It tends not to be just the over-the-top, gross special effects that make it onto this list — under-stated horror or the small set—pieces can be just as effective. So here’s a list of all-time classics, that have the same effect on me no matter how often I see them.
1) Jaws — The moment when they’re exploren the sunken boat and the severed head pops out of the port-hole.
2) Alien — Yes, THAT scene! John Hurt, the name actor, and a good bet to survive to the end of the film collapses at the table. Then his chest explodes. A masterpiece of shock.
3) Cat People — The zoo-keeper getting his arm ripped off by a panther in an almost entirely unexpected and horribly realistic manner.
4) Hellraiser – A couple hear a noise in the attic and go to investigate – when they get there they hear rats squeaking and assume this is what is responsible. But the camera pans round to reveal the rats, nailed to the wall…
5) The Gruesome Twosome – A girl is cut in two, but a long, lingering shot converts her assailant playing with her intestines from a brief moment of unpleasantess into a real squirmer.
6) The Thing — In this film, probably unbeaten for pure Shock Quantity, my ‘favourite’ bit is where they are carrying out blood tests using a hot wire, and the blood of a victim leaps out of the dish and scuttles about the floor.
7) The Fly — Brundlefly’s ear coming away in his hand and also when he squeezes his fingernails off in this masterpiece of visceral horror.
8) Re-Animator – Strangely, the scene that gets me is the brain operation performed by the lecturer. Everything else I can handle, but this? Ugghh!
9) Lethal Weapon – Mel Gibson being tortured by the guy wielding the electric prods. Shudder.
10) Tom and Jerry in The Flying Cat – Tom has succeeded in flying with the aid of a corset, but he falls out of it, and lands on top of a tree with one leg either side. To the accompaniment of a buzz-saw noise, the tree is split from top to bottom. I wince every time I see this — it looks a lot worse than it sounds!
These are just the first ten that come to mind, I’m sure that I could come up with a few more if I thought about it. This list is being written just before I pop off home to watch the ‘Evil Dead‘ and I’m sure that there are bits in it worthy of inclusion, but as I can’t remember the exact details, I’ve omitted it from the list.