In 2003, Channel 4 in the UK ran a countdown of “The 100 Greatest Scary Moments”. The following year, the US channel Bravo ran a similar list, “100 Scariest Movie Moments”. Both worth a watch, despite certain shared flaws – clips being explained so thoroughly as to take away the scare aspect, poor clip/chat ratio, but the Channel 4 version loses out by a complete failure to set any kind of definition of what they mean by the word moment. A shot or sequence of shots, fine. A whole scene? Guess so. Then they go for a character, or an episode of a TV series, or a whole film, and the whole thing falls apart. How the hell is Alice Cooper’s entire career a moment, Channel 4? That said, the Channel 4 list scores over the Bravo list by including far more entries from outside the horror genre.
Anyway, today, we’re going through the Channel 4 list. If you want to watch it first, it’s on YouTube:
I’m not going to comment on every single entry, though if you imagine I’ve said EXCUSE ME? HOW THE HELL IS THAT A “MOMENT”? whenever necessary, it will save me a lot of typing. The original text from this is taken from the website TV Tropes http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage, and is used under a vague understanding of how a creative commons licence works.
100. Train Pulling Into A Station (1895): A fifty second long film of a train pulling into a station in France. Said to have scared people who thought the train was going to burst through the cinema. Probably the first scary film moment.
I would have put this one much higher. I can’t even imagine what this would have been like.
99. The Night of the Hunter (1955): The scene underwater and Robert Mitchum pursuing the children.
98. Doomwatch (1970): TV Series — The Rats.
97. The Roswell Footage (1995): The alleged footage, which is said by Adam and Joe to look like a dolly.
96. Breathe (1996): The music video for this song by The Prodigy.
Wow. There are some easily spooked people out there.
95. The Singing Ringing Tree (1957): The entire film. Said by the interview guests to be a prime example of Accidental Nightmare Fuel.
94. Cat People (1942): Alice is walking to the bus stop in the dark, and hears footsteps behind her. She stops, and they stop. She picks up the pace and hears the footsteps chasing her. Just as she gets to the bus stop, the bus arrives scaring the wits out of her.
93. The Thing from Another World (1951): A fully regrown Thing standing right at the doorway when Hendry opens it and it being set on fire.
92. The Stone Tape (1972): A British teleplay. The whole thing.
91. Star Wars (1977—1983): The character of Darth Vader, especially his breathing and his first appearance.
90. Dracula (1931): Bela Lugosi as the main character, especially his voice and mannerisms.
89. Protect and Survive (1975): A British Public Service Announcement about what to do to survive in the event of a nuclear war — a very real threat at the time.
Here’s one of the great examples of a scary moment from outside the horror genre. Our Public Information Films (the British name for PSAs) were often terrifying - it's the dispassionately informative voiceover (by Patrick Allen) that does the job in this series. Given the nature of the warning, this one’s obviously going to rank quite highly. There's a series of them on YouTube, check out the rest.
88. The Day of the Triffids (1981): BBC drama version. A scene where a character attacks one of the plants.
87. Cracker (1994): The episode "To Be a Somebody" featuring Robert Carlyle exacting revenge for the Hillsborough disaster. The scene where he opens the parcel — nothing happens since they switched it.
86. Dead of Night (1945): "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" — scene in which the ventriloquist argues with the dummy.
85. Peeping Tom (1960): Scenes seen from cameraman's point of view.
84. Cape Fear (1962): Max comes after Sam's daughter.
83. Whistle and I'll Come To You (1968): BBC drama adaptation of an M. R. James short story. The scene with the Bedsheet Ghost.
82. Captain Scarlet — The Voice of the Mysterons (1967): The whole thing.
81. Brookside (1993—1995): The storyline of the murder and hiding the body of Trevor Jordache under the patio.
Putting aside the bizarre definition of moment, this is another one of the non-horror entries on the list - a man who beats his wife and sexually abuses his daughters. Then they murder him and bury him under the patio.
80. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): The transformation scene of the Queen from beautiful to ugly old crone.
79. 1984 (1954): BBC adaptation. The rat scene in Room 101.
78. The Incredible Hulk (1977): Banner's transformation from Human to Hulk
77. The Twilight Zone (1963): "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" — The scene with William Shatner looking out the window and seeing a monster on the wing that no one else can see.
76. Children of the Stones (1976): A scene with a brilliant white light from the stone.
75. Lonely Water (1973): A British Public Service Announcement about children drowning with a dark hooded figure who comes to collect children if they play too close to water. Especially the ending "I'll Be Back".
More Public Information Freakiness. Even that opening line sends shivers down my spine. That’s the voice of Donald Pleasence, by the way.
74. The War Game (1965): The whole thing, pretty much.
Want to know about real fear? I still can’t bring myself to watch this. Or "Threads", for that matter. I can only just handle "When the Wind Blows". Child of the eighties through and through, that’s me.
73. Alice Cooper: All of his music videos and performances.
72. Frankenstein (1931): Frankenstein coming to life.
71. Thriller (1982): All of the the music video by Michael Jackson.
70. Quatermass (1958): "Quatermass and the Pit" — Opening the alien spacecraft.
69. The Tripods (1984): Scene in which man comes out of the alien spacecraft.
68. Shallow Grave (1994): Juliet, David, and Alex bury their dead roommate in the woods.
67. Misery (1990): Annie breaks Paul's legs.
66. Theatre of Blood (1973): All of it but especially the man eating his poodles.
65. Fatal Attraction (1987): The scene where Alex boils the pet bunny and the ending scene where she jumps out of the bath before being shot.
64. Reservoir Dogs (1992): Mr Blonde cutting off the cop's ear while listening to "Stuck in the Middle with You".
63. Armchair Thriller (1978): The faceless nun in the attic in 'Quiet as a Nun'.
Want to see it? Here you go – one faceless nun.
62. Suspiria (1977): All of it.
61. Blue Velvet (1986): Frank first appears, huffing God-knows-what, and rapes Dorothy Vallens, while repeatedly saying "Mommy! Baby wants to fuck!".
60. Where's Your Head At (2002): The music video by Basement Jaxx.
59. Tales of the Unexpected (1980): The episode "Royal Jelly".
58. Candyman (1992): The scene in which she summons Candyman and he stabs the man through the chest from behind.
57. Eastenders (2001): The storyline of Trevor Morgan menacing Little Mo Mitchell.
56. Marathon Man (1976): The scene with the Depraved Dentist drilling into the healthy tooth.
55. Good Fellas (1990): The scene where Tommy appears to be offended at being called "funny" by Henry.
54. Doctor Who (1963): The opening titles.
53. Night of the Living Dead (1968): All of it, but especially Helen being stabbed to death with a trowel by her daughter.
52. V (1984): Robin giving birth a lizard baby.
I remember being scared by this as a kid.
51. Rosemary's Baby (1968): The dream-like rape scene.
50. Hammer House of Horror (1980): The episode "The House that Bled", when a pipe breaks and pours blood over a children's party.
49. AIDS — Don't Die of Ignorance (1987): A British Public Service Announcement narrated by John Hurt, featuring a gravestone being chiselled with 'AIDS'.
48. Les Diaboliques (1955): Christina sees her supposedly dead husband emerge from the bathtub, and drops dead of a heart attack.
47. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): All of it — allegedly based on the Communist scare at the time.
46. Final Destination (2000): From the original film, all of the death scenes.
45. The Vanishing (1988): Dutch version — the scene where the main character is Buried alive at the end.
Whoops! Spoiler alert!
44. The War of the Worlds (1938): The version by Orson Welles that allegedly terrified many Americans who thought it was real.
Allegedly is right. Read this: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/history/2013/10/orson_welles_war_of_the_worlds_panic_myth_the_infamous_radio_broadcast_did.html
43. The Birds (1963): Pretty much all of the scenes where Melanie is attacked by the birds, but especially the one where they are gathering on a playground while children sing in the background.
42. 'Salem's Lot (1979): From the miniseries, the scene where a vampiric Ralphie Glick is floating outside his brother Danny's window and scratching to be let in.
41. Ghost Watch (1992): All of the scenes involving Pipes and the ending scene where he invades the BBC studio and attacks Michael Parkinson.
40. The Others (2001): Grace finds her daughter apparently possessed by the eponymous "spirits".
39. Doctor Who (1963): The Daleks.
38. Nosferatu (1922): The scene where Orlock (and his shadow) is climbing the stairs then suddenly appears in the doorway. As one of the guests says "You can't say it's full of clichés — it invents the clichés".
37. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968): The character of The Childcatcher, who David Quantick compares to a male witch.
36. Dracula Prince Of Darkness (1966): A scene with Dracula smiling menacingly down at Helen and then attacking her.
35. Come to Daddy (1997): A music video by Aphex Twin featuring, amongst other things, a Humanoid Abomination who comes out of a tv and screams in the face of a little old lady.
34. The Wicker Man (1973): Featuring Christopher Lee again, the scene in which Sergeant Howie is led into the eponymous structure, which is then set ablaze.
33. The Sixth Sense (1999): The scene in the hospital in which Cole reveals to Dr Crowe that he sees dead people.
32. Coronation Street (2002): The storyline involving Richard Hillman, the serial killer ("Norman Bates with a briefcase").
Yeah, thanks. For a while there it was like being called Gacy or Shipman.
31. The Judderman (2000): A terrifying advert for the Bacardi alcopop 'Metz'. The producer of the ad tells of how they frightened a whole load of kids.
A booze advert?
Watch and learn.
30. Carry On Screaming! (1966): A film from the Carry On series, parodying Hammer Horror films. The whole film, but especially "Frying tonight!".
29. Poltergeist (1982): A large ghostly hand comes out of the tv and touches Carol Anne, before a mini earthquake happens "They're heeeeere!".
28. The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Lector's first meeting with Clarice and the scene in the dark in which she shoots Buffalo Bill dead.
As opposed to Lector’s escape, or Bill’s tormenting of Catherine in the basement? Wow.
27. Carrie (1976): The penultimate scene — Susan dreaming of putting flowers on Carrie's grave only to have Carrie's arm come out of the ground and grab her.
26. Jam (2000): An episode in which a woman calls a plumber to fix her "baby son"/boiler.
Look it up yourself. That show was weird.
25. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997): The Episode "Hush", in which a bunch of creepy Humanoid Abominations steal people's voices.
24. The League of Gentlemen (2000): The Christmas special — The scene in which Wolf Lipp's wife Lotte and the choirboys turn out to be vampires and attack him. Also, Papa Lazarou's appearances.
23. The Wizard of Oz (1939): The flying monkeys, and the witch threatening to kill the Scarecrow with fire and Dorothy throwing a bucket on her and melting her.
22. Scream (1996): All of the film, but especially when the killer is attacking Drew Barrymore.
21. Twin Peaks (1990): Many of the scenes, but especially the last one in which he smashes his head against the mirror and he sees Killer Bob in it "How's Annie?! How's Annie?!".
20. Don't Look Now (1973): John corners a person who he thinks is his dead daughter, but is in fact a midget serial killer.
19. Hellraiser (1987): Kirsty opens the box, and the Cenobites appear. Also, the scene in which Frank is ripped apart by chains.
18. 28 Days Later (2002): Most of the scenes involving The Infected.
17. The Thing (1982): The scene in which a monstrous jaw bursts out of a person's chest and bites the doctor's arms off.
16. An American Werewolf in London (1981): The transformation sequence. At the time it was Visual Effects of Awesome.
15. Friday the 13th (1980): Alice gets dragged into the lake by Jason.
14. Se7en (1995): The Sloth victim.
13. The X-Files (1993): All of the episode "Squeeze".
If I were to pick an X-Files episode, I’d probably go for "Home".
12. The Evil Dead (1981): The scene in which the possessed woman attacks another by stabbing her in the ankle with a sharp pencil.
11. Psycho (1960): The Shower scene. Also, the scene near the end in which they discover the mummified corpse of Mother.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) (1984): Many parts of the film, but especially when Freddy is chasing people.
9. The Omen (1976): The scene in which the maid jumps out of a window and hangs herself and the scene in which a priest is stabbed through his body from a falling church spire.
8. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): Leatherface bashes a guy's head in with a hammer and the scene in which he hangs the girl on a meat hook.
7. Halloween (1978): Laurie relaxes after apparently killing Michael, when, behind her, we see him suddenly sit up.
6. Ring (1998): The Japanese version — the scene in which the Sadako emerges from the tv and kills the man.
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999): The scene in which Heather apologises to her friends' mothers and saying they were going to die out there.
I’d have picked the ending over this.
4. Alien (1979): The alien bursts out of Kane's chest during dinner.
3. Jaws (1975): When the shark comes out of the water and when the head pops out of the boat underwater.
2. The Exorcist (1973): The scene in which Reagan vomits green fluid onto Father Karras; when she turns her head around 360 degrees and levitates off the bed.
1. The Shining: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Also, the scene in which Jack Torrance hacks the door away and says "Here's Johnny".
That’s what scares the UK. Tomorrow, we see what scares Americans.