As we close in on the final Halloween of the decade, Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge picks out his 40 scariest movie moments.
Tell us your picks in the comment section below!
40) Freddy On Aisle Three – A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
The Everly Brothers’ rendition of All I Have To Do Is Dream is used to playful and rattling affect as Nancy (Rooney Mara) retreats from the scrapping claws of Freddy Krueger.
39) A Dark Seduction – Under The Skin (2014)
Mica Levi’s throbbing score brings an unnerving edge to the minimalistic visuals of Laura’s (Scarlett Johannsson) first kill in Under The Skin. The simplicity and ambiguity of the visuals only ramp up the disquieting feeling.
38) Good Vibrations – Us (2019)
This scene, in which we realise the killer doppelganger issue expands beyond one family, is only enhanced by the use of handheld cameras inside the house and a more clinical shot from outside. Even a few moments of humour and The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations can’t sooth the bloody shock.
37) My Lady d’Arbanville – Hounds Of Love (2017)
It may not be traditionally scary in the sense of jump scares and evil demons, but this scene from Ben Young’s thriller makes your skin crawl in a fairly unique way. To the sounds of Cat Stevens’ Lady d’Arbanville, an evil woman dances in the mirror and gives you a sense that her care-free wickedness will win out.
36) Home Invasion – Assassination Nation (2018)
Shot entirely from the exterior, this home invasion scene tracks around the house and leaves us helplessly looking on as masked and armed men methodically take control.
36) Michelle’s Choice – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) looks to escape the underground bunker only to find herself stuck between the suspiciously overbearing presence of Howard (John Goodman) and a seemingly infected woman desperately trying to get inside. The scene plays out in such a disconcerting way that Howard becomes the friendlier choice for Michelle.
35) The Further Family – Insidious (2010)
Josh’s journey into The Further sees him encounter a creepy family who proceed to terrify us with their ghostly appearances and perturbing smiles.
34) Swimming Pool Saviour – Let Me In (2010)
Being rescued never looked so petrifying! This scene turns a vile act of bullying into something even more disturbing with drowned screams and sinking decapitated heads. We’ll let you decide whether Matt Reeves’ film did it better than Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 Swedish original, Let The Right One In.
33) Flash Of The Truth – Get Out (2017)
The illusion of polite conversation is broken by a camera flash and a momentary glimpse of the horrifying truth. Another powerful scene to build Get Out’s inescapable unease.
31) There’s A Family On Our Driveway – Us (2019)
The silent presence of a mysterious family on the driveway gives plenty of time to wreck our nerves before the home invasion scares begin.
30) The “Help Me!” Bear – Annihilation (2018)
Lena (Natalie Portman) and co try to stay composed as they are stalked by a bear emitting the cries of their recently deceased friend.
29) Bloody Bathroom Brawl – Assassination Nation (2018)
Lily’s (Odessa Young) attempts to escape from Nick (Joel McHale) result in a slippery, bloody scrap for survival. A gruesome scene filled with desperation and heart-pounding anticipation.
28) Silent Stabbing – Hush (2016)
After an endearingly friendly interaction with Maddie (Katie Siegel) at the start of the film, we watch on as Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) desperately tries to warn her deaf neighbour of an incoming killer. Maddie’s unawareness, the violence of the stabbings, and the masked man’s prolonged stare makes this a bone-chilling scene.
27) Tethered Storytime – Us (2019)
Red (Lupita Nyong’o) delivers a blood-curdling speech as the audience attempts to piece together the mystery of Jordan Peele’s second film.
26) The Hand Off (Literally) – Green Room (2016)
Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room does hanging dread and bloody violence better than most films this decade. In this scene too violent for YouTube, Pat (Anton Yelchin) tries to hold onto a gun as Nazis do terrible things to his arm. The twisted and horrific beauty of this scene is that we are left to imagine what is happening on the other side of the door as we hear Pat’s screams and other gruesome sounds.
25) No Funny Business – Get Out (2017)
In this scene, the conflicted face of house helper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) inspires a creepy level of discomfort. Stunning acting that deserves a mention.
24) Cut Throat Sex – Gone Girl (2014)
Amy (Rosamund Pike) waits until for the most opportune time – male orgasm – to slit the throat of Desi (Neil Patrick Harris). A moment of clinical and precise violence that reveals her bloody ruthlessness, particularly through the sudden shift in her demeanour with a simple hair flick.
23) Live Deliciously – The Witch (2016)
Somewhere between deeply unsettling and seductive, this scene and Anna Taylor-Joy’s delivery bring a perfect close to Robert Eggers’ instantly classic horror film.
22) The Projector Clowns Around – IT (2017)
A projector takes on a mind of its own to terrify the young gang. The accelerating projector slides rapidly turn into a moving image of Pennywise before slowing once again for one hell of a jump scare.
21) Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide – It Follows (2014)
It Follows opens with a terrified young woman on the run from an unknown force. A tone of simmering dread and helplessness is implanted through long takes and rooted camerawork, before we reach a brutal punctuating image.
20) Tiptoe Through The Tulips – Insidious (2010)
Household chores are transformed into something much more sinister with the peculiar appearance of a young boy and Tiny Tim’s 1968 version of the song Tiptoe Through The Tulips. James Wan’s camera work also brings a lot to the scene as he plays with space and our perspective.
19) A Witch’s Kiss – The Witch (2016)
Young Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) ventures deep into woods before encountering a seductive figure. The grab of the witch’s frail hand and Mark Korven’s score, like the wailing of thousands of lost souls, brings the scene to a haunting climax.
18) Black Feathers – Black Swan (2010)
Darren Aronofsky’s masterful psychological thriller is 108 minutes of disorienting and unnerving scenes. In this one, Nina’s (Natalie Portman) hallucinations escalate with talking fan art, feathery body horror and a hand slammed in the door.
17) Eva Stop – Ex Machina (2015)
It’s time for A.I revenge in the closing moments of Alex Garland’s technophobic masterpiece. The clinical and cold nature of this scene – heightened further by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s pulsing synth music – adds to a disquieting shock.
16) Finger Food – Raw (2017)
A friendly waxing session between two sisters goes downhill sharply with a brutal accident. A jaw-dropping and chilling act follows as Justine’s (Garance Marillier) finger-gnawing transformation is cemented by Jim Williams’ Transylvanic music.
15) A Silent Birth – A Quiet Place (2018)
The life-or-death necessity of silence and a stray nail make this one of the most stressful scenes of the decade. Emily Blunt brilliantly captures the unimaginable anguish of Evelyn as she tries to give birth in unimaginably difficult circumstances.
14) Where’s My Baby – mother! (2017)
The disorienting spiralling of Darren Aronofsky’s film reaches a sickening highpoint as Mother’s (Jennifer Lawrence) baby is violently crowd-surfaced. Lawrence elevates this hard-to-stomach scene with heart-breaking intensity.
13) Hiya Georgie – IT (2017)
It may have been seriously meme’d online, but there is no denying the opening scene of IT is a brilliant piece of cinema. Audiences can only squirm in their seats as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) sinisterly lures young Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) into his sewer trap.
12) Cliff Sacrifice – Midsommar (2019)
The nauseating anticipation and subsequent dizzying shock of witnessing a graphic suicide is expertly conveyed in this scene. Particularly effective is the calming choice of music (with some muffled shouts) which disappear in favour of screams and the harsh sound of body hitting stone. Ari Aster even has the vision to throw in a slow-motion nod to Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey.
11) Red-Faced Demon Appears – Insidious (2010)
Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) recounting of a nightmare she had culminates in one of the most iconic jump scares of the decade. The scene builds cleverly with the misdirect that the cuts to Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) are a safe-space from the horror of the dream flashback. Not to forget a drained colour palette that makes the appearance of this red-faced demon all the more jolting.
10) The Book Returns – The Babadook (2014)
After Amelia’s (Essie Davis) attempts to dispose of it, the Mister Babadook book returns with freshly haunting and foreboding popup horror. The scene is also brilliantly followed up by a paranoid interaction at the police station which dramatically heightens Amelia’s distress.
9) Get In My Car – Nocturnal Animals (2016)
This scene is a real heart-sinker. Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) kidnaps Laura (Isla Fisher) and daughter India (Ellie Bamber) as a shell-shocked Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) can only look on. A sickening and harrowing scene that sets in motion the relentless devastation of this film.
8) Classroom Meltdown – Hereditary (2018)
Alex Wolff brings incredible physicality to a scene that shows the terror of a young man losing his grip on both body and mind. Ari Aster cleverly plays off the classroom setting and the freaked out faces of Peter’s peers.
7) The Tall Man Appears – It Follows (2014)
Sheer terror might be the best way to describe this scene in which Jay (Maika Monroe) attempts to warn her friends of an intruder they can’t see. The scene is only enhanced by the restrained use of music which only surges when the ominous tall man fills the frame.
6) The Sunken Place – Get Out (2017)
Regardless of genre, this is one of the most memorable and talked about scenes of the decade. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is hypnotized by his girlfriend’s mother (Catherine Keener) and sent to the sunken place in a scene that makes you think as well as giving the chills.
5) Smile, You’re On TV – The Babadook (2014)
Channel surfing takes Amelia (Essie Davis) through a number of troubling images before her disturbed mental state manifests in a news report. Amelia’s smile of insanity is nothing sort of terrifying.
4) Family Horror – Midsommar (2019)
A nightmarishly dark opening to a film that revolves largely around the unfamiliar backdrop of broad-daylight horror. This sequence leads us through the scene of a murder-suicide before punctuating the pain with the haunting wailing of Dani (Florence Pugh). Through these moments, Ari Aster plants a seed of trauma and grief that will permeate the film and later sprout in outstanding fashion.
3) The Possession Of Annie – Hereditary (2018)
There is so much to mention in this sequence: Annie (Toni Collette) silently perched in the background; the slow pan to a random naked man; Annie furiously banging her head; Annie sawing her head off; and the appearance of more naked cult members. A devilish and feverish cauldron of horror images cooked up by the mind of Ari Aster.
2) The Bear In The Burning House – Midsommar (2019)
No big jump scares or gimmicky tricks necessary, the closing scene of Midsommar is a goosebump-worthy moment that couldn’t be left off this list. There is so much to be in awe of and disturbed by, but Bobby Krlic’s music and Florence Pugh’s remarkable range deserve special praise. Easy on eyes and ears, but still deeply unnerving.
- Losing Our Heads – Hereditary (2018)
This scene left me wanting to escape the cinema and somehow attempt to pry this horrific moment from my memory before it had time to embed. After the horrific incident (which I can’t bare to type about), there is a visceral feeling of shock and dread that Ari Aster leaves us to sit with as Peter (Alex Wolff) quietly pulls up to his house and goes to bed. The juxtaposing next day reactions and the broad-daylight sight of Charlie’s decapitated head only hammer home the stomach-clenching weight of this scene – this was not a nightmare. Pure horror excellence.
Let us know your scariest horror moments of the decade!