The climax – Suspiria
Suspiria, directed by Dario Argento, is a visually stunning and terrifying film that will dispel any notions of being a horror movie snob. The story follows Suzy Bannion, an American ballerina, as she arrives at the prestigious Tanz Academy in the dark forests of the Black Forest. The academy’s opulent art nouveau decor and vibrant colors are reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film. However, as young dancers start disappearing one by one, Suzy becomes increasingly uneasy. The eerie atmosphere is heightened by encounters with a mysterious doctor and a disturbing incident with maggots falling from the ceiling. In the film’s climactic scene, Suzy bravely navigates through a secret corridor and discovers the inner sanctum of the academy, where she faces off against a coven of witches and their terrifying creations. The combination of chilling vibes and intense violence make Suspiria a must-see for horror fans.
The knives – Final Destination
Since I was a child, I have always been immune to the scare tactics used in movies. I was confident that creatures like vampires, ghosts, and demons were not real and therefore could not harm me. However, I was a rational and somewhat morbid child, so I did worry about more realistic dangers like kidnappers. This belief led me to believe that the most mundane things can be the most terrifying, as shown in Final Destination’s use of everyday objects to create deadly traps. One particularly chilling scene involves a teacher named Valerie Lewton, who unknowingly spills vodka on her computer, causing it to explode and a piece of the screen to impale her throat. As she struggles helplessly on the kitchen floor, she reaches for a dishrag that conveniently covers a set of knives, which become her fatal downfall. Since watching this movie as a teenager, I have made sure to always point utensils away from me when placing them on the drying rack, thanks to the lasting impact of this scene.
The chestburster – Aliens
The chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s film Alien is iconic, but in James Cameron’s sequel, it becomes even more terrifying. The scene plays on our fear of aliens bursting out of human bodies, as the characters search for survivors in a space colony overrun by the creatures. The setting is filled with contorted human bodies, alien eggs, and corpses, creating a chilling atmosphere. As the tension builds, Ripley and the marines encounter a young woman who begs to be killed. Even though we may have seen this type of scene before, it still shocks and traumatizes us, especially as we see the horror reflected on Ripley’s face.
The person who follows, in the movie “It Follows”.
The pursuer – featured in the film “It Follows”.
David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows” is a well-known horror movie that uses a common tactic of starting with a fake-out and then suddenly revealing a menacing figure. However, in this film, the scare is not powered by music or tricks, but by an overwhelming feeling of inevitability. The premise of the film is simple: a silent, shape-shifting figure stalks its target until the curse is passed on through sexual intercourse. The newest target is teenager Jay, who finds herself trapped in her bedroom and startled by a rattling doorknob. When the door opens, it’s just her friend Yara, but then a tall, unknown man emerges from the dark hallway behind her. This entity is viscerally frightening in the moment, but its effect is felt throughout the film, leaving the characters in a constant state of panic and fear. As they encounter similar situations, such as seeing a figure walking towards them from a distance, it raises questions about whether these are background extras or new forms of the mysterious force. Just like death itself, this specter demands constant and impossible vigilance.
The nanny – The Omen
I am not a fan of horror movies and I do not believe that watching frightening events on-screen is necessary for emotional release. However, when I was a teenager in the early 1980s, I felt the need to confront these things, especially since they were often shown on late-night television. In a short period of time, I watched The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, Halloween, and The Omen. While they were entertaining and impressive, they solidified my decision to avoid the horror genre whenever possible. One particular moment from The Omen has stuck with me for its creepiness: when the nanny jumps off the roof with a noose around her neck to make room for the new nanny. I cannot explain exactly why I found it so disturbing, but perhaps it was the singsong chants of “Damien” and the feeling that she was being controlled by an evil force. This was contrasted by the absurd death scene of David Warner, who was decapitated by a sheet of glass flying off the back of a truck. I spent many hours rewinding on a VCR to find the exact moment his head was replaced with a dummy. “Dummy” is the perfect word to describe it.
The acupuncture – Final Destination 5
When I mention acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine that has greatly reduced the symptoms of my carpal tunnel, I typically receive one of two reactions: “Oh my god, acupuncture has helped me so much!” or “I would never… I’ve seen that scene in Final Destination.” In the fifth movie of the series, a group of people who escape death in a bridge collapse are later killed in gruesome and unpleasant ways. One member of the group goes to a spa for some relaxation time and lies on his back with large and thick needles sticking out of the front of his body. As the spa’s calming fire becomes uncontrollable, it ruins the peaceful atmosphere. The man cries for help as he is launched off the bed and impaled by the needles. However, this alone does not kill him in typical Final Destination fashion. Neither does a can of gas that happens to be in the room and spills near the fire. He also survives picking out the bloody needles one by one, despite poking and prodding vital organs. The ultimate cause of his death is an unexpected cellphone, which he forgot to put on airplane mode during his appointment. When it rings and vibrates, it moves towards a candle and sets the room on fire. Alaina Demopoulos
The coming – Blue Velvet
David Lynch is not known for making typical horror films, but he is skilled at creating unsettling and unforgettable cinematic experiences. One of his most disturbing characters is Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, who is arguably at his most frightening when he enters the film. The setup is carefully crafted: the innocent college student Jeffrey Beaumont is hiding in a closet after a strange sexual encounter with the older and more powerful Dorothy Vallens. This alone is disturbing, but then Frank enters, acting out a disturbing and violent sexual fantasy with Vallens while using a gas mask to inhale narcotics. Meanwhile, Beaumont watches in fascination from his hiding spot. The scene is a mix of voyeurism, sex, fear, violence, and transgression, creating a truly terrifying atmosphere that will stay with you long after the film is over.
The ghost – Pulse
During the early 2000s, there was a surge in popularity of Japanese horror movies and their American adaptations. These films often featured eerie ghosts with dark hair and pale skin, who moved with a jerky, stuttering gait as they emerged from walls and wells. However, one of the most chilling examples can be found in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse. In this scene, a young man decides to remove the tape blocking off a designated area, only to come face to face with one of these ghostly figures lurking in the shadows. Though the ghost is mostly featureless, wearing a dress, Kurosawa creates a sense of terror by intensifying the soundtrack with a haunting choir and focusing on its hypnotic, unnaturally choreographed movements. The man is frozen in fear, cowering behind a couch as the ghost slowly crawls towards him. There are no jump scares in this scene, just an unrelenting sense of unease.
The flashback – Session 9
Brad Anderson’s 2001 horror film, Session 9, depicts an abandoned mental asylum that is so terrifyingly captured that I would rather stay in the Overlook Hotel than spend a single night there. The story follows Gordon, a new father who is responsible for removing asbestos from the building. As the week progresses, his mental state deteriorates and it is eventually revealed that he has been killing his team members due to some unexplained malevolence. In a shocking twist, it is also revealed that Gordon had previously killed his wife and baby. The tapes found in the asylum provide hints towards this ending, and the final scene leaves us with a haunting soundbite from a woman’s murderous alternate personality.
The scarabs – The Mummy
One particular scene in the 1999 film “The Mummy” has always stood out to me. It involves flesh-eating scarab beetles and it is quite chilling. The scene takes place near the end of the movie, after the defeat of the mummy. The assistant, Beni, is trapped in a treasure chamber and is surrounded by a swarm of scarab beetles. These beetles are afraid of fire, so they won’t come near him while his torch is lit. However, when the light goes out, the screaming begins as the beetles devour him. This scene has always frightened me, both as a child when I used to watch the movie frequently with my siblings, and as an adult. It taps into many common fears such as being buried alive, eaten alive, and bugs, as well as my personal fear of cockroaches. Despite the fact that the scene is not very realistic due to the use of CGI, it still manages to make my skin crawl.
The logs – Final Destination 2
I personally find the Final Destination film series to be mostly absurd, but there is one particular scene from the 2003 sequel that left a lasting impact on me. In this scene, a log truck causes a catastrophic accident on the highway, resulting in numerous fatalities. Despite being secured by metal chains, the logs break free due to the intervention of “Death,” a recurring character in the franchise who manipulates events at will. This scene left a deep impression on me during my preteen years and even affected my driving experience at the age of 15. It instilled an irrational fear in me of driving near or alongside trucks carrying any type of cargo. Even now, I will avoid being near a log truck or similar vehicles as I do not wish to test my luck.