16. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986 – John McNaughton)
Scene: “Otis, plug it in”
One of the most visceral takes on the horror genre was John McNaughton’s Henry, a straight laced no frills look at a pair of psychos who go around killing for fun and then watch their escapades on video. Henry is Michael Rooker (Merle on Walking Dead) and he carries this freakishly stoic blank expression through most of the film. His roommate and kill buddy Otis (Tom Towles) is obviously more unhinged believe it or not.
Together and separately they stab, strangle, shoot and beat over a dozen people to death. Henry’s MO, never kill the same way; this way the cops stay off your trail. When the two go to meet a guy about a new TV things get out of hand and the guy gets a little too disrespectful. The response is Henry stabbing him while Otis strangles him with a cord, ending with Henry dropping the $50 black & white set on his head. He tells Otis to plug it in and the set electrocutes any last life out of the fat man. Moral of the story: don’t be a jerk because you never know who might be a serial killer!
15. Scream (1996 – Wes Craven)
Scene: “What’s your favorite scary movie?”
The mid 90s were a dead time for horror. The 80s slasher era was dead and done. Who better to reinvent the genre than one of its visionaries: Wes Craven. How to reinvent it? Openly mock the hell out it and create a wonderfully new sub-genre that would dominate the next 5-7 years. When the previews started for Scream, most assumed Drew Barrymore was the star. After all, Neve Campbell was just out of Party of Five, and the rest of the cast were new faces. Drew was a bankable commodity, especially in a horror film (she is a veteran after all).
So imagine the surprise when 10 minutes into the movie Drew Barrymore is gutted and hanging in the backyard for her parents to find. That moment; and the build up to it, with Ghostface torturing her via phone calls and horror movie trivia make the scene even better. Scream spawned 3 sequels, and a variety of knockoffs and imitations (looking at you “I know what you did last summer”), and it all started with this scene.
14. Pet Sematary (1989 – Mary Lambert)
Scene: Gage and the scalpel
The film, based on the Stephen King novel, focuses on the Creed family who move to a new house right off a big highway frequented by huge trucks. After the family cat is killed, their friendly old neighbor Jud (Fred Gwynne of the Munsters) takes dad Louis to the “Pet Sematary” a great walk behind their property. This “cemetery” happens to be on an Indian burial ground which can bring your dead back to life.
Unfortunately there are some caveats. Like the cute kitty is now an evil bitch! When the Creed’s young son Gage (Miko Hughes) wanders out into the street and is killed, Louis defies Jud’s warnings and buries Gage in the Pet Sematary. Gage does return, but as a scalpel wielding demon spawn. He torments Jud with hide and seek sounds before sneak attacking him by slicing his Achilles with the scalpel. Once downed, Jud is easy prey for the sadistically creepy looking evil 3-year old who slices his face and then bites open his jugular.
13. 28 Weeks Later (2007 – Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)
Scene: The kiss of death
Danny Boyle reinvented the zombie genre in 28 Days Later, in which “zombies” were virus infected people running amok. While many hold it in high regard, Don (Robert Carlyle) survived the initial outbreak even though he was forced to leave his wife behind to die. Months later when his kids sneak into abadon London to scour their old house they find their presumed dead mom alone in the attic ALIVE!
Turns out she was bitten and her blood is infected, but she has no signs of Rage. She could be the answer to solving this epidemic. Don sneaks in to where she is being kept to apologize for leaving her and they have a really tender moment of reconnection sealed with a kiss. Except the only thing sealed was Alice’s fate as she transmits the Rage virus to her unknowing husband. What happens next is vicious and horrifying as Don pulverizes his helpless wife, gouging out her eyes and smashing her head in before fleeing and killing several more people on his way out of the compound.
12. Silence of the Lambs (1991 – Jonathan Demme)
Scene: “Ready when you are Sgt. Pembry”
Of all the horrific scenes and general creepiness in Jonathan Demme’s classic Oscar sweeper, few actually involve death… and this is in a movie with TWO serial killers. We never see Buffalo Bill skin any of his victims, and Hannibal Lecter is locked up most of the film. That is until he is taken out of his dungeon cell and brought to meet the Senator whose daughter has been kidnapped by Bill. He is brought to a Tennessee courthouse and given a special cell while he helps the investigation. Lecter is cunning and diabolical, but more; he’s patient.
A pen goes missing. No big deal. Soon Lecter is working on his cuffs. When his guards bring him lunch one day, he surprises them with a horrific sneak attack. Cuffing himself to one guard he bites at one’s face while macing and beating the other with his nightstick. When the FBI make it upstairs finally, they find a grisly scene of the guards hanging, guts out above the cell. The other guard lay bloodied and face removed desperately needing medical treatment… except we learn later it IS Lecter (wearing a human mask)!
11. The Omen (1976 – Richard Donner)
Photographer Jennings has been stalking after the Thorn family. Gregory Peck is Richard Thorn an American ambassador. There’s a creepy priest following him with stories of the adoption of their son Damien, and of course the annoying photographer. When people start dying in startlingly weird ways, Jennings and Thorn meet to discuss a strange glitch in his photos. A blurred line loops around the nanny’s neck… she hangs herself at Damien’s birthday party. Another blurry line seems to go through the priest… he is impaled by a lightning rod.
Even worse for Jennings; there’s a photo of him, line going across his neck! The two men go on a crusade to find the truth about Damien and fight off hell hounds, evil nannies, and obtain special devil-killing knives. When faced with the harsh reality of having to kill his own son, Thorn snaps and tosses the knives away in a nearby construction site. When Jennings goes to gather them up, his ominous photo comes back to haunt him. A truck carrying a plate glass window slips out of gear and slides down sending the glass off the truck and right through Jennings neck decapitating him in spectacular fashion.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (1987 – Chuck Russell)
Scene: “Welcome to Primetime Bitch!”
This is the scene that officially turned Freddy Krueger from horrifying monster to the horror’s King of the One-liners, and the one that many associate Freddy with. Jennifer is desperately trying to stay awake by burning herself with cigarettes, watching the Dick Cavet show. After all, as she’s told anyone who would listen, she’s going to be an actress one day. Suddenly after dozing a tad too long, Dick Cavet suddenly becomes Freddy and attacks guest Zsa Zsa Gabor. Jennifer goes to explore the technical issues with the TV and that’s when two giant robo-Freddy arms burst out and grab her. Freddy’s head comes out of the top of and he gives her “her big break in TV.”
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 – Tobe Hooper)
Scene: Piggy sounds and animal bones… I’ll check it out!
The tagline for Tobe Hooper’s visceral TCM says it all: Who will survive and what we will be left of them? Sally and Franklyn are on the way to see their grandfather’s grave after a story about several graves being desecrated. They bring some friends and are going to stay in their big family home. Things don’t start well when they pick up a psychotic hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) cuts himself and Franklyn and smears blood on their car.
After an experience like this, why go looking for trouble? But Sally’s friends Pam and Kirk decide to look around and they find the big house next door, where a rumbling sound could mean people, and the chance to barter for gasoline. He walks in and sees an open door filled with animal bones and skulls and what sounds like pigs. Kirk checks it out but instead of pigs, it’s Gunnar Hansen; Leatherface, who in one of horror’s great debuts appears from behind a door, smashes Kirk’s head in with a sledgehammer, drags his body inside and slams the heavy door. Inevitably Pam goes to search only for Leatherface to chase her down and toss her on a meat hook while he cuts up the remains of Kirk.