(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: M. Night Shyamalan’s specific visual rules for the supernatural effectively triggered a fear response in viewers, setting up the biggest scare in The Sixth Sense.)
“I see dead people,” became an iconic mantra after the release of M. Night Shyamalan’s debut feature twenty years ago. Whispered by a timid, melancholic little boy with a supernatural affliction during a moment of confessional vulnerability, the four-word line aptly summed up the film’s entire premise. A PG-13 drama centered around a dejected child psychologist aiming to redeem himself by helping a troubled young boy through his trauma matched its emotional potency with devastating supernatural scares. These elements, combined with one hell of a twist ending, made The Sixth Sense the sleeper hit of 1999.
In the decades since the film’s release, M. Night Shyamalan has solidified his reputation as a king of twist endings, racked up an impressive list of credits, and fostered emerging voices in film and television. The latest of which is Tony Basgallop’s Servant, premiering over Thanksgiving. While Shyamalan’s career has grown immensely since 1999, his impressive debut is a crowning achievement. The film’s blend of heartbreaking character work and potent, bone-chilling scares is uncannily effective. While The Sixth Sense boasts no shortage of goosebumps-inducing spectral encounters, none hold a candle to the film’s most terrifying encounter of all with a vomiting child ghost. A vital scare scene for which Shyamalan invested a lot of time visually and emotionally priming the viewer to achieve maximum levels of fear.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: Horror icon Freddy Krueger clawed his way out of a nightmare and into the pop culture pantheon in A Nightmare on Elm Street.)
Thirty-five years ago, the theatrical release of A Nightmare on Elm Street solidified director Wes Craven as a definitive voice in horror, launched a major horror franchise, and introduced an iconic movie monster in Freddy Krueger. Delivering his supernatural take on the slasher, Craven created a horrifically scarred killer whose favored slaying grounds is a place that should offer the most safety, in the nestled comfort of your dreams. Dreamscapes bleed into harrowing reality, often literally, and the only way to evade Freddy’s clutches is to stay awake. But no one can stay awake forever.
Craven demonstrates the high-stakes in this slasher right away with one of the most seminal horror scenes of the ‘80s. The blurred lines between waking life and imagination disorient as Craven goes straight for the jugular, offing a major character in the grisliest fashion after setting her up to be the lead character. This vital scene didn’t just set the tone for the rest of the film; it left an enduring, indelible mark on the genre.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: John Carpenter employs Hitchcock-levels of suspense to maximize dread in Halloween.)
“You know, it’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare, huh?” Sheriff Brackett asks Laurie Strode mere seconds after startling her on her walk home from school. It’s meant as a playful line of dialogue, but it happens to succinctly sum up how a lot of us feel about the holiday. We’re all searching for that one good scare every Halloween. With John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween, the ambitious director wasn’t content to deliver just one good scare. He delivered many.
The truth is that this 1978 slasher classic offers up numerous iconic scenes the elicit chills. Anyone of them makes for strong candidates in a column that celebrates the scariest scenes in horror. Yet, it’s the film’s first major death that packs the biggest punch. It’s a scene that wears its Alfred Hitchcock influence on its sleeves and coils the tension tighter until it explodes in violence.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: The Conjuring reveals its frightening villain with the film’s biggest scare sequence.)
Few horror movies have shaped the genre over this decade quite like 2013’s The Conjuring. Its hugely successful theatrical run proved there was a robust appetite for horror at the box office, inspiring other studios to follow in its wake. Moreover, it marked the birthplace of an ever-expanding franchise that includes sequels, spinoffs, and spinoff sequels in what’s been dubbed The Conjuring Universe.
It’s easy to see why, too. The Conjuring is a chilling culmination of everything horror master James Wan had learned in his career so far. From the nail-biting suspense of the Saw franchise, hard lessons learned in Dead Silence, and reinvigorating haunted houses in Insidious just two years prior, Wan was well prepared to deliver the scares. Boy did he deliver the scares. The Conjuring is a major juggling act of unrelenting terror; the scares come nearly nonstop. There are countless memorable moments that are guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine, but none manage to top the petrifying reveal of the film’s central antagonist, the evil witch Bathsheba – played by none other than Insidious’ Lipstick-Face Demon actor and film composer Joseph Bishara.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: Sinister delivered the biggest jolt in modern horror with one doozy of a jump scare.)
Director Scott Derrickson has promised that the upcoming sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be the first scary MCU movie. He’s also stated that it’ll have those gothic and horror elements that fans of the comic books love. And if you’ve been following the filmmaker’s career, you already understand that Derrickson gets horror. From his goosebump-inducing take on possession horror in The Exorcism of Emily Rose to the introduction of a brand-new boogeyman in Sinister, Derrickson has proven adept at the art of scaring audiences.
It was in the latter, which Derrickson co-wrote with C. Robert Cargill, that the director sharpened his horror craft. Unsettling imagery, foreboding atmosphere, a terrifying score for the ages, and a boogeyman made more tangible under the true crime lens. And it all built to the epic jump scare Derrickson unleashed on unsuspecting viewers.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: The Thing delivers an iconic scene that rivals Hitchcock in creating unbearable tension.)
It Chapter Two dominated the box office this weekend, and if you were among the masses to see how the story ended for the Losers’ Club, you likely picked up many of the references and Easter eggs that’s par for the course of a Stephen King adaptation. From overt cameos to subtle allusions to the novel, the concluding chapter had it all. Including one bizarre sequence that riffs on a memorable moment from John Carpenter’s The Thing.
While it’s an unexpected choice to reference a film outside of King’s multiverse, the intent seems to be course correcting 1982’s initial chilly reception of a now-heralded horror classic while nodding to the Losers Club ‘80s-set childhood and It’s final form. Either way, it presents yet another excuse to revisit Carpenter’s thrilling showcase of practical effects, relentless anxiety, and the complete erosion of community by way of paranoia and mistrust. The Thing boasts no shortage of iconic moments and monsters, but it’s the blood test scene that stands out for the effective way it unnerves through coiling tension. This scene is a masterclass of suspense that rivals the work of the King of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: The Shining boasts one of horror’s most iconic movie moments of all time.)
The Stephen King renaissance that began in earnest with 2017’s It has continued to gain momentum, bearing no signs of slowing down any time soon. Between the upcoming releases of It Chapter Two, Netflix’s In the Tall Grass, a Creepshow revival TV series on Shudder, and Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Doctor Sleep, this fall is all about the prolific horror author’s works. It only makes sense to preface the next wave of King adaptations by looking back at one of horror’s all-time classics; The Shining.
The second of King’s novels to ever be adapted for screen, this adaptation happens to be one of the more divisive. At least from the perspective of King and Constant Reader purists, as director and co-screenwriter Stanley Kubrick presents the loosest interpretation of the story. It’s offset by a foreboding atmosphere, iconic imagery, unsettling score, and one nightmarish scene that marks the point of no return.
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(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: 47 Meters Down has one of the most terrifying horror movie moments in recent memory.)
Two summers ago, director/co-writer Johannes Roberts’ small budget shark survival thriller 47 Meters Down quietly released into theaters and became one of the highest-grossing indie films of 2017. A feat its sequel, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, is aiming to duplicate or surpass at the box office this summer. It’s not hard to understand its success; movie audiences have been obsessed with shark horror ever since Jaws introduced a new kind of movie monster in 1975.
Like Jaws, 47 Meters Down kept the appearances of its sharks minimal. Instead, Roberts trapped the film’s protagonists underwater for most of the movie, focusing on the various obstacles to survival that accompanies humans out of their element. An element that happens to be the dominion of apex predators, portrayed as relentless killing machines. Roberts combined survival horror with summer’s favorite movie monster to deliver one of the scariest scenes in horror.
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On the night of August 8, 1969, four members of the Manson Family committed one of America’s most notorious crimes under the direction of their cult leader, Charles Manson. They’d brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn baby, and the houseguests in her home that night; Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger. It wasn’t their only act of ruthless violence, but the high profiles of the victims captured America’s attention and curiosity, catapulting Manson and his followers into an unparalleled level of infamy. Manson himself became a cultural boogeyman.
While there’s been no shortage of coverage, speculation, and fictionalized accounts of the Tate murders over the decades, Hollywood seems to be marking its 50th anniversary with renewed interest in America’s most ill-famed cult. Between The Haunting of Sharon Tate, Charlie Says, Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, season 2 of Netflix’s Mindhunter, and even the recently announced Tate, 2019 bears no shortage of new stories to tell surrounding the Manson Family or its victims. Fifty years and multiple generations removed, many of these films assume familiarity with the facts and take drastic fictional liberties to spin a new story instead. Avoiding any knowledge of the cult or the crimes seems inescapable in 2019, but with such varying reads and loose retellings of the events or key players, that might not exactly be true.
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Halfway through the inaugural season of AMC’s NOS4A2, the series is ramping up the personal stakes and danger for its central characters. Last week’s episode, “The House of Sleep,” opted for full blown taboo breaking terror with a harrowing peak into the twisted past of 135-year old vampire Charlie Manx’s righthand man, Bing Partridge (Olafur Darri Olafsson). Within the span of a single episode, Bing Partridge transformed from simple-minded pawn to arguably the most dangerous opponent plucky heroines Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) and Maggie Leigh (Jahkara J. Smith) will have to face.
Yet, for all of the episode’s shocking reveals, the buzz around both it and the entire series has been fairly quiet since the premiere. It’s a shame, because NOS4A2 is delivering some of television’s best horror that warrants more discussion and viewership.
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