Entertainment

The scariest movie scenes ever from 'The Shining' to 'The Exorcist'

By Steve Tilley, Special to Postmedia Network

Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."

Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."

Fear, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Something that might scare the poop out of me could be yawns and eye rolls for you, and vice versa.

(I don’t mean literally scare the poop out of me, by the way. OK, maybe just that one time. But I was young and it was right after I’d seen Friday the 13th and Jeff from down the street was hiding behind the hedge in front of his house as I was walking home after dark. And I kind of had to go anyway, so.)

As kids jam their glistening maws full of Halloween candy to get a monster sugar rush, we like to fill own faces full with horror movies and the natural adrenaline high that comes from fear. Being scared is fun, as long as we know the scary things aren’t really real – and as long as we don’t soil ourselves.

So, open up your pillowcase – or your plastic jack-o-lantern, if you’re one of those fancy rich kids – and allow me to stuff it with 13 of the scariest, spookiest and most unsettling horror movie scenes from my own personal catalogue. You can find many of these on Netflix, iTunes, good ol’ traditional DVD and Blu-ray and AMC’s sweet new horror streaming service, Shudder. IF. YOU. DARE.

Viewer discretion is strongly advised. And adult diapers are not included.

THE SHINING (1980) – COME AND PLAY WITH US

Stanley Kubrick’s smart, creepy, beautifully shot adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is probably the horror movie I’ve re-watched more than any other, thanks to its slowly simmering terror and the amazing job Jack Nicholson does of bringing Jack Torrance to life. But the scene where young Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) encounters the ghostly twins in the Overlook Hotel’s hallway will remain my favourite…. forever. And ever. And ever.

THE EXORCIST III (1990) – NURSE STATION

A good scare needs a good buildup, and the infamous hospital hallway scene from The Exorcist III is a self-contained masterclass in how to quietly ratchet up dread. With the fixed camera perspective and the small, creepy noises, we just know something bad is going to happen – and we think maybe the first jump scare with the angry doctor is it. (But it’s not. It’s so, so not.) I’ve watched this scene a dozen times and it still gives me goosebumps.

THE THING (1982) – THE DEFIBRILLATOR

Even after all these years, the jaw-dropping special effects in John Carpenter’s The Thing are masterpieces of grotesque, horrific beauty. It’s hard to pick just one moment in the movie, but scene where poor Cooper (Richard Dysart) tries to revive Norris (Charles Hallahan) with a chest defibrillator – only to find out that Norris has been infected by the mighty morphin’ alien monster – is a standout. Give that man a hand! Or two.

THE OMEN (1976) – DAMIEN, LOOK AT ME

Although it doesn’t seem to get mentioned as often among horror classics, The Omen is thoroughly unsettling in the way only old-school, pre-CGI movies from the ’70s can be. Part of it has to do with the perfect casting of young Harvey Spencer Stephens as Damien, the bright-eyed devil child who makes those around him commit awful acts – including his nanny, in the grim scene where she hangs herself in front of a garden party full of kids.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) – FINAL NIGHT

The Paranormal Activity franchise has been one of diminishing returns, but that simply could be because the first movie felt so fresh at the time. Those long, lingering shots of the bedroom shared by Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) freaked me out, because I was hyper-focused on the door and the darkened hallway beyond. The movie’s final moment was a hair-raising (if perhaps a bit silly) payoff.

AUDITION (1999) – THE TORTURE

If you haven’t seen this suspense masterpiece by acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike, I urge you to watch it without knowing anything more about it. Because what makes Audition such a mind-twist is the way it shifts gears from a light little drama into absolute horror, peaking with the scene in which the unhinged Asami (Eihi Shiina) paralyzes and tortures Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi), the man she thinks has spurned her. It makes the boiling bunny in Fatal Attraction look like a kids’ cartoon.

THE OTHERS (2001) – NOISES UPSTAIRS

This movie’s Shyamalan-esque twist makes it much less creepy on a second viewing, although it does offer a whole new perspective on what’s actually happening. Even so, the remarkably benign scene in which Grace (Nicole Kidman) investigates some strange noises in a room full of junk covered by menacing-looking bedsheets still raises the hairs on my arms, thanks to its super-creepy sound design.

THE EXORCIST (1973) – REGAN ATTACKS HER MOTHER

Easily one of the most shocking scenes in this all-time horror classic – maybe in much of mainstream cinema, period – comes when devil-possessed 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) stabs herself with a crucifix (yes, let’s go with “stabs”) and assaults her mother (Ellen Burstyn) with foul words and foul deeds. How the filmmakers even got away with what Regan did and said in this scene is something of a mystery.

RINGU (1998) – SADAKO EMERGES FROM THE TV

The 2002 American remake of this Japanese horror film is not bad, but I feel like the digital effects in The Ring dilute the pure creepiness of seeing the straggly haired ghost girl emerge from the TV. In the Japanese original, it’s all rather lo-fi – right down to the creepy close-up of her eye – yet somehow more effective.

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973) – THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT

For reasons I can’t remember or comprehend, I was allowed to watch this movie as a small child – thanks, parents! – and was emotionally scarred by its freaky climax, in which Donald Sutherland’s character confronts what he believes is a little girl wearing a coat similar to one that belonged to his dead daughter. Seeing it now, the scene looks almost like a parody of a 1970s Italian art film, but the knife-wielding dwarf lady – plus the montage of bizarre flashbacks that followed – fried my tender mind back in the day. Explains a lot, really.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) – STANDING IN THE CORNER

The recent sequel to the 1999 found-footage horror blockbuster was disappointing, in part because it added so much silly CGI in the final act. But the ultra-low budget original used our own imaginations against us, particularly in the climactic scene when a panicking Heather (Heather Donahue) finds Mike (Michael C. Williams) in the basement of the forest house, facing the corner. Out of context that sounds about as scary as a Golden retriever puppy, but if you’ve seen the whole movie, you know what I mean.

INSIDIOUS (2010) – LOOK BEHIND YOU

In horror movies, natural daylight is usually a sign that nothing too bad is going to happen, which is what makes this scene one of the biggest jump scares in a movie that’s full of ’em. Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) talks to son Josh (Patrick Lambert) about her bad dream, but it’s only when we return to the mundane reality of the dining room that we get the big shrieky freak-out, with that weird Darth Maul-looking demon lurking behind Josh’s head.

IT (1990) – YOU’LL FLOAT TOO

Evil clowns are so hot right now, which makes revisiting this Stephen King miniseries weirdly topical. (It clocks in at just over three hours on DVD, so we’ll pretend it counts as a movie.) Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown did a whole lot to scar a generation of viewers, and while things get a bit silly in the later going, that early scene with Pennywise in the sewer is still disturbing as hell. The 2017 remake will have some big clown shoes to fill.

Twitter: @stevetilley

STilley@postmedia.com