October 24, 2013


It’s time to put the third and final nail in our Halloween horror coffin. For our freak finale, we’re veering off the well-lit road and venturing onto the moors to take you places you’ve probably never been before. It’s a look at the most terrifying scenes from midnight movies, cult favorites and creepy imports. Be afraid…be very afraid!

NOTE: This post contains plot details and, in some cases, spoilers. In each installment of this three part series, films are listed alphabetically. Rather than cluttering the post with tons of video players, a link to a clip of each scariest movie moment is included. Some of these clips are particularly graphic. You have been warned.



NOTE: This film was released theatrically in the US as THE GATES OF HELL (1983).

No tour of the annals of “Gore Obscure” would be complete without including films from Italian horror masters Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. Let’s put a proverbial pin in Argento for a bit while we tackle CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, a “what the hell did I just see” freak show from Fulci. While THE BEYOND gets all the fanboy love, this little darling made for a far more unsettling experience.

The plot is really just a means to an end but, in a nutshell, the gates of hell have been opened and zombies with super powers (yes, super powers) start killing people in some very horrible ways. A reporter (played by Christopher George) rescues a psychic who has been buried alive (don’t ask) and the two must close the portal to Hades or the dead will be in charge for good.

I rented this movie back in the days of VHS and the one scene that still flips me out involves a date gone horribly wrong. What starts as an innocent bit of kissy kissy between a young couple in a parked car ends up going way south thanks to one of the amped up undead. Using zombified psychic powers, he causes the female half of the duo to toss ALL of her cookies. Intestines, stomach…you name it, it comes up. Just when you think it can’t get worse, she uses her boyfriend’s head as a stress ball. I kid you not.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



Had I not been the manager of a video store in the late 1980’s, I probably would never have heard of this film. Made on a shoestring budget and seen by very few people outside of the director’s circle of friends and family, LADY IN WHITE is a darn good little ghost story. It is well worth your time if you can get your hands on a copy.

Told as one long flashback, the action starts on Halloween, 1962 in the small town of Willowpoint Falls. Little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is the victim of a prank and ends up locked in a school cloak room overnight. Before the sun rises, he will see the ghostly re-enactment of a little girl being murdered and survive an attempt on his own life by the same killer. The rest of the film follows a dual track: piecing together a puzzle from the past (the ghost story) and figuring out the identity of a notorious child murderer.

I love when a film or TV show can take an iconic song and make it really creepy. THE X-FILES did it with the Johnny Mathis classic “Wonderful, Wonderful” in the terrifying “Home” episode. In LADY IN WHITE, it’s the Bing Crosby standard “Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?” The song is a key element in the storyline and the moment it is used to reveal the identity of the killer is easily the scariest scene in the film.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

MIMIC (1997)


Let’s begin back-to-back bug-fests with the dark, dank and violent 1997 horror/sci-fi opus MIMIC from director Guillermo del Toro. Though it came and went pretty quickly at the local multiplex, this is one of those films that got a well-deserved second chance on home video. I liked the theatrical cut but, in 2011, del Toro released a slightly longer and even better realized “director’s cut” on Blu-ray.

The excellent cast includes Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Charles S, Dutton and F. Murray Abraham. Sorvino plays an entomologist who genetically engineers a super insect designed specifically to eradicate cockroaches that are carrying a deadly disease. The “Judas Breed” isn’t supposed to be able to reproduce but, of course, we know how that turns out. Not only can these buggies have babies, they soon develop an uncanny ability to mimic (and chomp on) humans.

There’s a ton of good scares in this atmospheric thriller but the most shocking sequence sees two young boys become dinner for a very hungry mansect. The unwritten rule that kids usually survive in these films is tossed out the window by del Toro. The result is effective, brutal and truly disturbing

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase this movie from Amazon.

THE MIST (2007)


You might have noticed a lack of Stephen King adaptations in this series of posts. Aside from the fact that most of them kinda suck, THE SHINING has never given me a cine-gasm and I look at CARRIE as more of a classic tragedy than a horror film. In fact, we would be King-free had someone not recently given me a heads-up regarding THE MIST, a box-office dud directed by Frank Darabont.

Darabont, the guy responsible for the stellar first season of THE WALKING DEAD, took a so-so King novella and turned it into a gripping combo of a “big, scary monsters running amok” thriller and a doozy of a parable about the fragile nature of civil society. It’s one of those movies where humans can be just as horrifying as the things that are trying to eat them. Be warned: if bugs freak you out, there are some very large and very deadly insects front and center throughout the second half of the film.

The bulk of the action takes place in a supermarket where a cross section of townsfolk are holed up while fighting to survive an onslaught of progressively larger (and meaner) beasties. There’s a ton of character development (rare for the genre) and Marcia Gay Harden plays a religious zealot who you can’t wait to see die a horrible death. She’s creepy, but the scariest moment, by far, is a trip to the pharmacy next door. What starts as a mission of mercy to get some much needed medication quickly becomes a living nightmare when the creepy crawlies turn the place into a Hometown Buffet.

It is worth noting that THE MIST has one of the most cruelly ironic and profoundly sad endings I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not predictable but it will hit you like a gut punch.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

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EL ORFANATO (THE ORPHANAGE) was easily one of the best films of 2007. Yes, it’s subtitled but get over your issues because this is a gothic horror masterpiece that Hitchcock himself would love. There’s a reason it shows up on just about every “best of” list right before Halloween. It’s that good…and scary to boot.

Brilliantly directed by Guillermo del Toro protégé Juan Antonio Bayona (who also helmed the excellent 2012 Indian Ocean Tsunami epic THE IMPOSSIBLE), EL ORFANATO is a movie that creeps under your skin and keeps you squirming throughout. It’s not gory or violent but it is exceptionally well crafted. Bayona does masterful things with lighting, sound effects and editing. When he wants you to jump, you jump.

Ostensibly the story of a woman who buys the orphanage she grew up in (along with the ghosts that may or may not inhabit it), this dark and tragic tale also manages to touch upon topics as diverse and profound as love, loss, marriage and HIV. The film belongs to lead Belén Rueda. Her journey on the razor edge between sanity and insanity is a marvel to behold. It also makes the harrowing ending of the film even more deeply resonant. EL ORFANATO is a movie that sticks in your craw long after you leave the theater.

There’s more than a few jolts to get through and a little imp named Tomas (pictured above) will become the stuff of your nightmares, but the most memorable scene by far is known as "the regression." It’s a dazzling bit of editing trickery and spot-on sound cues. Bayona does amazing things with very little dialogue and some well placed monitor cameras that track a visiting medium and her contact with the other side. Chilling stuff.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase this movie on Amazon.



Let me preface this entry by noting that PHANTASM is not a great film. It’s ultra-low budget and the cast runs the gamut from South Florida dinner theater quality to something only slightly better than the acting in a corporate safety video. With all that said, it is a midnight movie freak fest unlike anything you’ll ever see. More importantly, it has the “Tall Man” (Angus Scrimm), one of the most creep-tastic horror movie bad guys ever.

There is a plot, but going into detail is pointless because once I start talking about dwarf zombies, portals to other planets and a trio of heroes that includes an ice cream man, you might begin to question my taste and my sanity. Heck, I’m doing both as I write this.

If you know anything about PHANTASM, it probably involves the aforementioned “Tall Man” and a flying metal sphere equipped with sharp blades and a handy drill bit. All of that and more can be seen in my choice for the scariest moment in the film: a hoot of a chase through a mausoleum. Dead guy…party of one.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase this movie from Amazon.

REC (2007)


2007 was a good year for groundbreaking Spanish horror films. On the high end, we’ve already taken a peek at EL ORFANATO. At the other end of the spectrum, the place where things get really dark and visceral, we have REC. It takes the “found footage” genre, flips it on it’s head and then beats the bloody pulp out of it. Unlike the wildly overrated (and crappy) PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, this little monster is a damn good movie. It isn’t “just because” mindless gore. Speaking of, REC got an American make-over in 2008. That film, QUARANTINE, was a piece of poo.

REC is largely confined to one claustrophobic setting: an apartment building where an infection seems to be taking over the residents one by one. All of the action is seen through the camera of a fictional documentary TV series. It’s a wrong place/wrong time nightmare that gets progressively more unnerving as it builds to a shattering climax.

Just when you think you have this thing pegged, the story veers in an unexpected direction. The reveal of exactly what is causing people to turn into violent maniacs is unexpected and it leads to what I think is the single most “holy shit” final act of any horror film I’ve seen in years. It’s just over three minutes of pure terror. I get the willies every time I watch the scene.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



The first time I saw SUSPIRIA was in 2011 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Yes, among many “only in LA” things is seeing movies projected on the side of a building in a grave yard. Oddly enough, the setting was the least bizarre thing about this twisty mind-bender from Dario Argento.

You should know up front that SUSPIRIA is one of those movies you will either love or send me a nasty note for recommending to you. It’s a glorious and gorgeous celebration of gratuitous gore and astounding production design. The score, courtesy of Italian rock band Goblin, adds an additional layer of creepy. Never has a film been so repellant and so beautiful, often in the same maggot or manic filled moment.

Set in a fancy German ballet school (yes, you read that correctly), the all-over-the-map plot swirls around an American student named Suzy (played by doe-eyed Jessica Harper) and a coven of pissy witches who never met a nubile ballerina (or teacher) they didn’t want to kill. As the two grandes dames in charge, the full-tilt scenery chewing of vets Alida Valli and Joan Bennett (her final big-screen film) is itself worth the price of admission.

Argento is known for orchestrating on-screen deaths of near operatic proportions and none fits that bill better than the terrifying demise of Suzy’s friend Sarah (Stefania Casini). After being chased by an unseen baddie, the poor girl doesn’t look before she leaps. What she thinks is an escape route is actually a one-way trip into a room full of razor wire. You’ll wish that was the end of the scene…it isn’t. Be happy the clip I link to isn’t in HD.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was re-made in 2006 and, like most re-makes, it sucked. Skip it and jump in your wayback machine. The 1979 original has one of the scariest opening 20 minutes of any film on this list but, it’s the scream-inducing finale that I’m going to celebrate.

What starts as a classic “baby-sitter in peril” story, morphs into a hunter/hunted chase film and ends with a kick ass bang. Carol Kane plays the sitter, terrorized by a manic who taunts her with phone calls and the refrain “have you checked the children?” The police eventually trace the calls: they’re coming from inside the house! The children have been dead for hours The cops show up in time to save Kane and nab the killer (a strong turn by actor Tony Beckley, who died shortly after completing his work on the film).

The middle section of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS takes place after the psychopath escapes from an asylum. Unbeknownst to him, he is being pursued by John Clifford (Charles Durning), a retired police officer turned private investigator. The killer eventually figures things out. He gives Clifford the slip and disappears...temporarily.

Re-enter Kane, now grown with a family of her own. The murderous nutter resurfaces so he can finally finish her off. The finale, in Kane’s bedroom, is a shocker. You think her husband is in the bed next to her…surprise! Unbeknownst to Kane, he’s knocked out in the closet and she’s getting cozy with a madman. The moment he turns over and reveals himself is one of the few times I remember an entire audience screaming in unison.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

That, dear readers, brings the curtain down on our three part look at some of the scariest movie moments. Before you retire to your bedroom (or crypt), enjoy one final dose of terror. It’s the full trailer for my favorite movie on this list: EL ORFANATO. Tomas is waiting for you...