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Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies

Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies (photo)

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One of my favorite pieces we’ve ever done here on IFC.com was our Halloween 2009 list: “The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies.” It featured great writing from critics like Matt Zoller Seitz, Sam Adams and others, and it was just a great topic. Arguably, the scary scenes in supposedly non-scary movies are more terrifying than the ones in horror movies because they catch us off-guard. You pay for “The Exorcist,” you know what you’re in for. You pay for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you think you’re in for an old-fashioned adventure until Nazis’ faces start melting all over the place.

Our original list from 2009 holds up, but in the past two years there have been some new, unforgettably scary moments in non-horror movies. So in honor of Halloween 2011, here is an update. We typically like including YouTube videos in this sort of list, but these are recent movies so they’re not always readily available; we improvised as best we could.

The Furnace Scene
from “Toy Story 3”
Directed by Lee Unkrich

Years after year of mature entertainments have given Pixar the well-deserved reputation as a studio that makes family films for both children and adults, but “Toy Story 3” was so dark it turned adults into children: screaming, crying, begging-for-Mommy-style babies. In one of the most disquieting representations of the inevitable end maybe ever, destiny leads the toys into a giant trash furnace where, with no escape possible, they accept their fate, lock hands, and wait for death. It looks like it’s all over but the melting. Luckily for the toys, things worked out okay thanks to a last minute deus ex machina; unluckily for plenty of people in the audience — myself included — they remained just a wee bit scarred for life. Scariest of all? After all that time at the trash dump, kids start playing with these toys again. Just think of all the germs! Pixar’s going to have to call the next movie in the franchise “Toy Story 4: Contagion 2.” Blech.


Three Serial Killers Walk Into a Car…
from “I Saw the Devil”
Directed by Kim Ji-woon

Technically “I Saw the Devil” is a thriller or a cat-and-mouse chase movie, but it has more scares than a lot of “real” horror movies. It opens like a horror movie too, with a young woman savagely murdered on a deserted road in her broken-down car. But then the woman’s fiancé, a super-badass secret agent, decides to get even with the monster who killed his lover by turning himself into a monster; for the rest of the film, the two battle it out an increasingly gruesome series of encounters. Escaping from one of their fights, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) manages to hitch a ride which, by sheer coincidence, is being driven by a couple more deranged killers. After a brief stand-off, that leads to this terrifying and dizzying scene, as Kyung-chul wildly stabs at the other two guys while the car careens off the road. The real horror here is the blood; not so much the amount of it but the way it seems to be spraying unpredictably in every direction, even on the camera lens, which suggests that the messy frenzy was too much even for the cinematographer to handle. If “I Saw the Devil” isn’t technically a horror movie, scenes like this one prove it is definitively a movie about horror.


“Is This Gonna Be Our Time?”
from “Winter’s Bone”
Directed by Debra Granik

A cop pulls over a man and a young woman in a pickup trick. The man never gets out of the truck, never even turns his head to look at the police officer; he just tightens his grip on the shotgun between his legs and speaks to the cop through the side view mirror. After a few terse, tense words, Teardrop (John Hawkes, in a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination) brings his weapon into view and evenly says “Is this gonna be our time?” The cop backs off. As this scene shows, facing down a man who isn’t afraid of death can be just as scary as facing down death itself.

To watch this scene on YouTube, click here. Below is embedded another scene from “Winter’s Bone” featuring more super-intense acting from John Hawkes.



Home Invasion
From “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Directed by Sean Durkin

Another amazingly tense scene featuring actor John Hawkes. In this one from the still-in-theaters “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Hawkes and his cult have invaded a random home when the robbery is interrupted by the homeowner. Hawkes’ Patrick doesn’t want to hurt anyone (or so he says), but he also can’t let anyone know about his group or their crime spree, which creates a dilemma. Hawkes is not a traditionally scary screen presence. He’s not a big, physically imposing dude; as you can see in the scene below, he’s actually shorter than the guy he’s scaring the shit out of. So why does he make this list twice? Because he’s so good at playing characters who never lose their cool, even when they should. There’s something really unsettling about the way Patrick and Teardrop never raise their voice and never gets upset. In other words, it’s not that John Hawkes looks all that intimidating. It’s that John Hawkes never looks intimidated.



The Motel Double Cross
from “Drive”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Like “I Saw the Devil,” “Drive” is a hybrid, and I swear I’m not saying that to make a cheap car joke (at least not on purpose). It begins as a straight heist movie, becomes a character study, then turns to the crime genre again before exploding — literally exploding — with so much gore that it begins to look like a slasher movie. Again, it’s the unexpectedness of that sudden shift into violence that makes it particularly effective. The most disturbing sequence comes just after Ryan Gosling’s Driver has been double crossed by the guy who hired him to participate in a pawn shop robbery. Just as he realizes the scope of the conspiracy, shotgun wielding goons arrive to finish the job. In the interest of preserving said surprise I’ll leave things there, except to say after watching “Drive” you’ll never look at Christina Hendricks in “Mad Men” the same way again.

You can see brief glimpses of the motel sequence in the red band trailer for the film, embedded below:


What’s your favorite scary moment in a non-horror movie? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…