by Kim Morgan
Special to MSN Movies
Read more: Best Scary Movies
Though people rank events like their first kiss, marriage, or the birth of a
child as important milestones in life, they usually leave out something that
causes similar impact: their first scary movie.
Does that sound shallow next to your child's baptism? Well, just take yourself back to the first time you were terrified by something that moved, screamed or floated across a screen. Think back to the anxiety, the shock, the sleepless nights or the number of times you told your friends, "And then her head turned all the way around!"
With that in mind, we're giving you seven scary scenes that remind us why we love (or love to hate) horror movies. But be warned: Go find your night light and grab that trusty teddy bear; you may need them later.
Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" was so shocking in its time (remember, people had never seen a toilet, much less a shower drain, in a movie before) that if you ask your parents or grandparents, they can remember the exact time and place of viewing the masterpiece. They especially remember Janet Leigh's infamous wash. Not only was it taboo to watch a major star being murdered before the first half of the film was over, but to view the stabbing, screaming and dying scored to the infamous musical shrieks of Bernard Hermann was a landmark in people's cinematic lives. If a scene can make legions of women install clear glass shower doors in their bathroom, then a filmmaker is doing something right.
"The Exorcist" (1973)
William Friedkin's still-shocking movie about a girl possessed by a demon deservedly ranks as one of the scariest of all time. Though some watch the film with a bit of camp these days (the head turning just isn't as horrifying as when you were 12 years old), it's understandable why so many viewers fainted or ran back to the confessional after watching cute little Linda Blair push a priest out of a window. And though there are many, many scenes in this movie that'll stop the heart, we're going for Father Karras' dream of his dead mother, as it's easily one the creepiest dream sequences put to celluloid. Envisioning his mother walking up the stairs from a subway, Karras is seen across the street flagging her down. Sounds perfectly normal except that Friedkin fills the entire exchange with an anxiety that makes the viewer so uncomfortable that we literally gasp when the "subliminal" -- a painted white demon face with red-rimmed eyes -- flashes on the screen. What in God's name was that? Evangelist Billy Graham wanted to know, branding the film as a subliminal incendiary work of the devil with "evil embodied on the very celluloid." No wonder Friedkin used this face in more scenes in his 2000 "The Version You've Never Seen" cut. Hey, if it ain't broke...
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)
This vicious bit of brilliance proves they don't make 'em like they used to. Spawning sequels and even a stupid re-make last year, it's the low-budget horror of Tobe Hooper's original that sticks in your nightmares. You can choose what scene scares you most, but the most iconic is Marilyn Burns being chased by Leatherface. The length of the chase (over two minutes), the screaming/running through the bramble while a freak with a human face for a mask wielding a chainsaw is hot on your tail, just gets us where we live -- or die.
Though much of Brian De Palma's "Carrie" is more sad than scary (tricking poor, mousy, abused and telekinetic Sissy Spacek into thinking she's really prom queen -- so mean!) there are horrifying moments that stick. Yes, we know the pig's blood dumped on the poor girl is pretty gruesome, but then, Carrie White wreaks major revenge for the taunting. The moment that really made us jump out of our seats was Amy Irving's dream at film's end. As she visits Carrie's grave, suddenly a bloody hand pops out of the dirt and attempts to pull her in. No matter how sorry we are for Carrie, we're sure as heck not going in the ground with her. And no matter how much we tell ourselves this is only a movie, this is not something we want to think about before retiring for the evening.
"The Shining" (1980)
This film has been criticized for not being scary, which we never, ever understood. Of course, Jack Nicholson is perfectly over the top and often hilarious in Stanley Kubrick's vision of insane cabin fever, but he's not the scary part! It's everything happening around him that's bloodcurdling. Especially to his son, poor little Danny with the imaginary friend (Tony, his finger), the "shine" and in the film's most chilling moment, his "playmates," those two dead twin ghosts who visit him in the hallway. "Come play with us ... forever and ever and ever ... " Uh, no thanks. We'll go hang out with our insane father instead.
"Lost Highway" (1997)
OK, so now you've remembered that demonic mug from "The Exorcist," let's move on to yet another face. The face of say, oh... Robert Blake. And not Blake outside a courtroom; no, Blake in director David Lynch's lens. With his misunderstood "Lost Highway," Lynch gave us Blake's last and freakiest role to date. We don't know who he is (Bill Pullman's conscious?) but when the dark-eyed and ghastly-faced creature walks up to Pullman at a party, informs him he's been in his house, and is still there (which Pullman confirms with a phone call) and laughs -- well, there just isn't a tingle in your spine you don't feel. We only hope this scene isn't admissible in court.
"The Ring" (2002)
After an era of irony-laden "Scream" movies and one bona-fide scary film/phenomenon, "The Blair Witch Project," 2002 gave us a movie that jumped out and said "Boo!" Sure, it was adapted from a terrific Japanese film ("Ringu"), but the importance was it worked. Creating a modern fear of creepy video tapes you find in old summer cabins -- you know, the ones you watch and then have only seven days to live -- "The Ring" gave us a bad seed for a protagonist (the stringy-haired dead girl Samara Morgan), a morbid home movie and enough twists and turns to be both clever and horrifying. And when the film's freakiest conceit, the idea of something crawling out of your TV to kill you, is actually seen, it'll send you to the library. Things don't crawl out of books, do they?