Although it’s become fairly easy to find a horror movie any time of the year, there’s nothing quite like sitting down for a solid spookfest on Halloween. And while not all horror movies are successful in scaring their respective audiences, a few get the job done with aplomb. These are typically the horror films that stand the test of time, and unfortunately nowadays are the ones that get spun-off into numerous sequels (or remakes).
With that in mind, we have pulled together some of our favorite horror movie moments – with a focus on modern films – to remember those rare movie-going experiences where we truly jumped out of our seats.
Here are our selections for the 8 Scary Moments in Modern Horror Movies.
The Scene: After being unable to shake his feelings for Asami, a girl he barely knows but feels a connection to, Aoyama finally decides to give her a call. Upon her answering, the bag that has been sitting still in her apartment finally flails about violently.
Why It Scared Us: Director Takashi Miike has crafted his fair share of creepy moments, but this one takes the cake. Although there are only brief glimpses of Asami in her apartment, hunched over by the phone, it’s hard not to miss the oversized bag in the background. And when the bag finally moves, confirming the audience’s suspicions that Asami is holding a person in the bag, it’s an unexpected yet unnerving moment that only a director like Miike can pull off. Eventually, we discover what’s inside the bag, but just watching the bag move was enough to sufficiently creep us out.
The Scene: Renai (Rose Byrne) wakes up from a nightmare and begins to notice a figure pacing outside of her window. The man continues to pace back and forth outside until he unexpectedly appears in her bedroom.
Why It Scared Us: There are at least half a dozen terrifying moments in the first Insidious (as well as its sequel), but this sequence in particular stands out for several reasons. For starters, there is no build up. The figure simply starts pacing back and forth without so much as a musical cue or even an acknowledgment (at first) from Renai. That in and of itself is pretty disturbing, but when the man magically appears much closer to the frame we were sent over the edge. There’s a reason director James Wan is the new master of horror, and it’s scenes like these that prove it.
Wolf Creek (2005)
The Scene: Liz (Cassandra Magrath) is trying to start one of Mick Taylor’s cars, before the Australian psycho appears behind her and stabs her in the back. Liz’s attempt to flee is futile as Mick slices off several of her fingers and eventually severs her spinal cord, turning her into a “head on a stick.”
Why It Scared Us: The tourists under attack concept has been done to death, and arguably even done better, but this scene from Wolf Creek is still extremely disturbing nonetheless. While the initial appearance of Mick in the backseat sets the scene off, it’s the “head on the stick” portion that has left us scarred for life. Can you imagine being completely incapacitated while a mass-murdering psychopath like Mick hovers above you?
The Scene: Merrill Hess (Joaquin Phoenix) is watching a news broadcast that purports to have first hand footage of the alien visitors from the film. The big reveal comes and several kids are in the way, until the crowd parts and, plain as day, an alien walks across the screen.
Why It Scared Us: Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan in recent years, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t remember this scene from Signs. Up to that point in the film, Shyamalan had been dealing in smoke and mirrors, merely suggesting an extraterrestrial presence without actually showing one. But when it finally comes time for the “money shot,” he delivers. Yes, some would argue that the film falls apart from there, but the initial shock was still hard to shake off.
The Scene: After discovering the demonically-possessed Tristiana in the attic, reporter Angela Vidal is trying desperately to escape until she trips and drops the camera. As she crawls towards the night vision-enhanced frame, something grabs hold of Angela and drags her away.
Why It Scared Us: While there are very few differences between [REC] and the 2008 English-language remake Quarantine, we prefer this Spanish language film simply because it was the first. Both films have this shocking ending, and both films pull it off effectively. It’s just a shame that the Quarantine trailers ruined the surprise. As a whole, the film showed that the found-footage and horror genres were perfectly suited for each other – even if that meant some sacrifices along the way. More importantly, though, [REC] found new ways to make audiences jump by playing around with the live footage conceit. And the film’s ending in particular showcased just how terrifying that conceit can be.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
The Scene: After several nights of creepy noises, sleepwalking, and footsteps, the paranormal force that is haunting Micah and Katie finally grabs hold of Katie and drags her away.
Why It Scared Us: One of the main reasons the Paranormal Activity franchise is so lucrative is its micro budget. Made for only $15,000, this first film had little to work with, but was an effective horror film nonetheless. That being said, the film does pull a little CGI trickery here and there, most obviously in this scene towards the end of the film. The scares up until this point had been subtle, whereas this moment takes things in a decidedly aggressive direction, ramping up the intensity until the final frame. Footprints on the ground are one thing, but being pulled from bed by an invisible demon is terrifying.
The Descent (2005)
The Scene: Our intrepid spelunking crew takes roll with a night vision camera and discovers there group includes one albino demon creature too many.
Why It Scared Us: The Descent takes a lot of common modern horror tropes (claustrophobia, excessive violence, unexplained creatures, strong female protagonists) but it uses them to great effect. Like that scene from Insidious, this moment manifests without fanfare or buildup, it simply happens. But once the creature appears, there is no reprieve; the film puts the pedal even closer to the floor. The Descent is a pulse-pounding ride that kicks off with this jump scare and never lets go, and it’s easily one of the best horror films of the 21st century.
The Ring (2002)
The Scene: Noah (Martin Henderson) watches helplessly as Samara crawls up from her well, across the field, and out of the TV before revealing her water-damaged face and killing him.
Why It Scared Us: A lot of the moments on our list made the cut because they subvert expectations, or are just so unbearably horrifying they left us scarred for days, but this scene from the 2002 English-language remake of The Ring is scary because it transpires almost exactly as the audience expects. We see Samara inching closer to the TV and we know she’s going to come out of it, but we refuse to believe it. So when she does finally break that digital plane, it’s a very real fear (that terrible event could occur in our own home theater) that grips the viewer. It’s a shame director Gore Verbinski turned his attention to big-budget blockbusters, because The Ring is an excellent modern horror film.
8 Scary Moments in Modern Horror Movies
Of course, picking a scary scene or moment is completely subjective. Some people can go through an entire movie without flinching, while others cower behind their significant other for the duration of a film. But these are some of the moments in more recent films that left us terrified.
Now it’s your turn: what are some of your favorite scary moments from modern horror films? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina