Growing up in the home video revolution on the 80s, I developed a keen taste for horror movies. The seed had been planted as far back as when I was 5 years old, but access to the sheer number of videos in my preteen days sealed the deal. This was back when you got your movies from a mom-and-pop video store rather than Blockbuster or other large-scale video chain.
I had a few criteria for what made a good horror movie. It had to have some decent gore, imaginative deaths, or gratuitous nudity. Rarely did I get all three in one movie, but it happened from time to time. But the one thing that instantly made me pencil a movie on my list was the presence of a scene that just made you go OMGWTFBBQ!! Not so much that it was so lame that it puzzled you; rather, a scene that took you by surprise.
I’m not talking solely about the spring-loaded-cat-type scenes; they don’t even necessarily have to be a huge shocking moment. Just anything that made a jaded 12-year-old horror freak notice.
And because I’m a giving kind of guy, here’s a list of some of my favorites, past and present. Spoiler alerts are in effect, but the most recent movie is over a decade old, so don’t bitch at me for ruining it.
Friday the 13th (1980)
This is the one I learned from. I was 5 years old and with my parents at the drive-in. I was supposed to be asleep since it was a scary movie not meant for little kids, but I was being stubborn. And after a quick explanation from my parents once they realized that I wasn’t going back to sleep, I realized that it was all pretend; almost silly, even.
I was awake at the end of the original Friday the 13th, after the Final Girl dispatched Mrs. Voorhies with a machete. Alice relaxes in a canoe, just floating around Crystal Lake now that all the killing is over. She looks serene as she lazily floats on the water. The music is reflectively tranquil.
People may think it’s odd when I say that this was the first movie I cried at, but it scared the living shit out of me. I screamed. Loudly. That night, I had one brief nightmare about Jason popping up out of the water to get me, though he looked more like a multicolored mummy, but after that, I was fine. And ever since, it’s been hard for me to be actually scared at a movie.
Brian DePalma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel has a fair number of really creepy moments, but it’s the part at the end that most people remember.
By the time I watched this for the first time, I was wise to the whole “quiet happy music before scaring the shit out of you” trick. So naturally, what caught me up wasn’t a huge gory scene, or a big shocker scene. Sheriff Brody is flinging chum into the water and having a conversation when the shark makes a dramatic entrance.
More like “We’re gonna need a new pair of underwear.”
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Protip: DON’T go behind a Winkie’s Diner. Just saying.
The Exorcist (1973)
My mom told me that she saw this movie when she was pregnant with me. Figures. Among the skrillion creepy-ass parts of this movie, there are two that I particularly like, and they both last only a split second. Twice in the movie there’s a subliminal shot of a scary-looking face (often referred to as Captain Howdy). The first is during one of Regan’s medical exams.
The second comes later during Father Karras’ dream. Once while watching this movie with some friends, I had mentioned it ahead of time, but they’d all forgotten it by the time the second shot happened, so at the precise moment it flashed on the screen, I yelled really loud.
Apparently if you do this, you’re an asshole.
Event Horizon (1997)
The brief snippets of the ship’s log. Best enjoyed with freeze-frame. Go rent or buy it. I was waiting for it and it still got me.
Deadly Friend (1986)
This is a pretty cheesy movie, but I feel bound to include it here because I was sitting next to my dad in the theater when I first saw it, and at one point I got startled. TO THIS DAY, my dad still refers to it (erroneously) as an example of me being scared. The movie itself is the typical boy meets girl, girl dies, boy implants robot brain into girl’s corpse, girl becomes psycho killer.
And the scene I’m featuring isn’t the basketball scene with Mama Fratelli. Wait till about 6:30.
What are some of your favorite shock moments from horror flicks?