Great horror can always be found if you seek it out, and sometimes, the most horrific and haunting scenes lurk in films outside of the genre.
As a horror movie addict, I’m always searching for a thrill, but that doesn’t stop me from watching films from all genres. From adventure to animation, I’m all for the ride. However, it always stops me in my tracks when an adventure or a mission in a generally upbeat or magical tale takes a dark turn and can set me on edge.
I’ve sifted through my memory banks and found moments in non-horror films that were either eerie, creepy, or downright horrifying to conceive. From war movies that leave the ground littered with corpses to a park that promises prehistoric dreams, these movies had moments that shook me, made me think more deeply about the sinister implications, and sometimes completely floored me with their emotional or visceral power.
Agree or not, and with memories of your own horrifying misplaced cinema moments, I invite you to share; I welcome you into my top 10 most unsettling moments of horror-free programming.
1. Jurassic Park – T-Rex Paddock Escape
In 1993, Stephen Spielberg rolled out a film that would expand our imaginations, break box office records, and revolutionize the way we use computer imaging.
Jurassic Park was based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, who would join the project to assist David Koepp in penning the script. With a cast of stars anchored by Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeffrey Goldblum, the fantasy film that brought one of history’s most incredible beings back to life was a guaranteed success.
Not a horror film, this movie still dishes out thrills early on until the film’s iconic conclusion, but Jurassic Park didn’t just have moments of long necks wandering the planes with awe-inspired onlookers; it also had moments of definitive terror.
One of two scenes that remains terrifying to this day is the escape of the T-Rex from its paddock, edging out the velociraptor’s cunning scenes with brute force and undeniable power.
Swallowing a goat whole and dismantling the steel wires that hold the beast as though they were twine, as the creature breaks free, we see the first images not only of a computer-generated monster but the closest we had gotten to a creation of this beast that wasn’t preserved in a museum.
Hulking, roaring, and curious with those intelligent eyes, the children abandoned in their vehicle are left to reckon with the most powerful being in the park. As it assesses them, testing the car, breaking the glass, prying at its meal, we experience a sequence of terror as a primordial giant shows just how insignificant we are in the annals of history and that only an extinction event could have rivaled the raw apex predator in its prime.
2. Inglorious Basterds – Introduction
In 2009, director Quentin Tarantino would tell the intricate drama and war story Inglorious Basterds.
Loaded with a talented cast that boasted Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, and the focus of this section, Christoph Waltz. Tracking several characters, including a group of Nazi-hunting vigilante soldiers made entirely of Jewish enlistment, The Basterds, as they called themselves, had one job: killing Nazis.
The alternative story that we follow is that of the menacing Col. Hans Landa, also known across Europe as The Jew Hunter. Arriving in France at the beginning of the movie, a visit from the S.S. is never something to look forward to, but this particular, chilling exchange that leads to the deaths of the innocent is something I always watch with my breath held.
Col. Hans Landa claims his greatest asset is that he can think like a Jew, a rat, he believes them to be, and thinks of their desperation as he hunts. He explains with frigid factuality his hatred for the Jewish people, saying it’s merely a fact you hate the rat; it has never hurt you, but you know it to be disgusting.
As he converses in French, then switches to English, you are unaware of the web he’s weaving.
He comes to reveal he knows there is a family hidden below the floorboards of this man’s farm, and from this talk, they must not know English. He’s willing to not only spare the farmer’s life for hiding them but leave the man and his daughters alone for the remainder of Germany’s occupation of France.
I can’t help but understand why the man makes the decision to betray his fellow farmers hiding under the floorboards, but hearing the S.S. boots rumble in and the powerful rifles tearing floorboards and bodies apart breaks your heart.
Though one member of the family gets away, young Shoshanna, Landa spares killing her as she runs for her life across the fields. Shouting out his goodbyes and smiling, this frightening knowledge he carries of her, as well as his love of the hunt, makes him a specter of horror — the German boogeyman,