5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Enter Leatherface
Back to the nearly bloodless Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which people frequently cite as one of the most violent films ever made for some reason. I’ve come to theorize that people feel that way about this movie because it seems so plausible. Leatherface is a freak, sure, but he’s not an impossible to image villain like Freddy Krueger or the Xenomorph. Tobe Hooper doesn’t venture into the fantastical at all and keeps the truth behind this mad family at arm’s length throughout the picture. It’s kind of frustrating because the moment we lay eyes on Leatherface for the first time, we desperately want to know what that guy’s deal is. He appears suddenly and with no musical cue, so your mind is just not ready to process him. And as quickly as he appears, he slams that steel door shut, locking us out of his world and trapping that poor bastard in it. What could be happening behind that door? Your mind is running wild, right? The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in our minds is far more sinister and disgusting, which is just a testament to Hooper’s filmmaking prowess.
4. Night of the Living Dead – “They’re Coming To Get You Barbara!”
I’m trying to think of a more iconic line from a horror movie than the one above, but I just can’t find one. Just uttering that phrase brings forth black-and-white images of a shuffling ghoul in a rural cemetery. George A. Romero is a no-nonsense filmmaker, and the beginning of Night of the Living Dead is proof of that. We don’t get to spend more than five minutes with Johnny and Barbara before they are torn apart by Romero’s greatest contribution to the genre. The zombie film begins here, thus making this a hugely important moment in horror.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street – Tina’s Death
NSFW: Topsy-Turvy Violence
Sometimes I sit and wonder where Wes Craven went. I know he’s still making movies from time to time, but I’m talking about legit old-school Wes Craven. The guy who gave us The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and his most famous work, A Nightmare on Elm Street. His creative mind, coupled with his stark outlook on the world, set him apart from most 1970’s horror filmmakers because he was trying to say something with his movies rather than just horrify. But he could always do that better than the others, too. The revolving-room magic of Tina’s death in A Nightmare on Elm Street is equal parts mesmerizing and terrifying. The dream sequence is fine and all, but it’s the real world perspective that makes your skin crawl. Maybe someone should show Wes this scene again because, at one time, he made gems like this. He needs to know how good he can be.
2. The Thing – The Blood Test
NSFW: Shapeshifting Gore
The Thing is just exceptional. It’s hard to believe that critics didn’t rally behind this movie when it was released in 1982, but since then, it has become a staple of lists like these. The monster work in this film is top-notch, but the suspense that director John Carpenter constructs, with an assist by Ennio Morricone, is unmatched in horror history. A great example of this would be the scene in question. The slow, deliberate pacing employed by Carpenter in this scene makes the shock that much more impactful.
1. The Exorcist – The Deaths of Father Merrin and Karras
We’ve reached number one, and I’m hoping it was a surprise to you. Maybe not, but the top entry on this list so happens to be my favorite scene in any movie ever. I think it might have to do with how great the preceding scenes are that set up this finale. Jason Miller absolutely kills it without being too over-the-top, and he also puts in my all-time favorite performance as Father Damien Karras. A conflicted soul throughout he both gives into his darkness while also choosing salvation – it’s a powerful couple of minutes of filmmaking. You’d think the sight of a child getting wailed on by a grown man would be funny, but instead it’s kind of heartbreaking. Seeing Father Karras rapidly change, and ultimately sacrificing himself, is what seals this as the best horror scene ever committed to film.
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