FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Apr 28, 2010

5 sweet reveals

I'm cranky today. Therefore, I decided to post about a subject that makes me happy: great reveals in horror movies. I don't mean, like, when we find out that Mrs. Bates is actually Norman Bates (PS- spoiler alert) or a simple jump scare or something along those lines. I'm talking about movies that take their sweet-ass time revealing what, exactly, is killing all the pretty young things. Or what will soon be killing all the pretty young things. You know- the monster. It's all about anticipation capped with a mind-blowing holycrapdidyoujustseethat moment. Here are my five favorite examples in no particular order; you may disagree with my choices, but that's your beeswax. (PPS- more spoiler alerts)

Salem's Lot

I talked about this a bit in my review of the 1979 made-for-TV miniseries Salem's Lot oh so many moons ago- it's just that amazing.

Aside: this was made for TV. MADE FOR TV. Made for TV and it's got more scares than most of the crap at your local thee-ay-ter. The old days were better, etc etc.

Anyway, while there's plenty of vampire action and weird goings-on going on in the Lot, all everyone keeps talking about is "Mr. Barlow this" and "Mr. Barlow that". Who is this guy? Some shy, old antiques dealer? More than two hours into the production, we meet this Mr. Barlow, and...well...

Actually, "meet" is too gentle a word to use for our introduction to this mystery man. Suddenly, oh so suddenly, he's there- BAM, in your face like an edgy comedian or an energy drink. We may have suspected that Mr. Barlow was the king of the new crop of vamps floating and biting their way around town, but no one could have suspected he'd look like that, like your worst possible nightmare come to life. Not. Cool.

The Ring

I don't care what you say, I love The Ring. Certainly the waterlogged ghost-girl idea has become boring since this film hit in 2002, and there's no denying that the herky-jerky camera style has been overused in horror like an old man's handkerchief, but come on. When we were introduced to Samara all those years ago we were innocent! It was a novel concept! The endeavor was as invigorating as a York Peppermint Pattie with only half the calories (no, that doesn't make sense).

Anyway, The Ring. Sure, we see Samara a bit on the eeeevil videotape, and we see the results of...whatever it is she does to victims seven days after they watch said tape. But it's not until the film passes the 90-minute mark- not until we think everything's gonna be a-ok, that Samara has gone off into the light- that we see her in all her water-logged, stinky glory. It's bitchin'. No, we still don't really know what she actually does to people, but I don't really care. She crawls out of TVs, and that's all I need to know.

Oh, and when getting these screencaps I noticed that this... a copy of The Craft. Thought you might like to know.


I don't usually find monster movies scary, but Alien is a huge exception to that. Part of the reason why the film works so well is because it keeps building and building- the crew of the towing vessel Nostromo faces an enemy that quickly adapts to its environment as it grows. We get a glimpse of the titular xenomorph more than an hour into the proceedings, when Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) heads into the bowels of the ship to find the tiny alien which burst from the chest of a crewmate just hours earlier. The alien is no longer a chestburster, though: it's grown into a hugely tall, drooling, dual-mouth-wielding, acid-blood-squirting badass. Yeah, didn't expect that.

In related news, I want to open a sci-fi-themed strip club called The Titular Xenomorph.

The Descent

Our plucky spelunkers of Neil Marshall's The Descent are pretty well fucked about 20 minutes in. After a section of the uncharted cave they're exploring collapses, they desperately search for a way out...and then stupid ol' Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) goes and injures herself, putting a serious damper on a decidedly crappy day. Oh yeah- and they're not alone.

Marshall gives us quick glances here and there, enough to let us know that there's something in the depths with the women, but we don't get a good look at the crawlers for almost an hour...but when we do, it's a complete shock. As their dire situation causes the women to begin to panic, their night-vision camera pans around and a crawler is THERE, having snuck up behind them silently. Yes, I use "snuck" even though it's not a real word, because it sounds cooler than "sneaked". My tenuous grasp on the English language aside, the sequence is fucking brilliant, a highlight of the terrifically terrifying film.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Holy crap, whaddayou know: Tobe Hooper is responsible for two out of my five choices!

In the first half hour of the film, a van full of teenagers deals with a lot of bad stuff- the unrelenting Texas sun, the crazy hitchhiker who brandishes a knife at them (and himself), Franklin whining and eating a sausage- but it all leads up to the horrors inside the isolated farmhouse that Kirk and Pam find. There's a generator running, but no one seems to be home...when Kirk heads inside to investigate, his curiosity is piqued by the squeals of a pig emanating from a strange doorway that's bedecked with animal skulls. Of course, it's not a pig- it's Leatherface. He appears in a close-up, and before we even know what's happening, he's bashed Kirk over the head and dragged him inside the mysterious room. He slams the door shut without a word, and it's on. It's absolute horror movie perfection.

So there you go, my five faves. I must say, I'm slightly less cranky now, having written about some of the best scenes horror has to offer...unless it's just the Thunderbird I've chugged while writing this. Either way, I feel so pretty!


Matt said...

Great post! The Descent and Texas Chainsaw are definitely two of my fav's as well. I'd nominate the reveal scene in The Thing too. Such tension there.

Andreas said...

Ooh, this is a great excuse to actually watch Salem's Lot - and that vampire looks seriously scary! Also an excuse for some James Mason love.

Sci-fi-themed strip club: best/nerdiest idea ever?

Anonymous said...

Salem's Lot is one of my all time favorites. I just love the vamp scene in the hospital.
And! The the scariest little kid vampire scratching at the window. That scene alone cause the electricity bill to skyrocket at the folks home. Closet light! Closet light!

Stacie, you are brilliant. Did I spell brilliant right?

spazmo said...

Tobe Hooper directed Salem's Lot? I never, ever knew that. That was a great reveal, though. One minute Lance Kerwin is sitting at the kitchen table being his usual snotty, entitled self, and the next minute *bam* he's a fucking orphan! Awesome.

Anyway, I hope your case of the cranks doesn't mean there won't be any Scare-ening tonight. I'm still laughing at your brilliant idea for a Human Centipede boardgame. (I keep thinking of those old plastic "Barrel of Monkeys" figures you could string together using their arms and tails).

Andre Dumas said...

Why are we psychically linked so well? I just finished my Salem's Lot post- and described in detail how I peed my pants during Barlow's reveal.....

You read my post didn't you? This whole post is just a giant copyright of my post ISN'T IT?! That's it. I'm looting your Brittany Murphy body pillow,

CashBailey said...

Can't really argue with any of those.

Although I'd quite easily put Sadako from the Japanese RING there because not only was that scene way creepier in the original, but also the big reveal of her single, psychotic eye peering out from among her hair was the best reveal of its kind since BLACK CHRISTMAS.

I swear, I think a few drops of wee may have come out when I first saw that. The US version just had her in creepy make-up scowling and it was a bit silly.

gord said...

Does the reveal during the card game in Evil Dead count? Sure no one had died by this point (well save for the original inhabitants) but the demon of the forest who had been terrorizing them was now flesh. I have never been as terrified during my entire my life as I was when I saw that film at the ripe old age of 10. My hands were over my face the rest of the film from that point on.

Koompa said...

I miss the days of horror build up. Now it seems like every horror movie has some sort of idiotic prologue for the first ten minutes. Whether it's revealing backstory or eliminating some random shmuck who has nothing to do with anything. I'm starting to think that modern horror films just don't have the balls to make their audience wait anymore.

Stacie Ponder said...

You'll pry my Brittany Murphy body pillow from my cold, dead fingers!!

Andre, I don't know why we're psychically linked, but it's true...unless YOU copied MY Salem's Lot post from 2007! A-HA! Nice try...nice try.

Salem's Lot is just SO GOOD. I need to find some friends who haven't seen it- introducing people to good horror is the best. I love that it's, like, 4 hours long. Great way to spend an afternoon.

Ugh, Gord that Evil Dead scene KILLED me. It's terrifying. That movie was not funny to me in the least when I was a young'un (truth be told, I still think it's more scary than funny).

Max, you're 100% right about the eye. I forget about it in context of the reveal since I've seen the original version so few times...maybe it's time for a revisit.

And I'll be perky as can be on The Scare-ening! Think of all the booze I'll have had by then...

Anonymous said...

I always liked the reveal from "the Howling" where the werewolf hand almost gently takes the folder away from Belinda Balaski, and then you see it just looming over her. Great post.

Unknown said...

Two things:
1)I'm with you about 'The Ring' I fucking love that movie! Out of all the Japanese-ghost-girl remakes that one is my fave. I know I peed on myself when Samara crawled out of that tv. And while I have the American and Japanese versions of the film and I enjoy the JP one the American version is my fave.
2)I loved that reveal in 'The Descent', it really freaked me out. Interesting fact, I had read that the director, Neil Marshall, did not let the principal actors see the actors in the creature make-up until they actually filmed that scene so that he could get a genuine scare from them. The girls didn't know what they had looked like before hand, or where they where on the set, that just made the scene even more unnerving!

Great list! ^_^

CashBailey said...

Drunk Stacie on The Scare-ening!?!

Yes, please!

MH said...

Spielberg is a master of reveal--even with the hero (such as in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). Here are two... the reveal of the shark in "Jaws" and the Tyrannosaurus Rex (with the lightning) in "Jurrassic Park" (and how about that second reveal--the Velociraptor not just as a reveal but as a jump scare through the pipes after the power returns).
The one from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacare" though is also powerful and one of the most effective I have seen.
Why not do this as a series?

Verdant Earl said...

Big fan of the original Salem's Lot as well. One of the great things about the novel, speaking of sweet reveals, is that the word "vampire" isn't used until almost a third of the way into the book. Everything that is described beforehand is just some kind of vague don't know what it is. Maybe not even supernatural. Just evil.

I wish I could go back in time before I knew it was about vampires and read it for the first time all over again. Sweet reveal!

CHUK said...

Exactly how I feel about The Ring... shit is only talked because it has been drawn and drawn and drawn from to the point we've lost its genius in the sea of "homages". If only you could mix the good parts of The Ring with the good parts of Ringu, you'd have something epic...

CRwM said...

Snuck is a real word. It's been in widespread use for more than a century and is currently more common than sneaked. Don't blame me, blame Webster's: they've made its use legit by giving it a gloss in the dictionary.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, that's all very well but how do I get a boom-a-ring in the UK????? I must have, I NEEEEED one so bad it hurts!!!!!!!!!!!!!

B-Sol said...

FYI: I'll be on the main stage at the Titular Xenomorph all week. Five-spots only, please.

Chris Otto said...

Great list! I can't top anything on here.

Jeepers Creepers, a movie that I have mixed feelings about, has a good, fun reveal.

Also, the reveal (and utter change in direction) of Salma Hayek in From Dusk To Dawn is gory & fun.

Finally: "Best Horror Film That Never Gives You the Satisfaction of a Reveal:" Duel.

Anonymous said...

My two cents... the reveal of Angela's junk at the end of Sleepaway Camp was truly a WTF moment for me back in the day... totally agree about TCM... that movie still scares the shit out of me...

Stacie Ponder said...

"Snuck" is legit? Hmm. I'm not sure how to feel.

Anon, the Boom-A-Ring is amazing. I really want one.

Best "Huh? ....okay." reveal: Final Exam. The killer is just some dude- no story, no motive, no identity. I kind of like that idea, but it wasn't executed very well.

B-Sol, Five-spots?! I can't roll that high. Sorry.

AE said...

The Craft The Craft The Craft The Craft The Craft! That bit of trivia is now MY favorite reveal ever. (Please God, let there be a "Ring" sequel where Fairuza Balk plays Samara.)

CashBailey said...

I love THE CRAFT and I especially love Fairuza Balk. But isn't she, like, 40?

I think she missed the role of a lifetime when Neil Gaiman couldn't get DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING made in the 90's, as he pretty much wrote it for her and she would have been iconic in the role.

deadlydolls said...

1. I still get chills from watching Leatherface slam that sliding door shut. It's such a WTF moment before WTF became an annoying and easy fake word to use to define such moments.

2. I watched The Descent alone with no real knowledge of what I was seeing, and that first glimpse of a crawler was one of the first yelps I've let out in yearrrrrrrrs. If you didn't know anything about the film, you might, as I did, not even expect anything supernatural or monstrous, so when it happens, it's terrifying.

3. I'll add the moment in Child's Play when the mom is screaming at the still-doll-like doll to talk and his lil face suddenly morphs into the evil, foul-mouthed Chucky we know and love. It still gets me.

whitney said...

I agree with Whatever1964, I love love loved that reveal in Sleepaway Camp. The junk is one thing, but that CRAZY look on her face at the end is the real reveal. WHAT???

soufex. said...

my mum MADE me watch salem's lot when i was about 13 or 14. it was the first dvd she actually bought for herself and she sat me down and made me watch it. considering my mum doesn't really implore i watch anything in particular, it was kind of a big deal. scarf stuff!

as for the descent... i still have nightmares about it to this day. i watched it for the first time at a sleepover at my best friend's house back in high school, and i didn't sleep a wink that night. i was hyped up on a wicked amount of sugar and caffeine and totally convinced that my friends were going to rise up as cave dwellers and eat me.

the first time i watched the ring, i was staying for the weekend at a friend's and she used to live even further out into the countryside than i did, proper remote, and she had both the japanese and the american remake on video (maybe it was dvd. but i think it was video. i was 14, i think they were still making vhs then) and we watched them both and then we were too scared to sleep.

(i also have to agree with max on the ringu-eye scene because that made me squeal like a piggy. eye-things really freak me out.)

i gotta say i think part of the reason why i always ended up so terrified is because i used to only really watch horror movies at my friends' houses, and not being used to the shadows and shapes and noises totally threw me out of my comfort zone. which is totally awesome and just makes the films even scarier, so i'm down with it. man, i gotta start going to sleepovers again ):

alien goes without saying (i freaking love that film so much), and the texas chainsaw massacre kinda has to go in there.

awesome top 5! :D

Anonymous said...

Whitney: I agree... that last shot with Angela's feral face still sticks in my visual memory like not many things have...