So you don’t like horror movies. That shouldn’t be a problem. Just turn on a flick that has nothing to do with the horror genre and you’re home free, right? Wrong. Many filmmakers sneak in terrifying scenes in even the most seemingly innocent movies. Here are some of the spookiest, most disturbing, most hands-to-cheeks-scream-inducing scenes in non-horror films.
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure – Large Marge
For most of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, we follow eternal manchild Pee-wee Herman on a charmingly whimsical quest to find his bicycle. But then, director Tim Burton reminds us that, hey, it’s Tim Burton directing this stinkin’ movie, and it needs to be a little spooky. Enter Large Marge, a truck driver who manages to make abrupt transformations scarier than a Michael Bay franchise.
Hercules – Swimming In Souls
I had a love/hate relationship with Hercules growing up. I loved nearly everything about it — James Woods’ hilarious performance as Hades, the catchy girl-group-inspired songs, the totally badass Hydra fight — but I hated, hated, hated this scene. Emotionally, I get it. Hercules must dive into the river of souls to reclaim Meg. But viscerally, when Herc starts decaying and morphing into a skeletal old man, I still have to close my eyes.
Watership Down – The Fight Is On
Just because Watership Down is an animated film about talking bunnies does not mean it’s for kids. I learned this the hard way after watching the Criterion Collection print of this film and literally shouting at the screen during the several bloody fights that take place. Nature is tough, you guys.
Mulholland Drive – Winkie’s Diner
Some folks may argue that all of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is a horror film — if you ask me, it’s a mind-bendingly confusing noir and not pure horror — but there’s no ambiguity in this insanely terrifying depiction of a waking nightmare. Lynch is playing on expert mode — the big scare occurs in broad daylight and we’re told exactly what will happen before it happens, yet it still manages to shock.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – That Boat Ride
This is the moment when Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka transformed from “fun eccentric uncle” to “murderously dark eccentric uncle”. We’re not saying Wonka should’ve lost his boating license after taking these kids on this horrifically psychedelic ride through the abyss, but he could’ve at least offered life jackets.
Space Jam – And You’ll Always Lose
Maybe it’s just me, but this brief-yet-scarring depiction of what would happen if the Toon Squad lost to the Monstars, featuring Michael Jordan in servitude, still freaks me out. The surreal colors, the exaggerated shadows, the surprisingly accurate depiction of MJ’s mustache — when it comes to my confidence in the fact that I’m watching a kids movie, that’s all, folks!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – The Dip
When Christopher Lloyd, the charmingly bumbling Doc Brown himself, appears in a live-action/cartoon hybrid featuring your favorite animated characters, you don’t necessarily expect him to be a terrifying villain hellbent on murdering toons. And yet here we are, watching him mercilessly put a hopelessly innocent cartoon shoe into a vat of nightmare fuel. I tought I taw my childhood get ruined; I did, I did tee my childhood get ruined!
Mortal Kombat – You Will Be Next
I know the film Mortal Kombat inside and out. For a time in my childhood, I watched it every weekend. It is inordinately important to me. And yet, when Shang Tsung transforms into that dang skull, I still get nerve receptors in my body shouting, “Look away! Look away or you will be next!” In a world full of Reptiles, spears coming out of hands, and ambiguous accents from Christopher Lambert, this opening image is the spookiest of all.
Spider-Man 2 – In The Hospital
About halfway through the big-budget Tobey Maguire Spider-Man sequel, director Sam Raimi seemingly wanted to remind everyone that he got his start in low-budget horror. From the trademark Raimi crash-zooms, to the tentacle POV shots, this sequence is custom-designed to terrify comic book fans everywhere. If you ask me, the scariest part about this scene is Doc Ock’s lack of movement; this is the moment when his villainry consumed him entirely.
The Fellowship of the Ring – Bilbo Would Really Like That Ring, Please
Ah, the weekend of December 19, 2001. The first installment of the widely-anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings drops in theaters, enchanting viewers both young and olSWEET GIMLI’S AXE WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED TO BILBO’S FACE? HE WAS NORMAL JUST TWO SECONDS AGO AND NOW HE’S A MONSTER-HOBBIT? GET OUT OF THERE, FRODO, RUN FOR YOUR TINY LIFE! Um. Anyway. Where was I? Ah, yes, the LOTR trilogy is good.
Which scene spooked you the most? What non-horror movie moment did we miss? Also, if you follow my Twitter, I promise there will be no jump scares whatsoevAH WHAT’S THAT BEHIND YOU?!