It’s not just about the movies, it’s about the MOMENTS within the movies that often make the difference between memorable and forgettable. Eric looks back on his favorite scenes from 2019.
I have seen so many horror movies from 2019, over fifty of them, so a movie scene will have to really stand out from the crowd to make this list. Movies are such a visual medium, that when a movie makes an impression, it leaves a near-photographic moment in your brain. And there are some magic moments here that really left an impression. What will it take to earn a place on this list? The scene will have to leave an emotional mark, be it scary, intense, sad, funny, or heart-warming. Some of my moments are outrageously gory. Others, riotously funny. And in one case, it will be a long stretch of exposition. In all cases, these moments made me feel something emotionally powerful.
Please note, there are spoilers here, though I will try not to completely describe the situations. For those of you who have seen these respective movies, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The Scariest Things crew has each posted our favorite top 10 films of the year. To see what my list is, and compare it to the scenes list (there is more than a loose correlation) you can check it out what I thought were the best horror movies of 2019 right HERE.
- The explosively bloody conclusion of the Le Domas curse in Ready or Not. This is the cherry on top of my favorite movie of the year. One of the great decisions in this movie was to determine if LaBail’s Faustian deal was real or not. We get the answer in a spectacular and hugely entertaining fashion. The gonzo conclusion elevated this feature to become not just my favorite moment, but my favorite horror movie of the year. Samara Weaving’s amused snort at the whole spectacle was priceless.
- Once you realize that One Cut of the Dead is really a behind the scenes story, in the second Act. OK… I’m stretching the rules a little here. It is still a bit up in the air as to what year this was released. It was out in Japan two years ago, and it has been in the American film festival circuit for the past two years, but it just got its American streaming release a few months ago… so we’ll call it 2019. Ask anybody who watched this movie. The near-unanimous reaction was that the first act was a sloppy B-movie, and not particularly compelling, with some curious and/or awkward moments. AND THEN… the second and third acts reveals everything that caused those awkward moments, and it is pure movie magic. This is why we go to the movies.
- Dani’s fateful phone call in the opening from Midsommar. The most dramatic and powerful moment is actually the trigger moment in the relationship between Dani and Christian. This event forces the two lovers who were on the brink of breaking up to stick together… and it wasn’t for the better. Runner up in this movie is the very conclusion of the film, where Dani makes a fateful decision as to how to actually end this bad relationship.
- The Chinese Restaurant meal in It Chapter 2. This crystalizes what was best about this movie. The casting. The Chinese restaurant assembled the entire adult cast and re-establishes how much fun these characters are together. The magic of the child actors carries on to the adult cast, and this scene set the stakes in a fun and dramatic way.
- Christian Winter deploys his phallic divining rod in Extra Ordinary. There are so many belly laughs in this movie. But the indelible mark for me is having Christian (Will Forte) searching for a virgin to sacrifice by following his wooden staff which has a rather dildo-like quality. Terrifically kooky. Another great moment? The exploding would-be sacrifice accident, which forces Christian to go looking for a new one. Whoops!
- The crossing of the converging storylines in Finale. This movie has a very strong Christopher Nolan-like narrative structure. You get a story of Agnes, who has been captured to be tortured in a circus freak show, and you get a second plot which shows her from earlier in the day working at a gas station. Both plots march forward, each revealing more information to the audience, and when the plots merge it’s like two sine waves meeting and the plot amplitude spikes. It’s high-end scripting and directing in full effect.
- The closing desperate rumble in Pledge. Three college geeks fall prey to the seduction of joining a cool fraternity and find out that it is a sadistic cult, not a Greek House. The pure panic-induced adrenaline rush of the pledge class comes to full fruition in a savage fight. The movie changes tone from a near horror comedy to survival horror with an ending that didn’t go the way I expected.
- Danica’s entrails divination in Satanic Panic. Gore! Plus humor! Plus Rebecca Romjin chewing the scenery! This is the FANGORIA method in full effect. Practical gross-out visual tricks plus dead-pan humor. Chelsea Stardust hit all the right notes in this scene. I loved how Danica flopped the intestines around to get a better reading.
- Alligators taking out the redshirts in Crawl. There are so many great jump-scares in this movie, it’s hard to pick one. In order to emphasize how dangerous the plight is for Haley and Dave, sacrifices need to be made. The unfortunate scavengers and would-be rescue teams that are outside where the alligators are served as the warning sign to the audience. These alligators are explosively dangerous. CHOMP! CHOMP! With the message sent, it was a white knuckle ride to the finish line for our survivors.
- Daniel shows his real nature in Daniel Isn’t Real. Young Patrick Schwarzenegger is so damned charming as Daniel, the imaginary friend, you get lulled into complacency that perhaps he’s not an EVIL imaginary friend. And then… he turns into a body horror nightmare fiend. I did not expect that, and neither did Luke (Miles Robbins).
- Norval finds out who his daddy is in Come to Daddy. This movie, which I caught at Overlook, spent the entire first act delivering a very tense, but not-horrific character relationship study between a young man, Norval (Elijah Wood) and his estranged dad (Stephen McHattie). It is a painfully awkward reunion, and then we find out the truth, and boy does it get messy! And violent. But the revelation about the truth of Norval’s father is a real game-changer, and the movie goes into horror mode right at that big reveal.
- Alicia Silverstone’s fateful decision in The Lodge. Last year, at Overlook, I watched Hereditary, and there was an “OH SHIT!” moment when Charlie got introduced to a telephone pole. In this year’s Overlook, that moment was when Laura (Silverstone) is served divorce papers from Richard (Richard Armitage). Her reaction is the trigger for a whole slew of dangerous dominos in a movie as cold in tone as it is in its presentation. I would say that the whole audience gasped at this key moment in the movie.
- Adelaide and Red meet in Us. Lupita Nyong’o, take a bow! I do hope the Academy has a good long term memory, because WOW, that was some intense work in that scene. Adelaide’s cool intensity paired with Red’s goggle-eyed and raspy doppelganger were perfect foils. Seeing both families staring at their opposites across the table is a moment etched in horror movie history. This was the year where we explored the have nots striking back at the haves, and Us makes for a very compelling case where the haves and the have nots are the same people! (Crazy!)
- The closing shot of The Headhunter. This was a very cleverly done independent horror-fantasy micro-budget movie. It’s the story of a barbarian warrior who in a vengeful oath for the death of his daughter hunts and decapitates all sorts of monsters of the realm. In a clever cost-saving move, you never see the actual combat between man and monster, but you see the results. The unnamed warrior (Christopher Rygh) arrives back at his log cabin, with a different head in a sack, but usually badly wounded himself. He does have the benefit of a magic healing salve, that cures his wounds. But the very thing that saves him becomes his eventual, and dramatic, undoing. There may be ten lines of dialogue in the whole movie. It is an essay in minimalist movie making and it works.
- The upside-down room in Escape Room. The movie is admittedly not the strongest narrative, and the ending was pretty wonky. But the adventurousness of the puzzles and the fantastic set design really showed out in the upside-down room. I am a big fan of escape rooms, and this seemed to be the ultimate offering. Granted it also was ultimately deadly as geek culture queen Deborah Anne Woll punched her ticket in this room.
- Rose plays her father’s apocalyptic sheet music in The Sonata. One of the sleeper films from this year, that was working through the festival circuit. The Scariest Things has been fortunate enough to interview a number of the main players involved with this production, which blends cosmic horror with the notion of musical incantation. There is a wonderful building of tension involving the mad music of Richard Marlowe (Rutger Hauer) who left behind some dreadful sheet music for his virtuoso violinist daughter Rose (Freya Tingley) to play. When she puts bow to string, it is dark magic both in the story and in the cinematic presentation.
- Everett’s conversation with Billy on the AM Radio for The Vast of Night. There was a real elegance to the exposition of this movie. This was the intellectual highlight of the Overlook Film Festival, and I believe this film won the Best in Show prize. The eerie and mesmerizing conversation between young radio DJ Everett and the haunted abduction survivor Billy was some really compelling storytelling. The conversation was intercut with some really interesting close-up shots and long pullback scenes of small-town New Mexico. Simply gorgeous and haunting.
- Adam goes on an impromptu date in Depraved. Larry Fessenden’s loving modernization of the Frankenstein story managed to parallel and suggest scenes that married up to the James Whale 1931 masterpiece, without feeling like aping the original. There is a scene where the flesh-golem Adam has managed to escape his confines. He has the minimum of social interaction skill at his disposal, and yet his scarred visage attracts a young woman at a bar. This is the parallel scene to the little girl with the daisies scene in the original, cleverly disguised. And, if you know the original well, you know how this scene will end. This is how to properly do a tribute.
- The rise of King Ghidorah from the Antarctica Ice in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I love me some kaiju action. Many people rightfully pointed to the stiff human characters, which I agree that despite the pedigree of the performers in hand, really were some fairly wooden window dressing to the main event. The monsters were spectacular, and what we were all waiting for was the emergence of King Ghidorah, and wow, was that effective. The battles were great. Mothra was great. Next time, I suggest they just make the Kaiju punch-punch festival and play it like a nature documentary. Skip the humans. Watch the monsters. I wouldn’t even mind a Richard Attenborough voice-over.