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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What is the creepiest movie moment ever?

To me, Halloween isn’t about “scary” — it’s about “creepy.” Scares make you jump out of your seat and scream, but then they’re gone. The creeps stay with you forever, and then sneak back up on you in the middle of the night and keep you away long into the wee hours.

What does that to you? What is the creepiest movie moment ever?

It might be hard to pick just one, so feel free to choose several, if you like. Here’s a few of mine:
• “It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.” From The Silence of the Lambs, of course. I think the depersonalization of that is the worst part.

• the news footage of the spindly ETs on Joaquin Phoenix’s TV in Signs: that always ooks me out for days. Phoenix’s horrorfied reaction really helps sell it, too.

• “One of us, one of us, one of us…” Not that the mean girl who taunts Tod Browning’s Freaks doesn’t deserve what they dish out to her…

• the flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz. Needs no further explanation, does it?

• Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. No wonder he had to hire Oompa-Loompas — no one else would work for him.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • The creepiest movie moment ever – beyond any debate or doubt – occurs 2/3 of the way through PROFUNDO ROSSO when


    That damned puppet walks across the room.

    Not only does it involve a killer puppet, but the shot itself is bizarre, comes without reason or warning, and is never really explained.

    That said, PROFUNDO ROSSO isn’t necessarily the creepiest movie of all time. But it’s up there.

  • Brian

    “Come play with us, Danny.”

  • Hank Graham

    The mad girl wandering off, circled by the birds, in Franju’s creepiest of all horror movies, “Eyes Without a Face,” always gets me.

    But the single creepiest moment I’ve ever seen in a movie is the appearance of the ghost of the boy in “The Changeling.” (The 1980 Peter Medak film.)

    And if you haven’t seen these two, you seriously need to.

  • amanohyo

    The grocery store scene at the end of the 1975 Stepford Wives still creeps me out like nothing else, and the Childcatcher scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was kinda creepy as well.

    I was also a little creeped out by the scene in The Neverending Story when Atreyu is trying to pass the Sphinxy statues with the laser eyes.

    As a kid, I always loved watching the boat scene/song in Willy Wonka, but I can see how the background images would be creepy to some people. The only movies that have come close to creeping me out as an adult are Rosemary’s Baby and Naked Lunch.

  • Ren Shore

    In the original ‘Stepfather’ with Terry O’Quinn, his wife interrupts him on the phone with “That’s not your name.” and he says “Who am I here now?”

    That sent a shiver down my spine.

  • Jeff

    The scene in the subway station bathroom from Jacob’s Ladder. I think it was cut from the theatrical version, but it’s on the DVD. I won’t bother trying to describe it since it’s almost entirely visual, but I was uneasy in public bathrooms for many months afterward.

  • Amy

    Pan’s Labyrinth was super disturbing and creepy. I only saw it once and I’m blanking on any one moment but that movie haunted me.

  • Kathy A

    The final scene in Blair Witch Project, of the guy facing the corner. Still creeps me out to this day, and is really the only thing from that movie that stands out.

  • LaSargenta

    My two creepiest movie moments are both pretty old:

    Bette Davis as an adult singing “I’m writing a letter to daddy” in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane; and the shot of the rotting rabbit on the counter in Repulsion.

  • How about a real life creepy moment? Walking up the steps used in the filming of The Exorcist, and then looking up to the nearest house and seeing that second floor bedroom window boarded up? AHHHHHHH.

  • Dart

    Laura Palmer going to her bedroom on a sunny afternoon, only to find her creep waiting for her, smiling: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

    The freak woman singing that “Everything Is Fine” song and stomping on bad Y chromosomes: Eraserhead

    The rape scene where Dennis Hopper puts on the oxygen mask: Blue Velvet

    (anything David Lynch, really)

  • Josh C.

    I definitely agree with respect to “Signs.” I remember just sitting there watching when *bam* comes this thing out of nowhere, and my heart rate jumped by about 50 bpm instantly.

    Another scene that resonated like that with me was when Dakota Fanning sees that river in “War of the Worlds,” and suddenly bodies comes upstream in droves. That movie overall was one of the most *truly* creepy I’ve ever seen (noting that I am only 18 and young enough not to have seen many classics–but regardless).

  • Crispin Glover’s movie “What Is It?” has several choices for creepiest moment, but I think the footage of actual salt killing of snails is the winner.

  • Bluejay

    The “Psycho” shower scene. Not the stabbing itself, but right before. When you can just make out, beyond Janet Leigh and the blurry shower curtain, the door opening and someone stepping inside, quietly.

    I’m going by memory here, and would rather not look up the scene on YouTube to check. Brrrrr.

  • doa766

    on the most successful argentinian movie this year, “El secreto de sus ojos” (The secret of your eyes) there’s a very creepy scene

    (this happens early on the movie and it’s really not a spoiler if you plan to see it)

    the cops are interrogating a rapist/murderer suspect on whom they got nothing on, so they start the old perry mason routine of “I don’t think you’re our guy because you’re not smart/strong/wise enough to pull this off” until the guy breaks and confesses, but there’s a twist on the routine

    the female cop tell him that she doesn’t think he’s the right guy because the vaginal wounds on the victim were very deep and made by someone with a huge penis and she tells mockingly him that he looks like a guy with a very small one

    so they guy who was quietly sweating stands up and pulls his pants down and show her his stuff, which was 100% real and 100% dick diggler like and start screaming “I fucked her hard, I fucked her hard”

    I wonder what the casting sheet said for the role

    it’s not that the scene is too creepy but is very unexpected and gets you offguard, and everyone on the audience

    that movie had great reviews and they chose it to compete for the foreign film oscar, about 2 and half million people saw it on the theater here

  • Jester

    “Goodbye Horses” from The Silence of the Lambs.

    Followed closely in second place by the whole crucifixion/”He’s still alive! Talk to him!” sequence from the same flick.

    Actually, that whole movie was pretty creepy. Even the straight parts of the movie were a bit off.

  • Paul

    I have to agree with a lot that’s been said. For me, the early parts of “Jaws” from the shark’s POV were creepy. THe Mummy episode of “Johnny Quest,” with it stalking around and no one quite noticing. “The Cable Guy” and how everyone fell for the Cable Guy’s lies about the main character, even his friends and family.

  • tomservo

    The final shot of the incredibly fucked up French horror nightmare Inside. What the fuck is wrong w/ those people?

  • doa766

    I don’t know if people would call it creepy but the most fucked up thing I’ve seen is the ending to the french horror Martyrs

  • Okay, I’ll admit that I always found the ending of High Tension to be creepy–particularly (SPOILER) the scene in which the killer is on the other side of an one-way mirror and supposedly can’t hear anything on the other side and yet can’t help turning in the direction of its “beloved’s” voice despite the fact that it’s very, very, very, very obvious by this point that its “love” is destined to be forever unrequited…

    Also the basement scene of the original Dawn of the Dead

    The box scene in Phantasm

    The overhead footsteps in The Others

  • sophronia

    The opening scenes of Manhunter, where the serial killer is walking around the house, freaked me out so badly I couldn’t even pay attention to whatever was happening in the rest of the film.

    Good call on that chilling line from The Stepfather, and on the end of Blair Witch Project.

  • Bill

    The first 15 or 20 minutes of “When a Stranger Calls”. The call is coming from inside the house? Fuck that. It’s been creeping me out for years.

  • Chris Beaubien

    In the original Netherlands film The Vanishing aka Spoorloos by George Sluizer, a mundane looking family man (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) decides to abduct a woman he doesn’t know and he practices the abduction behind his house in private. Brrr…

    On his first attempt, he stops himself from chloroforming his first victim just as they recognize one another. What the would-be victim proposes next will make your spine grow icicles.

    The Vanishing – not the dumbed down American version – is an utterly creepy film that evokes the power of an Edgar Allen Poe short story.

  • Muzz

    The Innocents where sweet little Flora observes with such delight a spider eating a butterfly.

    Actually the lesser, but still pretty good, TV version of The Turn of the Screw from a few years back with Johdi May has one moment that’s stuck. In a way it’s bad as it removes the ambiguity from the ending but I was thoroughly creeped out by having her plainly and audibly (*spoils*) “hug” Miles to death.

    The last few sequences of Dead Ringers are quite memorably unsettling too

  • kIm

    I agree with the Signs bit – major major creepiness! I had nightmares after Silence of the Lambs (love it, though). Also (and don’t everybody laugh at me at once) that episode of Buffy (Hush) where everyone’s voices were stolen and those creepy floating men were removing people’s hearts and they couldn’t make a sound. Ick.

  • Mimi

    I go out of my way to avoid creepy movies, as I am so very unable to STOP thinking the creepy thoughts afterwards. But I thought the box business at the end of “Se7en” was deeply creepy. I still think of that and feel disturbed.

    “Hush” was a creepy episode, klm — I won’t laugh at you! If we branch out into TV, I would have more to choose from — old “Twilight Zone” eps… lots of creepitude there!

  • laugh at me if you like, but i think one of the *creepiest* movie moments ever in any movie was the seance scene in “The Time of Their Lives” – a 1946 Abbott and Costello movie. when Gale Sondergaard channels the voice of Tom
    Allan by moaning “MEL-o-dee.” yoikes! still gives me shivers.

  • kangthe bang

    The noise the ‘Predator’ makes from the arnold movie, its about the creepiest sound ive heard. Picture yourself standing alone in the jungle, and all of a sudden you hear THAT sound :)

  • Anne-Kari

    klm, I’m with you on that episode of Buffy, it freaked me out too. And apparently, it impressed the Academy of Television Arts & Scienes: it was the only Buffy episode to get an Emmy nomination for writing.

    I know it’s not a horror film or a film associated with Halloween, but the scene near the beginning of Jaws when the woman is swimming alone, gets caught by the shark and is screaming and been dragged around in a circle – and suddenly is pulled under, and there’s silence. And you never see the shark. Creeps me out every time.

  • Jeff

    Ah, and I almost forgot.

    The opening scene from Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte was deeply disturbing to me when I first saw it. Then again, I was pretty young, so memory might be exaggerating for me.

  • the rook

    the veggie tales movies creep me out.

  • “Hush” was a creepy episode, klm — I won’t laugh at you! If we branch out into TV, I would have more to choose from — old “Twilight Zone” eps… lots of creepitude there!

    Oh, my. If we’re going to bring TV shows into it….


    The “Hush” episode of Buffy, natch.

    The scene in Buffy‘s fifth season in which Dawn first meets Glory. (One female acquaintance said that scene almost made her fall off the couch.)

    The last story in Trilogy of Terror–especially that last scene with Karen Black…

    Almost every time the possessed lesbian speaks in the Dr. Who episode “Midnight”–especially her last few scenes…

    The opening of the X-Files episode “Home.”

    Half of the Dr. Who episode “Blink.”

    Plus there’s a creepy short film called Panic that I once saw on Showtime about fifteen years ago that basically does a take-off on the old urban legend about the evil hitchhiker.


    In the film, a woman breaks up with her boyfriend, drives downtown, picks up an old woman who is carrying a big black bag, starts to suspect the old lady is not what she seems, tricks her into getting out of the car and then abandons her by the side of the car.

    By the time she gets to a nearby police station, she has a change of heart and calls her boyfriend to come pick her up. Meanwhile, the police examine the bag the old lady left behind and…

  • …abandons her by the side of the car.

    Arrgh! I mean “road,” of course. Not “car”.

  • markyd

    The scene in the Ring when the girl in the tv is coming towards the people watching it and then comes out of the friggin’ thing. Awesome.
    I agree with Tonio on the X-Files episode “Home” The whole thing is disturbing, but the murder of the Sheriff and his wife haunted me for awhile.
    To this day I am haunted by the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the german soldier hushes the american as he kills him with a knife. I couldn’t get that image out of mind for weeks.

  • KLW

    I know how totally off-the-wall this will seem, but there was a movie called “Mary, Queen of Scots” with Vanessa Redgrave in the title role. It had a scene where one of her advisors is assasinated by a gang of Scotsmen. What was so creepy about it what was how completely realistic, graphic and protracted the scene was. The little guy’s trapped in this small room with all these guys who all pull out these huge knives. They begin stabbing him, but they don’t stop there. The advisor then falls to his knees, begins crawling all over the floor seeking escape, screaming the entire time, and all the time you continue to see huge knives driving into his back accompanied by a distinct ‘thuck’ sound with each stab. You see the guy get stabbed at least 15 times. I don’t know how they made the stabbings so realistic, but apparently the makers were so pleased with that they cold do that they just went on and on with it. I remember feeling physically ill watching it. Only saw it that one time about 30 years ago and still feel a whiff of nausea recalling it.

    bronxbee: I loved that Abbot and Costello movie. Probably the only movie they ever made that I would truly enjoy seeing again. And I recall that scene very clearly and it really did have quite a creepy quality to it.

  • Kate

    In the first, original “Halloween” movie, when Laurie has stabbed Michael Myers and sent her charges off for help, and behind her sobbing figure, we see his dead body in a patch of moonlight sit up and turn his head towards her. That scene gave me nightmares from the PREVIEWS, years before I ever saw the movie, and it still gets me.

    In “Nightbreed,” when the totally silent, button-eyed, zipper-mouthed, burlap-masked serial killer murders this very happy-seeming couple and their wide-eyed toddler boy is at the top of the stairs looking at the killer…who starts walking up the stairs, knife in hand, towards him.

    And finally: the clown doll scene in Poltergeist, absolutely #1 of all time!!

  • JoshDM

    Signs always gets me.

    The decompression scene of Event Horizon does too. The audio is excellent.

  • Come to think of it, a scene that appeared last season in an episode of House in which a certain character shows up and starts singing a Specials song was pretty creepy. Especially within the context of the episode.

  • CB

    Signs certainly had a creepy build-up, and I loved the development of Mel Gibson’s character, but any scariness or for that matter enjoyability the movie had was retroactively burned to the ground by the revelation (SPOILER) that the aliens’ weakness was water. How ridiculous and non-scary are aliens who try to conquer a planet whose most common substance is their fatal weakness? At least the aliens in Alien Nation were only vulnerable to salt water, and they didn’t come to a planet whose surface was mostly water on purpose! I mean, this would be like if after the marines in Aliens were ordered to give up their ammunition and the one quips “What are we supposed to use, harsh language?!” it turned out that the aliens were vulnerable to harsh language and could be killed with a simple four-letter epithet! Or if the Cloverfield monster’s weakness was upscale art galleries. Oh and speaking of Aliens, if one of these none-too-bright aliens actually managed to kill one of us, our own blood would be like the Aliens’ acid blood to them! Ha! How could I be scared of a monster that I could defeat by peeing on it?

    Between that and the mother’s departing words about “swing for the fences” turning out to be an admonition to literally bash in the head of an alien with a baseball bat, Signs has to be one of the movies most notable for building up such enormous potential and then utterly failing on the follow-through.

    *ahem* Sorry about that, especially for those who liked the movie.

    Creepy movie moments to me?

    Fallen, when the demon possesses the girl and sings “Time is On My Side”. That song still creeps me out.

    The end of Blair Witch and the end of The Ring for sure.

    The Animatrix short The Second Renaissance has one of the darkest (literally) and most disturbing portrayals of war I’ve ever seen, peaking with a brief shot of the machines extracting a human from his power suit without bothering to free his arms and legs first…

    Several parts of the Shining, but the kicker even though it’s silly out of context (e.g. on the Simpsons) the blood pouring from the elevator in dead silence still sends shivers down my spine.

    And of course the shower scene of Psycho. I only saw it long after it had become a much-parodied part of popular culture, and it was still freaky as hell.

  • David

    The Descent was creepy, but I’m a bit claustrophobic. It was a relief when the monsters showed up.
    Alien was creepy as hell all the way through.

  • scared rabbit

    agreed. I used to have nightmares as a kid thinking about that deep man’s voice coming out of that women’s mouth. ‘Melody… Meolody… Melody.’

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