Tuesday, September 30, 2014

11 Scary Scenes in Non-Horror Movies

by Doug Schultz
Tomorrow is officially #ScaryMovieMonth. Let's kick things off a bit early, shall we?

1. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971): Boat Trip

Things get trippy fast as Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, never better) takes his guests on a boat tour down a psychedelic tunnel. In a movie filled with weirdness [and countless examples of child endangerment], this scene takes the Everlasting Gobstopper. Mr. Wonka's dead-eyed, thousand-yard stare, the flashing lights, the imagery of insects, the cacophonous music, the CHICKEN GETTING ITS HEAD CUT OFF ... all served to freak kids out since the movie's original release. "Are the fires of hell a-glowing? Is the grisly reaper mowing?" They don't make 'em like they used to!

2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988): The Dip
Many will claim that [SPOILER!] the ultimate reveal of Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) as the half-man, half-toon villain -- with his red, bulging eyes, crazy patch of hair and high-pitched voice -- is the scariest moment in this comedy crime film (for kids?). Others will say it's when he gets flattened by a steamroller. For me, nothing is quite as terrifying as when he dips an innocent, whimpering red shoe into a vat of acid. What an asshole!

3. Return to Oz (1985): EVERYTHING
F this whole thing. How is this not a horror film? I was going to feature the original The Wizard of Oz due to its genuinely disturbing flying monkeys (as well as Margaret Hamilton's pitch-perfect portrayal of The Wicked Witch of the West), but then I remembered that Return to Oz showcases electroshock therapy on a child in an insane asylum, Mombi the headless witch (and her collection of disembodied heads) and those creepy Wheelers. So, yeah, nice try 1939! '85's got you beat!

4. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991): Granny's Kiss

Look, this movie -- much like F This Movie! -- knows what it's doing. And the scene that's always messed with my head is when Bill (Alex Winter) is forced to kiss his disgusting grandmother (also played by Alex Winter) in purgatory. Know this: I will never force my daughter to kiss another relative, on earth OR in hell. Nightmare fuel.

5. Home Alone (1990): Evil Furnace
I didn't grow up on the gleaming north shore of Chicago; thus, my parents' modest northwest suburban home wasn't palatial, and it didn't have an cavernous basement with sinister, turn-of-the-century utilities. I was a little bit older when I first saw Home Alone (i.e., I was [slightly?] past crapping my pants at the thought of a home-invading Daniel Stern), but DAT FURNACE. Um, nothankyou dungeon of doom!

6. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977): Dianoga

You know how you like to think you're the hero-type? Like you'd totally don the enemy's uniform and infiltrate a highly fortified base to rescue a princess? You'd LAUGH in the face of the "force," right? But then -- because you had a bad plan with no exit strategy -- you find yourself stuck in a trash compactor (of all places)? And if that's not enough, something "else" is down there with you? And then you're all, "I'm out!" Laser fights I can handle. Large cephalopods with seven suckered tentacles surrounding a fanged maw containing a sharp serrated probe? NOPE.

7. The Dark Crystal (1982), Time Bandits (1981) and Labyrinth (1986): General Vibe

Kind of a cheat to include three-movies-in-one, but WHATEVER (my list, my rules) -- this is my most personal entry. Sure, some people LOVE '80s fantasy films (*ahem* PATRICK *ahem*), and the dark, otherworldly realms they occupy. Others, like me, get total FREAKED whenever we stumble upon these dusty remnants whilst surfing the dial at 3 a.m. Like, I'm alone. ALONE-alone. All alone. No one's around, and I'm very much unsettled. Puppets will do that (be they Spitting Image or others). So will anything inaccessibly "British." I'll tell you this much: I'm done with meat loaf. "It's evil!" Just like Skeksis. And Fireys.

8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): Face Melting
This one's also a little unfair because, while the scene in which evil Nazis' faces melt after looking directly at the Ark Of The Covenant is, indeed, scary, it's also one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a movie. When I first saw this as a wee lad, I felt like I was getting away with something (it's a singular sensation that's hard to describe). Scary, but also insanely badass.

9. Toy Story 3 (2010): Ya Burnt!
I don't care if it's a retread of the same plot and/or climax contrivance of Toy Story 2 (or a thousand other films, for that matter), the penultimate moment in which all of Andy's toys accept their fate, hold each other's hands and wait peacefully for the sweet release of a fiery death is both incredibly frightening and incredibly sad. If you didn't tear up during this scene, well then ... YOU'RE the monster.

10. Pinocchio (1940): Pleasure Island

The "donkey scene" stands out in a packed field of early Disney films in which scary shit goes down (e.g., the pink elephants in Dumbo, baby oysters getting eaten by a walrus in Alice in Wonderland, ghosts haunting an enchanted forest in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the stepmother's glowing eyes in Cinderella, etc.). A child literally screams for his mom as he turns into a donkey. WHAT'S THAT ABOUT?! Pleasure Island has a dark secret -- it punishes you for your naughtiness (namely, smoking, drinking and pool). It turns mischievous children into LITERAL donkeys, sent to the salt mine as slave laborers (la-burros?). Pinocchio: providing children with a HORRIFYING moral compass for almost 75 years!

11. Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985): Large Marge Sent Ya!

"There was this sound, like a garbage truck dropped off the Empire State Building ..."


  1. I wasn't crazy about the set design, but otherwise, the intercision scene from The Golden Compass was exactly as horrifying as it should have been. In a movie that pulled most of its punches, that one threw hard, and deserves recognition for it.

  2. Excellent list Doug. The shoe in roger rabbit really traumatized me as a child and the whimpers haunted my nightmares. I've never felt more of a connection with a shoe in my life before or since. The scarecrow getting dismembered in the wizard of oz is a scene that sticks out as something that really scared me when I was a kid and that movie has so many creepy moments that sometimes you forget it's a family film. Also Anne Ramsey in the Goonies and even Sloth were characters that frightened me. The scene where chunk gets locked in the room with Sloth caused me some anxiety as well as the part where Anne Ramsey threatens to cut mouths tongue out on the boat. Scary stuff.

  3. Holy crap. I still say Who framed Roger Rabbit has some terrifying moments in it. I'm glad its not just me. Scared the crap out of me when I was younger.

    And I'll suggest one more. Watership down. This has to be the toughest U rated kids cartoon ever. Rabbits ripping each other apart and loads of blood. Youtube "Watership down violence" if you've not seen it. Jesus its crazy scary. The Scariest I can think of

    1. Watership Down is serious no doubt, but I would add two more terrifying cartoons: "The Plague Dogs" (1982), and "When the Winds Blows" (1986).

  4. Oh, man, right on with the donkey transformation in Pinocchio. That stuff is nightmare-inducing, especially if you're a little kid.

    I guess those kids should take some advice from Harold Hill in The Music Man. You've got trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool.

  5. Great list. I remember dreading that moment in Pee-wee's Big Adventure as a kid in the best possible way every time it was on HBO. Here are a few other moments like that from my youth:

    1) The earworms in The Wrath of Khan.
    2) The giant spider in Krull.
    3) Baron Harkonnen's body plugs in David Lynch's Dune.
    4) Anthony Perkins' death and the hellscape in The Black Hole.
    5) I'm not sure if Ghostbusters counts as a scary movie, but I remember watching my VHS copy of that movie ad nauseam and thinking every time, "OK. We just have to get through the library ghost, and everything's gravy..."

  6. Great list doug. The one that horrified me was the reveal of the queen's face, as the old hag, in snow White. When she lifts her face from her hands…. noooope. I'm done.
    God, I hate that scene.

  7. Genuinely shocked to find that Annie Ross' transformation into a robot in Superman III hasn't been mentioned yet because AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    1. Holy shit yes.

      I would just also like to point out that "I did Nazi that coming" is the best joke ever written. Game over! Doug wins.

    2. Oh God, I haven't thought of that scene in years. * shivers *

    3. How do you derail an already off-the-rails Superman movie: Nazi robot transform. This really made my skin crawl as a kid. Something about the way the bolts and metal we're attaching to her skin...gaaah!!!

    4. Whoa! I forgot about this. Or rather tried to suppress it deep inside my then 7 year old consciousness.

  8. The Pee Wee scene looms largest. Ultimate childhood movie experience was anticipating that horrifying claymation.
    The Neverending Story with it's damn wolf head deserves a mention. On a non puppet related note, the adrenaline shot scene from Pulp Fiction doesn't really have a horror vibe, but if think it qualifies as scary.

  9. I have been working on a similar list myself, great pics Doug! The Donkey scene in Pinocchio is truly terrifying! One of the scenes on my list is the poisoning of the apple scene in Snow White and the seven Dwarves, GAH! Even the raven is scared in that scene.

  10. It's not really scary but those gargoyles that Doc Brown was moving around at the end of Back To The Future was pretty scary to me. Particularly when he turns and the camera pans to one of them and the lightening kicks in and Doc Brown screams his head off.