It’s time for another top 10! And you know what that means… it’s time for me to tenuously link it to something in my life that happened this week! And wouldn’t you know it, I was only on another bleedin’ podcast. I even hosted it! I know! They asked me back, who’d’ve thought? Anyway, over at the Lambcast I hosted a show featuring the discussion of Peter Jackson’s Braindead (or Dead Alive, as it’s also known), along with Dan from Public Transportation Snob, Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film and Lindsay and Jess, both from friend-of-the-site French Toast Sunday. Spoiler alert: I bloody well loved the film, and recommend everyone go see it, as long as they have a little tolerance for gross-out scenes, as there’s plenty in there. Which leads me to this week’s Top 10, a celebration of the scenes in films that have creeped me out beyond belief. I tried to limit the amount of these from horror films, but some of them just crept on there, what could I do? And I’ve also limited to one scene per film, as there’s a few that could have monopolised the list, but we’ll get to that. Oh, and there’s definitely spoilers here.
Honourable Mention: Braindead Well I had to include Braindead on here somewhere, seeing as it was the inspiration for this list. There’s a wealth of scenes to choose from, be it the removal of a zombie’s teeth with pliers or pushing in the bulging eyes of a recently deceased corpse (eye and teeth mutilation will be a running theme on this list), and the zombie baby came close – God I hate that zombie baby (also a theme), but the winner has to be the custard scene. After Lionel’s mother (Elizabeth Moody) is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey, she turns into a zombie, complete with a pulsating bite on her arm. This unfortunate turn of events just happens to coincide with an important dinner meeting she has with the Mathesons, head of a group she wishes to become a member of, so she insists her son (Timothy Balme) host the meeting anyway. During the meeting, her wound squirts a delectable blood/pus mixture into the bowl of custard belonging to Mr. Matheson – which he then eats – and her own ear falls into her own bowl, which she then eats. This is quite possibly the closest I’ve ever come to vomiting purely from a film, especially because custard is consumed with alarming regularity in my house, and ever since I’ve not been able to bring myself to eat any more without thinking of that scene, and that just turns my stomach.
I’m not a big fan of kids in general, especially babies, and especially my neighbour’s baby who may in fact be part howler monkey, but there’re other babies out there that have creeped me out even more, mainly because they’re not really of this world. Trainspotting is probably the one that’s freaked me out the most, purely because I’ve seen it more than once, but had I seen Eraserhead a few more times then I think that creepy-ass chicken-sperm-baby monster is just horrific.
This is easily my favourite film on this list, and also the one I’ve seen the most, but there’s one bit I just can’t take, and that’s the discovery of the sloth death. Detectives Mills and Somerset (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman), along with a squad of cops including John C. McGinley, all come across a room in which the ceiling has been covered with dangling air fresheners. Deep in the apartment there’s a man strapped to a bed, who has been there for exactly one year, tied in place and left to die a horribly protracted death, with his skin straining over his emaciated frame. Only, of course, he isn’t bleeding dead, and he jumps out and scares the mother-loving crap out of me when he jumps up every time. There are several other scenes I’m not overly comfortable with – the lust death is just horrific – in fact all of the deaths are pretty disgusting, but the idea of being put through the sloth one is the most uncomfortable to me.
8. American History X
I told you teeth would be back. Edward Norton’s stomping of an enemy’s teeth into the curb is the most memorable scene in this film, and in fact it’s possibly the only part I can remember, and it’s also the main reason I haven’t gone back to this film in a while, despite remembering it being quite good. I refused to search any of these scenes as research for this list, mainly because I’m intending to sleep at some point in the future, and I fear this wouldn’t happen if I heard the sound of that crunching curb again.
7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This is another film I haven’t gone back to in a while, because I fear it may freak me out a little too much. There’s a lot here that could have made this list – the dining scene, for example, but I have to go with when the girl is just picked up and placed on a giant meat hook hanging from the ceiling. It makes me cringe just thinking about it – why the heck did I make this list? – the way she’s hanging there, helpless and screaming, nothing she can do until the inevitable occurs. Basically, this is a list of things I just really don’t want to happen to me.
6. The Shining
This entry is a little different from the rest of the list, in that it freaks me out how jarring it is in the film. The scene involves Jack (Jack Nicholson) encountering a beautiful woman emerging from a bath naked and embracing him, only for her to transform into a putrid hag in his arms, with her flesh falling from her body. I hate this scene, mainly because it is initially so enticing, but results in being so repulsive, but it is also very effective in being a bit terrifying and a lot mental.
5. Paranormal Activity
This was an easy one, mainly because I’m not narrowing it down to one scene, it’s just the whole damn film. I’m never going to watch the sequels, ever, because I found the first film so damn disturbing. I kind of brought it on myself, seeing as I watched it on my laptop, alone, from my bed, with my laptop (and it’s built in webcam) in approximately the same position that the camera is in during the film, when all the scenes in the bedroom are shot. I barely slept the night I watched this, and that final shot… just no.
And so we come to eyes. Eye-based trauma is something I cannot deal with, and I’ve come to terms with that. It took me months to get used to putting my contact lenses in. Anyway, if I had to pick one film on this list that I’m never, ever going to watch again, it’s Hostel, a film I’m not entirely sure why I watched in the first place. The bit I can’t stand is near the end, when one of the guys rescues an Asian girl from being tortured to death, after half her face has already been melted off. This melting has left her right eye dangling from the socket, which the guy proceeds to cut off, causing some custard from Braindead to seep down her face. And that’s about it.
3. Saw 2
Eyes again! The Saw saga could have probably filled this entire list, but that wouldn’t have been fair, so I’ve picked out the trap that, for me, is the most memorable and haunting. It’s the bit with the eye. A guy wakes up with a swollen eye socket, a trap around his neck and a scalpel. There’s a key buried in his eye socket, and he has to cut it out in 60 seconds, or die horribly. This, to me, is worse than the Hostel scene, because the guy has to do it to himself, and that is just something that I could never do. The whole Saw premise just freaks me out too, because lots of the people chosen to take part aren’t necessarily evil people – in some of the later films they just happen to work for people who’ve wronged the killer in some way – and the notion of being plucked from your world and being dropped into a situation where the only escape is self-mutilation is something that deeply traumatises me on a semi-regular basis. Other honourable mentions from just Saw 2 include the Achilles tendon being pulled out by the guy in the chains, and the giant pit of used needles that must be dived into to find a key.
2. The Matrix
Possibly the most mainstream film here, this gains a high place because I’ve seen it a lot, and because there’s literally nothing that can be done to stop it when Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) just decided to remove the mouth of Neo (Keanu Reeves) in an attempt to prove how powerless he is. The scene with the bug is also pretty horrific, mainly because it’s freaking huge.
There was only one scene that could possibly top this list, and that’s the scene that caused me to pass out in the cinema. I’ve discussed it before, but the scene in which Seth (Frank Brennan) slowly begins to lose his body parts in some freaky time-travel torture taps into a freakishly specific nightmare I have. It’s the lack of control that really gets me – there is nothing he can do to stop the process, and it’s just going to get worse and worse even as he tries his hardest to rectify the situation by getting to the warehouse where his younger self is being held and slowly taken apart piece by piece. The only way I can cope with it is by realising the implausibility of it all – not from time travel paradoxes, but because he loses all his limbs simultaneously, whereas unless a strategically positioned and uniquely shaped guillotine had been set up, this would have happened one by one. Either way, the main reason I haven’t bought and re-watched Looper a number of times (other than this scene, I loved it) is because of this bit. Can’t take it. No.
Well, that’s my list. What scenes freaked you out? Is it animal torture, like the cow in Apocalypse Now? Or the disgusting way Gollum eats a fish in Lord of the Rings? A close contender was the “Farewell to Arms” scene in 127 Hours. And the last half hour of Requiem for a Dream. Let me know in the comments, but please don’t try and give me nightmares, just writing about all this and thinking about the all again was bad enough.