It’s hard to believe we are already two decades into the 21st century. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that the miniature, purple, goblin of pop, Prince was ordering us to party like it’s 1999. I did as he requested and I’m still feeling the effects of that hangover twenty years later.
Since we rolled the calenders forward to 2020, I have read a plethora of articles listing what the authors believe to be the best horror movies of the last twenty years and I concluded that I didn’t want to be banging out more of the same, so I figured I would do something a little different.
Buried amongst the mountains of remakes and reboots, the last twenty years have brought us some wonderfully original movies. I originally wanted to pick my favourite scene from a movie for each year of the last twenty, but picking only one scene is so hard so, I limited myself to my favourite three scenes of each year.
To balance things out, considering there has been some serious crap committed to film, I have also picked what I consider being the worst scene of the year.
So, stop what you’re doing. Zip your pants up and come with me as we whizz back through time to revisit the best horror movie scenes of the 21st Century… Oh, and the shittiest.
Catching a Bus
It’s hard to believe now after so many sequels of diminishing quality that Final Destination was not only a refreshingly original idea but also an inspired one.
Having avoided a plane crash, thanks to the visions of one of their schoolmates, the survivors of Flight 180 now find themselves on The Grim Reapers shitlist. One by one they die in tragic circumstances, in the order that they would have died on the plane.
One death stands head and shoulder above the others, and that’s the death of Terry (Amanda Detmer). Having grown tired of hearing about how they are all doomed to die, Terry gives them an ultimatum, they either start living, or they can all drop dead. With this, she steps into the road and SPLAT! Terry explodes in a shower of blood and gore as she is hit by a speeding bus.
It’s brilliant in its execution as the viewer never sees it coming.
Pitch Black was one of those films that came out of nowhere on a shoe-string budget and was so much better than it had any right to be.
The story involves a group of people who are thrown together on a planet after their ship crashes. Not long after their arrival, the planet is plunged into darkness and they become hunted by some nocturnal, winged nasties. Their only hope… A prisoner named Riddick (Vin Diesel) who conveniently has perfect night vision thanks to a specialist eye job he received while in prison.
The best scene of the movie comes at the very start. As the ship travels through space, it falls foul of a bombardment of small meteors that pepper the ship's hull with holes, and ruptures a few of the cryo-tubes in the process, killing the occupants.
As an emergency measure, the ship awakens the surviving crew who must battle to land what's left of the ship as safely as possible on a nearby planet. It’s a hell of a way to throw you into a movie and the film is unrelenting from this point until the end credits.
Oops, sorry, Trina
Ginger Snaps is possibly one of the best Werewolf films of all time, and this is largely down to its leads, Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins. Ginger (Isabelle) and Brigitte (Perkins) are sisters who, while walking home one night, are attacked by a large wolf. Brigitte escapes unharmed but Ginger isn’t so lucky.
Over time, Ginger displays some worrying side effects from the attack as she slowly morphs into a flesh-hungry wolf beast.
In the best scene of the film, a character named Trina arrives at the sisters' house to accuse Ginger of kidnapping her dog. A scuffle breaks out until Trina is accidentally killed when she slips on some spilt milk.
As blood pours from her head wound, the girls hear their mother arrive home and they begin to panic. The camera cuts to Ginger and Brigitte’s mother as she enters the house to find the girls re-enacting one of the staged murder scenes that they set up to photograph throughout the movie. Ginger is lying in the blood while Brigitte pretends to take photos. Trina’s body has been hidden away.
Dr Sigmund Pinhead
Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) is a dirty cop who loves nothing more than indulging in drugs and prostitutes.
While on the hunt for a serial killer known only as The Engineer, Thorne has been having regular therapy sessions with Dr Paul Gregory. In a scene towards the end of the movie, Thorne, at the end of his rope, visits Dr Gregory and soon realises that the good Doctor is, in fact, the killer. Upon being found out, Dr Gregory transforms into none other than lead Cenobite, Pinhead. He has been masquerading as the therapist this whole time. It’s a stupid twist and makes no sense.
I know that many people really dislike Jason’s little adventure in Outer Space. I myself love it. It’s a goofy movie that’s a lot of fun if you turn off your inner critic.
In the film’s best scene, a ridiculously attractive scientist is running a few tests on what she believes to be Jason’s corpse. Of course, we the audience know better. While she isn’t paying attention, Jason jumps up, grabs the back of her head, and shoves it into a sink full of liquid Nitrogen. Instantly flash-freezing her head. He then pulls her out of the sink and slams her head against the counter causing her face to smash into tiny pieces.
It’s not only the best scene in the film but one of the coolest kills in the series.
Cradle of Fear
Let’s be brutally honest here. Cradle of Fear is a bit shit. Cradle of Filth frontman Danny Filth made an anthology horror movie that is pretty hard to sit through because it's just not very good.
One scene that stands out, however, involves a website offering real-time footage of people being attacked and tortured on commands issued by remote users.
The users of the website can select the weapon and manner in which the victim, who is tied to a chair, is dispatched, and then sit back and enjoy the show as a masked man enters the room and kills the victim. It’s an interesting scene amidst a whole host of uninteresting stories.
Brother and sister Darry and Trish have spent the entire movie being chased by the relentless Creeper. About halfway through the film, they stop at an old lady's house that appears to be overrun with cats and beg her to call the police. The woman agrees but then suddenly spots someone standing in her yard. Not one for receiving uninvited guests, The lady runs into the house to fetch her shotgun.
The Creeper follows her inside, and a fight breaks out. Eventually, the lady appears at the door much to Trish and Derry’s relief. The relief is short-lived however when it becomes clear that the woman is dead and being held up by the sinister Creeper who throws her aside, finally revealing his terrifying, inhuman face.
Ghost of Mars
Ghosts of Mars is, without doubt, John Carpenter’s worst film. I have seen it a few times and have no idea how to briefly explain its plot to anyone who hasn’t seen it.
It’s essentially about a bunch of soldiers and a prisoner played by the ever awful Ice Cube who are stuck on Mars and under attack by some Aliens who look like they are on their way to a Black Metal fancy dress party.
In the worst scene of the film, our heroes are tooling up with weapons when one of the party decides to show off how sharp his knife is by slicing a can clean in half. As he brings the blade down, he realises he has made an almighty cock-up and took his thumb off. As Ice Cube looks on while laughing, the rough, tough knife enthusiast passes out.
Personally, I would rather slice my thumb off than have to sit through this garbage again.
Dog Soldiers was an instant classic upon release. I knew very little about it on first viewing other than that it involved werewolves and that Total Film Magazine had called it the British Evil Dead. Needless to say, I watched it and instantly fell in love with it.
Having been caught out at sundown, an army unit, while on manoeuvres in the Scottish highlands find themselves besieged by werewolves. As they try to flee, their platoon leader, Sgt Wells (Sean Pertwee) is attacked and disembowelled. As he is helped to safety by Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) he insists that he can't push his guts back in because they won’t fit.
Once in the relative safety of an old abandoned cottage, Private Cooper sets about fixing Well’s injuries with the aid of superglue and a bottle of scotch as an anaesthetic. A very drunk Wells looks down at his exposed intestines and drops the immortal clanger, “Sausages,” before being punched out in an act of mercy by Cooper.
Hall of Lasers
The Resident Evil films are a hit and miss affair. For some ungodly reason I have sat through them all and it’s fair to say that no matter how bad the film is, they do generally have one or two good scenes in each instalment.
The first film has one such scene, and it’s so brilliant, you wonder why it was never done before.
Our team of heroes, led by Alice (Milla Jovovich) head down a brightly lit hallway to reach the centre of The Hive and shut off The Red Queen, an intelligent computer system that has them trapped underground with a bunch of flesh-hungry zombies.
As Alice reaches a room at the end of the hall, a door shuts behind her, trapping her comrades in the hall. She then watches helplessly as lasers travel down the hallway, cutting down anything in their path. At first, the party are able to dodge each one until they become more intense. Having evaded the lasers so far, one soldier meets a grizzly end when the lasers form an unavoidable grid and dice him into tiny man chunks.
28 Days later
London (Not) Calling
A zombie film by the director of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting? Yes please, was my gleeful answer back in 2002, and it did not disappoint. Okay, it’s not exactly a zombie movie. More a film about an outbreak of an epidemic called Rage, which is essentially super rabies.
The film starts with a group of animal rights activists trying to liberate chimpanzees from a research centre in Cambridge. They ignore warnings that the chimps are infected and pretty soon all hell breaks loose.
Skip forward 28 days and we meet our protagonist, Jim. He awakens from a coma having been run over by a car some time ago. He immediately realises that something is wrong because the hospital is completely abandoned. Throwing on a pair of scrubs, Jim heads out into the big smoke only to find that not a soul is to be seen.
The beauty of the scene is that anyone who has spent any time in London knows that it’s rammed with people day and night. So, to witness the streets of our capital devoid of crowds is an eerie and extraordinary sight. As Jim passes overturned buses and strolls across an empty tower bridge, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something terrible has happened.
Everybody was kung fu fighting.
When Halloween H20 was released back in 1998, I flocked to the cinema to see it. Having been a lifelong fan of the series, I was excited to see another instalment and despite its flaws; I enjoyed it and do to this day.
Discovering that a followup was on its way, I was sceptical. I mean, hadn’t Laurie chopped his head off at the end of H20?
Resurrection is bad. Like, really bad. It doesn’t have one single scene that saves it from being complete trash. So, you would think picking one bad scene from a film made up of bad scenes would be hard. You would be wrong.
Having dressed up as Michael Myers to scare contestants on his reality tv show that just so happens to be taking place in the old Myers house, Busta Rythmes (yep, you heard me right) bumps into the real Michael who has returned home to do a little more killing. Does Busta flee as any sensible soul would? Hell no. He channels his inner Jackie Chan and takes on Micky with some Kung Fu. I’m not making this up. If you haven’t seen it yet you should hunt this scene out because had I not seen it, I wouldn’t believe me either.
Final Destination 2
The Freeway Pile-Up
Final Destination 2 might be my favourite of the series. With part one we had the catalyst for everything that takes place being a plane crash. In part two, it’s a pile-up on a freeway. And what a beautifully orchestrated scene it is too.
Caused by a log falling from the back of a lorry, the carnage that follows is a joy to behold. A motorcyclist is cut in half by his bike. A kid in his T-bird burns alive while watching a truck come barrelling towards him. It’s a brilliantly constructed sequence and all the more frightening because unlike the events in the other movies, road accidents happen every day.
In the film that put Alexandre Aja on the map, Marie accompanies her friend Alex home for a study weekend at Alex’s parent's house. Later that night as everyone has settled down for the night, well, everyone except Marie who is busy paddling the pink canoe (masturbating to the layperson).
There is a knock at the door and Alex’s father goes to open it, unaware that they are being paid a late-night visit by a serial killer. Mr killer slashes Dad across the face before forcing his head between two rungs of the bannister where it becomes stuck. He then rather inventively shoves a bookcase towards daddy dearest’s head, decapitating him.
Once the dad is disposed of its off upstairs to slash mummy’s throat while Marie hides in a wardrobe and watches. With that, the killer kidnaps Alex and drives away with Marie in hot pursuit. It’s all wonderfully gory and vicious. A style that Aja soon became famous for with his The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha remakes.
House of 1000 Corpses
A Bungled Robbery
Rob Zombie’s debut starts with two ski-masked men brandishing guns and storming into a gas station to rob the joint. So far so standard. It’s at this point assumptions are made and the masked bandits are to be believed to be the villains of the piece. Well, if you thought that, you would be wrong.
These masked imbeciles have decided to rob the wrong business, as this establishment is owned by none other than Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) a clown with a foul mouth and an even fouler temper.
After an exchange of colourful insults, the scene ends with the robber brains painted all over the gas station floor. In the words of the captain, “and most of all, fuck you!”
Freddy Vs Jason
Freddy Vs Jason is not a bad movie. There is plenty to enjoy, watching these two horror icons go at each other. My main complaint would be that, because the film is pitched around a battle to the death of two of horrors most renowned characters, all the human characters exist solely because they have too.
Once the battle commences, however, you won’t care. It’s a shame that before this happens we have to endure the worst scene that 2003 has to offer.
A character (whose name I can’t remember, so I’m just going to call him Fat Jay, due to his resemblance of Jay from Jay and Silent Bob) is busy smoking some weed. As he takes a puff, a peculiar, badly animated centipede-like creature with Freddy’s face appears and sits down to take a hit on a bong. It then disappears before reappearing on the ceiling. As Fat Jay looks up in astonishment, the Freddypede plunges into his mouth, so that Freddy can possess Fat Jay.
Face to Face
If you have somehow missed Creep, it’s a fantastic British horror movie about a young woman who accidentally gets locked in the London Underground overnight. As she looks for a way out she soon realises that something sinister is down there with her.
Kate (Franka Potente) finds herself running down a dark corridor. Something is chasing her, but she doesn’t know what. As the lights have turned out, she uses a torch to light her way. In a panic, Kate dives behind a unit and turns her torch off, hoping to use the cover of darkness to hide.
What seems like a few minutes of darkness passes before Kate decides to turn her torch back on. As she does so, the audience is seated in Kates POV. The torch clicks on and there, right in front of her is the face of the thing that’s been stalking her. Hideous and deformed and mere inches from Kate’s face. It’s an incredibly startling scene.
Dawn of the Dead
To Hell in a handbasket (The Opening)
Before 2004, if anyone had asked me “Would I like to see a remake of Dawn of the Dead?” my answer would have been “Fuck no!”
Strange then that I consider it to be one of the best remakes of recent years. Even stranger, because it’s the only film directed by Zack Snyder that I can stomach.
This attitude adjustment to the remake is thanks to the opening segment where we witness civilization begin to crumble.
Ana (Sarah Polley) is a nurse who returns home after her shift to spend an evening curled up in bed with her boyfriend. As they lay asleep that evening, they are both woken by the sudden arrival of the little girl who lives next door. She appears to be badly injured so Ana’s boyfriend jumps out of bed to see to her while Ana rings for an ambulance. With that the girl sinks her teeth into the boyfriend's neck, tearing out a chunk of flesh and fatally wounding him. Ana runs to his aid but is unable to save him. As she stops to take in what is happening, her boyfriend who is supposedly dead attacks her forcing Ana to shut herself in the bathroom.
Ana escapes through the window and gets into her car, just in time for her boyfriend to exit the house and start chasing. As she drives away, her boyfriend is distracted by the sudden appearance of a neighbour. He changes direction and murders the unsuspecting neighbour instead. It becomes apparent to Ana that all hell has broken loose. Her neighbourhood is overrun with these attacks and as she heads along the main road a tanker narrowly
misses her, crashing into a gas station and exploding. Smoke billows from the city ahead.
As film openings go, it certainly has you hooked from the offset.
Regardless of how lazy and trashy the franchise became, there is no denying just how great and original the first film was. Saw was a game-changer and went on to inspire an entire subgenre, unofficially known as Torture Porn.
Having endured watching the films two lead characters (Dr Gordon and Adam) desperately try and find a way of escaping their situation we are then subjected to a twist that nobody saw coming.
Dr Gordon, upon discovering that the hacksaw was never meant to cut through his chains decides to cut his foot off. After removing the appendage he escapes the room, promising to send help for Adam. Once he has left Adam looks on in horror as the corpse that has been laying in the room the whole time stands up. It turns out that their captor has been masquerading as the dead body this whole time so that he could keep an eye on his prisoner’s. He is in fact that Jigsaw Killer.
As Dr Gordon made the ultimate sacrifice to escape and Adam chickened out, Adam has sealed his own fate and is doomed to die in the dark, cold bathroom where he has spent the entire movie chained up. Jigsaw exits the room and looks back once last time, delivering the immortal line “Game over,” before slamming the door shut and leaving Adam to perish.
Mr Hyde and Seek
Van Helsing is another of those films comprised of one bad scene after another. It could have been so good. Sadly, it wasn’t. Not even Hugh Jackman at the height of his Wolverine fame could save it from being a flop.
When we first meet Van Helsing, he is at Notre Dame fighting Mr Hyde. Why Mr Hyde and not Quasimodo?
What makes this scene particularly appalling is the horrific special effects on display. Mr Hyde looks utterly ridiculous and sets the tone for everything that follows. It’s a bad start to a lousy movie.
Crawler in the viewfinder
The Descent makes for intense viewing long before the Crawlers show up. The claustrophobic location and clever use of light and shadows have you on the edge of your seat before the antagonists of the film have even tasted flesh.
We have followed the six women as they have descended deep into a cave. They have become lost, got stuck and they now have to contend with one of their party suffering a compound leg fracture having fallen into a hole.
As their batteries run down plunging them into darkness, they turn on their camera’s night vision to help find a way out. As the camera pans the room, they discover they are standing on endless piles of animal bones. The girls panic and as the camera sweeps back over the group, with no warning a monstrous figure appears directly behind them.
It’s a heart-stopping moment that leads the gang into a chaotic fight for survival as they find themselves under attack by a legion of carnivorous, cave-dwelling creatures.
Head on a Stick
Having travelled cross-country to the titular Wolf Creek Crater, Ben, Liz and Kristy return to their car to find that it won't start. They bed down for the night hoping to find help in the morning. During the night they are approached by the strange yet seemingly helpful Mick Taylor.
Mick is a rough-and-ready outback native who gives them a tow back to his yard so he can fix their car while they have a place to sleep. Turns out trusting Mick was a colossal mistake as he is a serial killer who has been murdering backpackers for some time.
Liz escapes and ends up in a garage full of cars that Mick has acquired. She jumps in a car hoping to use it to get away, but Mick is already in the back seat and he stabs her with his knife.
As she crawls, bleeding, out of the car Mick swipes at her again cutting her fingers off. He then explains to her how miners used to stop their slaves from running off with the diamonds by creating something called a head on a stick. He grabs Liz and drives his knife into her back, severing her spinal cord so that he can interrogate her without her running off. “See,” he says. “Head on a stick.”
The Devils Rejects
A Blaze of Glory
In Rob Zombie’s follow up to House of 1000 Corpses, the murderous Firefly family find themselves on the run from the vengeful Sheriff Wydell. They made the mistake of killing his brother in the first movie, and now the Sheriff wants payback.
Having been tied up and tortured, Baby, Otis and Captain Spaulding have gotten away thanks to their deformed brother, Tiny. They head off to freedom in Spaulding’s Cadillac, beaten and bruised until Otis brings the car to a stop. An armed police roadblock has been set up ahead. Rather than give up, The Firefly clan decide to go out in style and as Otis hits the throttle, they head off, guns blazing. As the bullets fly and make contact on both sides, it looks like curtains for our antiheroes.
The scene is accompanied by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird blasting over the soundtrack. It’s a hell of a cool way to end the movie.
The Ring 2
While remakes can be a shoddy affair, 2002s The Ring was a decent attempt at bringing Hideo Nakata’s Japanese horror movie to a western audience. Why people can’t just read the subtitles and watch the original is beyond me.
Having survived the events of the first film, Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son find themselves once again troubled by the evil Samara. This time, Samara has set her sights on possessing young Aiden (David Dorfman). One side effect of this possession is that animals get very pissy when exposed to Samara.
As Rachel and David are driving home from a county fair, they suddenly fall afoul of the local wildlife. Deer emerge from the woods and begin attacking the car. This is not just any deer. We are talking CGI deer. Terrible CGI deer. The whole scene is ludicrous and the film, while not great anyway, would have fared better without it.
The Hills Have Eyes
The Hills Have Eyes is a rare example of a remake that is better than the original. Sorry Wes Craven, but I stand by my statement.
Having broken down in the desert after taking a shortcut, Big Bob (Ted Levine) and his family are stranded and helpless.
Big Bob wanders off to try to reach a gas station and get some help while his family settles down for the evening. Things go from bad to worse when Bob is captured by the head of a clan of cannibal mountain men.
The family wake up to the sound of screaming and run out to discover Bob has been set alight and they desperately try to put him out but it's too late and Bob burns to death.
Meanwhile, two of the mountain men invade the caravan. The youngest daughter, Brenda is raped by the hideously deformed Pluto, while her older sister, Linda is forced to breastfeed the demented and equally deformed Lizard, before being shot in the head. The cannibals then make off with Linda’s baby.
It’s a tough scene to watch, but that’s about what I would expect from the director of Switchblade Romance.
Hall of Nurses
Silent Hill is the only video game to film adaption I have ever liked. I mean really liked. It’s a cracking movie based on a great series of games.
Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) is stuck in the deserted town of Silent Hill, searching desperately for her daughter.
During the day, she has the constant foggy atmosphere generated by the fire that constantly burns beneath the town to contend with. At night things become much worse. As the sun goes down, Sirens blast to let you know to take shelter. It’s once the darkness falls that things get worse as the town is besieged by freaky monsters.
One such encounter, see’s Rose open a door to a hallway full of weird, bloodied nurses whose features are obscured by bandages. To navigate the hall, Rose needs to slip past the nurses without making contact. Every time she bumps into one, they slash at her with scalpels.
It’s a wonderfully creepy scene made even more so by the nurse's freakish movements.
Something’s wrong with me
When it comes to gross-out, comedy, body horror you can’t go far wrong with Slither.
A small town is overrun with extraterrestrial slug parasites that latch on to people, turning them into carnivorous mutants.
During a manhunt, the police, led by Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) come across a barn. On opening the doors they are shocked to discover local resident Brenda. She is inhumanly bloated in a way that would put Mr Creosote to shame. She is also ridiculously hungry, having been eating any animal that wanders by.
With her skin stretched beyond its physical limit, Brenda eventually explodes in a shower of gore and Larvae that had been living inside her.
The Wicker Man
Not the Bees
When it comes to remaking a much loved, classic horror movie, how do you set about trying to improve on what has come before? Well, in the case of The Wicker Man, you can’t, so you don’t.
The Wicker Man remake is a laughable disaster from start to finish. When I say laughable, I mean unintentionally so.
Having taken him hostage, the looney villagers drag Nicholas Cage’s hapless detective to his doom. Before sealing him inside the giant, sacrificial Wicker Man of the title, however, they place a wicker basket over his head and pour in a swarm of angry bees. Cue some seriously hammy overacting on Cage’s part as he screams “Noooo, not the bees.” I’m pretty sure the filmmakers never intended for this scene to be funny. It is, however, sidesplittingly so.