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Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies

LISTS - MOVIE LISTS

Okay, now we're screwed...

Not good.

There's something particularly chilling about the Terror That Is Not Upon Us Yet. In the space between normal life and the kind of adrenalin rush that would get even roadkill motivated, comes the moment of decision, when we have to ponder the matter How bad is this...?

It's bad. It's bad...

10: When Worlds Collide (1951)

Bellus looms in 'When Worlds Collide' (1951)

A friend of mine once confided that his personal nightmare (many years before 9/11) was to look up from his garden and see a 747 heading straight for him, just falling out of the sky. Such a case is bad news for you and your town, to be sure, but not as bad as looking up and seeing a planet headed straight for your own planet. It may not be a personal nemesis, but you can bet your last cent that it's going to be real thorough.

9: The Grudge (2004)

A persistent passer-by plaguing Bill Pullman in The Grudge (2004)

There are plenty of moments of 'distant horror' in Takashi Shimizu's icily effective remake of his own Ju-On, including Yuya Ozeki's multiple presence outside a rising elevator and Takako Fuji manifesting at the far end of a corridor seen on a security monitor. Yet my blood runs coldest when Sarah Michelle Gellar discovers that nearly every photo in dead professor Bill Pullman's photo album is infested with background shots of his No.1 fan.

8: Duel (1971)

Dennis Weaver needs to talk faster in 'Duel' (1971)

I do wonder if stalking truck drivers were quite as common before Richard Matheson's chilling tale of homicidal road-rage launched Steven Spielberg's career in 1971. It's certainly happened to me, only without the wrecked phone boxes or the climactic explosion over the cliff. You wouldn't think something as large as a 1955 Peterbilt 281 articulated truck could sneak up on you like Dracula quite as many times as it succeeds in doing in Duel; on the other hand, you probably wouldn't win the argument even if you knew it was coming.

7: Return Of The Living Dead (1986)

A local concern in Dan O'Bannon's 'Return Of The Living Dead' (1986)

Witness a nuclear explosion any closer than through 2000x binoculars (in a plane flying at full speed in the other direction), and you can be pretty sure your day is taking a turn for the worst. You clearly survived the initial flash, but even if you survive the blast radius sweeping under your feet, things are going to get toxic very quickly. The late Dan O'Bannon brought us this common pre-glasnost nightmare at the end of his zombie-romp, and to make matters worse, this mushroom cloud is only going to end up creating even more unkillable zombies.

6: Night Of The Demon (1951)

More persistent than a tax collector, the demon in 'Night Of The Demon' (1957)

This is the 'guided missile' version of #10. This forty-foot demon has your name on it, because you couldn't get anyone else to accept the cursed runic symbols that some evil professor slipped you. In terms of persistence and mission-effectiveness, the diabolical assassin in Jacques Tourneur's classic M.R. James chiller makes the Terminator look like a street-leafleter. Like the nasties in Grudge-land, this supernatural horror is unusual as it will kill the innocent as happily as the guilty, so long as they have the requisite ticket.

5: Dawn Of The Dead (1979)

Never mind the undead - here come the hell's angels! Dawn Of The Dead, 1979

Even in a world largely populated by the flesh-eating refugees of Satan, the advent of an invasion by real Hell's Angels is still the most horrifying prospect in George Romero's classic sequel. Just when our heroes are holed up and settling down to a lightly besieged existence, Tom Savini and his anarchic band decide that there's not enough sharing going on. These guys are so hard, they think zombies are hilarious.

4: The Innocents (1961)

Clytie Jessop in 'The Innocents' (1961)

Clytie Jessop plays the revenant spirit haunting the children on the estate where she worked when alive, standing unmoving among the reed bushes. The horrifying thing about this ghost is how motionless it is. You could eat a picnic for a half-hour and then look up to find this grim spectre had been looking at you all along - and in broad daylight too. Brrrr. Jessop repeated her stock-still performance as the symbolic statue 'Atropos' in the portmanteau horror Torture Garden in 1967.

3: An American Werewolf In London (1981)

Like the London Underground wasn't scary enough (An American Werewolf In London, 1981)

Like the London underground isn't unpleasant, dangerous or intimidating enough without all the damned werewolves. Makeup wizard Rick Baker's 'trolley wolf' only makes a couple of appearances in John Landis's hit horror-comedy, and this long shot is by far the most effective of them. Watching the stealthy lycanthrope creep up on the terrified stiff-necked English office worker hits a Londoner like myself in a tender place...

2: The Amityville Horror (1979)

Go to your room, now. And never you mind that demonic pig [ Amityville Horror, 1979]

So...you basically have a pretty good idea that you're living in a haunted house with some very malicious and evil spirits, and your parents are too broke to move out of it. You hear a noise down by the swimming pool in the back garden one night and go to investigate. It's nothing. You look up to your own bedroom - which you've just come from - and see a ghastly red-eyed pig demon looking out the window at you. Anyway, sleep well...

1: The Shining (1980)

The Grady twins in 'The Shining' (1980)

Kubrick's one and only horror masterpiece is widely acknowledged to be a study of psychological terror rather than a traditional shock-fest, but when the murdered twin girls of Jack Nicholson's predecessor appear to his psychic son and beg him to play with them 'forever and ever and ever', my blood still turns to ice. True horror is most effective when placed in the banal domestic environments we screen out of our lives as uninteresting, and it's the generic and unthreatening tedium of the Overlook hotel's corridors that accentuates the terror they hide.

Also consider:

Deep Impact (1998)
The Exorcist III (1990)

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See also:

The Shining's Overlook Hotel is even creepier than you think

Lists at Shadowlocked


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Comments 

 
#1 Guest 2010-01-07 13:13
What about watching the alien in the movie Signs, on the recorded clip, during a b'day party... I am sure many will agree that it was Oh my gasp! moment.
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#2 Guest 2010-03-02 12:26
Great topic. Another terrifying part to me in The Shining is Jack Nicholson overlooking the maze with a giant face. It's like a recurring nightmare I had as a child, a huge face looking down on me. Weird but beautiful movie that we have to watch every now and then. It keeps giving the creeps. The story goes that the plot is full of metaphors regarding the prosecution of native Americans in the past.

The Sixth Sense had its moments too, especially the first time. We should have skipped the bonus material on the DVD since the director gave away several clues about things we didn't even notice.

The Others was nice. Especially with the boy and girl in bed while the girl was talking to somebody.

Poltergeist is another masterpiece that gave me sleepless nights in the eighties when I was still a kid. It's weird to look at it now. Not terrifying at all, but the fact that the two sisters died in reality makes it a bit sinister. And sad.

To conclude, one of my personal number ones is Sapphire and Steel. A late seventies SF/horror series from the UK about two supernatural entities hunting down something that appears to be cracks in time. It is full of ghosts of all kinds. What terrified me the most when it was aired was that the series gave simple plausible explanations for sightings. We lived in a very old house on a remote location ourselves and I couldn't watch anymore after a few episodes. I was very glad to discover the series on the web and DVD. If you never heard of the series and you are into real suspense horror (without chainsaws): do yourself a favor. These series are unique and timeless.
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#3 Guest 2010-03-02 17:02
These are all awesome choices. And I couldn't agree more. All except "The Shining". That movie is boring, terrible, and not scary. No amount of haranguing has, or will ever change my mind.
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#4 Guest 2010-03-02 17:26
Find a TV Movie, possibly from HBO, called WOMAN IN BLACK, or A WOMAN IN BLACK. Late80's early 90's perhaps. The plot is a haunted English estate , modern day. Scariest damn movie I have ever seen on TV!
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#5 Guest 2010-03-02 17:58
What about the tunnel scene from 28 Days Later? Sprinting zombies in silhouette? C'mon!
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#6 Guest 2010-03-02 19:40
I still think that Kathy Bates' nude scene in "About Schmidt" should be #1.

Morf
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#7 Guest 2010-03-02 19:48
Quoting Az:
What about watching the alien in the movie Signs, on the recorded clip, during a b'day party... I am sure many will agree that it was Oh my gasp! moment.

Good call! The whole time I was reading the article, I couldn't get the first appearance of the alien out of my head; you know, Gibson's walking through the house at night, and sees, for a split second, a sillhouette on a neighboring rooftop?
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#8 Guest 2010-03-03 06:34
Maybe the scene in Zulu of the approaching hordes?
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#9 Guest 2010-03-03 19:58
Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), Nosferatu(1922), Battleship Potemkin (1925), Metropolis (1926), Triumph des Willens (1934), and Wuttering Heights (1939) are all freaky on their own. Each for their own reasons.

The famous moon movie had a face that got a rocket shot in the eye. It scared the hell out of me when I was 4 years old. Nosferatu was brilliant for the special effects depicting supernatural events, amongst other things. BS Potemkin showed the mutiny on a huge Russian cruiser years before. Sinister, with people eating food with worms and people without limbs. Metropolis seems a predecessor to 1984 in atmosphere. Nightmarish. Triumph des Willens is the famous propaganda movie by Lenie Riefenstahl about the Nazi party, horrifying to see that war machine of hate in close up just before hell completely broke lose. Wuthering Heights feels like a ghost story where it's not exactly one, it's like a ghost on its own.

Old movies tend to have something sinister on them, even comedies. The old B/W Wizard of Oz has always looked like a nightmare to me, even before Dorothy loses consciousness. Charlie Chaplin's The Kid (1921) with Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester in his later carrier!) doesn't look like a comedy but pure tragedy. But it's beautiful. I guess it's the age of these movies.

Just one thing more. For some time it was custom to take pictures of diseased people. Dead children would i.e. be set standing up next to their living brothers and sisters as if they were still alive while it's very clear they're not. Many of those pictures can be found online. Distant horror.
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#10 Guest 2010-03-03 20:39
John Carpenter's Halloween was loaded with them. But two in particular come to mind. Laurie sitting in class looks out the window at a man standing behind a car across the street, unmoving. And later that day as the girls walk home from school, the Shape appears again, next to a hedge at the end of the street. Brilliant
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#11 Guest 2010-03-03 23:37
Scuse me, but what is the point of writing this article? We all are aware of the movies that are listed and I don't see any new information or insight here. This is just a waste of bandwidth.
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#12 twoshedsmcginty 2010-03-03 23:58
Quoting Omicron:
Scuse me, but what is the point of writing this article? We all are aware of the movies that are listed and I don't see any new information or insight here. This is just a waste of bandwidth.


I dunno, Omicron, I thought it was a bit of fun that people might enjoy reading. Sorry you didn't like it. If you check out the place that it was listed at fark.com there's one comment there where someone said that they were unfamiliar with most of the movies in the list and were now interested in checking them out. Great, these are good movies. Why not just ignore what disinterests you? You'll have more fun! :)

/shrug
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#13 Guest 2010-03-11 07:25
Quoting JOHN MORRIS:
Find a TV Movie, possibly from HBO, called WOMAN IN BLACK, or A WOMAN IN BLACK. Late80's early 90's perhaps. The plot is a haunted English estate , modern day. Scariest damn movie I have ever seen on TV!


Agree with you on this one. One of the scariest films I've ever seen and no blood or gore.

When she looks at him through the mist it makes your blood chill.
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#14 Guest 2010-03-21 05:21
As a kid in the Fifties, THE THING scared the beeJeesus out of
me. Later (Spoiler Alert) I learned that James Arness was
the human carrot Thing.
A door is opened and a huge hand reaches in, and the door
is slammed on it, severing it at the wrist. Everyone in the
audience jumped and emitted an audible "Ohhhhh."
Lovely movie in Black and White.
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#15 Guest 2010-03-21 18:48
What? No mention of the scarioest movie of all time? The Exorcist? The shot of the priest looking up at the upstairs window was very forboding.
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#16 Guest 2010-04-28 10:55
How about "Don't Look Now," where Donald Sutherland sees what he thinks is the ghost of his daughter in a red raincoat running through the streets of Venice? Of course it isn't, but when he finds that out, it's just too late....
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#17 Guest 2010-05-13 23:42
One of my favorite all-time mind***** moments is in the 1999 remake of "House on Haunted Hill," where the girl with the video camera is wandering around, then sees an apparition at the other end of a room. The apparition then zips up to her at several hundred times normal human walking speed and turns her into a bloody smudge on the wall. The first time I saw it, it literally took my breath away. Too bad the last third of the movie sucked.
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#18 Jesse 2010-07-30 21:11
Another great "distant horror" movie is the American-made version of "The Ring". The closed circuit TV images of the soon-to-be-victims have this weird, out-of-focus quality to their faces... Creepy. And don't forget the videotape. I actually found the scenes from the videotape to be one of the scariest parts of the film (except for the last sequence, which I had to watch with my hands splayed over my face).
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#19 Tony 2010-08-27 07:24
The Shining was definitely scary, especially the first time around, because you didn't know what would happen, but you knew it wouldn't be pleasant.

One of the 1970's horror movies, Vampire Circus had a gruesome scene, in which someone was trying to escape a village that had the Plague, and running through the woods stumbled across a decomposed body full of maggots.

The swimming pool scene in Poltergeist got to me, when the pool started filling with mirky water and skeletons trying to grab the woman swimming.

I think a lot depends on what state of mind you were in when you watched a movie, the time of day, and also whether you were on your own.
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#20 J 2010-08-28 08:36
There is a really disturbing wide shot in "Castle Freak" when the freak takes a woman back to his chamber in the dungeon. The locked-off camera and wide angle give the shot a creepy documentary feel.

There is another good wide shot in FFC's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" when Dracula is surprised while feeding on Lucy on a stone slab in the back yard.

Don't forget the hallway shot of the first murder in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" when Leatherface hits the fellow over the head with the mallet, drags him through the doorway and then slams the big metal door. **CLANGGG** Freaky!

I feel like there might be a good wide shot in "Pumpkinhead", too, but I can't remember exactly where.

Wide shots are the creepiest. They give the action a sense of dissociation which I'm guessing is in-line with the way murderers and psychopaths experience their acts of violence.
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#21 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies DrSteve 2010-11-29 18:53
The long shot down the hallway in Exorcist III, when the shrouded killer follows the nurse out of the room with a huge pair of spring-loaded boneshears trained on her neck.
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#22 Yes but... twoshedsmcginty 2010-11-29 19:08
Quoting DrSteve:
The long shot down the hallway in Exorcist III, when the shrouded killer follows the nurse out of the room with a huge pair of spring-loaded boneshears trained on her neck.


...as soon as she appeared, they zoomed in, which was the whole point of the shock. That sent me about ten feet out of my cinema seat when I saw it!
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#23 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies sloan 2010-12-16 16:42
My favorite , the breathing door from Robert Wise's 1966 The Haunting.Between that and the spiral starcase scence you couldn't get me in an old building!
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#24 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies robthom 2011-01-23 09:23
Dawn of the dead is pretty close to reality (without actually reanimating corpses yet), IMO.

I wonder how long before we sheeple vote for legislation to reanimate corpses to "do the work that people dont want to do" (IE: For cheaper than the cost of living.)?!
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#25 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Alexander Waverly 2011-01-24 01:19
RE: Top 10 Images of distant horror in the movies:
How about the terrible death of Mr Broadhead in 'Quatermass II' ? Covered in black, smoking slime, he appears screaming at the top of a pressure dome, and staggers agonizingly down the steel stairs, screaming 'Don't touch me!' to the appalled Professor Quatermass. This scene still chills the blood in my veins. Another one that scared the bejesus out of me is from 'Jason & the Argonauts - and I'm surprised nobody else nominated it. It's the scene where Hercules and Hylas have been inside the plinth of the statue named 'TALOS', and despite being told to take nothing but food and water, remove a giant needle that Hercules wants as a javelin. They walk from the statue, and then, with a horrendous metallic screech, Talos turns his head to look at them... I saw this when I was five. And never forgot it. Another Quatermass film, this time 'Quatermass & the Pit'. The image of Hob, the horned devil, glowing eerily over London. How about 'Blade Runner' - JF Sebastian's POV. of Batty's hideous murder of Tyrell, where Tyrell's corpse flops to the floor, and poor Sebastian realises he's next, an inevitability. Hellboy, where the corpse-like Nazi scientist Kroenen [disturbingly horrific to start with], rises from his own autopsy table. 'Frankenstein: the true story' - Dr. Polidori's hideous burnt hands, and his death by lightning on a ship's mast. Brrr! These are a few of my favourites.
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#26 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Jeb 2011-01-28 15:30
The very first appearance of the ghost in Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" gave me goosebumps. It's in the mist, it's not corporeal, and you're not even sure what you see, until you see the eyes.
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#27 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Mike Delicious 2011-02-08 00:12
Quoting Guest:
These are all awesome choices. And I couldn't agree more. All except "The Shining". That movie is boring, terrible, and not scary. No amount of haranguing has, or will ever change my mind.

you're high and should get your human status revoked, have you no soul?
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#28 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies david 2011-02-14 20:59
Quoting Guest:
Find a TV Movie, possibly from HBO, called WOMAN IN BLACK, or A WOMAN IN BLACK. Late80's early 90's perhaps. The plot is a haunted English estate , modern day. Scariest damn movie I have ever seen on TV!

I saw the play while vacationing in London. Never thought a play with only 2 or 3 actors in it could be scary. I was wrong.
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#29 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Tielen 2011-04-15 16:55
Did you guys rip this list without credit from Cracked.com? Because I seem to recall already reading this there ...
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#30 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Tielen 2011-04-15 16:55
Quoting david:
Quoting Guest:
Find a TV Movie, possibly from HBO, called WOMAN IN BLACK, or A WOMAN IN BLACK. Late80's early 90's perhaps. The plot is a haunted English estate , modern day. Scariest damn movie I have ever seen on TV!

I saw the play while vacationing in London. Never thought a play with only 2 or 3 actors in it could be scary. I was wrong.


They've made another movie adaptation of The Woman In Black with Daniel Radcliffe starring. It's being released in the summer or fall I think ... I saw a teaser for it and it looked pretty damn creepy.
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#31 Cracked? Martin Anderson 2011-04-15 17:01
Quoting Tielen:
Did you guys rip this list without credit from Cracked.com? Because I seem to recall already reading this there ...


I'd be interested to see a link for that because - no, I bloody didn't.
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#32 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Irving 143 2011-05-13 22:02
Night of the Living Dead did this in fine style in the opening shots in the cemetery, showing us a zombie lurching along in the distance without giving us any real clue that this was our first hint of the horror to come.
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#33 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies Marc 2011-06-22 03:48
cool topic, good list. definitely missing a few... the wide shot in Halloween of Michael Myers carrying the body of Annie, as viewed by the little kid watching from across the street. and of course, the shot of Mom in the window in Psycho.
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#34 RE: Top 10 images of distant horror in the movies J 2011-08-02 16:27
Quoting Guest:
What about watching the alien in the movie Signs, on the recorded clip, during a b'day party... I am sure many will agree that it was Oh my gasp! moment.


Absolutely. Was my first thought when I read the title. Don't know if it was the view of the alien or the person's reaction to watching it, but whatever it is, is very disturbing.
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#35 Like Jesus mating with Superman Ross Carey 2012-03-02 14:48
Quoting Guest:
I still think that Kathy Bates' nude scene in "About Schmidt" should be #1.

Morf

Amazing!
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