Obviously, this list is going to be NSFW. Like, seriously…really NSFW. These are horror films after all, so what did you expect? Anyway, there is going to be objectionable material throughout – just as God intended.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll be doing a rundown of what I see as the greatest scenes in the history of horror films. This isn’t a “scariest scenes” list. These are scenes that are impactful in more ways than just scarring the shit out of you. Sure, there will be a few of those scattered throughout, but some are just really good scenes. I’ll be providing commentary throughout, so lets get to the list.
50. Carrie – Ending Scene
While Carrie has its flaws, it is still a monumental film of the genre. It remains of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel, and it also contained some of the most iconic scenes in horror (one, in particular, is higher on this list). The ending of Carrie is a great bait-and-switch that would be replicated in many horror films of the 1980’s (Friday the 13th did it best, in my honest opinion), but it is still an effective shock right before you head for the exit.
49. Cannibal Holocaust – Revenge on the Filmmakers
(NSFW: Gore, Nudity…pretty much all of the most awful shit you can fit in a frame in 1979)
The amount of notoriety surrounding Cannibal Holocaust can make a first viewing seem, well, tame in comparison to all the ink it gets for being the “most controversial film ever made”. Many cast it aside as pure Italian cannibal schlock, and it admittedly does have all the hallmarks of that canon. But this film remains one of my favorites, as it experiments with how to tell a story while also communicating a clear social message. In this ending scene of the “recovered footage”, our missing filmmakers, who have morphed into the antagonists at this point, get what they deserve and it is all caught on the cameras they brought into the jungle with them. Again, this is Not Safe For Work but still a visceral conclusion to Cannibal Holocaust‘s tale.
48. Night of the Living Dead – Zombies
(NSFW: Nudity and General Spookiness)
While now it seems like a throwaway scene that no zombie film could live without, but in 1968 it transformed a genre of films. We see a few “ghouls” in the lead-up to this reveal, but not in the menacing way of this thirty-second sequence. In Night of the Living Dead, our protagonists lock themselves in a farmhouse and, despite their conflict with each other, are seemingly secure from the threat outside. Director George A. Romero cleverly paints this illusion in broad, early strokes before shattering it as the growing mob of undead emerge from the darkness.
47. The Hills Have Eyes (1977) & The Hills Have Eyes (2006) – The Attack on the Family
(NSFW: It’s just pretty horrible)
Only clip online I could find of the scene is apparently the entire film. So watch it…it’s about ten minutes. Or watch the whole thing.
I didn’t want to occupy two spots on the list for almost identical scenes, but I definitely could have. There’s enough power found within these two sequences to power four dozen B-grade horror films, and a lot of that has to do with the directors. In the 1970’s, there wasn’t a more maverick and unflinching filmmaker as Wes Craven. Between The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, he crafted two seminal revenge-horror films that have stood the test of time, and he did it by never being ashamed of the material. He showed every ugly characteristic of humanity, and he did it best in the scene above. I have not include Alexander Aja’s version because, honestly, it’s a lot rougher. He takes an already damaging scene and gets exploitative with it, and I mean that in a good way. Once could argue that Aja outdid Craven’s original, but for most of the running time of the remake, it just felt like the two directors were cut from the same cloth.
46. Scanners – Psychic Head Explosion
(NSFW: Glorious Gore)
David Cronenberg is great because he can move between different genres with such ease, but he rarely gets the credit that he deserves. He’s made some absolutely stunning films: Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, The Fly, Dead Ringers, The Dead Zone, Naked Lunch, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises…it’s quite a filmography. But for me, it doesn’t get better than Scanners. The film itself is quite complex in plot, but never do you feel detached when dealing with the absurd premise, and that’s because the head exploding scene immediately puts you on edge. That shock, so common with Cronenberg, is a way of sucking the audience in rather than drawing attention to the form.
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