Monsters, Mayhem and Movies

A couple of great scenes that are all about building tension and ratcheting up the fear.
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer


Did I scare you?

In honor of my favorite holiday and my favorite season, a meditation on some of the scariest, most spine-tingling scenes I remember from a couple of spooky films that should definitely be on your All Hallows Eve watchlist.

I was just discussing The Shining with coworkers, and while I’ve never read the novel (it’s definitely on my list), the film sits near the top of my top-ten, always garnering a re-viewing in October.  There’s a scene in particular that always thrills me: Danny is riding his big wheel down the empty hallways of the Overlook Hotel and the only sound you hear is the changing, rhythmic cadence of the plastic wheels as they crackle over polished hardwood before being briefly muddled by thick carpet strips.


Down the hallways he races,  and the up-and-down tempo of that one sound builds up the tension.  On and on he rides, turning blind corners and heading down seemingly endless hallways, until one fateful turn runs him smack dab into the creepiest little twins you’ve ever seen.

Come play with us Danny, forever and ever.


Yikes!  I love it.

Another great moment happens in The Others.  If you haven’t seen this film starring Nicole Kidman as a WWII mother of two children, stranded in a big ol’ house on an island off the English coast, then do yourself a favor and rent it/download it/stream it ASAP.  The film builds slowly, starting out as what seems to be a traditional ghost story…. who is haunting this family, and why?

Later, you start to get suspicious – secrets are being held and allegiances are shifting.  Who is the real bad guy?  And what was the event that happened right before the start of the film that no one will talk about.

About halfway through the film, the oldest child wakes up her little brother in a darkened room to tell him that the ghost child she’s been conversing with is being obstinate – refusing to close the bedroom curtains that must be shut to protect the sister and brother from the sunlight that they are allergic to (it’s explained early on that they have some sort of condition that prevents them from being near the slightest natural light.  Thus the house is always shrouded in darkness and accompanied by the muffled sounds of doors closing and blinds creaking shut).

“He keeps opening the curtains.  Tell him to stop!” She demands, while her little brother, tiny in striped pajamas and tousled dark hair squeezes himself into a tight little ball, eyes screwed shut.

“Stop it!” He pleads, but she keeps insisting the ghost is real and in the room with them.

“Open your eyes,” she threatens, “or I’ll tell him to touch you.”

And the camera zooms in slowly on the little brother’s hunched shoulder as a shadow crawls across the sheets.

And then we abruptly cut to black and a blood-curdling scream.

I could go on and on.  There are recent films, like The Orphanage or the first Paranormal Activity that kept me perched on the edge of my seat, gripping the arm of the person next to me while quietly chanting, “no, no, no, no!  Don’t do that!” And then there are the recent classics: Rosemary’s Baby, Amityville Horror, Poltergeist. Or Hitchcock’s  oeuvre…. And The Hammer Films catalogue (Peeping Tom is truly great).  While the original Nosferatu is nothing but shadows and a slow burn, but oh so very effective.

And then there are all those slasher flicks – the ones every teenager has to see.  Why do they always open that door?  Go down those basement steps?  And why do they never believe they’re in danger until it’s (almost) too late?!

A few days back I talked about the appeal of the ghost story and the notion that watching characters (many who are not nearly as smart as the audience) triumph over monsters and mad men empowers us – makes us feel like our own scary challenges are manageable.  If that bra-less girl in the white shirt can run through a rain storm, fall in the mud, and careen out onto the highway and STILL escape the chainsaw wielding maniac, then surely we can confront that intimidating coworker, tell the neighbors to clean up after their dog, or even take that frightening plunge into the unknown by pursuing a life altering agenda – a new job, a new significant other, a new different path, a new journey.

Just make sure there aren’t any ghoulies waiting to haunt you as you head out on your way – and if you hear any twigs snapping or leaves rustling, just remember…it’s all just make-believe anyway.
Happy Halloween!

All original content is the sole property of Elizabeth Cutright and The Daily Creative Writer. If you are reading this blog on another website, it has been reposted without the author’s permission in violation of the DMCA. © 2012 The Daily Creative Writer

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