One thing I love about movies is their ability to make you feel emotions you don’t generally experience in day to day life, like pulse-pounding terror.
For those who can take the heat, great horror films allow you to be shocked, horrified and altogether freaked-out, all without the inherent risk in facing down a witch or a ghost. Unless you have a bad ticker, of course.
We’ve collected five of the most spine-tingling, jump-out-of-your-seat scenes from the best scary films in Hollywood history.
Watch them, if you dare.
The Haunting (1963)
“How many of us take seriously the things we cannot or do not want to understand, simply because… we are afraid? What does it take to convince you that the dead do not always rest in peace? That some houses, like Hill House, are born bad?” So intones the voice in the trailer for “The Haunting,” a slow-burn of a screamer from talented director, Robert Wise. “Haunting” follows paranormal scientist Dr. Markoway (Richard Johnson) and his team of specialists and skeptics as they set out to prove the existence of ghosts in a mansion – a mansion that obviously isn’t interested in entertaining guests. “Haunting” is one of the best “haunted house” flicks. No blood, no gore, just the skillful application of relentless pressure. And with scenes like this one, you will crack under the strain!
The Exorcist (1973)
For many, it’s the end-all, be-all, pound-for-pound undisputed champion at literally scaring the audience out of theaters. It’s the movie whose teaser trailer was banned from many theaters from complaints that it frightened people into asking for refunds. “The Exorcist” tells the story of Chris (Ellen Burstyn), a single mother living with her troubled daughter, Regan (Linda Blair). When Regan’s minor “troubling childhood behavior” (talking to an imaginary friend, suffering from occasional tremors) graduates into full-blown para-psychosis (floating above a bed, inappropriate touching with a crucifix), Chris sagely drops the psychologists and tags in the Catholic priests. Seldom since has Hollywood approached, much less matched, the sheer terror of scenes like these:
“Ringu” is the Japanese original on which the vastly inferior American version “The Ring” was based, and it’s better in every way. Scarier, more cerebral, and much, much darker. Like its doppelganger, it stars a reporter (named Reiko) who stumbles onto a story about a mysterious tape so scary, it kills its viewers. When Reiko’s cousin dies of heart failure wearing a particularly horrified (and horrifying!) face, she discovers that the cousin and her friends had all seen a “disturbing” video cassette. Unlike the knock-off, “Ringu” doesn’t pull its punches, and doesn’t suffer from bad casting. You’ll love it for its twist-filled ending, and the quiet horror that pervades throughout. You’ll hate it for the way it makes you shudder, like in this extraordinary scene:
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Before repetition in the mass media robbed it of its power, “I see dead people” was one of the most terrifying statements to come out of a cute little kid since young Linda Blair told her mother’s houseguest of his impending death (before peeing on the carpet). For those who somehow missed “The Sixth Sense,” the film follows psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) as he tries to help young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) deal with the ghosts Malcolm originally believes are figments of his imagination. It’s the film that launched M. Night Shyamalan’s career, and though his later films don’t pay off the promise of this original blockbuster, we can always return to “Sense” for a rousing good fright. Just try to sit through this famous scene where Cole hides from a ghost in his homemade fort. He's alone.... Or, is he?
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