The 10 Most Disturbing Movie Scenes of 2018

Suspiria featurette

5. Telekinetic Beatdown (Suspiria)

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is a sobering, psychotic, witch-fueled reimagining of Dario Argento’s colorful 70s import. Critics and audiences debate the merits of female representation and the rise of “Mothers,” but my focus is on an early dance number. Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) looks to stun Markos Tanz Company’s instructors, and in this specific scene, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) permits the hungry pupil her chance. Unfortunately, this spells death for a less ambitious performer.

Olga (Elena Fokina) finds herself locked in a mirrored practice studio. Elsewhere, Susie begins to unite with the Markos facility’s inner heartbeat. She writhes, flails in primal bursts of choreography, and becomes one with Madame Blanc’s vision. What Susie doesn’t know is each swing of her arm, each jump-and-land, physically pummels Olga like she’s in the room. Fragile limbs snap, flesh ripples as if punched in slow motion, until Olga’s left in a drooling pretzel contortion shape. Punishment on a disturbing level felt with each strike – Guadagnino’s greatest command of tone throughout all of Suspiria.

the witch in the window

4. Bad Connection (The Witch in the Window)

A father-son duo, the fixer-upper household they’re refurbishing together, and a presence who refuses to leave. This is Andy Mitton’s The Witch In The Window, which reaches a point where son Finn (Charlie Tacker) is sent back home via bus to his mother’s city apartment because ghostly activity has become too dangerous. Father Simon (Alex Draper) resumes construction alone, only for Finn to return later on after sneaking away from his transportation – OR DID HE.

It’s not tough to sniff the moment out, given how the film’s “witch” manipulates both man and child throughout. “Finn” waltzes back into frame, interacting with Simon, who grabs the phone to inform his estranged wife that their kin skipped his return trip. Much to Simon’s surprise, she confirms: “He’s been pretty quiet since he got back today.” We hear the dialogue, Simon hears it via telephone, but “Finn” does not as he sits cross-legged on the floor next to papa. Panic and dread wash over Simon as he calmly speaks back into the receiver not to alert whoever sits by his side, the camera’s frame placing both characters side by side. Try not spiking hairs when imagining yourself in Simon’s position.

satan's slaves

3. Ghost in the Hallway (Satan’s Slaves)

Sorry, Slashfilm. I’m not done praising Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves *quite* yet. In a film with more genuine scares than any three of 2018’s mainstream US horror films combine, one midnight pee break stands as Anwar’s crowning achievement in horror. Disturbing enough to cause a jolt even with the lights on while you stream Satan’s Slaves on Shudder from the cushy comforts of home.

Two small children arise in the middle of the night to empty their bladders. Upon returning to their bedroom, tiny Ian (M. Adhiyat) pauses at the entrance to a long hallway. “Scary,” Ian signs. “Mom.” Brother Bondi (Nasar Annuz) sees nothing but a picture of “Mom” dead across the hall, grabs a blanket, and the two start walking towards the portrait. Bondi tosses the sheet in hopes of covering said artwork and as it floats down, drapes over an invisible form. A standoff between ghost and children freezes for a few frames, Bondi nudges Ian to back away – Ian covering his eyes – and as they turn, the figure lunges with a guttural bellow.

It’s such an easy scare, but as James Wan’s proficient manipulation of shadows and the paranormal elevates his Conjuring movies, Anwar’s replication achieves the same nerve-shredding effect.


2. Ceiling Creeper (Pyewacket)

You know *that* moment in Hereditary? Adam MacDonald staged it first. Pyewacket the original, Hereditary the successor. I don’t state this to claim Ari Aster plagiarized or stole his most unsettling shot selection. Far from it. More that Hereditary is the 2018 horror discovery outlets still pine over while Pyewacket remains one of the year’s underseen gems. Credit deserved where credit’s due, and hopefully the nod draws more eyes towards MacDonald’s ode to grief, adolescent ignorance, and manifested anger in satanic form.

The scene in question spies Leah (Nicole Muñoz) – sound asleep – after she summons a trickster demon named Pyewacket. Exploratory cinematography scans her room, her bed, and then to a ceiling corner where this shadowy black mass exists. Back to Leah. Back to the blot. Then legs protrude, and we realize it’s a figure wedged between ceiling and wall, as predators might stalk its prey. Pyewacket emerges from darkness and peers over Leah’s slumbering body, and thus an introduction is made.

Slashfilm Daily Hereditary slice

1. One-Two Punch (Hereditary)

To be fair, Ari Aster’s Hereditary packs two punches worthy of this list. I’ll break them down.

A. Hereditary’s “ceiling scare” is masterful. Peter (Alex Wolff) lays in bed, Pawel Pogorzelski’s frame curiously wide given Peter’s body occupies only the bottom-lefthand space of screen. Then your eyes adjust. The shadows reveal mother Annie (Toni Collette) grasping onto Peter’s bedroom wall like a sticky-fingered reptile. We know Annie’s broken at this point, and imagination spins around what action she’s about to take. Provoked anxiety and exasperation makes for a most chilling, downright destructive visual glimpse into 2018 horror.

B. You know what’s coming. Let’s hop right back in Peter’s speeding car where Charlie (Milly Shapiro) – suffering from allergic asphyxiation – attempts to breathe in fresh air like a dog enjoys an opened window. Peter – unaware – veers to avoid roadkill, decapitating his sister in the process when her head smacks into a planted telephone pole. Aster doesn’t show her corpse immediately, just Peter’s paralyzed reaction as he then drives home, exits the car, and shuffles into bed. It’s not until Annie finds her daughter’s lifeless body that Aster *then* cuts to Charlie’s discolored head discarded like trash on the roadside, now covered in insects.

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