Happy Halloween, my lil’ ghouls and goblins! JA from MNPP here, all awash in the Horrible Holiday’s spirit. A little too awash, actually, if you caught the zombie-licious post (warning: that link leads to all manner of gruesomeness) I did over in My…Pants today. Which got me thinking – that sort of thing is fine for my own turf, but here at The Film Experience I think Nat might appreciate it if I kept things a little less… well, entrail-y.
There are all kinds of Scary Movie lists all over this week, and to be honest, after spending all day yesterday scouring a stack of DVDs for scenes of flesh being gouged and ripped and shredded with teeth, I don’t have the strength/mind-set/sanity left to do something terribly in-depth of that sort again. But as I know y’all know, horror’s not just about splattering the screen with all manner of viscera. If you look at all these Scary Movie lists you’ll see that some – hell, a lot – of the films considered The Scariest don’t show you much, if anything, at all.
So in these films honor, and on this unholiest of days, here are my five favorite moments in a few of the horror films considered the ultimate examples of the genre that show us pretty much nothing at all but crawl under our skin something bad all the same.
Psycho (1960) – The Shower Scene
A big duh on this one, I know, but it had to be included. So much has been said for so many years about Hitch’s use of editing to imply violence here when we don’t actually ever see any, ahem, penetration, that I’ll refrain from repeating what we all already know. I know a lot of people revere the film but no longer find themselves scared by it, but I swear to Alma I expect a shadowy bewigged figure to loom upon the other side of the shower curtain almost every damned time I’m showering myself. Hitch would be so pleased.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – The Meat Hook
We all know, at this point, that this film is practically explicit-violence free, right? I think it bears repeating. We see Leatherface lift Pam in the direction of the hook. We see her dangling there. We hear the sound of the chainsaw going at her boyfriend. We see her screaming. And… that’s about it. Tobe Hooper puts the pieces into place and our brains fill in the rest.
Halloween (1978) – The Race For The Door
I’m fairly certain you don’t see a single drop of blood in all of Halloween but, even if there is a stray bead on a knife or something somewhere within the film, my favorite part of the film doesn’t even have any violence, implied or otherwise, in it. Our Final Girl Laurie Strode has escaped the house across the way, wherein Michael Myers has lovingly laid out her friend’s corpses in silly configurations just for her, and vaults herself straight into what I consider to be one of the most tense sequences ever put on film. She runs to the neighbor’s house, pounds on the door screaming for help, and they shut the lights out on her. She runs to the house in which she’s staying, and the door’s locked. She can’t find the keys. Michael Myers’ figure appears across the street now and is coming straight towards her. The kids are upstairs, sleeping. A potted plant is thrown. A groggy little boy slowly makes his way to the door. Michael Myers is still coming. Ahhhhh!!!! I’ve seen this sequence probably twenty-plus times and it gets my heart racing every single viewing.
The Blair Witch Project – The Basement
I know this is as divisive a horror film as there is out there – people seem to either worship it or absolutely loathe it. Well I’m a lover, and the final scene of this film is another instance where it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it and know the outcome; as the camera scans those kiddie-prints on the walls and Heather goes deeper and deeper into the house - and the wailing – I find myself inching away from the screen every time, as if whatever I’m not seeing just off frame is actually going to end up in the room with me in the end. I’d go so far as to say that Blair Witch is the modern equivalent to my next choice, actually, as the scariest film in which we see really and truly absolutely nothing at all.
The Haunting (1963) – Something’s At The Door
Save two quick jump-inducing shots of figures coming out of nowhere, what do we actually see to scare us so in Robert Wise’s The Haunting? We see… the inside of a door!!!! And… ceiling beams!!! The terror! Yet, aided by the greatest horror sound-design ever – runner up: poor little Regan’s voice, of course – and a camera that seems as if it’s going to crawl right inside the wood grain, this specific scene – Theo and poor little Eleanor huddled on the bed together, staring at… the door!!! – is completely horrifying.
Tell me in the comments: What’s your favorite example of a film scaring you without showing you anything at all? And how scary is it that every single one of these films have been remade except for Blair Witch; give me your guesstimates for how long until Blair Witch follows suit? It's eight years old now - basically ancient!