Over at the all-too-fantastic The Horror Digest, Ms. Andre Dumas has offered a minor challenge to readers like myself. She listed her Top 10 Willy Inducing Moments, and has asked others to ponder their own moments of discomfort. Since discomfort is my middle name, I decided I must put together my own list of moments that give me mega-goosebumps.
I of course should note that there COULD BE SOME SPOILERS in this list, so beware! As a warning, each title listed will be accompanied by a Spoiler Rating, which lists how severe of a spoiler the moment might be. That said, let's get to listing!
10. Twilight Zone: The Movie - "There's something on the wing of the plane!" (Spoiler Rating - Minimal)With George Miller directing a Richard Matheson story, and with John Lithgow being perfectly unhinged, Twilight Zone: The Movie breaks away from the mediocrity that filled its first three segments in this retelling of the classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" episode. Though the Shatner-centric TV episode is still a classic, Lithgow's shivering unease as he watches a creature ravage the wing of the airplane never ceases to bring a few chills to my spine.
9. Saw II - "Like Finding a Needle in a Haystack" (Spoiler Rating - High)Remember back when Saw movies didn't feel like an unfortunate plight? I remember admitting the first film, while SEVERELY flawed had some great moments, and I remember seeing the sequel and being surprised at how it advanced the plot. Really, the Saw series is this generation's Friday the 13th, where everyone will remember Jigsaw even though his efforts didn't expand until the second film.
Anyway, the scene in question here features my biggest personal terror: NEEDLES. And when poor Shawnee Smith, she who survived The Blob, gets chucked into a pit full of dirty old syringes....it's as close as I ever came to throwing up in a theater. And now that we know what her role was in the plot? Fricking creeps me out that she agreed to be a part of it.
8. The Birds - Happy Ending? (Spoiler Rating - VERY HIGH)There's always been something about the final minutes of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds - which I love despite finding it kinda cheesy, it'd struggle to crack my Top 10 Hitch flicks - that has haunted me. Seeing the survivors drive off, with no clear path set for them, as thousands of birds just sit and watch...I never know what happens next. And I want to. I see that glimmer of sunlight shining through the clouds, but it's not much hope. Kinda like how Nic Cage and wife drive off into a cloudy distance at the end of Michael Bay's The Rock....it leaves me wondering what happened next, with doubt running rampant in my mind.
7. Dead and Buried - "Something for the Pain" (Spoiler Rating - Low, it's on the fricking DVD artwork)Remember that one time when I said my biggest personal terror was NEEDLES? Well, if there's one thing scarier than hundreds of them, its one really well placed needle. Thus is the case in Gary Sherman's Dead and Buried (if you haven't, SEE IT), where a mysterious town hides its secrets from victims (and the town sheriff) by disposing of tourists. An unfortunate soul from the film's opening scene is left burnt to a crisp and wrapped entirely in bandages....and then Lisa Blount, dressed as a nurse, is sent in to seal the deal with a needle to the eyeball. Meanwhile, I scream like a banshee EVERY DANG TIME.
6. Pumpkinhead - Crossing Paths (Spoiler Rating - Low)Amidst the horrible acting and silly plot, Pumpkinhead features what might be my favorite monster of all-time. Late in the film, as the characters seek shelter in an abandoned shell of a church, a young man proclaims "I think it's here" and we're suddenly treated to a far off vision of Pumpkinhead seen through the doorway of the remaining wall. Backed by some perfect blue lighting and strobe effects, the monster slowly works his way through the building to a leftover wooden cross, which he fiercely bashes against the wall. This act of rebellion against any overseer isn't really what sells the scene for me, it's mostly the fact that the monster looks so darn fierce with a strobe behind him. Terrified me as a kid, terrifies me now.
5. Paranormal Activity - SHE'S COMING RIGHT AT US! (Spoiler Rating - Really, Really, Ridiculously High)I will admit, despite whatever backlash comes from the 9 month old movement against the found footage horror sensation, that I fell completely into Paranormal Activity's trap. Seeing the film in a packed theater with a receptive crowd was one of the most intense viewing experiences of my adulthood. Case in point: the final moment, where the newly possessed Katie turns her attention toward the camera, and thus the audience. Look, I know it's stupid. I know it doesn't make sense, and I knew that moments after I saw it. But in that moment, when I had been on the edge of my seat for 85 minutes, I actually found myself pushing myself back into my seat, as if I was crawling away from the face heading at me from the screen. I know, it's silly. But it worked on me then, and I still get a little jumpy thinking about that flick. Good times.
4. The Gate - "You've been BAAAAADDDDD!!!" (Spoiler Rating - Moderate)Back on the topic of childhood terrors, there's Tibor Takac's The Gate; in which Stephen Dorff and nerdy friend unleash a slew of claymation demons from a hole in the backyard. Near the midpoint of the film, our lead finds his parents outside and runs to them, assuming safety - only to have what looks like his father scream "You've been baaaaaaaddddddd!!!" in a deep and echoing tone. Then, after a demon filled interlude, the ominous red phone rings, and the phrase is repeated with extra reverberations. I can not even begin to guess how many nightmares I've had that feature that voice.
3. The Shining - Room 237 (Spoiler Rating - Low)I could have gone multiple directions with this film, but I knew The Shining had to be represented here. I almost went with Danny's run-in with the Grady twins, but settled on the horrors of Room 237 as experienced by Sir Jack Nicholson. There's a wonderful build up to the scene and then when Jack finally heads in and meets a seductive lady who turns repulsive, it's as effective as anything I've seen. Plus, any occasion in which a naked woman turns out to be a bad thing is not something I want to experience.
2. Prince of Darkness - Transmission Received (Spoiler Rating - Very High)I will never not love John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. In my opinion, it's one of the most underappreciated horror films of all-time. Though there are many moments in this "vat-o'-Satan" epic that I love, it's the repeated images of transmissions from the future that have always stuck with me. And when they are completed in the final scene - and Lisa Blount once again terrorizes me! - it's one of the best open endings in Carpenter's filmography.
1. The Innocents - Woman in Black (Spoiler Rating - Moderate)Andre covered this one in her post, and it's what inspired me to go on with this list. As she points out, it's not a hidden scare, it's blatant. Watching the scene in question, steps are clearly taken to keep everything in the scene in light tones. All the characters are wearing white, it's a bright day by the lake, even the trees are illuminated. And then, in the middle of the shot, a woman in black throws everything for a loop. Deborah Kerr reacts the same way I did...with complete shock. If there's ever been a scene that proves the inherent power of black and white photography, this is it.
And that's that. If you want to share your own willy inducing moments, hit up the comments, or head over to The Horror Digest and check in on that great post! Happy 4th, Midnight Warriors!