45. Cabin Fever – Taking A Bath
(NSFW: Gore, Nudity, and plenty of NOPE)
Tucked inside this little gem’s maddening build, I can’t think of a scene that made me squirm in my chair as much as this one. Grounded in body horror, Cabin Fever concerns itself with a group of college kids (no surprise there) taking a trip to a backwater cabin for the week (again, well-worn territory). Soon, though, a flesh-eating disease begins to roll through the small group, tearing both their relationships and their flesh apart. Watching Cerina Vincent cry and cringe as she goes through her daily routine is horrifying. Director Eli Roth must’ve been jumping up and down with glee once he saw people’s reactions to this scene because it is what horror is all about.
44. Misery – The Hobbling
(General Advisory: I hate this scene because broken bones make me uneasy)
Arguably one of the best Stephen King adaptations to hit the silver screen, Misery is a solid flick because it allows its actors to just go after one another. Kathy Bates is phenomenal, evidenced by her Best Actress Oscar, but don’t discount James Caan, as he has to remain stoically terrified throughout the entire film. This sequence is beautifully shot, expertly written, and delivers the shock that Misery seemingly wasn’t building towards. Caan’s work in this scene exceeds any expectations you have of the actor and you are left wondering how Rob Reiner directed such an effective horror moment.
43. Jacob’s Ladder – Gurney
(NSFW: Gore and Insanity)
It boggles my mind how few people have seen Jacob’s Ladder – it’s fucking great. The story of a psychologically-damaged Vietnam vet (played to perfection by Tim Robbins) is enough great material to fill the running time, but the underlying horrific qualities is what makes it a special movie. This is a film that wants to keep you off-kilter for the duration, so you assume the perspective of Jacob as he has increasingly horrible delusions, making the audience question everything that is happening. This scene, which includes the late Elizabeth Pena, is part of a longer sequence where we are dropped hints of Jacob’s reality, but as Jacob is wheeled down the hospital corridors, it is easy to see why this scene is so important. Every modern film and video game borrows heavily from the images found inside Jacob’s Ladder, but most aren’t as artfully-sound as Adrian Lyne’s story.
42. Freaks – Ending
I first saw Freaks when I was about nine or ten years old, and even in 1996/97, I was creeped out. I can’t imagine what people in 1932 thought of it. Freaks remains one of the purest examples of horror in cinema because it plays liberally with our expectations. Going into the film, it positions itself as a fish out of water story, so one might think that Olga Baclanova’s Cleopatra is our central protagonist who has to put up with the sideshow performers. But instead director Tod Browning, whose career was collateral damage of this picture, positions the “freaks” as our protagonists and Cleopatra as the villain. Browning’s manipulation of our prejudices is what makes the ending of Freaks more of a delight to watch than a nail-biting experience. Mike Votto the child was never more scarred by a movie than when he saw the “human duck” for the first time. Thanks a lot, Tod.
41. Signs – First Footage
M. Night Shyamalan was a big deal for a while…recall that? Everything he touched was a success, starting with The Sixth Sense and ending with his science-fiction-horror film Signs. Looking back on his career, it’s actually surprising how quickly and dramatically the wheels came off on his career, but he has given us two or three solid films to remember him by. I prefer Signs because it is not as slow-moving as The Sixth Sense, mainly due to the fact that it did not have to lean on a big surprise ending that Shyamalan films became known for. This two-minute scene comes around the halfway point, and it is pretty much perfect. Joaquin Phoenix’s Merrill, watching a news report inside a closet, gets his first glimpse of the alien courtesy of shaky camcorder footage. It’s not a flashy scene by any stretch, but Phoenix takes the material to the next level, almost asking the audience outright “how would you react?” When you ask people about Signs, most reference this scene more than any other. Go out and try it – that kind of staying power proves how monumental this little piece of film is.
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