I have to admit, Cartoon Network’s Courage: The Cowardly Dog used to scare the sh*t out of me. But have you ever watched a movie so disturbing and freaky that you just had to hit pause and try to breathe normally again? No slasher perverted films here, just scary moments that rely on atmosphere build-up. Here’s a list of the most HOLY-F*CK-WHAT-THE-HELL-JUST-HAPPENED scenes in movies I watched in the 90s that scared the life out of my soul.
Rabbit stew – Fatal Attraction
Why I even watched this movie before I entered adolescence I have no idea. But Glenn Close definitely left some scars in my young mind. Fatal Attraction has its freaky ass moments; the bathtub attack for one. But when she boiled those innocent rabbits just to scorn the family of her lover, I had to switch channels because my young brain just couldn’t handle the meltdown.
Total darkness with a psychopath – The Silence of the Lambs
Forever unnerved by Anthony Hopkins’ reptilian hissing “I ate his liver with some fave beans and a nice Chianti. sssssss…”, there’s another moment in The Silence of the Lambs that, although absent Dr. Hannibal Lecter, still gave me the big chills. When Clarice Starling entered Jame Gumb’s home after realizing he was the psychopath killer the FBI has been looking for, Jame turns off all the lights in his house and subjected it to total darkness. While Clarice helplessly stumbles around using her other senses, Jame quietly stalks her with nocturnal-vision goggles, smelling/sniffing her like the depraved killer that he is.
Angry Jerry – Sphere
A lot of things traumatized me as I watched Sphere; Samuel L. Jackson, the jellyfish, the sea snakes. The build-up to the horrors 1000ft below the surface was definitely bone-chilling. But nothing was more scary than when “Jerry” had one of his mood swings and got angry. An angry person is one thing, but a lonely 300-year old all-powerful entity that’s got zero emotional growth? Run for yo life!
Hallway Ghost – The Sixth Sense
“I see dead people.” will always be a classic in the horror genre of films. Perhaps M Night Shyamalan’s best masterpiece, The Sixth Sense delivered on character arc, pacing, plot, and holy-amazeballs-i-peed-my-pants kinds of moments. The earliest peek into Cole’s paranormal talent takes place in his own home, in the middle of the night, while he was peeing. The thermostat ominously drops down and then BOOM a ghost passes. Even as an adult, I am still all too aware that I didn’t die on the way to the bathroom, or while I was peeing. Basically, this movie turned your every childhood nightmare into a movie; a ghost in the kitchen, a ghost in the closet, a ghost in the hallway, and a ghost in your bedroom. It isn’t a blood fest nor a monster mania, but the terror and fright is there in the shadows, creeping its way toward you.
Old School GIF – The Haunting
Okay, okay, The Haunting was kitschy at best, but it still delivered some solid horror moments that blew the beejeezus out of me. The most memorable was certainly when Eleanor discovered that the book with pictures of Helen, the previous mistress, was actually a backward flip-photo pointing to the huge fireplace in the den. Where horrors await, obvs.
Amateur Alien Footage – Signs
This was one of those let-down movies that had terrific build-up and fright moments but ended with a sour note. However, the alien premise and the focus on a single family’s struggle to make sense of the “strange” signs around them make a truly terrific film experience. Perhaps the scene that truly scared the living daylights out of my soul was the amateur footage of a birthday party gone horribly bad – an alien lurking just beyond the bushes.
All Work and No Play – The Shining
Of course, when talking about disturbing horror through atmosphere build-up, Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining will always surface. Plenty of bone-chillingly terrifying moments come to mind, such as the blood-flooded elevator, the twins, room 237, axe-wielding Torrance, or redrum redrum redrum. All of these deserve a place in this list. But take away the blood and ghostly apparitions, and you’ve got the slow descent into madness when Jack’s wife sees that all he’s been typing is “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, with random inceptions of “dolt boy” or “adult boy”. This spiral into a twisted mind genuinely unnerved me for months.