Hold Onto Your Butts: This Is The Scariest Scene In Jurassic Park

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Matt Donato and Ariel Fisher. In this edition, Ariel takes a trip back to Isla Nublar, and Matt relives his nightmares spent running away from raptors.)

"Jurassic Park" changed cinema in 1993, and captivated an entire generation of future filmmakers. It's still doing that, truth be told. All it takes are the first few notes of John Williams' iconic score to my chest with joy and comfort. Watching Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) stare, awestruck, at a passing Brachiosaurus immediately makes me feel like a kid again. It's pure movie magic and I fall in love with it every time I watch it.

It's also a brilliant horror movie. Remember, folks, hyphenates exist, and this is one of 'em.

Regardless of how you slice it, "Jurassic Park" is a creature feature on top of everything else. It's loaded with monsters, both dinosaur and human, along with more gore and jump scares than you can shake a Velociraptor claw at.

Speaking of Velociraptor claws, the scene I've chosen for this edition of Scariest Scene Ever prominently features the clever girls. It's not the kitchen scene, though. Sorry, folks.

The setup

In case you've been carefully preserved in amber for the last several million years, I'm assuming you know what "Jurassic Park" is about. If not, you're in luck because I'm going to explain it anyway.

Once upon a time, on a fictional island called Isla Nublar, a team of scientists led by InGen CEO John Hammond (Sir. Richard Attenborough) were so preoccupied with the idea of whether or not they could clone extinct dinosaurs that they didn't stop to think if they should. So they did, and all to start a theme park called, you guessed it (I hope), Jurassic Park.

Major endeavors such as this demand massive financial investments from very deep pockets, and said pockets want to ensure they aren't liable should anything go wrong. So, to protect themselves and their investment, they needed a team of experts to weigh in and set the pockets' minds at ease.

Enter the aforementioned Drs. Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm. Two paleontologists and a chaotician land on Hammond's island alongside "blood-sucking lawyer" Donald Genarro (Martin Ferrero), who is there to protect the aforementioned pockets' investments. Together, they must put this chaotic experiment through its paces to test for bugs in the system and ensure that bringing extinct and deadly creatures back to life won't, in fact, be a terrible mistake fuelled by hubris.

Very Ron Howard voice: It was a terrible mistake fuelled by hubris, but it's fun to watch.

The story so far

The doctors get their tour of the facility which includes a look at the grounds and a trip to the lab to watch the birth of one of the island's residents. It just so happens to be a baby Velociraptor, which promptly (and justifiably) scares the crap out of Alan.

Then they watch them feed.

Everything is pointing to this being a catastrophic failure, particularly after the warnings of Jurassic Park's game warden, Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck); they're smart, they're learning, they hunt in packs, and they'll definitely kill you if given any opportunity.

Ellie, Alan, and Ian all try to persuade the well-intentioned John Hammond that this is something that should not be tampered with. There are too many variables, not enough control, and it essentially puts any and all future guests severely at risk. As Ellie says, "These are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they're in and they'll defend themselves, violently, if necessary."

He's dead set, however, on keeping his dream alive, regardless of the consequences. So, in a last-ditch effort, he sends the trio on a proper tour of the park in their self-driving Jeeps, and along for the ride are Hammond's grandkids, Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards). They go on their merry way, hoping to catch a glimpse of the park's inhabitants doing something incredible (besides existing), only to find a lot of sleepy dinos taking their midday naps.

Boredom and restlessness lead to a few mistakes that wind up setting the tour behind. This unfortunately also puts them directly in harm's way when the power goes out thanks to the nefarious schemes of one Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight). Now, Alan is alone with the kids, Ian is injured, and Ellie, Muldoon, Hammond, and chief engineer Ray Arnold (Samuel L. "Hold Onto Your Butts" Jackson) have to get the park's systems back up and running in order to survive the park. In order to bypass Dennis' hack that shut down the park's security systems, Ray suggests they do a full system reset. Without Dennis there to remove the bug in the system, they're stuck.

They shut it down, and it works! There's just one minor snafu — resetting the system also reset the breakers. In order to get the park back up and running for real, they need to turn the breakers back on. No big deal, Ray says. It's just a quick walk to the utility shed. He'll have everything back up and running in 3 minutes.

Very Ron Howard voice: He did not have everything back up and running in 3 minutes.

The scene

Everything's taking longer than it should, and Ellie, Ian, and Muldoon are starting to worry. Badass that she is, Ellie decides to go looking for Ray, and Muldoon insists on going with her.

They're no more than a few steps out of the building when they notice that something is terribly wrong with the Velociraptor paddock: the electric fence is broken, and they've gotten out. All bets are off now. Since they're master hunters, there's no way to track or outsmart them.

"I can see the shed from here," Ellie says. "We can make it if we run."

"No, we can't," Muldoon says, calmly. "Because we're being hunted. From the bushes straight ahead. It's alright."

"Like hell, it is," Ellie whispers, rightfully panicked.

"Run," Muldoon urges. "Towards the shed. I've got her ... go. Now!"

Ellie sprints like a kid running down a dark hallway from the bathroom back to bed in the middle of the night, trying to outrun the horrors of their own imagination. It's as if she holds her breath the entire way, conserving her energy in order to propel herself faster. She bursts through the door, slams it shut behind her, and exhales.

Calling for Mr. Arnold, Hammond clumsily fumbles through giving her directions, unable to properly read the blueprints of the building. Ian takes over, getting her to the breakers in no time flat. One by one, she flips the breakers back on as Alan, Timmy, and Lex are climbing one of the deactivated fences to safety. The tension is palpable as she flips the final switch activating the park perimeter, sending Timmy flying, stopping his heart and ours.

Ellie's just happy to have the power back on. "Mr. Hammond, I think we're back in business!"

She isn't given a second to breathe before the Velociraptor's head comes screeching through the pipes behind her. She's stuck in an enclosed space with a lethal predator, snapping and slashing at whatever limbs are closest. Suddenly, she's that kid again, racing back to bed down a dark hallway, only now she's outrunning something more threatening than the dark, and it will kill her.

The whole scene unfolds like an homage to slashers (while also nodding to Spielberg's meticulously planned Ben Gardner scare in "Jaws"), being partly shot from the POV of the raptor itself, with Ellie running for her life. She closes the gate behind her, presumably trapping the raptor in the breaker room as Ray's arm gently lands on her shoulder. "Oh, Mr. Arnold," she says as she exhales a sigh of relief ... until she starts moving and his arm comes with her. Horrified, she backs up a little too close to the chainlink gate she's just used to trap the raptor that is now tearing through the mesh, like it was wax being peeled off a table.

Limping, sprinting, and dragging her flashlight behind her, Ellie bolts for the door of the utility shed, desperate to escape. The raptor's feet slam down behind her, tapping its claws, ready to feast. She makes it out of the door, slams it shut, clears the next gate, and collapses, sobbing.

You can stop holding your breath now.

The impact (Matt's take)

In the immortal words of "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Jurassic Park is frightening in the dark."

Wait — scratch that. If you're me as a small child watching "Jurassic Park" in broad daylight, it's still pretty frightening since extinct prehistoric creatures return to life and munch toilet-seated lawyers.

Multiple sequences unsettle — "Must go faster," "Clever girl," "Stick, stupid," to name a few — but Ariel picks the top terror. Nods to slasher cinema and creature-feature frights convey the danger of Ellie's predicament, as practical effects birth a predatory raptor from electric tubing. We get a severed arm, Ellie's scream, and a monster appearance. The hopelessness of Ellie's situation is established almost immediately given all we've learned about raptors — thanks for the visual, Dr. Grant — as we brace for Ellie to become another Jurassic Park statistic.

Spielberg's use of on-the-hunt raptors and Tyrannosaurus Rex chases did a number on wee Donato. I wasn't even a horror fan at that age, which hopefully contextualizes how "Jurassic Park" represents one of my first cinematic forays into scares. I can still remember two distinct recurring nightmares: one where a T-Rex appears out of nowhere and chases me down my hometown's suburban streets, and another where raptors hunt me in my pitch-black New Jersey basement. That's a testament to Stan Winston's practical dinosaur models, lifelike enough to haunt my slumbers and still exemplary designs to this day.

"Jurassic Park" features multiple scenes firmly planted in horror filmmaking, intent on scaring audiences. It's so many wonderful things, but all I could focus on as a child was the ferocity of dinosaurs I was convinced would somehow appear and devour me in real life. 

Once again, "Weird Al" says it best: "I'm afraid those things'll harm me / 'Cause they sure don't act like Barney / And I think that I'm their dinner, not their friend / Oh, no!"