A few weeks ago, I was in the mood to talk about horror flicks a for a bit, so I compiled a list of scenes from horror films which I found to be absolute staples of the genre. Not necessarily the most outright scary ones, but the ones with most impact, which will make them stay in your mind and remember them years after watching them for the first time.
The thing was – my list was longer than I could afford in one article, so I decided to split it into more parts. And, having added some of the remaining names in this week’s post, I can safely say there will be one final part soon. So then, let’s pick up where we left off last time.
1. Man on the rooftop scene, It Follows (2014)
While never truly scary in any given moment, this indie gem’s biggest strength was crafting a consistently tense atmosphere. It’s psychologically harrowing knowing that some entity is slowly but steadily getting closer to you, and will follow you wherever you go. For me, the moment which really cemented this feeling was when Jay narrowly escapes the creature within her house, only to see it in the form of an almost-naked man standing on her rooftop. Sure, it was a moment of release, as she was getting away unharmed, but the sight of the man – which in so many other contexts might have been hilarious – really hit home.
2. Dinner scene, Eraserhead (1977)
Many scenes in one of David Lynch’s debut films were a bit hard to watch: the lady in the radiator being one of them, and the baby’s developing illness being another. However, in my humble opinion, the prize goes to the dinner scene – Henry gets invited by Mary X to a meal at her parents’ house. And, as disturbing as decors and environments might have been until then, the tension around the table, the disgusting food and the ever-unfolding craziness of Henry’s hosts all combine into a memorable shocker.
3. Head scene, Hereditary (2018)
If you type that on YouTube, you will immediately be bombarded with countless ‘reacts to’ videos. Despite the fact that it was barely halfway through the film, it’s quite surely the most iconic one – and, in case you haven’t watched Hereditary, I’d rather you experience it the way it should be experienced, so I won’t spoil it. And no, I’m not talking about the pigeon’s severed head.
4. Diner scene, Mulholland Drive (2001)
David Lynch must have a serious fear of diners and dining in general, for here’s another one of his films with another utterly terrifying scene centred around places where people usually have food. What makes this scene so scary is the way in which the nightmare narrative told by one of the characters slowly starts falling into place in real life, and both characters realise this. It’s a remarkable scene, and even more remarkable is the fact that it takes place in broad daylight.
5. Mystery man scene, Lost Highway (1997)
The final David Lynch entry on this list is another beautifully crafted piece of art. Again, it defies conventions by taking place in a well-lit and crowded place – a house party in full swing. And, on a superficial level, it’s simply about a man meeting another man, and making a phone call back home. However, the context, the sound editing, and the appearance and demeanour of one of the characters changes the entire dynamic.
6. Running away scene, The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Just like the previous scene, and many of the others on this list, this one has more to do with psychological horror rather than the full-blown, explicit kind. This particular scene really impressed me, because it does its thing without showing anything – after all, we can barely even see the characters. It’s the middle of the night, and they’re fully aware that weird things have been happening just outside their camping place. This time it’s worse, as the strange sounds are getting closer and closer. Then they panic and start running away – the charm is that there’s no big monster reveal, and thus no tension release. It just keeps going, and going.
7. Crucifix stabbing scene, The Exorcist (1973)
Most horror film do not exactly age well. However, this particular scene is still terrifying, even 46 years later, and that’s quite an achievement. All details, with a special mention for the visual effects, are absolutely top notch, and I can only imagine how audiences back then should have reacted when they first saw it.