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Spooks, Starts, Jumps and Jolts: Scary Movie Scenes that Stick With Us

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 24, 2011 9:00PM

2011_10_24_scary.gif Successful scary movies are the product of atmosphere. Through a believable depiction of a world we can identify with, often enhanced by music and sound queues, a good horror movie or supernatural thriller casts a sort of spell on its willing victims. Viewers must be carefully stitched into the world on the screen so that the vulnerabilities of the characters on the screen are felt emotionally. Now the director has got you right where he or she wants you.

Now the scary movie can now give you the jolts it has been building up to without you even knowing it. When we walk out of the theater, we remember the scenes that make us jump. We savor that watching-through-my-fingers can't look/can't-look-away feeling we had. The best of the best pack a punch even if you watch them year after year. We love to talk about them, perhaps to remind ourselves of that thrill.

We've pulled together some the scenes that stick with us. Sometimes because they are funny, sometimes because we still haven't found that pair of pants they scared off us, these are the moments we look forward to when we're watching our favorite horror movie for the umpteenth time, even as we enjoy getting lost in the atmosphere again and kinda-sorta pretending we don't know what's going to happen. Scary movie clips on YouTube are like postcards: you kinda had to be there. If you weren't (which is to say if you haven't seen the movie) the clip is probably going to leave you cold. Without further ado, here are some of our faves:

Rob Christopher: The barbed wire scene in Suspiria is some kind of achievement. The first half of Lost Highway has tons of my fave moments: the infinitely dark hallway, the bedroom scene, and "We've met before, haven't we?"

Chuck Sudo: The nurses' station scene from Exorcist III always gets me spooked. This may be more creepy than scary, but the scene in Dead Man where Crispin Glover tells Johnny Depp he "can't reads" has a nice buildup.

John Graef: Honestly, I think the ending of the "Troy" timeline in one of the more recent Community episodes is one of the most frightening things I've ever seen. Failing that, the test scene in the 1982 version of The Thing always, always gets me -- it's Twelve Angry Men by way of
Herschell Gordon Lewis. More recently, the scene in 28 Weeks Later when zombie Robert Carlyle breaks into the locked-down civilian safe room and just starts going to town on people--total shivers. Horror is best related to confusion and helplessness -- a little gore helps too -- and that scene does it to a "T."

Michelle Meywes: It might not be the scariest, but I was practically obsessed with the first Scream movie in high school and that opening scene with Drew Barrymore is classic "what would I do?" material.

Caitlin Klein: Even though it was a silly TV miniseries, I have trouble looking at or thinking about Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King's It. Any time those kids went down into the sewer, I'd pretty much have to leave the room. a) Clowns are scary, there's no two ways about it. b) Clowns who live in sewers and kill and/or eat children made me avoid storm drains for years.

Alex Hough: And the Large Marge scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure made me avoid
catching rides with truck drivers for years. The scene in "Trapped in the Closet" when R. Kelly's lover's husband slowly walks to the closet R. Kelly is hiding in.

Tim Bearden: The Scene from The Shining when Jack Nicholson busted through the door with the ax. HEEEERE'S JOHNNY!

Eric Hehr: This scene [at Winkie's] from David Lynch's Mullholland Drive has always terrified me. The buildup to the climax is totally ace. Candyman showcases the old Cabrini Green, and Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer has a lot of great shots of the South Loop in the mid-eighties.

Prescott Carlson: My favorite unintentionally(?) funny scene was at the end of Nightmare on Elm Street when Freddy pulls Nancy’s mom in through that tiny window of their front door. Even before CGI raised special effects expectations my friends and I thought it looked pretty ridiculous at the time.

Samantha Abernethy: The scene in The Birds when they attack the school. When I see large
flocks of birds, I still think they are plotting my demise. You know what's really terrifying? Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is the most frightening Disney villain. When I was a kid I had nightmares about that scene when she turns into a dragon. She's spooky all the way through, and it's all because she wasn't invited to a party.

Kevin Robinson: The scene in Roger & Me where Roger Smith announces the plant closings, and the loss of 30,000 American manufacturing jobs. Still sends shivers down my spine.

Steven Pate: there's something about the scene from Poltergeist where the clown doll attacks the boy that bothers me right in a nexus of mostly-overcome childhood fears: darkness, creepy dolls, clowns.

Christopher Bentley: the classic gutbusting birth scene from Alien.Maybe the ending of Silence of the Lambs where Clarice is in the dark, killer at hand.

Tankboy: The scene in The Blair Witch Project when the tent suddenly gets trampled on can still send chills down my spine. And the end of that movie scared the fuck out of me the first time I saw it. (People tend to forget just how genuinely scary that movie is since the hype made it impossible to match up to expectations to anyone who saw it more than a few weeks into its release.)

Aaron Cynic: This isn't scary so much as it is just straight gore, at least to me now. But I do remember being pretty scarred by it the first time I saw it when I was 14 or so. The eye stab scene from Zombie.

Honorable Mention: 90% of The Exorcist, a whole bunch of The Ring and Halloween and, although it lacks any spooky vibe, Jaws.