If we are to take a look at horror movies - sifting past the terrible, shoving aside the mediocre, and pausing only briefly to glance at the passable – fright fans will eventually find those special moments that make us really love the genre. To celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ll list five horror moments that I am thankful for. What horror movie moments fill you with gratitude?
5. Just Tell It To Call You Billie
Creepshow (1982) is one of those rare films I saw as a young lad that made a huge impression on me at the time, and continued to impress me as I revisited it many times as an adult. Often, movies we see in our youth don’t hold up very well when we see them years later – they maintain our devotion primarily via nostalgia – but I believe Creepshow is some of the best work George Romero has ever done… especially the sequence titled “The Crate.” In this portion of the anthology, the writing, acting, and editing are exceptional. Like the rest of the film, “The Crate” is perfectly over-the-top, extremely creative, bursting with tension, and just a helluva lotta fun. When Adrienne Barbeau is devoured by “Fluffy,” the creature in the crate, Hal Holbrook’s nicely-delivered line, “Just tell it to call you Billie,” adds the perfect macabre touch.
4. Flyboy’s Demise
Director George Romero provides another horror movie moment I’m thankful for. At the climax of Dawn Of The Dead (1978), David Emge as Stephen (or “Flyboy” as he is nicknamed) emerges from the mall elevator not only zombified, but apparently something of a leader to the Monroeville undead. Flyboy leads a ravenous zombie cluster upstairs to attack the two remaining survivors. When Ken Foree shoots Zombie Stephen, it is an impactful moment. Firstly, these characters have been through so much together, it is genuinely shocking to see Foree take out his buddy – right in front of Stephen’s girlfriend! Secondly, the special effect by Tom Savini is outstanding. It is one of my favorite headshots in zombie movie history. Excellent writing, great characters, and superb Savini splatter combine to create a favorite moment in horror cinema.
3. Come Play With Us
Without a single “horror” image, the opening credits of The Shining (1980) establish an atmosphere of dread that shrouds the rest of the movie. As Stanley Kubrick’s film progresses through sequences of subtle tension, nightmarish absurdity, and pounding intensity, a few scenes stand out as showstoppers. Jack Nicholson’s confrontation with the woman in the bathtub is an eerie, fever-dream moment. The elevator full of blood provides another startling sequence. However, The Shining probably reaches its pinnacle of creepiness with the reveal of the twin girls in the hallway. Danny Lloyd rounds the corner on his three-wheel bike to find the girls standing motionless, staring at him from the other end of the hall. The moment still sends chills - thanks to the masterful way the sequence is shot and edited, plus the perfectly sinister music.
2. Having A Ball
One of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen is The Changeling (1980), directed by Peter Medak. I was twelve or thirteen years old when I first saw this film. It was edited for television and peppered with commercial interruptions. Even in this less-than-desirable state, the movie still shook me up. Several scenes in the film raise the hair on the back of one’s neck. A young girl’s bedroom is built over an old well, into which a murdered child was tossed years ago. This scenario provides one of the most frightening scenes in the movie. In another sequence, George C. Scott (one of the greatest actors to ever put performance to celluloid) listens to a recording of a séance with results that still deliver the shivers. However, it is one of the most simple sequences in the movie that I’ll spotlight for this list. It is the scene in which a child’s ball – a toy tossed into the river only minutes ago – comes bouncing out of the dark, down the stairs toward an alarmed Scott. Brilliant direction and performance gives this minimal sequence maximum impact.
1. Get Some Face Time
Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) is mesmerizing from beginning to end, serving up a delectable buffet of captivating drama, otherworldly beauty, potent horror, and gross-out shocks. The secret to the film’s success is the construction of suspense and terror upon well-written characters. While there are many sequences in Alien for horror fans to be thankful for, I’ll point out the one that may, for me, top the list. The sequence comes early in the film, when Tom Skerritt leads John Hurt and Veronica Cartwright out to investigate the alien spacecraft. The environment of the hostile, Hades-like planet weaves the first layer of danger and tension. The scene progresses and the mysteries deepen until Hurt discovers the eggs. The suspense has slowly built to a boiling point, setting up the audience for the climactic final frames of a facehugger alien bursting forth into Hurt’s face. It is a sequence that is stunning in its visual design and brilliant in its ability to rattle an audience.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze