If you're talking about scary movie scenes, the last decade offered plenty. Some subtle, others gross, but the best able to make you jump out of your skin. As Halloween approaches, audiences can choose between the muted menace of Paranormal Activity 2 or the graphic gore of Saw 3D. My Top Ten scare scenes are a mix of tricky treats.
(2009) The plot needs three sentences. Katie (Katie Featherston) and boyfriend Micah (Michah Sloat) are freaked out by noises in their San Diego home. To catch what's out there, he sets up a night-vision camcorder while they sleep. We watch the found footage. That's it. Over a period of about three weeks in the film, the tension builds. But it's that last scene in the bedroom, where we can't tell if we've seen a ghost or imagined it, that this movie ties your stomach in knots.
(2002) Six years before Danny Boyle won the Oscar for directing Slumdog Millionaire, he made a zombie movie to rank with the best of them. The scene that got me was an early one set in, of all places, a church, in which the walking dead moved like sprinters, running as if someone had stuck a livewire up their asses. Terrifying.
(2005) Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), who survived Jigsaw's games in the first movie, returns for the sequel, only to be tossed into a pit, where a key is hidden, filled with dirty syringes. Watching her dig for the key while the infected needles penetrate her body is the stuff of nightmares.
(2002) Gore Verbinski's Hollywood remake of the Japanese horror classic Ringu hits a peak when the young and undead Samara, stringy black hair hiding her decomposed face, climbs out of the TV screen, leaving bloody footprints in her wake. Yikes!
(2006) Torture porn, love it or hate it, found shocking new definition from director Eli Roth when Jay Hernandez, playing an American tourist on a European vacation National Lampoon could never have imagined, scissors off an eyeball hanging from an Asian girl's oozing socket.
(2009) Spider-Man director Sam Raimi returned to his primitive Evil Dead roots for this horror howler about a bank loan officer (Alison Lohman) who makes the mistake — a whopper — of foreclosing on a gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). Just looking at the old crone's face — glass eye, rotting teeth, stapled forehead (don't ask) — as she plots revenge guarantees you a full case of the heebie-jeebies.
(2004) Those wicked Brits, director Edgar Wright and star/co-writer Simon Pegg, have a go at the walking dead, and keep the blood and the laughs gushing. The scene that gets me every time is the pub siege, when the zombies grab the frightened Dave (Dylan Moran) through the window and start to chow down.
(2009) I tend to side with those who claim the whole Twilight series doesn't have a scary moment in it. With one exception: That would be the scene near the end of Part 2 (New Moon) that features the great Michael Sheen as the mind-reading Aro, of the Italian Volturi vampires. You never really see Aro bite down on the tourists his slaves line up for him, but Sheen — unlike the rest of these toothless vamps — can instill terror with just a look.
(2004) Taking a cue from Steven Spielberg's iconic Jaws, indie filmmaker Chris Kentis shows that you don't have to see a whole shark to expect the worst. As a water-logged couple (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis), left behind on a scuba-diving vacation in the Caribbean, prepare for the inevitable, you can feel the water stretching against an unsheltering sky, and the terror seeps into your bones just like it does theirs.
(2009) Stomach-churning doesn't begin to describe what the diabolical Dutch filmmaker Tom Six is up to in this tale of a mad German scientist (Dieter Laser), who kidnaps two American girls (Ashlynn Yennie and Ashley C. Williams) and a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura), and sews them together, ass to mouth. The scene in which this nutjob creates his human centipede will leave you a willing participant in a gothic mindgame or puking your guts out. A good description of the state of movie horror during the first decade of our new century.