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, the co-directors of child-zombie horror-comedy Cooties, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, dredge up their deepest cinematic fears.
Cary Murnion: “The scene that truly scares the living daylights out of me is the ‘Child Catcher’ scene from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Two kids are innocently playing in a basement of a house, waiting for their father to come back. We hear the “merry” sound of the Child Catcher, which will forever make me recoil in fright. He prances and dances his way around the town square, luring the children out into the open with promises of ice cream and candy. He’s wretched-looking: long, scraggly, greasy black hair. Beady eyes. A tall black top hat. The black clothes of a funeral director hidden beneath a brightly colored robe. He’s evil incarnate. We all know it.
The scene is built up with an unsettling mix of that merry tune with ominous drones, and the incessant ringing of his fucking little bell! The kids first try to resist going out, but—candy! Candy is always the downfall of all children. Watching that scene again now makes my stomach drop and all moisture in my mouth evaporate. The juxtaposition of disparate sounds, along with the contrast of this perilous situation within this mostly breezy film, were great lessons for me on how to create something that’s visibly and audibly frightening. It can last decades, if it’s done the right way.”
Jonathan Milott: “The initial fight in the club and the rape scene in Irreversible (2002) by Gaspar Noé are constructed with diametrically opposed strategies. The club scene is a barrage of cinematic techniques—the undulating throbbing pulsating soundscape by Thomas Bangalter, called ‘Rectum,’ is set against free-floating camerawork that spins, flies and twists. The scene’s tension is relentless, built toward the visceral fight, where an arm is bent backward at the elbow and a skull is caved in with a fire extinguisher. The style works to overwhelm the senses, which contrasts with the nine-minute, no-music static shot during the rape—a much less subjective experience. Noé’s non-technique here creates a thought-provoking, powerful and ultimately horrifying scene.” MM
Cooties opens in theaters September 18, 2015, courtesy of Lionsgate Premiere.