5 Terrifying Scenes You Won't Find In Horror Films
I love horror films, but it's real life that gives me the heebie jeebies. And when I think about the cinematic moments that haunt my nightmares, they're rarely from scary movies. Sure, escapism is involved (and a bit of time travel) — just not the supernatural. With that in mind, here's a list of the top five movie scenes that make my skin crawl. I hope they inspire you to come up with more in the comments section.
1. The Fate of Paul Dano's Character in Looper: This movie has been out long enough that I don't feel like I'm breaking any unwritten spoiler rules here, but if you still plan to see Rian Johnson's smart, dark time-travel film with fresh eyes, then skip to the next entry. I've made this number one because it's been a long time since I've seen a filmmaker come up with such a creatively diabolical fate for a movie character that was both original and integral to the plot. (Dreaming up torture-porn scenarios is kid's stuff.) The most enduring horror is psychological because the brain is so much better at filling in the gory details than any filmmaker, and Johnson, who wrote and directed Looper, leaves a lot to the imagination when Seth is punished for failing to close his loop by killing his elder, future self. Instead of watching Dano methodically being relieved of his extremities (most memorably, his nose), we see his future self being bloodlessly altered before our eyes as he attempts to scale a fence and skip town. A message sent to Seth's future self via a skin-carving is also a beautifully macabre detail, as is the final shot of that horrific sequence: a barely discernible body covered by blood-stained surgical sheets and the clinical beeping of life-support machinery. Like the doctor who carves away at Seth, Johnson works surgically, but the effect is a shotgun blast to the chest. 2. The Ear Removal Scene in Reservoir Dogs: Obvious, you say? Essential, I reply. This is Quentin Tarantino's most fiendish scene, and — please argue with me, but all these years later, he has not topped it. I cannot watch it without averting my eyes, and — perhaps Django Unchained will prove otherwise — . Once again, the terror is all in the build-up: The deader-than-deadpan voice of comedian Steven Wright (as deejay K-Billy) introducing "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel only ramps up the tension as Michael Madsen dances cheesily with an open straight razor. You know something horrible is coming, you just don't know what. And when it does come, Tarantino does not actually show the violence. His camera cuts to a hallway that looks like an ear shorn of its fleshy lobe as Madsen's Mr. Blonde relieves Officer Marvin Nash of his pinna. The purity of Madsen's onscreen malevolence does not seem like acting — which makes it all the more terrifying — but mad props must also be given to actor Kirk Baltz, who plays Nash, for palpably conveying the pain and terror of a man in a horrifically fucked situation. When Mr. Blonde douses Nash with gasoline, I swear I can feel my skin burn.
3. The Casino Beatings: So, you're thinking, Wait! What? You're not choosing the scene where Tony Dogs' eye pops out because Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is squeezing his head in a vise? Well, if this were a Top 10, Casino would probably get two entries. The beating scene gets top billing because, though I haven't timed it (compared to the vise scene), it feels like it goes on forever, and the sound of those aluminum bats hitting flesh and bone does not fade easily. Martin Scorsese is celebrated for his mob movies, but he doesn't celebrate the mob: his La Cosa Nostra is the stuff of nightmares — nightmares in Brioni suits.
4. The Chainsaw scene in Scarface: Leatherface, Scarface, there's not much difference when you've got a crazy gangster with a chainsaw who's not afraid to use it. The scene is one of the few where Al Pacino's Tony Montana's say-hello-to-my-little-friends bravado falters when he's forced to watch his partner in crime undergo some radical deconstructive surgery. The fact that this carnage is taking place in what looks like a decrepit South Beach, Miami location that, today, is probably a $495-a-night hotel makes it all the more more horrific.
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