Scary Scenes from Non-Horror Movies

I recently read this article from a pop-culture website I like where the various writers on the site wrote about their favorite scary scenes from movies. What really interested me about the idea of listing scary movie scenes, as opposed to scary movies in their entirety, was that it left things open for a much wider range of films. There are plenty of scary scenes in movies that themselves are not otherwise meant to be particularly scary. So, I decided to completely rip off that list I read online and create my own list of movie scenes that scare me, the only requirement being that none of these movies are actually horror movies themselves.

Gravity and The Grey (the entire movies)

scary scenes gravity scary scenes the grey

A friend of mine described Gravity as being “Like The Grey, but in space.” It’s an apt comparison. Both films are survival stories of the most harrowing variety. These are two of the most relentlessly intense and suspenseful films I have ever seen. The Grey is more punishing to watch, due to its graphic violence, but Gravity takes one of my biggest fears and puts it right up there on the screen, front and center. And it’s right there on the poster I pictured above. Alone, floating through space, slowly running out of air, completely helpless…shudder. When I first saw the trailer for Gravity, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it. But I did, and I’m glad I did. Neither one of these films is an easy watch, but both are very much worth the effort. You might even learn something about yourself. I’m pretty sure I did.

Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson Return to Their Roots

scary scenes spiderman poster scary scenes king kong

Before they started making blockbusters, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson cut their teeth making ultra-low-budget horror films. Raimi’s most famous was of course The Evil Dead, and Jackson’s was Brain Dead (or Dead Alive, whichever title you prefer). But neither filmmaker left their horror roots completely behind. In Spider-Man 2, there’s a scene in a hospital where Doctor Octopus’ robotic arms come to life and kill a roomful of doctors. It’s an intense, frightening scene, made all the more startling by its appearance in what is otherwise a pretty family-friendly movie. Raimi even throws in a reference to The Evil Dead and its sequels when one of the doctors picks up a chainsaw in an attempt to ward off the murderous appendages.

scary scenes doc ock

Peter Jackson, meanwhile, seems to have a thing for bugs.

 scary scenes kk worms

Remember this scene? Of course you do. Who could forget the bug pit in King Kong? The completely unnecessary, thoroughly squirm-inducing bug pit scene? Where this poor sap gets his head chomped by a giant worm monster? That’s Andy Serkis by the way, he played Gollum and did the motion capture for King Kong himself. Peter Jackson repaid him for all his hard work by feeding him to a giant sharp-toothed slug-monster (true story). YouTube comments on this scene include such gems as “Oh my God, giant urethras devoured Smeagol holy shit” and “Christ this looks painful and disgusting.” Well said YouTube commenters.

 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

And if anyone tells you they weren’t squirming through the entire Shelob scene in Return of the King, do not believe anything that person tells you ever again, because that person is a LIAR.

Heck, Jackson even co-founded Weta Digital, the special-effects company that worked on all three Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong, and a little movie you may have heard of called Avatar, also known as the number one highest-grossing movie of all time.

 scary scenes weta

That lovely gentleman? That’s a weta, one of the world’s largest insects.

scary scenes bugs

Look familiar now?

Drowning and Claustrophobia in The World is Not Enough

scary scenes twine

I wrote about this Bond flick last year at Christmas, and I bring it up here because the final showdown in this movie encompasses not one but two of my worst fears, said fears being drowning and really enclosed spaces. Generally I’m not that claustrophobic, but being trapped in a really confined space would freak me out to be sure. And drowning is just…well…gah. I don’t want to even think about it. Watch the scene in The Grey where the guy drowns and you’ll see what I mean.

Bond’s final showdown with the villain in The World is Not Enough takes place on board a sinking nuclear submarine. I have no desire to ever be on a submarine, combining really confined spaces with being underwater just does not sound like fun to me. In the movie, the sub is of course flooding, and Bond and Christmas Jones (there she is again, much as I try to forget about her) are in danger of drowning the entire time, while attempting to stop the villain from blowing up Istanbul. The scene freaked me the hell out when I saw the movie in theaters when I was around 11. It’s lost some of its impact for me since then, but it’s still a tense, effective sequence.

 scary scenes christmas jones

Of course, every scene that has her in it is also scary, but for entirely different reasons.

Beating of a Sensitive Area in Casino Royale

 scary scenes casino royale

Yes, this scene. We all remember the one. You’re all squirming right now just thinking about it. I’ve traumatized you all just by mentioning it. Let’s just move on.

Every Time the Joker is Onscreen in The Dark Knight

scary scenes joker

Well, okay, this image won’t have you feeling any less traumatized I suppose. But seriously, I still almost can’t believe that’s Heath Ledger. He disappeared into that role so completely it’s just mind-boggling. Ledger’s Joker is one of those characters who’s so terrifying you almost can’t look at him, and yet Ledger’s performance is so magnetic he steals every scene he’s in, and you find yourself unable to look away. The Dark Knight is a modern masterpiece, a sprawling crime epic that deftly mixes social commentary and real-world relevance with the requisite genre elements required in superhero movies. Thanks to Ledger’s disturbingly mesmerizing Joker, it also mixes in quite a bit of white-knuckled terror.

Escape from the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin

 scary scenes aladdin

Don’t judge me. This scared me when I was but a wee lad. I think I mentioned in my “I Miss the 90’s” post that seeing Aladdin in the theater when I was a kid is one of my earliest moviegoing memories. It was also one of my most traumatizing, since the scene where Aladdin escapes from the Cave of Wonders on the magic carpet with Abu and the lamp scared the heck out of me when I was like 4. There are plenty of other Disney movies with scenes that can scare little kids and I’m sure there were some that scared me too, but for whatever reason that one scene in Aladdin really got to me when I was little. I suppose that’s a little ironic, since I’m now an action-movie junkie.

So, there you have it. Proof that a movie doesn’t have to be in the horror section at the video store in order to still potentially traumatize you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.

Creepy Halloween Fun on TV

When I saw the first trailers for Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” I made fun of them. I said things like “Ha ha! How stupid!” and things of that nature.

But, alas, I am a hypocrite, because even as I made fun of the commercials I thought to myself, “Who am I kidding. If this show goes up on Hulu I’m gonna watch it.”

Which it did, and I did.

And I was very pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was.

Sleepy-Hollow-Logo

In the very first episode, you’ve got time travel, multiple decapitations, revisionist American history, a machine-gun-wielding Headless Horseman, and the phrase “Headless Horseman of the Apocalypse.”

And if reading the phrase “Headless Horseman of the Apocalypse” didn’t make you smile just now, then this probably isn’t the show for you.

But if it did, then you are in for a good time. Seriously, I really like this show. It’s a strange, unwieldy beast to be sure, but it is a heck of a lot of fun, and it fulfills all the requirements of good television.

Likable, engaging leads with good chemistry? Check.

sleepy hollow characters

Creative premise? Check.

Fun storylines with a lot of variation each week? Check.

Briefly, the show reimagines Ichabod Crane as a British Revolutionary War soldier, who defected to the American side for some reason that currently escapes me. In battle, he fights this guy…

sleepy-hollow-pre-headless

And lops his head off, but is killed himself in the process. He wakes up in the modern-day town of Sleepy Hollow, and is understandably baffled by cars, electricity, and the like. Turns out Ichabod’s wife was a (good) witch, who put some kind of spell on him. His fight with the Horseman (pictured above) has left the two of them connected somehow, since their blood mixed on the battlefield or something. The Horseman has also awakened in the present day, which is why Ichabod awakens at the same time.

So there are some weird things going on in Sleepy Hollow, and Ichabod soon meets the show’s other protagonist, Lieutenant Abby Mills, a cop with a troubled history who has her own reasons for believing Ichabod’s story of having come from the 18th century. Together, Abby and Ichabod fight monsters.

If this all sounds ridiculous, that’s because it absolutely is. But holy crap is it entertaining.

After watching this week’s episode on Hulu yesterday, I realized something else about why I like it so much.

And that is the aforementioned variation. The show is completely different each week. It’s a lot less predictable than other shows. There’s so much batshit craziness that it’s impossible to predict what will happen next.

This addresses one of the problems I have with a lot of TV shows, which is that they’re more or less the same every week. Even with shows I really like, such as Castle or Burn Notice, they still follow the same “Case-of-the-Week” or “Crime-of-the-Week” format. With Sleepy Hollow, it’s more of a “Monster-of-the-Week” setup.

For me, this is awesome, since you never know what kind of evil our heroes will be battling next. With crime shows and police procedurals and such, you know there’s going to be a murder, there’s going to be investigating, questioning suspects, talking to the medical examiner, blah blah blah, and by the end of the episode the killer will have been caught and everything will be fine, only for some other poor sap to be creatively murdered in the next episode. It’s a formula that works, which is why so many shows have used it. But it starts to feel a bit stale after you’ve seen it a couple dozen times.

Through the five episodes of Sleepy Hollow that have aired so far, our heroes have already battled the Headless Horseman, a witch, and a faceless nightmare monster, they’ve stopped some evil cult dudes from opening a portal to hell that would unleash 72 evil demons (are there such things as good demons?), and in this week’s episode they prevented a creepy virus caused by the Horseman of Pestilence from wiping out the whole town of Sleepy Hollow. Not bad for a few weeks’ work.

sleepy hollow poster

You see what I’m getting at here? I love the variation of this show. Who knows what Lovecraftian horrors await our heroes next week? I find myself really looking forward to finding out every week, which is pretty important for serialized television.

There are also some really cool monster designs. This is important for a “Monster-of-the-Week” show. Take the Sandman from the third episode…

 sleepy-hollow-sandman

Gah! I wouldn’t want this dude haunting my dreams. He wouldn’t be out of place in a Guillermo Del Toro movie. (speaking of Uncle Guillermo, I watched Pacific Rim again last night and it was awesome. It’s on Blu-Ray now so go see it if you haven’t already. Seriously.)

So if you like cool, creepy monsters; fun, unpredictable stories; likable, engaging protagonists; and a healthy dose of unpredictability, then check out Sleepy Hollow and be thoroughly entertained. Unlike The Following, which was the last Fox show I watched (it sucked), Sleepy Hollow is actually really fun.

 sleepy hollow poster2

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a TV show or two to watch. There are some really good ones out there now.

Zombies Have Feelings, Too

Why do I like zombies?

People ask me this sometimes. It’s a reasonable question. What’s the appeal of watching flesh-eating monsters devour people? Is the fact that I enjoy zombie movies/books/video games/TV shows etc. indicative of some form of mental illness?

 zombies first image

Possibly, but that’s neither here nor there. I actually have thought about this quite a bit. The conclusion I have come to is that zombies are versatile. This is going to sound weird, heck, it still sounds weird to me, but you really can use zombies to tell just about any story you want.

Think about it. You’ve got straight-up zombie horror…

 zombie-movie-poster-1981

Zombies as social metaphor…

Dawn_of_the_dead

Zombie comedy (or “Zomedy” if you prefer)…

zombieland poster

Epic zombie survival stories…

 zombie walking deadposter

And even zombie romantic comedy…

 zombies warm bodies movie

See what I’m getting at here? Zombies can be anything. They can be scary, they can be funny, they can be a metaphor for the ways we live our lives.

Case in point: Warm Bodies. I’m writing this mere minutes after finishing the movie, based on a book by Seattle-based author Isaac Marion. It was a great book, I really loved it.

zombies warm bodies book

Not to be childish or anything, but people who think it’s nothing more than just “Twilight with zombies” are big fat stupid idiots. This book is remarkably moving. It’s an exploration of what makes us human and of how, deep down, all of us just want to be loved.

Most zombie stories are, unsurprisingly, pretty grim. Many of them end with most, if not all, of the primary characters being dead (or undead, as the case may be). Things don’t turn out very well for most people in a zombie story.

Without giving too much away, Warm Bodies is different. It’s a really encouraging and uplifting story. Yes, it is occasionally gruesome, but ultimately I found it to be a really inspirational story.

Allow me to blow your mind:

From Warm Bodies, page 113:

“There’s no benchmark for how life’s ‘supposed’ to happen…There is no ideal world for you to wait around for. The world is just what it is now, and it’s up to you how you respond to it.”

Wow.

Have you ever had that feeling where you feel like something was written exactly for you? Where you encounter something written by someone you don’t know and will probably never meet, and yet it’s like they’re talking to you directly? And you find it at the exact moment in your life when you need it most?

Warm Bodies came to me at exactly the moment in my life when I needed that message the most. I read the book last year, and I needed that message then. I still need it now. I missed the movie when it was in theaters, and only finished it about an hour ago (around 9 pm on Saturday, October 05, 2013).

And just like the book, the movie came to me exactly when I really needed it. It came to me with another very important message, one that I need more than ever with so much uncertainty in my life.

And that message is that everything is going to be okay.

It’s not a message you’d expect to get from a zombie movie, but it’s there, loud and clear.

Warm Bodies, the book and the movie, encapsulate everything zombie stories are capable of being. They’re gory, scary, funny, thought-provoking, and ultimately very moving.

And it is never an unwelcome reminder that everything is going to be okay.

So go out there and give somebody a hug. Because as Zombieland reminds us, without other people, you might as well be a zombie.

And, seriously, everybody likes hugs.

 ZOMBIE POWER

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go read Warm Bodies again. And you should too. Seriously, it’s only 241 pages.