Greatest Scariest
Movie Moments and Scenes

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

The Game (1997)

#44

Director David Fincher's psychological thriller, his third feature film, was an account of the long 'journey' of its main character - wealthy, cold-hearted, analytical, privileged and soulless, workaholic, "control-freak" San Francisco investment banker executive Nicholas "Nickie" Van Orton (Michael Douglas). He was divorced from his wife Elizabeth (Anna Katarina), who was living in Sausalito with her new doctor husband.

Nicholas was presented with a 48th year birthday gift - marking the same age that his similar Scrooge-like father had died from suicide, by jumping off the roof of their home onto the driveway (seen in scratchy Super-8 footage, a flashback). The gift was from his estranged, rebellious, free-spirited younger brother Conrad (or "Connie") (Sean Penn) while they had lunch together - a gift certificate to Consumer Recreation Services (CRS), a game voucher for a unique, customized 'game' experience of a lifetime. Conrad mused to himself: "What do you get for the man who has everything?" He promised his brother: "They make your life fun...It's an entertainment service. A profound life experience...I think you'll like this. I did. It was the best thing that ever happened to me."

It would soon turn Nicholas Van Orton's world upside down. He ventured to the 14th floor of the high-rise building on Montgomery Street in SF, to enter CRS' offices, where he was greeted by Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn), VP of Engineering and Data Analysis. He was told he had contracted for an intriguing game -

"specifically tailored for each participant. Think of it as a great vacation - except you don't go to it, it comes to you...It's different every time...We provide whatever's lacking...You don't have to decide today. Take the silly tests, fill out the stupid forms. One day, your game begins. You either love it or hate it. Decide then. You know, we're like an experiential book-of-the-month club. You can drop out at any time with no further obligation. That was my sales pitch."

He didn't know that he had already started to play the increasingly-elaborate "game."

The scary scene emphasized by Bravo occurred next. When he drove to his SF home-mansion (actually Filoli in Woodside, CA) that night, Van Orton discovered a life-sized wooden harlequin clown or doll lying in his driveway (in the same position his father had died) - and grinning. At the end of its long cloth tongue was a key marked CRS. Daniel Schorr (Himself), the anchor on the evening news, talked to him through the TV set and called him "a bloated millionaire fat-cat."

At first, he thought the incidents were only a series of "elaborate pranks." However, the ultimate object and purpose of the game became a life/death threatening proposition. The 'game' was composed of an unpredictable series of increasingly life-changing events, causing him to paranoically ask: "Is it real or not?" He wondered: "I'm being toyed with by a bunch of depraved children." Along the way, he met up with his brother who exclaimed about CRS: "They just f--k you, and they f--k you, and they f--k you. Then, just when you think it's all over, that's when the real f--king starts."

Among many other things, his house was broken into and vandalized. He barely escape drowning in a taxi that landed in SF Bay. He discovered that CRS' headquarters had been vacated. His Swiss bank account had been drained of $600 million, and he feared that his lawyer had duped him and was "in on it." He was left broke. Then, he was kidnapped, and found himself buried alive in a coffin-crypt in a Mexico cemetery (from which he escaped); he was reduced to begging in a foreign country, with no money, identification, or passport; he sold his gold watch to pay for transportation.

When he returned to the US, he found his house foreclosed. He returned to the CRS building, believing it was a covert operation out to destroy him ("I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard"). There, he was forced to retreat to the roof when guards opened fire. He was told that everything was a hoax ("This is all a game...There was always a safety net...That's what you hired us for") but he didn't believe it. He shot his white tuxedo-wearing brother Conrad dead as he approached with a champagne bottle from behind the other side of a door. Devastated, Van Orton suicidally jumped off the multi-story building to his death (!). He crashed through two sets of skylight glass and onto a giant air-filled bag-mattress with an 'X' target in the middle.

After the fall and the breakaway glass was cleared, he opened his eyes and realized that he was experiencing the start of his own birthday party thrown by his living brother Conrad. A grand ballroom was filled with guests, applauding him and celebrating his special day - on the 20th of October. Conrad was holding up a T-shirt: "I WAS DRUGGED AND LEFT FOR DEAD IN MEXICO - AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS STUPID T-SHIRT." Van Orton spoke briefly with his ex-wife, and greeted others, and then split the expensive bill for the experience with Conrad.









Gangs of New York (2002)

Director Martin Scorsese's semi-historical film set in the mid-1800s portrayed gang warfare in the Five Points District of NYC between the forces of nativistic Protestant Americans, led by Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), against the throngs of Catholic-Irish immigrants (the "Dead Rabbits"), led by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) - and later by his vengeful, grown-up son Amsterdam (Leonardo Di Caprio). As the story progressed, Bill eventually learned of Amsterdam's plot to kill him, to seek revenge for the killing of his father.

In one of the film's more chilling scenes, "The Butcher" baited Amsterdam by engaging in a tense, knife-throwing "command performance" on stage with pickpocket and con artist Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz). Jenny was Bill's former lover ("The Butcher's original apprentice") but now sexually involved with Amsterdam. He demanded her participation: "What do you say, Jen? One more time for the sweet souvenir."

Knowing that she had misled and betrayed him, "The Butcher" violently hurled knives at her with pinpoint precision, first pinning her garment at both sides of her neck to the wall behind her. He then speared the locket (dropped to the floor) that he'd given her as a child as his way of permanently severing his relationship with her. He mockingly chided:

"Whoopsie-daisy! Now it's good and broke!"

He then asked: "You got the sand to give 'em a Grand Finale?" before his final throw, which deliberately grazed her neck and drew some blood.

He then gave a toast before drinking from a flaming shot glass:

We hold in our hearts the memory of our fallen brothers whose blood stains the very streets we walk today. Also on this night, we pay tribute to the leader of our enemies, an honorable man, who crossed over bravely, fighting for what he believed in. To defeat my enemy, I extinguish his life, and consume him as I consume these flames. In honor of Priest Vallon.

Following the toast, an angered Amsterdam attempted to throw a knife at Bill, but he deflected it, and threw a knife into Amsterdam's abdomen. He announced: "That's a wound! I want yous all to meet the son of Priest Vallon. I took him under my wing and see how I'm repaid. He saves my life one day so he can kill me the next, like a sneak-thief instead of fightin' a man. A base defiler. Unworthy of a noble name." With Amsterdam splayed out on a table, Bill straddled him, called him fresh meat that needed tenderizing, and vowed: "Let's kiss goodnight to that pretty young face of yours!" Bill head-butted him multiple times, then held up a butcher's meat cleaver:

What'll it be then? Rib or chop. Loin or shank. (His twirled-into-the-air meat cleaver landed inches from Amsterdam's bloodied face)

Members of the jeering audience called out body parts to be excised: "The lungs! The liver! The leg! The tongue! The kidneys! The stomach! The heart!" Bill claimed that Amsterdam had no heart.

He said he would let Amsterdam live as "a freak, worthy of Barnum's museum of wonders" that would be "marked with shame" - and then burned his cheek with a hot blade.






Ghostbusters (1984)

Director Ivan Reitman's sci-fi comedy film, one of the biggest comedy hits of the 80s, told about three eccentric parapsychologists who decided to rid New York City of its ghosts. The trio were called upon to investigate hauntings in various NYC locations.

Their first real encounter was while tracking down ghosts in the New York Public Library stacks. Ghostbuster-to-be Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) calmly noted the purplish librarian ghost (Alice Drummond) before them: "A full torso apparition, and it's real." He suggested: "We've got to make contact. One of us should actually try to speak to her."

Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) volunteered and approached the figure: "Hello, I'm Peter. Where are you from? Originally." The gray-haired ghost turned and shushed him, with her finger to her lips. When that didn't work, Ray decided to take charge and yelled: "Ready? Get her!"

Suddenly, the library worker turned toward them, and was transformed into a screaming spectral hag (with effective special effects) - a great scare!




GoodFellas (1990)

Director Martin Scorsese's stylistic masterpiece was an unflinching treatment of a true mobster story about three violent "wiseguys" [Mafia slang for 'gangsters'].

One of the wiseguys, charismatic, loud-mouthed, volatile gangster Tommy (Joe Pesci), exhibited the first traces of his quick-trigger, psychotic, pathological temper in a scene set at the Bamboo Lounge.

There, he entertained other mobsters with hilarious tales of violence laced with four letter words. Laughing, wise-guy Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) chuckled at his jokester pal: "You're a pisser. You're really funny. You're really funny." The comedic scene (improvised by the actors) immediately turned sour and the tension mounted as a seemingly-aggravated Tommy persisted in asking - in a cold-blooded, aggressive, fearsome, and ambiguous tone:

What do you mean, I'm funny?...You mean the way I talk? What?...Funny how? I mean, what's funny about it?...I'm funny how, I mean, funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I'm here to f--kin' amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?...No, no, I don't know. You said. How do I know? You said I'm funny. How the f--k am I funny? What the f--k is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what's funny...

He appeared to take major offense.

Finally (and thankfully), the situation was eased when Henry used humor to defuse his potentially-dangerous friend, but Tommy identified his friend's mortal weakness: "I wonder about you sometimes, Hendry. You may fold under questioning."



Great Expectations (1946, UK)

British director David Lean's film was an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic 1861 novel.

It began with a nearly-silent opening after the reading of the first paragraph of the book's text ("So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip") - followed by one of the most nightmarish scenes ever filmed.

Orphaned young Phillip "Pip" Pirrip (Anthony Wager) ran to a shadowy and dark graveyard near a church, marked by crooked gravestones and markers, as the wind howled and whistled through the bare trees. After he planted a small bouquet of flowers on the grave of his parents who had both died in 1817, he became spooked.

As he turned and ran, he found himself in the arms of bulbous-nosed convict Abel Magwitch (Finley Currie) with chains on his legs, who grabbed him by the collar.

The monstrous man threatened to cut the boy's throat for screaming ("Keep still, you little devil or I'll cut your throat"), and then demanded to know where the boy lived. He turned the boy upside down to empty his pockets (he found an apple), and then commanded the scared youngster: "You get me a file and you get me vittles or I'll have your heart and liver out." The items were to be delivered to him in the graveyard early the next morning, and he must never say a word about their meeting if he didn't want to be harmed.




The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Edwin S. Porter's pioneering western film featured the sensational, stunning shot of a bandit firing directly into the camera.

It was a medium shot close-up of the outlaw bandit chief (with green-tinted shirt and red-tinted kerchief in some versions) (George Barnes) with his hat pushed back on his head. He pointed and shot his revolver point-blank, directly into the camera (and, of course, at the audience).

This caused a tremendously terrifying sensation at the time. This final punch to the film was totally irrelevant to the plot. Theater managers were free to either begin or end the picture with this scene -- a promotional gimmick - selecting it as either a prologue or epilogue.

The Grudge (2004)

This non-linear, cursed or haunted house film (an Americanized version of the Japanese original, Ju-On (2003)) had many cliched jump scenes, sudden appearances/disappearances, and spooky "boo" moments by vengeful ghosts. [There were additional sequels about the deadly curse following its initial success: The Grudge 2 (2006) and The Grudge 3 (2009).]

The premise of the film was stated in the opening:

WHEN SOMEONE DIES IN THE GRIP OF A POWERFUL RAGE...A CURSE IS BORN. THE CURSE GATHERS IN THAT PLACE OF DEATH. THOSE WHO ENCOUNTER IT WILL BE CONSUMED BY ITS FURY.

The wretched, much angrier curse, known as The Grudge, would be reborn and passed on to others in that same location.

Scary Boo Moments - Appearances of Cursed Spirits: the Black Cat, Kayako, and Toshio

It told about American foreign exchange student Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in Tokyo, Japan, who was there with her live-in boyfriend and fellow student Doug (Jason Behr). She had been assigned to serve as caretaker-home nurse, substituting for missing nurse Yoko (Yoko Makai), in the house where Saeki family murders had occurred. [When Yoko investigated strange cat-like rattling sounds in a closet with a top hatch, she was dragged by her jaw into the attic.]

Three years earlier, a raging suicidal Japanese father, Takeo Saeki, had killed his eight year old son Toshio and wife Kayako (and the family cat) after learning from her journal that she was obsessed with a 51 year-old college professor named Peter Kirk (Bill Pullman). After drowning his son and snapping his wife's neck, Takeo then hanged himself. Detective Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi) explained to Karen: "The bodies of the son and the daughter-in-law of the woman you are caring for were found in the attic. It seems that the son killed the wife and then himself."

Subsequently, Peter - in the presence of his 31 year-old wife Maria (Rosa Blasi) bent over the balcony railing and threw himself from his 6th floor in an act of suicide.

In a supernaturally-eerie house with cursed spirits, with litter (food wrappers) strewn around and a taped-shut closet, Karen was caring for a mute and seemingly-catatonic, shut-in, bedridden elderly and senile American named Emma Williams (Grace Zabriskie). She was the mother of son Matthew (William Mapother) (who was married to Jennifer (Clea DuVall)) and daughter Susan (KaDee Strickland).

There were a series of frightening scenes:

  • as daughter Susan left her office work and walked down a series of steps in the stairwell, she was spooked by noises and apparitions. Hysterical, she reported "something strange" on the 10th floor. She continued to be stalked during a terrifying surveillance 'security camera' sequence, while she watched a video monitor as a security guard investigated. [Later, a playback of the video revealed a ghost-like figure with cat-like eyes in the office hallway.] When she took a taxi home and rode up in her apartment's elevator, she saw glimpses of a ghostly child-demon passing by on each successive floor.
  • further terrorized inside her apartment, Susan found the blue-tinted, female spirit-ghost Kayako (with a wide mouth and eyes, and a defensive feral cat-like scream) under the bedsheets in the seeming safety of her bedroom.
  • as Karen was riding on a bus, an apparition appeared on the window next to her.
  • as Karen was showering and shampooing her hair - she felt (and the audience saw) fingers grabbing on the back of her head - she jerked around to see what was there.
  • in the haunted house, as Karen passed by a mirror in the foyer, the reflection of the ghostly woman Kayako passing by was also seen.

Besides the terrifying scary scenes were many murders by the spirits in the attic: Matthew, Susan, Emma, Jennifer, and Detective Nakagawa.

In the film's concluding climactic scene set in the house, Karen tried to save Doug from entering the house before she arrived. Too late, she saw him on the downstairs floor, crawling, shaken and barely able to speak or move. Suddenly, she saw the freakish-looking mother Kayako crawling down the stairs from the attic, with the sounds of a death rattle. To try to save Doug and get him out of the house before Kayako killed them both, Karen knocked over a left-over gasoline can and used Doug's lighter to set the place on fire, but the mother turned on her and killed Doug.

The Final Scene in the House

In the next scene set at the hospital's morgue, the scary finale - Doug's burnt body was covered with a white sheet. The police mentioned how Karen seemed to have survived the curse and was able to save the house. Then, the sheet jerked, and the dead wife's purplish pale arm flopped out - but it was really Doug's arm on second glance. Karen suddenly heard the death sounds of Kayako - standing right behind her. There was a whip-to the left and zoom-in on Kayako's ghostly eye. The screen abruptly turned to black with an echoing scream sound before the credits rolled.


Dead Saeki Family











The Scary Finale

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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