Greatest Scariest
Movie Moments and Scenes


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

Cabin Fever (2002)


Eli Roth's debut feature film, mostly a gore-fest, told about five college graduates who rented a cabin in the woods in rural North Carolina and became infected by a contagious, flesh-eating disease/virus from drinking contaminated water. An infected homeless hermit (Arie Verveen), set on fire, had expired in the area's reservoir. The film's tagline was the catchy: "Catch It!"

In the film's most infamous, cringe-inducing scene, diseased Marcy (Cerina Vincent) - unaware that the rash she had on her back had become diseased, bubbly and blistered with oozing sores, attempted to shave her soap-lathered, infected legs in the bathtub, causing bloody wounds, skin to come off, and reddish bathwater.

When she emerged outside the cabin, Marcy was torn to pieces (off-screen) by a mad dog (named Dr. Mambo) in the woods - shot from the dog's POV. Her body parts were discovered scattered about, in the reddish-tinged scene.

One of the scariest scenes was one in which blonde Karen (Jordan Ladd) was revealed to be the first one with the illness after drinking the bad water. As her would-be boyfriend Paul (Rider Strong) sexually touched her as she dozed feverish and unconscious, he removed his hand in horror - noticing that it was covered in goopy, infected blood. The skin on her thighs and groin area were rotting.

Later, after Karen was isolated in a shed outside the house, Paul found the mad dog (Dr. Mambo) feeding on her diseased body. He shot the dog, then put Karen out of her misery by beating her to death with a shovel.


The Bathtub Shaving Scene

Diseased Karen
(Jordan Ladd)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Germ.)

For its time, this German expressionistic, surrealistic fantasy/horror film was truly scary. It was also a landmark film that introduced many standard horror film conventions.

The shadowy, disturbing, distorted, and dream-nightmarish quality of the macabre and stylistic 'Caligari,' with twisted alleyways, lopsided doors, cramped rooms, overhanging buildings, and skewed cityscapes, was brought to Hollywood in the 1920s, and later influenced the classic period of horror films in the 1930s, and also film-noirs.

It told about a ghost-like, mad hypnotist-therapist in a carnival named Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) who called pale-skinned, lanky, black leotard-wearing Cesare (Conrad Veidt), his performing somnambulist (and haunted murderer), from a state of sleep (in a box-shaped coffin) for a group of fairgoers.

The film's major plot twist was that the story, told in flashback by Francis (Friedrich Feher), appeared to be only a delusional nightmare in the psychotic mental patient's mind. Dr. Caligari was not a menacing figure, but Francis' asylum doctor.

The last scene was of Francis becoming crazed when he saw the asylum director Dr. Caligari - whom he insisted was the mad and sinister "Caligari" of his story.


Caché (2005, Austria/It./Germ./Fr.) (aka Hidden)

Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke's French film was a psychological thriller about an upper middle-class couple living in Paris in a townhouse:

  • Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), the successful host of a French TV talk-show program on literary subjects
  • Anne (Juliette Binoche), a book publisher

Their lives were disrupted (actually terrorized) when they began to receive unmarked, mysterious videocassettes at their doorstep - intrusive surveillance tapes that showed how their home's exterior (and their comings and goings) was being surreptitiously observed from a camera positioned out on the street. In fact, the film's opening shot is a long-held, motionless view of the family's bourgeois home.

In the film's most shocking (and very unexpected) sequence, Georges was invited to the apartment of an unhappy, middle-aged Algerian named Majid (Maurice Bénichou) - a childhood family member. After Majid claimed he had nothing to do with the videotapes, he suddenly suicidally slit his own throat - blood sprayed from his jugular vein onto the door and wall behind him, and Georges stood in stunned silence looking at Majid's body on the floor.

The reason for Majid's suicide became clear later on. Georges admitted an earlier 'hidden' betrayal, secret or injustice - when he was only six years old and feeling threatened, he had fooled Majid into similarly beheading the family's rooster. Georges then claimed to his parents that Majid purposely did it to frighten him, and subsequently, Majid was sent away to an orphanage.

Candyman (1992)


Director Bernard Rose's creepy horror film (the first of a trilogy of films (from 1992-1999)) told about a married anthropology graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) who was researching urban legends. She came across a local legend of a "Candyman" - a spirit who was summoned in a mirror. The "Candyman" was reportedly a tortured and murdered slave from 200 years earlier. His right hand had been amputated and replaced with a hook after he had impregnated a white woman. His body was smeared in honey (as the locals chanted 'Candyman' five times) and then he was stung to death by bees.

In one of the film's scarier scenes, Helen playfully chanted the name "Candyman" five times in front of a mirror - her incantation brought a confrontation with the fearful 'Candyman' (Tony Todd) in a concrete parking garage. He possessed a hooked right hand and wore a fur-trimmed coat. He continually entreated her from a distance: "Helen. Helen."

She asked the silhouetted figure as he approached closer: "Do I know you?" with his response:

No, no, but you doubted me...You were not content with the stories, so I was obliged to come. Be my victim. Be my victim! I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom. Without these things, I am nothing. So now I must shed innocent blood. Come with me.

Also, after she was incarcerated for murder, she dared to again repeat the name 'Candyman' five times in front of a mirror for doubtful psychiatrist Dr. Burke (Stanley DeSantis) to prove her innocence ("I can prove it...I can call him"), thereby again unleashing the incarnated spirit of the bloody, haunting and hook-wielding "Candyman" maniac with a deep gravely voice. The "Candyman" stabbed the unbelieving doctor at his desk from behind.

By film's end, the 'Candyman' again found her in his company and seduced her: "You came to me...Surrender to me now and you shall be unharmed." As the room spun around, he picked her up in his arms and told her:

We have a bargain...Do you hear the pain or what is beyond?...The pain, I can assure you, will be exquisite. As for our deaths, there is nothing to fear. Our names will be written on a thousand walls, our crimes told and retold by our faithful believers. We shall die together in front of their very eyes, and give them something to be haunted by. Come with me and be immortal.

The Candyman's Bee-Kiss

He then revealed buzzing bees swarming on his chest and pouring from his mouth before he kissed her.

In the shocking ending of the bloody film, both Helen and the haunting, incarnated 'Candyman' maniac were burned to death. Still mourning the death of his wife Helen, cheating husband Trevor Lyle (Xander Berkeley) was in his bathroom when he called out Helen's name five times in front of a mirror, not knowing that he was invoking her return as a spirit that had replaced Candyman - she appeared in a bluish pulsating light and asked him:

"What's the matter, Trevor? Scared of something?"

Because he had been sleeping with another woman named Stacey (Carolyn Lowery) (who was in the kitchen with a butcher knife preparing dinner), she took spectacular revenge against him - Helen killed Trevor by stabbing him in the stomach with the Candyman's large hook, ripping him open from his groin up to his neck - and leaving him a bloody corpse in the bathtub.

Cannibal Ferox (1981, It.) (aka Make Them Die Slowly)

This Italian exploitation film with unbelievable scenes of graphic violence in the Amazon followed closely on the heels of Cannibal Holocaust (1980). It was also banned and controversial for its extreme violence. It began with a disclaimer-warning:

The following feature is one of the most violent films ever made. There are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown. If the presentation of disgusting and repulsive subject matter upsets you, please do not view this film.

The violence was caused by the initial actions of two white men, drug dealers named Joe (Venantino Venantini), and Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, or John Morghen) who were searching for a cache of stolen emeralds, and in the process brutally killed their native guide.

The scenes in question were:

  • the various animal cruelties - a live parrot's head was ripped off and its innards were eaten, a tortoise had its body parts amputated before its belly was torn open, a furry creature tied to a post was eaten by a anaconda, a small crocodile was sliced open, and a piglet's belly was slowly cut open
  • the castration of Mike Logan - his genitals were then eaten while he was strung up on a large wooden pole. Then, after his genitals were cauterized to prevent him from bleeding to death, his right hand was amputated (chopped off at the wrist). Finally, he was restrained in a crude apparatus - positioned under a table with a hole in it, through which the top of his head appeared. From there, natives chopped off the top of his skull with a machete to eat his reddish, gelatinous brains.
  • the piranha attack on Rudy (Danilo Mattei) - hiding in a pool of jungle water, his bloody wounds attracted fiercesome piranha who bit into him, forcing him out of the water, where he was shot in the chest with a poison dart.
  • the infamous impaling of female victim Pat Johnson (Zora Kerova) - her blouse was ripped off and each breast was pierced with a spear; then she was painfully grabbed and hung by iron hooks through both breasts and suspended by ropes attached to the hooks to die in the Amazon jungle sun.
Breast Hook-Impalement Death

Cannibal Holocaust (1980, It.)

The hotly-debated cult classic film from Ruggero Deodato contained violent, grisly and disturbing images (actually faux-documentary footage - except for the numerous animal killings), decades before the "found-footage" smash hit The Blair Witch Project (1999).

It told the story of a four-person film crew, led by Alan Yates (Gabriel York), that purportedly disappeared while making a documentary (a feature entitled "The Green Inferno") about the last surviving indigenous tribes that still practiced cannibalism in the wilds of South America's Amazon area.

Grisly, realistic-looking scenes included a leg amputation with a machete (to prevent snake-bite poisoning), a staged hut burning where women and children had been herded, guts-eating, a brutal ritualistic "punishment for adultery" torture with a large wooden dildo, numerous animal slaughterings (including a horrible turtle murder), a forced beating and abortion (and burial of the undeveloped fetus in mud), a forcible gang-rape of a young native girl in a muddy field, beatings with large hammers, male genital dismemberment followed by body mutilation, disembowelment and the display of guts, and script girl Faye's (Francesca Ciardi) rape, beating and beheading.

The film's most notorious scene included the discovery of the impalement of the young woman on a pole.

Pole Impalement

Genital Dismemberment and Mutilation

Masterful cinematic tricks and special effects created an unnerving view of the fate of the team - found in undeveloped film cans by another search and rescue team.

Cape Fear (1962)


This was a suspenseful and intense late b/w film noir from director J. Lee Thompson (James Webb's screenplay was based on John D. MacDonald's novel "The Executioners"), with moody music by Bernard Herrmann.

The character of evil, intimidating, vengeful and insolent, cigar-smoking, Panama hat-wearing psychopath Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) was a convicted rapist. After being released from prison, he terrorized the family of well-regarded lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), who had helped to imprison him for over eight years with his witness testimony. The legal system limited the Bowden family and its rights, as Cady voyeuristically stalked the family as a sexual predator.

At a boat dock, Cady lewdly made a comment about young teenaged daughter Nancy Bowden (Lori Martin) to Sam:

Say, she's gettin' to be, uh, gettin' to be almost as juicy as your wife, ain't she?

Cady poisoned the family dog Marilyn with strychnine (mid-barking, the dog let out a long whine), and further menaced Nancy by first approaching her at her school. After Nancy's school let out one day, he lustfully stalked her into the school's basement, and terrorized her. When she ran outside the school, she unexpectedly ran into Cady's arms - screamed and ran into the street and was almost hit by a car.

And then he threatened Sam by phone after the lawyer paid for three thugs to try and beat him up: "Speakin' about your wife and kid, I got a little caper planned for them...I got something planned for your wife and kid that they ain't never gonna forget."

The scariest scenes were on a houseboat (on Cape Fear River), where Sam had lured Cady with the two females as 'bait.' The bare-chested ex-con threatened to force Sam's wife Peggy (Polly Bergen) to have consensual sex with him to save the rape of her daughter. He angrily squeezed a raw egg in his fist over her and rubbed the insides over her chest as he told her:

Look! I was gonna go for Nancy, but uh, I can always make it with Nancy. You know, next week, next month. Wait a minute, now. You proposition me. You, instead of Nancy, and I'll agree never to see you again. All right? Listen, unless, of course, you want it. Now that's how you give your consent.

When she claimed he was using sexual blackmail on her, he held her against a wall, slapped her, and forced her to keep quiet: "All in all, I don't think you're gonna, you're gonna say too much about this, are you?"

Then shortly after, in the climactic finale, Cady went after young Nancy. Although the young girl defended herself with a fireplace poker, she was no match against his powerful grip - he gagged her mouth and dragged her outside, and was about to rape her when she was saved by her father, who fought against Cady bare-fisted, overpowered him and held him at gunpoint.

Sam decided not to shoot him dead, but instead let him "rot" in a prison "cage" for the remainder of his life.

Cape Fear (1991)


In this remake from director Martin Scorsese of the classic revenge story, vengeful psychotic Max Cady (Robert De Niro) threatened public-defender lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) and his wife Leigh (Jessica Lange) and family in the town of New Essex, North Carolina. He blamed Sam for helping to send him to prison in Atlanta fourteen years earlier for the rape and battery of a young woman.

Two Unsettling Scenes:
Cady's Psychopathic Sadistic Violence

The character of the violent Max Cady was forecast in two brutal and unsettling scenes:

  • after picking her up at a bar, Cady handcuffed the hands of law clerk Lori Davis (Illeana Douglas) behind her back, then viciously bit off a chunk of her cheek and savagely raped her (Lori was a young acquaintance of Sam's (and possibly having an affair with him)), and beat her - sending her to the hospital with a mauled face and broken arm
  • dressed and disguised as the Bowden maid Miss Graciella (Zully Montero) in their kitchen, Cady strangled Sam's hired private investigator Claude Kersek (Joe Don Baker) with a garrotte, and shot him in the head as he struggled (blood showered onto both of them), and then spoke into his ear: "How about that present that you like, you white-trash piece of s--t"

The most tense and disturbing scene was both repellent and fascinating. Cady posed as a drama teacher on the set of a play in the school's auditorium, where he had planned to take advantage of the young Bowden daughter.

Cady: I wanted to meet you, see what you're like. I see you're a nice person. That's all.
Danielle: You're not gonna hurt me, are you?
Cady: No, I'm not gonna hurt you at all. There's no hurtin' here, Danielle. 'Tween us, there's no anger, nothin'. Just a search for truth. I mean, did you judge me, did you get angry at me when you caught me smokin' the grass? Hmm?
Danielle: No.
Cady: But your parents, they judged you. They got plenty angry at you, didn't they?
Danielle: Yeah.
Cady: Mm-hmm. They punished you for their sins. What did they do?
Danielle: They, uh... My dad... They just yelled a whole lot and, um... My mom cried... and my Dad said I couldn't drive the Cherokee.
Cady: I'd say they punished you for their sins, and you resent that, and you should resent it. But Professor 'Do-Right' has a little advice for you. You shouldn't damn 'em. Don't judge 'em. Just forgive 'em, for they know not what they do.
Danielle: Well, um, why do you hate my father?
Cady: I don't hate him at all. Oh no, I pray for him. I'm here to help him. I mean, we all make mistakes, Danielle. You and I have. At least we try to admit it. Don't we?...But your daddy, he don't. Every man carries a circle of hell around his head like a halo. Your daddy too. Every man... Every man has to go through hell to reach his paradise. You know what paradise is?...Salvation. 'Cause your daddy's not happy. Your mommy's not happy. And, you know what? You're not happy. Are you?

He brought her to the conclusion that everyone in her family was unhappy. He was able to have Danielle confide in him. He proceeded to verbally and physically seduce and kiss the rebellious, naive, sexually-curious and troubled fifteen-year old daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis) - with her dual responses of fear and excitement.

He told her: "You know, I think I might have found a companion, a companion for that long walk to the light."

He politely asked if he could put his arm around her. When she giggled and acted embarrassed by his forwardness although eventually agreed ("No, I don't mind"), he approached closer, and stroked her face. He was able to insert his thumb into her mouth, and she sucked on it. Then he cupped her face, cradled her head, and tenderly kissed her.

Cady with Danielle

Carnival of Souls (1962)

This low-budget independent horror film, a spooky and haunting cult zombie classic by producer/director Herk Harvey (his sole feature film), was notable for its many atmospheric and forboding scenes of stylistic terror. The plot was very similar to the episode of the Twilight Zone titled "The Hitch-Hiker."

In the film's opening, a drag race resulted in one of the cars crashing off a bridge into a muddy river and landing upside down. Of the three females in the car's front seat, there was only one crash survivor (?) - passenger Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss), a talented organist.

As the story progressed after her near-fatal car accident, Mary moved to Utah to take a new job as a church organist. While driving there, she experienced one of many disturbing, creepy visions of ghostly figures of the recent dead. She was stalked by a weird vision of a ghoulish, spectral Man (director Harvey) with darkened eye sockets, who first glared at her with an eerie stare through the windshield, and caused her to drive off the road. Mary also had moments when she became invisible and inaudible to others. She seemed to be caught between the real world and a dream-world.

Visions of the Man and other Ghouls/Souls

Later, she was drawn to an abandoned amusement park (and circus tent pavilion) in the twilight hours, where she heard and produced strange organ music. During a macabre party, she saw a surreal dance of death performed by zombie-like ghouls or souls (a "carnival of souls") who were twirling around as dance partners. The camera motion was sped up while the soundtrack was distorted with laughter.

And then after being chased to the beach by many of the undead dancing partners, she mysteriously disappeared.

In the revelatory final scene's plot twist, the submerged car (with Mary's corpse inside) was partially dredged out of the river. Her dreams, imagined visions and trances were due to her hallucinations during her death experience and entry into the spirit world.

Carrie (1976)


In the shock second ending to this effective Brian De Palma horror film - a dream sequence, surviving mourning classmate Sue Snell (Amy Irving) who was holding a bouquet of flowers, visited the defiled gravesite (with a graffiti-marked For Sale sign reading: "Carrie White Burns in Hell" and an arrow pointing downward) of dead psychic student Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). Carrie and her mother (Piper Laurie) had perished in their collapsing house.

As she went to put the flowers on the grave, Carrie's bloody hand burst out of the ground at her and grabbed her arm to pull her down into hell with her - the white-clad young girl screamed and suddenly woke up while recuperating in her bed at home, still screaming hysterically and being grabbed and held by her reassuring mother (Priscilla Pointer) ("It's all right, I'm here") as she experienced more nightmares.

Psycho-Kinetic Power and Revenge

In the film's opening locker room scene, Carrie was cruelly taunted by schoolmates for having her first menstrual period.

And in the film's centerpiece, the prom scene, she was doused and crowned with a bucket of pig's blood from above. In her mind, she heard tauntings: "They're gonna laugh at you," and "Plug it up!", and in her view (spinning around), she imagined the prom-goers laughing and jeering at her. Feeling humiliated, she sought psycho-kinetic, murderous revenge against the prom-goers (shown in split-screen). Seeking retribution, she caused the prom's exit doors to slam shut, and the lights to pop.

An emergency fire hose snaked into mid-air and doused the party-goers, causing chaos, confusion, and bodies careening around the dance floor. Some were electrocuted (Mr. Fromm (Sydney Lassick)), crushed by falling rafters (Miss Collins (Betty Buckley)), trampled, or burned to death in the resulting fire. Outside as Carrie walked home, she overturned a car attempting to hit her, driven by Billy Nolan (John Travolta) and Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), and she caused the flipped, rolled-over car to burst into flames.

When she returned home, she also murdered her ultra-religious, psychotic mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) - crucified by flying cutlery and kitchenware.

Carrie's Hand Bursting Out of Grave

Casino (1995)

Director Martin Scorsese's gangster crime drama was replete with many brutal killings and murders. In a gratuitously violent torture scene of a rival mob member, Tony Dogs (Carl Ciarfalio) was subjected to intense interrogation for two days and nights to get him to talk. As he was being tortured and grilled, enforcer "Nicky" Santoro (Joe Pesci) threatened:

Dogs, Dogs, can you hear me, Dogs? Listen to me, Anthony. I got your head in a f--kin' vise. (It'll) squash your f--kin' head like a grapefruit if you don't give me a name. Don't make me have to do this, please. Come on. Don't make me be a bad guy, come on.

When his head was further squeezed in the vice after he swore at "Nicky," one of his eyes popped out.

Tony eventually divulged the name after extensive torture, Charlie M. "Nicky" was flabbergasted by the information:

Charlie M? You make me pop your f--kin' eye out of your head to protect that piece of s--t? Charlie M? You dumb motherf--ker!

Offscreen, Dogs had his throat slit after divulging the name.

Casino Royale (2006, UK)

The 21st Bond film in the series was infamous for its sexual torture and interrogation scene.

Villainous financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) strapped 007 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) naked to an open-bottomed cane chair and swung a heavy, knotted rope to strike Bond's testicles, in order to extract a password code to a bank account to retrieve millions of funds after he had lost a high-stakes poker game ("I want the money").

Le Chiffre warned:

There will be little left to identify you as a man.

Bond defiantly taunted Le Chiffre while in excruciating pain as he was struck repeatedly:

I've got a little itch, down there. Would you mind?...No! No! No! No! No! To the right. To the right! To the right!...Aargh! Yeah! Ahh! Ahh! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes...! Now the whole world's gonna know that you died scratching my balls!

Bond vowed he would not tell the password and Le Chiffre's enemies would eventually hunt him down and kill him. Le Chiffre promised if Bond divulged the password that fellow prisoner Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) would live.

Bond refused, so Le Chiffre kicked over his chair and threatened to castrate him with a knife: "I'll feed you what you seem not to value." Bond was saved from death when Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) abruptly entered and shot Le Chiffre in the forehead.

Cat People (1942)


This Val Lewton-produced horror film from director Jacques Tourneur featured two frightening, feline-panther stalkings that produced fright without showing anything - they were two superb examples of suggestive horror:

  • Kitten-faced, scorned Serbian-born fashion designer Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) jealously stalked and followed after rival female Alice Moore (Jane Randolph), her husband's assistant. The stalking occurred on a Central Park path at night, where Alice walked through the park's underpass-transverse in shadowy streets along a stone wall. The earliest views of the two women were full shots. Pools of light from the streetlights cast shadows at their feet, as the soundtrack accentuated their high-heeled shoes striking the pavement and presented close-ups of their strides.

    The pace quickened as Alice and her pursuer hurried more rapidly between the light areas (pools or circles of light under lampposts) and dark areas. All of a sudden, a discomforted Alice realized that someone might be following her [a projection of her own guilt and fear of retribution?] - and she slowly turned to listen anxiously and view an empty street. What made her most frightened and panicky was that the clicking of the footsteps behind her abruptly ceased, but she sensed that a forbidding presence still remained.

    She hugged a lamppost as a low, panther-like growl and hissing sound (calculated to make the film audience jolt and jump from their seats from the accentuated horror) accompanied the jarring arrival of a city bus applying its squealing air-brakes to stop at the curb - moving abruptly into the frame from right to left in front of her. She grabbed the door handle to steady herself and turned around to watch disturbed, billowing tree branches adjacent to the top of the wall swaying and rustling back and forth. The bus driver (Charles Jordan) quipped: "You look as though you'd seen a ghost." She gasped: "Did you see it?"

  • There was a second similar scene in a YWCA basement-indoor swimming pool. Alice asked the YWCA receptionist for a key to the pool area, while stroking a black kitten from a litter "of four." The black kitty trotted after Alice toward the changing room area, as Irena arrived and slyly asked the receptionist: "Is Miss Moore in?" - she was directed toward the pool area. As Alice was about to turn off the locker room light, she noticed that the black kitten was spooked by something on the stairway. A low growling noise and the sinister black shadow of an animal (black panther?) descending the stairs proved terrifying.

    Alice raced toward the deserted pool and dove in. The shadowy play of the rippling wake of the wavy water appeared on the indoor pool's claustrophobic walls, and more echoes of ferocious animal growls filled the air. Completely vulnerable, she tread water in the center of the pool as the walls alternately darkened and lightened around her. The unnatural pattern and shadow of an unseen prowling creature on the walls of the swimming pool obstructed the light - something was circling around her. The sounds of water drippings filled the void between louder snarlings.

    Suddenly, Alice screamed for help with shrieking, distressed cries that bounced off the cavernous pool walls. The receptionist and a house maid speedily rushed to the rescue - and found an amused Irena, calmly transformed from a panther, switching on the pool light. Alice claimed to the staff that: "It was dark down here and Mrs. Reed coming in unexpectedly frightened me. I'm terribly sorry," yet she asked for them to not depart without her: "Don't go, I'm coming right out." Supposedly, Irena's excuse for trailing Alice was to find Oliver's whereabouts, although Alice nervously admitted: "You'll probably find him at home." A footnote to the entire scene: the receptionist discovered that Alice's robe had been torn to shreds by vertical tracks of claws from a savage beast: "Gee whiz, honey, it's torn to ribbons."

The Cell (2000)

Director Tarsem Singh's stylish and innovative sci-fi thriller (his first feature film) was a combination of a typical police procedural (The Silence of the Lambs (1991) or Se7en (1995)) mixed with a virtual reality gimmick, as in The Lawnmower Man (1992). As one of the researchers said of the risky VR journey, "It's like the old wives' tale where you die in your dream, you die in real life."

The opening scene demonstrated the capability of child psychotherapist Dr. Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) to empathically enter into the mind of a comatose young boy named Edward Baines (Colton James) who nearly drowned on Seal Beach. Inside the Campbell Center lab aided by a 'brain-mapping device,' she was form-fitted as she lay prone with a deep-red, rubbery and ribbed, sensory catsuit-like VR device that was hung from ceiling wires.

A serial killer in rural Southern California, identified as sadomasochistic Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), had built a glass-enclosed "cell' in an underground chamber near an abandoned tin-sheeted building (near Exit 10 off Highway 99) where he kept each captive kidnapped victim (grabbed randomly) to torment - seen in gratuitous detail. He would watch and record them on a set of four closed-circuit TV monitors as he meticulously fed and cared for them before slowly drowning them in the cell. With one recent victim, Anne Marie Vicksey (Catherine Sutherland), he gazed at her as she floated after drowning in the cell.

In the basement of his small house, Stargher treated the most recent victim's body: bleaching it (turning it into a "doll"), then viewing it while suspended over the corpse, hung by 14 steel rings-hooks implanted into his back, and masturbating at his handiwork. Nearby, he displayed a grotesque collection of painted and pale plastic child's play 'dolls', some of which were modeled in absurd postures.

Stargher had just suffered from an irreversible coma when he was apprehended by a SWAT team (he was tracked down by a hair from his rare albino German shepherd). Dr. Deane was called upon by the FBI, led by Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), to find Stargher's recently-kidnapped eighth victim, Julia Hickson (Tara Subkoff). Deane entered into Stargher's twisted, depraved and bizarre psyche and mental landscape to confront his dreams, represented by inventive, disturbing visuals. Her efforts were to discover information to locate and rescue the missing female kidnap victim from fateful drowning (automatically timed to occur within 40 hours) in the tank-cell.

Inside of his mind, she found that one of his alter egos in his severe schizoid personality was a young abused boy. One image she witnessed was of a surrealistically-beautiful segmented horse - after being suddenly sliced into still pulsating pieces of anatomical slabs by falling panes of glass. In another scene, she saw a grotesque display of female victims in display cases attached to clockwork machinery that kept them continuously looping through poses. She saw the younger version of Stargher (Jake Thomas) relive how his abusive father had whipped him for playing with dolls ("I didn't raise no faggot"), burned him with an iron, river-baptized him (nearly drowning him) - with water representing both death and salvation, and broke three ribs and fractured his jaw when he was six years old.

Others of Stargher's alter egos included an evil, demonic devil satyr with horns created out of human hair, and a Grand Guignol king with a purple cape on a throne. The visual highlight of the film was the twisted 'Anna and the King of Siam' fantasy.

Disturbing Visuals

The scariest scene was when agent Novak was also compelled to enter Stargher's mind to search for a trapped Catherine (taken captive by Stargher, and wearing a neck collar and chain). Both risked insanity and death if they remained too long. Novak found himself struggling, bound and prone, as Stargher plaintively sang "Mairzy Doats" and disemboweled him with a large pair of scissors. His intestines were slowly pulled out and wound onto a rotisserie spit.

In the end, a clue from the logo of the steel torture slab (and hoist), manufactured by Carver Industrial Equipment in Bakersfield, California, led them to the location of Stargher's victim. Novak flew by helicopter, discovered the trap door leading to Julia's 'cell,' smashed the enclosure and rescued her just before she drowned - a very tense sequence. At the same time, without authorization, Deane reversed the feed and took Stargher into her own consciousness. Representing a Catholic Virgin Mary (wearing red and white), she took young Stargher into her trust. He admitted that his pathology started when he drowned an injured bird as a mercy killing ("It was better for the bird. I saved him"), to save it from his father's torture. She then killed the murderous adult Stargher, by stabbing him in the heart with a sword, claiming: "My world, my rules." At the same time, she cradled the young Stargher in her arms as he also died and peacefully drowned in a baptism pool. As young Carl had saved the hurt bird, she also saved him from his beastly persona.

In the denouement, she adopted Stargher's albino dog, and used the reverse process to successfully break through Edward's coma (symbolized by blooming trees, falling snow, and an unbroken toy boat).

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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