I’m not one to get scared when watching a film. Even the horror classics that seem to scare the majority of watchers, such as Halloween and The Exorcist, fail to actually scare me, as much as I love them. That’s not to say that I’m some sort of brainless plank who never gets scared, because otherwise I wouldn’t be making this list! This list is quite personal, because it contains scenes from films that have scared ME. So I’m afraid it’s all ‘me me me’ with this list!
However, if these movie moments were able to actually scare me, the unscarable, then they should be able to illicit chills from at least one of you dear readers. I’m also discounting cheap jump scares that give a sudden and short-lived scare (e.g. Red-faced devil in Insidious and lawn mower in Sinister) and shall only include expensive ones, as I’ve tried to include moments that really chill you to the bone and stay with you long after the credits roll… I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but unfortunately I am going to have to give a little context and there will be a few spoilers, but I’ll indicate them of course. So if you’re having far too much sleep, then give some of these a watch to keep you awake on these hot hot nights!
10) The end is nigh- Kill List
Ben Wheatley’s, Kill List is a modern horror masterpiece, and the best British horror to come out since the sublime Eden Lake in my most humble opinion. It follows an ex hit man who has a seemingly near-perfect life. He’s got a beautiful wife and son who he clearly loves very dearly. However, his friend Michael Smiley, decides to lure him into one last job. They have three targets: A priest, a librarian and an MP. On the surface Kill List is an intense thriller, but the film makes an unnerving turn into the hardcore horror department in the last 20 minutes.
The ending has already become fairly notorious. It’s very dark and twisted and leaves you haunted for a good two days. I’d hate to spoil it so I won’t go into any details. Those who have seen it will know what I’m talking about and why it deserves a place on this list. It’s an incredibly well-made film overall with a huge amount of suspense and an intense atmosphere. The acting is very good too, and because the ending is so hauntingly ambiguous, it leaves a lot for the viewer to think about. It’s refreshing to find a film that doesn’t spell everything out to you.
9) Wobbly Ghost- Pulse (Kairo)
Legendary Japanese ghost story, Pulse (or Kairo) tells the story of a website which allows you to see ghosts and then makes you kill yourself. At least, I think that’s what it’s about. Don’t be fooled by the pathetic American remake. Kairo is an ambitious, interesting and sublimely creepy ghost story unlike any other I’ve seen. Whilst it is very slow, it’s also very interesting and well-made. It also had the power to quite massively creep me out!
There are two scenes in particular that scared me, but the earlier takes the biscuit for me. It’s very simple, but effective. It features a ghost who walks slowly forward to the camera and then randomly wobbles. It’s indescribable really, but it sent massive chills up my spine for some reason. Another scary scene is towards the end when a black figure slowly gets closer and closer to the camera. It builds an incredible amount of tension and needs to be seen in darkness and on your own to fully appreciate it.
8) “I loved you”- Calvaire (The Ordeal)
Calvaire is a surreal, Belgian horror film by Fabrice Du Welz and starring acting legend, Laurent Lucas. Calvaire happens to be one of my favourite films. It gets criticised a lot for stealing elements of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, however I disagree and think it’s better than the both of them. It’s the unpredictable tale of singer, Marc Stevens whose car breaks down in the woods. He gets taken in by a cuddly innkeeper for the night and things begin to get weird. Saying anything more would completely ruin the experience. Suffice to say that it’s a nightmarish and darkly comic masterpiece which chilled me to the core.
The moment that terrifies me is the ending. Any other film would offer an explanation as to what’s going on and why everyone is acting like they are, but not this one. It ends with Marc kind of accepting his new identity, whilst a murderous villager sinks in quicksand. It’s a haunting image and the final line, “I loved you” is all the more chilling. We’re left with Marc alone in the woods, feeling as confused and insane as he is. Hopefully, Fabrice Du Welz will get more writing/directing gigs because he’s a real talent in both departments. Vinyan is another creepy film he’s directed and he’s also doing the upcoming Colt 45 and Alleilua which I’m greatly looking forward to.
7) Smile for the camera!- Sheitan
The film appropriately opens to the line, “Are you ready for this?” and it’s appropriate because I don’t think anyone is ever ready for the insanity that is Sheitan. It’s a French horror film starring Vincent Cassel (AKA legend) as a madman who lures a bunch of unlikable horny twenty-somethings to his farmhouse. It’s the typical set-up for a slasher, but Sheitan is anything but your typical slasher. It’s yet another example of the French ‘new wave’ in horror and sits very proudly against Inside, Martyrs, Calvaire etc.
Whilst most people will find Sheitan more funny than scary (it is very darkly humorous) I found it downright terrifying! Yes, Vincent Cassel was funny at the start of the film, but as it goes on he turns into a demented and frankly disturbing character. The film gets weirder and weirder as it goes along and ends up turning into a disturbing tale of the supernatural and incest. It’s the final shot that got to me though, when Vincent and his sister turn around and smirk into the camera. You honestly can’t put Sheitan’s scariness into words, you’ll have to go and see it for yourselves I’m afraid.
6) Attic antics- [REC]
The Spanish found footage masterpiece, [REC] is an extremely scary film. Watching it on your own is quite an experience and one which set the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. It’s the thrilling story of an innocent reporter who follows a group of firemen to an emergency call-out to an apartment complex. A lot of weird stuff goes down, until it’s revealed that the place is full of zombies. From there on it’s a incredibly tense rollercoaster ride about survival and trying to escape.
I couldn’t recommend [REC] highly enough over its inferior American counterpart, Quarantine. The film reaches its scariest peak in its final moments. Our heroes find themselves in an attic. The cameraman decides to shove the camera up a hole in the ceiling and unbearably pans slowly around before a boy jumps in front of the camera and hits the spotlight. It’s a jump scare effective enough to raise the dead! However, it doesn’t stop there. We’re left in pitch darkness and the night vision comes on to reveal one of the most horrific monsters I’ve seen on film. It’s so hard to watch and you might just find your nails nibbled down to an inch of their lives as you watch Angela trying to sneak past the anorexic beast!
5) Rocking chair- Inside
French duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo were my introduction to the magic of foreign cinema, and what a place to start! Inside is the notoriously nasty film which follows a pregnant window as she’s attacked in her house by psycho-lady, Beatrice Dalle who is after her unborn child. It’s an electrifying and gruelling film, filled with suspense and thrills. Some people fail to look past the grisly gore, which is a shame because beneath the buckets of blood is an incredibly well-made, atmospheric and well-acted horror film. In fact, Inside is one of my favourite horror films of all time.
Whilst I never find it that scary, although the strange electronic music on top of Dalle’s dazzlingly deranged performance, does make some scenes very unnerving to watch, there’s the end scene that always manages to get to me. I’m about to spoil the hell out of it, so if you haven’t seen it yet, then just skip to my next point, because this is a film well worth seeing!.. After having her face burnt off, Beatrice Dalle ends up horrifically slicing the baby out of Alyson Paradis’ stomach. She then takes the crying baby over to a rocking chair and rocks it to sleep, whilst an incredibly haunting violin score plays over, as the baby’s mother lies in a pool of blood along with her friends and family who came to her rescue and failed. The final image of the burnt Dalle in the rocking chair is the stuff of nightmares. I’m scaring myself just writing this!
4) Clown face- INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch can do some really scary stuff when he goes for it. Don’t get me wrong, basically all of the films he’s done are dark, but none are particularly of the horror genre. INLAND EMPIRE however, is full on horror and it’s incredibly scary. It has notoriously divided even the most hardcore David Lynch fans, and is by far his least accessible film, which is saying a lot considering that one of his films features a chipmunk woman singing in a radiator whilst stomping on sperm. It’s the cinematic equivalent of being on drugs and has a plot which makes Inception look like Winnie the bloody Pooh!
I think it’s a masterpiece and for the full effect, you need to watch this in darkness, on your own and with your fullest attention. It has a handful of incredibly eerie moments such as, the sitcom featuring people dressed in rabbit costumes and Laura Dern running to the camera with a nightmarish clownish grin. The one that really got me though was when Laura Dern shoots the mysterious ‘Phantom’. His face bleeds and turns into an indescribably creepy smiley face made of skin. Like that wasn’t enough to send chills up your spine, Laura Dern’s twisted face suddenly flashes up on the screen like Regan on The Scary Maze Game. It’s the kind of jump scare which puts the tramp popping out of Winkie’s Diner to shame.
3) Crawl- The Poughkeepsie Tapes
I don’t think that The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a good film, but it is a very scary one. I had a hard time trying to pin-point a particular scene here actually because there is a constant flow of very scary moments. It’s a found footage horror film which follows a serial killer filming all of his atrocities for our entertainment. Now, the film isn’t scary all the way. As the film acts as a sort of documentary, we’re given interviews with the police and whatnot who happen to be horrendous actors! On top of that, they’re given some seriously contrived dialogue to say such as, “my wife couldn’t speak to me for months after she saw the tapes”. However, I was actually relieved when these moments of unintentional comedy came on because it meant that we were given a break from the terrifying footage!
I could’ve chosen any moment really. The disturbing moment when the killer talks to a little girl, the moment when the killer dominates a helpless victim in the basement whilst wearing a hugely unsettling mask, the moment when he makes a victim wear a disturbing mask, or the creepy and powerful interview with a survivor. However, the moment I choose as the scariest is when the killer crawls in like some sort of monster, wearing a terrifying mask which changes as he slowly stands up, whilst a victim is tied to a post. It’s a beautifully executed scare, done all in one shot, and one which sent chills up my spine. As I said before, I don’t think that it’s a good film before it has very little to offer in the way of plot, however if you’re after something to really scare you, then The Poughkeepsie Tapes is the place to be!
2) Double whammy- Noroi: The Curse
Noroi: The Curse is the scariest film as a whole I have ever seen. It saddens me that this Japanese gem is so difficult to get hold of! If Noroi was given a wide release then I’m sure that it would be considered one of the greatest found footage horror films, ever. Chances are that you’ve never heard of it (psssst you can watch it on Youtube!) so I’ll tell you what it’s all about. It is an incredibly convincing found footage film which builds a mystery centring around a malicious spirit called Kagutaba. The film is presented in a series of film clips, most of them featuring our chubby paranormal presenter who’s trying to get to the bottom of a mystery surrounding a missing girl. The film does an excellent job at building a sense of anticipation and suspense by slowly uncovering more pieces of the complex puzzle. I found it gripping, although some have confessed a sense of boredom.
To get the best effect, I think you really need to watch this in the dark, on your own with the sound up. That’s what I did and I ended up being completely scared out of my wits! The film is full of terrifying moments with strange figures appearing in the background, babies being heard faintly and paranormal activity that makes Paranormal Activity look like Winnie the bloody Pooh! All of it subtly puts the viewer on edge and makes the film very difficult to watch at times just due to the sheer amount of tension. The film reaches its scary peak though with its two endings. The first ending features a ritual going very badly, ending up with a shocking encounter in the woods. The second ending comes right after the credits roll, and we’re presented with footage enough to make your heart pound with fear. It’s a seriously scary way to end and I won’t spoil the scare in store. You’ll just have to watch it, it’s well worth it! Just make sure you watch it alone in the dark. Get it? Got it? Good!
1) WTF!?- Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway Camp is a funny one (in both senses of the word). The film starts off absolutely hilariously! I’m unsure if it’s intentional or not, but the entire film is really funny. The acting is the campiest and most wooden you could imagine, the screenplay is full of clichés and is quite obviously a Friday the 13th rip-off and the whole film is just really poorly made and full of insane moments. Sleepaway Camp definitely falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category. One of the craziest moments is when a young 16-ish-year old girl agrees to go on a date with a 60-year old counsellor! Luckily for the girl she gets brutally killed before the date even takes place. It’s a blast to watch and is really entertaining if you’re into those crappy horror B-movies.
This makes it all the more shocking, when it powerfully delivers probably the scariest movie ending I’ve ever seen. I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to experience it, but everything about this ending chills me to the bone. That face, that noise, that absolute absurdity that still doesn’t make sense. And the fact that it ends right there with no resolution means that you can’t help but let it play on your mind for at least a couple of days. I even have chills as I write this, just thinking about that ending! It jumps out of nowhere, and if the rest of the film was actually really well written and executed, then I’m pretty sure that Sleepaway Camp would be one of the ultimate horror classics because of that incredibly disturbing ending. After I saw it, I remember having two very sleepless nights, where I could just not get that final image out of my head.