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Aliens, demons and lustful trees: Five disturbing moments in film

The upcoming Ridley Scott vehicle “Prometheus” is practically a shoo-in to make big bucks at the box office, but it’s also a great bet for plenty of new nightmare fodder. A particular scene, in which an alien infiltrates the body of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), a young scientist aboard the “Prometheus” vessel en route to the alien home world, was one of the most disturbing parts of the film for Rapace and her costar Michael Fassbender.

“It’s something that’s literally under your skin and already makes you feel kind of queasy,” Fassbender told the AP. “With any luck, millions of people will be suffering nightmares from that hectic scene ... ”

In honor of Fassbender’s wish for nightmares, we’ve put together a list of our favorite disturbing scenes that have cost us many sleepless nights. (Proceed to video links with caution.)

Our top five most disturbing moments in film

Orion Pictures

"Silence of the Lambs."

5. “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) -- Clarice kills Buffalo Bill
In a scene that carries massive amounts of tension, we see Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling stumbling in the dark through the night vision goggles of serial killer Jame Gumb, known as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). The scene seems to last forever as Buffalo Bill slowly stalks her with no music or tricks for added effect. When he eventually cocks his gun, Clarice hears it, turns, and fatally shoots the antagonist -- a disturbing, yet satisfying end to this beautifully drawn out scene. The extremely close and creepily lurking presence of Buffalo Bill combined with the knowledge that he plans to flay her for his suit of skin ratchets up the disturbance factor. 

New Line Cinema

"The Evil Dead."

4. “The Evil Dead” (1981) -- Molesting shrub
Trees aren’t usually scary. But, then again, one usually assumes they’re standing still and keeping their branches to themselves. Not the case in Sam Raimi’s cult horror film that mixes tongue-in-cheek plotting, campy acting, and legitimate scares. Raimi has since said that he regrets using the scene where a tree chases down a young woman in a forest. Thankfully he went out on a limb, and the film stands as a classic of low-budget horror. It demonstrates how pushing the envelope can create a slice of cinema where you’re not sure whether you should laugh or hide your eyes.

20th Century Fox


3. “Alien” (1979) -- Alien chest burster
It’s always a surprise to see an alien burst from a writhing man’s chest, but it was even more of a surprise to see it done so realistically in 1979 when special effects were in their nascent stages (“Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” was released only two years earlier). The alien chest-burster scene has left its mark on sci-fi history as the perfect execution of what seems like a ridiculous and implausible cinematic moment. John Hurt (it sure did!) convincingly chokes and croaks in epic fashion and undoubtedly left film fans with a frightening breakfast table vision for years to come.

2. “Funny Games” (1997) -- Anna’s abrupt murder
Austrian director Michael Haneke asks the audience to confront their own expectations and sit through the sickening murder of an innocent bourgeois family. Not surprisingly, audiences didn’t approve (the original and 2008 remake couldn't even gross a combined $8 million). Yet, the ending scene in which the mother Anna (Susanne Lothar) is tied up and casually tossed off a boat to die after it appeared that she would set herself free is both startling and questions the way we separate what we see in film and what happens in real life. The scene is never violent or gory, but it asks us to wonder why we view violence as entertainment when, in the real world, it’s usually not the good guys that get in the last blow. 

1. “The Exorcist” (1973) -- Father Damian exorcises the demon

Warner Bros.

"The Exorcist."

It’s the realistic nature of this classic supernatural horror film that affords it the most disturbing scene of all time. When Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller) finally exorcises the foul demon from 12-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), he throws himself out a window and down a flight of stairs to kill himself and the demon that had taken to possessing him. The combination of such a young girl committing violent sex acts, spewing profanity, and being generally vile perfectly complements the realistic way in which the film is shot. The innocent being possessed by demons is a supernatural idea that has been around for thousands of years; “The Exorcist” makes it real.

What's one of the more disturbing moments you remember from a film? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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