For MovieMaker‘s 2016 Guide to Making Horror Movies special edition, we set out to identify what makes some of the scariest scenes of all time quite so terrifying.

So we asked a few fright-meisters to share their personal picks for “scariest scene of all time,” and try to explain why those moments were so effective. We’ll post one response every Friday in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Today, Christopher Landon, writer-director of the upcoming horror-comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, dredges up his deepest cinematic fears.

Christopher Landon

Christopher Landon

Christopher Landon: “I’m going to stray from the horror classics for this question and veer toward a lesser-known gem called Alice, Sweet Alice (1976). Directed by Alfred Sole, it’s a low-budget slasher flick that scared the crap out of me as a kid. There’s a scene in the movie where Alice is being preyed on by her pervy neighbor while the story’s real killer lurks in the lobby of the building, waiting for her next victim. The killer wears a translucent mask and a yellow raincoat—simple but creepy. We keep cross-cutting between Alice upstairs and the killer waiting below, until Alice’s aunt is attacked as she comes down the stairs.

The scene always stuck with me for two important reasons. One, it builds gradually until the attack—pacing is everything when it comes to suspense. Two, the scene encapsulates the film’s unnerving tone, combining well-drawn characters, themes of guilt and obsession, and an unusual slant on Catholicism rarely seen in American films. I love this one because it doesn’t pander to the audience. There’s no score, no CGI. It’s effective on its own terms and I have always found this movie really inspiring.” MM

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse opens in theaters October 30, 2015, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.