-trapped jaw device (a "reverse beartrap") that would blow her head wide open if she didn't find a key to unlock it. The key was inside the guts of another heavily-sedated, semi-conscious victim - her cellmate, that she was forced to kill. She knifed open the person's abdomen, found the slimy, bloody key, and removed the beartrap just before it activated.
Lawrence "Sawing" His Leg
Victim Paul Leahy
Victim Amanda Young
Saw II (2005)
This second Saw film in 2005 (the first sequel to the 2004 original) was another squirm-inducing movie for audiences who delighted in 'torture-porn.' It featured the same villainous mastermind serial killer dubbed the Jigsaw killer (aka John Kramer (Tobin Bell)). Jigsaw's twisted motive was to inspire others to value and appreciate life.
In this installment, eight victims in a lethal, booby-trapped house faced similar dire circumstances that forced them to use ingenuity and fortitude to survive.
In a horrific 'needle pit' scene, returning victim Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) - the only known survivor of Jigsaw's malevolent schemes - was thrown into a pit filled with about 80,000 used, dirty hypodermic syringes where a key was hidden. As she dug for the key, she screamed mercilessly as needles and syringes stuck to all parts of her body, and a digital timer engaged in a countdown.
And in the 'razor-box' room scene, Addison Corday (Emmanuelle Vaugier) grabbed at a vial of antidote with her hands inside a glass cage or box above her where the arm-socket openings were one-way, with sharp metal razor blades interlocked together that cut her limbs when she tried to retract them.
David Cronenberg's science-fiction horror film was marked by an early sequence of the infamous, brain-bursting exploding-head. In ConSec headquarters during an ESP conference, 'bad' Scanner renegade villain Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) volunteered to come on-stage with one of ConSec's scanners, who was proposing to eventually scan everyone in the room. He prefaced the powerful telepathic demonstration with some caution:
The scanner then instructed Revok: "Now I'd like you to think of something specific. Something that will not breach the security of your organization and that you will not object to having disclosed to this group. Something personal, perhaps." After Revok responded: "All right, yes, I have something," Revok demonstrated his own brain-bursting telekinetic powers. In a duel with ConSec's scanner, he exploded the head of the man, causing pandemonium and chaos in the audience. As Darryl was taken away by security at gunpoint, he asserted: "I didn't do anything."
Later in a second horrific scene - a vicious psychic showdown, Darryl Revok (who sought world domination with a group of rebel scanners) threatened to use his scanner powers on his long-lost scanner brother Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), who obstinately refused to join him. They engaged in a mind-control battle after Revok denounced his brother:
Veins in Cameron's arms became to expand dangerously and bleed as a result of Revok's savage psychic attack, and his swollen face became bloodied as he grabbed at his peeling face. Before dying from his heart bursting and from internal combustion, Cameron was able to send one final shot toward his screaming brother, whose cheeks and face exhibited pulsating swollen veins while his eyes turned white.
Cam's body spontaneously ignited, and afterwards his incinerated corpse was found on the floor, although it was revealed that he had been able to inhabit Revok's body and take control of it.
As a result, Revok now had Cam's blue eyes, and was missing the mark between his eyebrows. Huddled in a corner of the room, Revok spoke in Cam's voice to Kim Obrist (Jennifer O'Neill):
In Darryl's Body
Director Wes Craven's significant, teen-slashing thriller revived the tired-out horror film sub-genre. The self-reverential, tongue-in-cheek horror film opened with a sudden, unexpected, murderous stalking and ultra-sadistic demise of a very familiar movie actress - Drew Barrymore. Viewers asked themselves about the disorienting sequence - was it just a nightmare or part of the film's 'game'?
In the opening 12-minute prologue scene, all-American girl, sweatered Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore in a cameo) was alone preparing Jiffy Pop pop-corn to watch a video at home when she received an initially playful phone call. She was asked a trivia question: what was her favorite scary movie? She replied Halloween (1978). Shortly afterwards, the repeated terrifying calls turned obscene, threatening and ugly:
The freaky caller also added: "I want to know who I'm looking at." When she rushed around to lock all the doors, and demanded to know what the caller wanted, the caller simply replied:
When the doorbell rang and she said: "Who's there?", she was reminded by the caller:
She then threatened that her boyfriend would be arriving soon: "He's big and he plays football, and he'll kick the shit out of you!" Casey was instructed to turn on the patio lights, where she saw her bruised boyfriend Steve (Kevin Patrick Walls) tied up and gagged with duct tape across his mouth.
In a game of movie trivia, the phone-caller then asked two questions:
She was corrected with the proper answer: "Mrs. Voorhies," Jason's mother -- the phone caller explained: "Jason didn't show up until the sequel." Casey's boyfriend was killed for her wrong answer.
Outside, Casey was chased across the lawn by Ghostface (wearing a Halloween costume), as her parents pulled into the driveway nearby. She was grabbed from behind, choked, and stabbed in the upper chest. After falling to the ground, she kicked Ghostface away, who attempted a few more fatal stab wounds as her parents got out of their car, stepped onto the front porch and entered the front door - without ever seeing or hearing her. Ghostface raised his bloody knife a few final times and plunged it deep into Casey.
She was dragged on the lawn and hung from the front yard's tree for her shocked, screaming parents to view. Later, Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) confirmed what the caller wanted:
In the pre-massacre scene of John Ford's classic western, Comanche Chief Scar's (Henry Brandon) shadow slowly moved over and menacingly covered the figure of young, frightened 10 year old Debbie (Lana Wood, younger sister of co-star Natalie Wood), who was crouched by a family grave.
The Sentinel (1977)
Michael Winner's horror film, a Satanic thriller (following the spate of similar films at the time including Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), and The Omen (1976), with a dash of Tod Browning's Freaks (1932), was based on the 1974 novel by co-scripter Jeffrey Konvitz.
The basic plot was that a gorgeous NYC fashion supermodel, reluctant to marry, moved into a brand-new brownstone apartment in Brooklyn Heights - the building was soon revealed to be a gateway or portal to hell. Its proprietors were also revealed to be a secret society or group of excommunicated Catholic priests called The Brotherhood of Protectors. On the top floor (5th) lived mysterious, senile and blind priest Father Francis Matthew Halliran (John Carradine) who always sat by his open window - a gatekeeper (or Sentinel) who guarded the gates so that the demons inside couldn't escape.
Emotionally-disturbed and neurotic, NYC fashion model Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) met some of her strange neighbors:
Alison began having frightful attacks of insomnia and incidents including noises in the night from neighbors, loud metal-banging sounds, and a swinging chandelier. She had experienced a flashback to a past suicide attempt during her traumatic childhood - cutting her wrists after she accidentally interrupted her elderly father (Fred Stuthman) having sex with two gross and obese women. He slapped her and ripped a crucifix from her neck and smashed it on the floor. She also had bluish-tinged nightmares (of her fellow nude apartment dwellers).
At lunch, her rental agent Miss Logan (Ava Gardner) tried to reassure her about her new bargain-priced living quarters at $400/month: "Aside from the priest, and now of course, you, nobody has lived in that building for three years." When they returned to the building, in one of the film's creepiest scenes, she was shown that the other apartments were vacant and covered in cobwebs!
In the film's scariest stalking sequence during another sleepless night, Alison feared that she was losing her mind. She went to investigate (with one of her white slip shoulder straps down), armed with a flashlight and butcher knife. Completely spooked at the top of the staircase, she saw Jezebel eating Mortimer. A door opened to an apartment and a grotesque, deformed creature (with totally white eyes) walked by. She asked: "What do you want from me? Who are you?" She turned on her flashlight aimed toward a dark shadowy area, and the ghastly ghoul - the ghost of her dead father stared back at her. As he approached, she backed up, and her flashlight revealed the two fat naked zombies from her father's sex orgy a few years earlier. She stabbed at her zombie father with her knife, cutting into its arm, stomach, forehead, and nose before he collapsed at her feet.
While briefly hospitalized for the trauma caused, Alison's lawyer boyfriend of two years Michael Lerman (Chris Sarandon) discovered that the names of some of the other tenants were those of notoriously convicted murderers now deceased. Unbeknowst to her, Alison had been chosen as the new replacement Sentinel or 'gatekeeper" - to cleanse herself of her sins (the mortal sin of attempted suicide). The tagline gave away the plot: "She was young. She was beautiful. She was next!"
In the anti-climactic ending, the frightened female was chased toward the top floor by her zombified neighbors, the cannibalistic lesbian lovers, and her now dead boyfriend Michael (he had been condemned to hell for having his wife murdered!). Charles urged Alison to end her torment by killing herself, and he offered her a knife:
They entered into Father Halliran's room, where she was cornered, and was compelled to end her life. Ultimately, rather than committing suicide, she replaced Father Halliran as the gate-keeper - she became a reclusive blind nun sitting at the top floor's open window as he had.
Father Halliran -
The Original Sentinel
Michael (Chris Sarandon)
Blind and Elderly Alison - the New Replacement Sentinel
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Animator Don Bluth's directorial debut film, a fantasy-adventure drama, was based upon the 1971 children's novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, [the National Institute of Mental Health] by Robert C. O'Brien.
There were many unusually intense moments in this G-rated animated film:
The Great Owl
The Sinking Home
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Director Wes Craven's chilling, and menacing supernatural horror film was inspired by the 1985 semi-autobiographical book by Wade Davis, who recalled his real-life experiences in Haiti regarding live burials and revived zombies. The film's tagline foretold the film's conclusion: "Don't bury me...I'm not dead!" It began with the written prologue:
The effectively-scary film was rampant with surreal, hallucinatory and horrific nightmare images, including zombies, jaguar spirits, spirit possession, an eyeball and a cheek poked with a needle, a snake coming out of the mouth of a dessicated bride corpse, a scorpion emerging from another dead man's mouth, clawing arms reaching out as the protagonist was pulled into a deep pit in the ground, a blood-filled coffin, a mummified hand emerging from a soup bowl, a person decapitating himself, and outstretched hands attacking in a jail corridor.
Overwrought Harvard anthropologist/scientist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman), nicknamed Blanc (for his white skin), was searching for a strange, magical revitalizing powder in Haiti used by voodoo practitioners. He was sent by the pharmaceutical company Biocorp to the island to search for this powerful and potentially-profitable - yet elusive anesthetic powder. He was aided by beautiful and sensuous medic Marielle (Cathy Tyson). Immediately, he was opposed by evil, sadistic, voodoo arch-lord Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae), a villainous individual (a practicing voodoo houngan) who was in control of the secret police (the Ton-tons Macoutes).
Peytraud had the ability to transplant nightmares into Dennis' mind: "The pain I cause you in the room upstairs is nothing to the pain I can cause in your own mind." Dennis, with the hex powder used on him, was menaced by Peytraud with a blowtorch, while strapped in a chair:
Then Peytraud leaned forward and told his intentions, to instill fear rather than to inflict injury: "I want to hear you scream." He pounded an iron spike into Dennis' groin area, as the pained victim accommodated him by screaming at the top of his lungs, although Peytraud complained about the effort: "Not good enough!"
After the paralyzing powder (or mystery drug) was blown into his face during a subsequent attack, Dennis' body (with a bloody cross marked on his forehead) contorted, and he fell down, begging: "Don't let them bury me! I'm not dead!" before he went unconscious. After being abducted from a medical facility, Dennis was totally conscious during a live burial conducted by Peytraud. He was able to experience the power first-hand when he was paralyzed and placed in a wooden coffin - buried alive and lying still and emotionless with a tarantula placed inside the box ("to keep you company"). He was unable to move, even when the tarantula in the coffin crawled across his eyeball - visible only by the light of a carved crucifix in the coffin's wooden lid. As dirt was scooped into the grave, he heard from a distance: "When you wake up scream, Doctor Alan. Scream all you want. There is no escape from the grave."
He awoke with a fright in pitch blackness, gasping for air. His screams brought attention, and his coffin was dug up from under the dirt - and he was resurrected.
Nightclub owner Lucien Celine (Paul Winfield) was killed by Peytraud's use of dark magic - signified by a scorpion crawling out of his mouth. In the exciting conclusion, Alan - with the help of love interest Marielle and his own jaguar spirit, defeated Peytraud and broke all of the urns holding the souls of the people the villainous voodoo arch-lord had killed. Peytraud was burned alive, and then with Dennis' telekinetic powers, Peytraud was tortured in the same chair used for his own scrotum-spiking (the 9-inch spike was levitated and then speared into Peytraud's crotch), and the evil master was consumed by the ground towards Hell.
Torture Scene with
Blowtorch and Iron Spike
Imagining Himself in
Coffin Filling With Blood
"Don't let them bury me."
Tables Turned on Peytraud: "I wanna hear you scream!"
Session 9 (2001)
In this paranoic thriller from writer/director Brad Anderson - similar to The Shining (1980) and Don't Look Now (1973), an asbestos cleaning crew worked at the condemned and abandoned mental institution. It was the real Danvers Lunatic Asylum, with a dark past, tortured patients, and a psychologically-unsettling feeling of dread within every corridor and room.
The film's scariest and most disquieting moments:
The premise of director David Fincher's neo-noir crime thriller was that the many sick and gruesome crime-murders committed by maniacal serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey), were based upon the famous Seven Deadly Sins (gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath). The actual murders were off-screen, but described in gruesome detail.
In the unforgettable, nail-biting, concluding climax, John Doe led arrogant, hotshot replacement Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) and retiring veteran Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) to a remote desert area, promising to reveal the last two bodies and give his confession. There, another sick and gruesome crime and souvenir - "her pretty head" in a bloody box was delivered by a van.
It proved to ultimately demonstrate one of the last two of the Seven Deadly Sins (Envy and Wrath). Doe confessed to the sin of Envy, having killed Mills' wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) and having her severed head (never shown) delivered to their location in a cardboard box:
To demonstrate Wrath, anguished and angered Lt. Mills shot Doe repeatedly, emptying his gun, in revenge for his pregnant wife's beheading. His partner Detective Somerset begged him not to: "That's what he wants. He wants you to shoot him." Doe kept pressing: "Become vengeance, David...Become Wrath...She begged for her life, Detective...She begged for her life and for the life of the baby inside of her...Oh, he didn't know." Even though Somerset advised: "If you kill him, he will win," Mills executed Doe.
Tempted into a Display of Wrath
(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