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The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies

The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies (photo)

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When you sit down to a horror film, you know, at least on a basic level, what you’re getting into. Whether or not the movie delivers, what you’ve been promised, and what you’re braced for or looking forward to, are scares. Which is why, when we look back on those truly traumatic movie memories, the titles that come to mind often are not horror films at all.

The most frightening movie moments can arrive out of nowhere, in the midst of where they shouldn’t belong, catching you when you’re vulnerable — which is why there are a few alleged children’s films on this list. But they can also creep up on you, working a different kind of dread, which is where some of the documentaries included below fit in. Fear is a funny thing. It comes in different varieties, it can work its way on you in unanticipated, and, as our collection here proves, it definitely doesn’t always stem from things that go bump in the night.

10262009_Safe.jpg25. Carol gets a perm
“Safe” (1995)
Directed by Todd Haynes

Never has Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” been used to more chilling effect than when it’s blaring at the hair salon where Carol White (Julianne Moore) awaits her hair stylist. In what is supposed to be a respite from the pollution of urban life and the confines of a predictable life as an upper class housewife, Carol attempts indulging herself after other late ’80s panaceas like New Agey meditation videos and strenuous workouts don’t do the trick. (As one of Carol’s exercise partners notice, she doesn’t even break a sweat.) Yet when Carol arrives at the salon, it feels as inviting as one of those elaborate Rube Goldberg death traps — even Carol’s stylist’s (Janel Moloney) tentative agreement to fit Carol’s perm into her schedule after a cancellation sounds foreboding. After an afternoon of having her hair tightly wound around rollers and drowned in chemicals, Carol sits unfazed by her new wavy do as a rivulet of blood drips from her nose in a confirmation that she has been somehow poisoned by modern life. Producer Christine Vachon complains of Moore’s hair on the DVD commentary, “This was the day the hair would not curl.” Hair? No. Toe-curling? Yes. – Stephen Saito

10262009_BourneUltimatum.jpg24. The wrong man is disappeared
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)
Directed by Paul Greengrass

The dogged pursuit of Jason Bourne through jam-packed Waterloo Station is one of the “Bourne” trilogy’s great set-pieces, but it’s also a profoundly unnerving comment on the impunity with which covert government agencies operate in the “war on terror” era. The sequence climaxes with Paddy Considine, a journalist for a major British newspaper, being gunned down in broad daylight — no surreptitiously cut brake cables or undetectable poisons here — but even that’s not as unsettling as the matter-of-fact manner in which an unsuspecting civilian who’s been mistaken for Bourne is grabbed, drugged and thrown into a van, never to be heard from again. The abruptness with which an innocent bystander is converted to enemy combatant is breathtaking, not least because the film lets the moment pass unremarked upon. Bourne never mounts a rescue operation to rescue the poor soul, nor is there so much as a stray line indicating he’s been found unharmed. In the government’s pursuit of extralegal justice, ordinary citizens are just cannon fodder, and even the good guys don’t have time to save them. – Sam Adams

10262009_DeliverUsFromEvil.jpg23. Father O’Grady takes a walk in the park
“Deliver Us From Evil” (2006)
Directed by Amy Berg

Ten minutes into the documentary “Deliver Us From Evil,” when the film has just begun to hint at the full scope of the crimes committed by Father Oliver O’Grady, it cuts to a shot of the former priest walking toward the edge of a playground full of young children. To this point, we’ve only heard vague allusions to the “trouble” O’Grady got into some 30 years prior. From the shot of him watching the children, we cut to the innocent looking old man standing in what looks like the same park, talking to the camera about his sexual proclivities. “If [someone] said to me… ‘Do you feel aroused when you see children?’ [I’d say] well, maybe… ‘How about if you saw children naked?’ I’d say ‘Mmhmm, yeah!’ ” O’Grady isn’t embarrassed or ashamed; he’s downright cheerful in a way that suggests he has no conception of the heinousness of his behavior. The most sickening part involves O’Grady describing his preferred victim, someone on what he calls “a younger level.” To indicate that he likes smaller children, he makes a yea-high gesture with his hand, just as an oblivious child of almost that exact height walks through the shot. Berg essentially ends the scene there, maybe because she felt as uncomfortable shooting it as we do watching it. – Matt Singer

10262009_FannyandAlexander.jpg22. Alexander and the puppets
“Fanny and Alexander” (1982)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Dylan Walsh may have recently dispatched a swinging table saw on his new brood in “The Stepfather” remake, but he’s got nothing on the Bishop Edvard Vergérus (Jan Malmsjö), the silver-haired man of God who wastes no time in doing ungodly things to his recently inherited stepchildren. Compassionate only in the sense that when he catches Alexander in a lie, the bishop offers the child a choice of “cane, castor oil or [to stay in a] cubbyhole” as forms of punishment, so when the children are snuck out of the house by an antiques dealer and taken into his home, where he lives with his nephew Ishmael, Alexander is filled with fear and contempt. Surrounded by Ishamel’s creepy collection of puppets, Alexander believes he’s found God when he hears a voice from behind a locked door as the other puppets tremble. “Is this is the end of me,” asks a resigned Alexander, as director Ingmar Bergman ratchets up the terror with only the pluck of violin strings to pierce the silence. When a bearded puppet emerges and falls to the floor, Alexander realizes Ishmael was only playing a joke on him, with the puppeteer whispering to the child, “I didn’t mean to scare you. At least, not that much.” Tell that to the audience. – Stephen Saito

10262009_RaidersoftheLostArk.jpg21. Opening the Ark
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

For every kid growing up in the 1980s, there was one childhood-defining test of your movie-watching cojones: could you keep your eyes open during the Ark-cracking sequence from “Raiders”? Few scenes in movie history have been watched with more hands in front of more faces than the icky, melty, explody fate that awaits Belloq, Toht and the rest of the Nazis at the end of Indiana Jones’ first adventure. Hell, even Indy himself keeps his eyes closed for as long as the Ark is open; who could blame anyone for following his lead and doing the same? The disturbing imagery — skin peeling away from skulls, while white pus and red blood pour out of every orifice — was so grisly that the MPAA initially slapped “Raiders” with an R rating. In order to secure the PG he needed to convince our parents that it was okay to sit their children in front of this nightmare fuel, Spielberg superimposed a wall of flames over the most intense shots. Still, as potentially traumatic as the images are, the scariest part is the fact that the movie invites you to do what Indy doesn’t, to look into the Ark and perhaps share the Nazi’s fate. Once you’d watched the scene and survived the initial fright, you still had to endure an interminable, panic-stricken night waiting for the Ark’s spirits to show up at your house and melt you into a big pile of goo. – Matt Singer

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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