Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Unforgerrifying. Sorry, but I've made up a new word. I'm not sure it will catch on. Basically, I wanted to use terrifying, but it all depends on how you define the word when it comes to film. So, instead of compiling separate lists for the best short sharp shocks, scenes of creeping tension, or long, lingering shots of something so wrong that it mentally scars you forever, I decided to throw them all in together, scrap it out, and form thirty of the most shocking and unforgettable moments in world cinema. Here's part one...

The list is contestable (understand that I’m always right), but that only works if you tell us where I went wrong. I’m quite happy to admit an oversight or two, so feel free to chip in with a few of your own; we’re always open to more sleepless nights. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin with part one. Oh, and what you’re about to read may contain spoilers. Fortunately, it still won’t prepare you for some very uncomfortable evenings…

30. Don’t Look Now (1973), Nicolas Roeg

Directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as a married couple who travel to Venice following the recent accidental death of their daughter, Don’t Look Now was adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier. A psychological thriller, the film is best known for two terrifying moments. One sees John following an elusive figure - who he thinks is his daughter - to a deserted palazzo, cornering it before an ugly revelation, but the scene that starts us off actually happens at the very beginning of this memorable movie; the cheerless drowning of their young child – truly heart-breaking.

29. Dark Water (2002), Hideo Nakata

Ignore the inferior Hollywood remake, the Japanese original directed by Hideo Nakata, based on a short story by Koji Suzuki called Floating Water, follows a divorced mother who moves into a rundown apartment with her daughter, only to experience supernatural occurrences and a mysterious water leak from the floor above. Okay, so the last part sounds rubbish but trust me, this film has its fair share of chills.

The best, and making the top thirty, occurs when mother Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) intends to escape the chaos with her daughter, rushing into the elevator, fleeing from the apparition of a missing child called Mitsuko. But as the elevator door closes she sees that the figure pursuing her is in fact her own daughter, which begs the question, who the hell is she carrying? 

28. Nosferatu (1922), F.W. Murnau

They couldn’t obtain the rights to the novel Bram Stoker’s Dracula, forcing name changes (vampire became Nosferatu and Count Dracula became Count Orlok), but the greatest Dracula film of all time was surprisingly made way back in 1922. And yes, this is it – how did you guess? Directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, ignore the poor acting and grating score, remember that horror cinema was in its infancy, and imagine watching the scene when the haunting shadow of Nosferatu, a far cry from the handsome Christopher Lee, climbs the staircase. Then rush out and proclaim that Schreck must be a real vampire. He’s lucky he wasn’t hanged.

27. The Ordeal (2004), Fabrice Du Welz

A psychological horror directed by Fabrice Du Welz, starring Laurent Lucas, Philippe Nahon and Jackie Berroyer, The Ordeal (its original title is Calvaire) is a strange beast. Not that such a declaration would put off the locals. Considering that the film boasts scenes of bestiality, rape and pornography, it’s odd that its most enduring scene involves a bunch of locals dancing. And yet, throw in an old piano and some polka music and what follows is one of the craziest, creepiest and most celebrated musical numbers in the history of horror.

26. Who Can Kill A Child? (1976), Narciso Ibanez Serrador

Also released as Island Of The Damned, but not to be confused with the laughable Island Of Death (1977), Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s slow-burner is delightfully nasty and wonderfully tense; a must-see psychological horror revelling in a couple’s isolation when they find an island inhabited by maniacal children. Think real-life Chucky’s; an entire army of the little brats. Apparently they just want to play, but human piñata is not a game most adults would be willing to participate in. In fact, every other adult has already been killed by the children.

The most memorable scene, and there are many to choose from, happens when Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) is trapped in a room after her husband Tom (Lewis Flander) has reluctantly shot a child. Unknown to her, normal children can change into sadistic whippersnappers simply by making eye contact with the local cherubs, or by the art of telepathy, which isn’t ideal when you’re carrying an unborn child…

25. Ring 0: Birthday (2000), Norio Tsuruta

People seem to have forgotten about this prequel to the excellent Ringu (1998). When I say people, I mean Hollywood, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Neither is Tsuruta’s movie, focusing on more reporters struck down during and after a widely publicised demonstration of parapsychological power by one Yananura Shizuko. The fiancé of the first man to succumb seeks answers, determined to find whoever, or whatever, is responsible.

Shedding light over the mysterious video tape from the original, Ring 0 makes interesting viewing, and just like Hideo Nakata’s first outing, manages to scare the hell out of us with a masterful scene. At Sadako's old home the reporter Miyaji (Yoshiko Tanaka) seeks a hiding place as she protects another girl. Trying to barricade them in, she soon realises that she’s too late and that they aren’t alone. Forced into a corner, the pair can barely look, and neither can we, as we wait, and wait, for the brittle Sadako to reappear and let her hair down.             

24. Un Chien Andalou (1929), Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí

You’ll only have to endure this short film for sixteen minutes, but if you can’t even spare that much time to watch a surreal film lacking in plot but presenting a series of unrelated scenes, skip to one moment in particular. A middle-aged man (Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests it on his thumb while gazing at the moon that’s about to be crossed by a cloud. We cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man but she calmly stares straight ahead. As the moon is overcome by the cloud the man slits the woman's eye with the razor, and considering this is 1929, the vital fluid that spills out from it is gloriously grisly.

23. The Eye (2002), The Pang Brothers

Ignore the inferior Hollywood remake and plump for the far superior original about a woman called Mun (Angelica Lee), blind since the age of two, who undergoes an eye cornea transplant after receiving a pair of new eyes from a donor. If you haven’t yet seen The Eye (good one me) you can probably guess which direction we’re heading in, but you would be wrong. Mysterious figures foretelling gruesome deaths in all kinds of creepy ways are only the start of it; the explosive finale a surprising but welcome respite from the chills.

That being said, the film’s finest moment arrives when Mun enters an empty elevator. The presence of another person inside the lift, and a quick glance over her shoulder confirming it, begins the torment. What follows is a brilliantly executed scene with close-ups that linger uncomfortably, alternating between the ascending lighted floor numbers and Mun’s distressed face, as a blurry figure hovers behind her, turning to reveal his horrifically scarred face. And then the lift stops at floor thirteen…   

22. The Brood (1979), David Cronenberg

Children do the funniest things, don’t they? The Brood is a 1979 horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, and Art Hindle. The plot surrounds a series of murders committed by what seems at first to be a group of children. But these are no ordinary sprogs. These are the psychosomatic offspring of a mentally disturbed woman called Nola. They respond and act on the targets of her rage. Nola (Eggar) also happens to be legally embattled with her husband Frank (Hindle) for custody of their five year-old daughter Candice.

Even though Nola might be able to lick her unwanted offspring in a fair fight, Ruth (Susan Hogan), a primary school teacher in charge of Candice’s class, sadly cannot. Clad in snow-jackets that hide most of their deformed features, two dwarf children send Candice away, pick up hammers and – in front of her horrified class – make sure teacher never gives them homework ever again.

21. The Vanishing (1988), George Sluizer

An adaptation of the novel The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbé, directed by George Sluizer and starring Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, The Vanishing is about the disappearance of a young Dutch woman and her lover's obsessive search. Ignore the poorly received remake (how many times will I say that in this feature) and embrace this gripping thriller as Rex (Gene Bervoets) reaches all levels of desperation to find out what has happened to his beloved Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege).

A man called Raymond (Donnadieu), fascinated by Rex's fanatical compulsion to know what happened to Saskia, confronts him and admits to kidnapping her. Rex is told that the only way to learn the truth about what happened is to experience it. Deciding that he has no alternative, Rex drinks the drugged coffee offered to him. While Raymond relaxes at his country home we finally find out, along with Rex, what happened to Saskia. Anyone who suffers from claustrophobia should look away now…

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