The Scariest Scenes in Movie History

Ah, fear. Who doesn’t love it? Well, you know, when it comes in the controlled doses that horror movies deliver it to us within. Over here at No But Listen (in case you haven’t noticed this alleged movie blog sliding into “just us muttering about horror films, really” in the last few weeks), we love nothing more than a scary movie. But what exactly makes a horror movie stand out as something actually, you know, scary? We’re taking a look at our favourite horror movie scenes – from the stuff that made us lose our lunch as kids to the sequences that kept us up as adults, we’re each going head-first into the spookiest shit we’ve ever seen – and figuring out what about them scares us so shitless. We’ve linked all the scenes where we can, but please be aware of spoilers ahead.

  1. Jaws – A Light Lunch

As a child living in a post-SeaWorld visit world, I was naturally lightly terrified of sharks, but Jaws was a family movie, right? It was fine. I was safe. That first kill, you hardly see anything – it’s at night, she’s mostly naked, the camera’s hiding everything juicy. But the second kill….As a kid, you’re sure that children are safe in the movies you watch. How couldn’t they be? Watching a small child get fucking eviscerated right there in front of me, the geyser of blood squirting high into the air as he embarks on an elemental and fruitless battle with a killer denizen of the sea was enough to traumatize me off deep sealife for the rest of my life. I spent the rest of the movie too proud to leave the room, but not too proud to hide behind a Star Wars: The Phantom Menace book and pretend it wasn’t happening.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Choosing the Trap

James Bond is a pinnacle of cinematic sureity. He’s a safe bet, even in the post-Craig era of gritty “realism”. So, even though The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher’s version, of course) isn’t a horror movie, the fact that it manages to convince me of a James Bond’s fear is enough to scare the pants off me. Watching Daniel Craig’s Mikael Blumqvist ignore his own protective instincts to walk back into a trap (a trap that leads to this), to see the fear on the face of one of cinema’s great invincible leading men – now, that’s scary.

3. Pyshco – Private Investigator’s Death

Psycho’s entire bag is playing with cinematic conventions. Here, we see Hitchcock unpicking everything that you’ve come to expect from his noir-ish horror – and scaring the shit out of you in the process. It’s the contrasts here that serve to unseat and unsettle us as an audience – the slow, dragging score followed by those sharp, aggressive violins, the long advance of the PI up the stairs that precedes the impossibly fast pounce of Mother on her next victim, the cut from overhead to POV shot as the attack takes place…here, Hitchcock uses what you expect from cinematic language to undercut what you think you know, and that heavily-layered rug-pull is what makes this one of the most effective jump-scares in cinema.

By Kevin Boyle

  1. Ju-On – The Monster in the Bed

I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I skipped out on this scene for my list. In terms of horror that actually made my bowels twitch, it was this sequence for Ju-On that first gave me that grasping hand of pure dread around my very soul. Now, I could talk about the artistry on display here: the slow build, the way the movie uses quiet and empty frames to force us to interrogate everything on display until we’re in a frenzy of knowing something is there but not knowing what it might be. But it’s really those final moments: after the character has finally made it back to the bed, the place of sanctioned horror safety, the monster is no longer hiding underneath it. It’s right there in it with her. The safe is no longer safe, and if that isn’t enough to make you evacuate your bowels, I don’t know what is.

2. The Blair Witch Project – The End

As you may have garnered from my recent evangelising about found footage movies, I have a secret extremely loud passion for found footage. And that all sprung from this, the last five minutes of one of the greatest examples of the craft to ever grace our screens. I think what really unsettles me about this, and what lets the fear of this movie linger, is the way it subverts what we expect from an ending. Most horror movies, especially the ones I had seen as a fallow fifteen-year-old, had, at the worst, a sequel set-up sting to close them out. They didn’t end, abruptly, with such utter horror. There’s no grace period to bring you back to earth – just that shock of death, the futility of everything that the characters we’d followed for the whole story had tried to evade. It’s the sheer bluntness of this that makes it stick in my head, a slow-dance build-up to a cinematic punch in the face. The less said about those sequels, though, the better.

3. Raw – Un-Vegetarian

Look, sometimes what disturbs can just be as simple as pure gross-out discomfort. I’m a nearly lifelong vegetarian, which probably factors into how much this scene disturbed me, but I would defy anyone not to find this particular scene disturbing. I’ve seen gore much more intense and much more explicit than this, but the unflinching realness with which Raw presents this particular chow-down pulls it from easily disconnectable and into something that feels uncomfortably close to reality.

By Louise MacGregor

What about you? What movie scenes scare you the most, and why? Let us know in the comments below!

(header image via Youtube)

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