Every now and then, we feel it’s healthy to let out a good old scream. Admittedly, our wails of woe are usually directed at our commute or some other first world problem. While the recent UK heatwaves have been compounding these miseries, we should all be grateful to be screaming at the drink that leaked in our bag, rather than, you know, being skinned alive in a torture chamber, for example.
Below is a little list we’ve cultivated to help put our day-to-day plights into perspective and to keep our spines nicely chilled in the heat of the summer.
Twisted Pictures heavily messed with us in 2004 when they teamed up with James Wan to offer up one of horror’s most controversial franchises to date. Among the many twists and turns the series has taken over the last 13 years, none are as harrowing as the ending of Saw 1. The bloody scenes are not for the fainthearted, with many critics labelling the film as ‘torture porn’. However, the scream that resonated the most was when Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) truly realised his fate. As the door shut on Adam, we were left horrified at the outcome of Jigsaw’s twisted game.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil
The lighter side of the macabre is brought to you by director Eli Craig with the hilarious Tucker and Dale vs Evil. This light-hearted horror comedy follows two lovable hillbillies going about their daily business when they stumble across a group of ignorant teens looking for a good time. The flick pokes fun at the genre stereotypes we have become accustomed to.
One particular scene stands out – when one of our ‘dumb teenagers’ accidentally finds himself being chewed up in the blades of a wood chipper. The harrowing screams from our supposed villain are chilling, but they are offset by a note of comedy when what’s left of him asks if he’s OK (Spoiler: no, he’s not).
Directed by Scott Speigel and written by Eli Roth, the Hostel franchise came under heavy criticism for its boundary-pushing scenes, which some felt went too far. Hostel 3 follows a group of young men on a bachelor party in Las Vegas. Kidnapped by a group hosting underground torture parties, the men are separated and maimed for sport one by one as bets are placed on their suffering.
One moment that left audience members gasping in the foetal position was the ‘face peel’ scene. Fully awake and without anaesthetic, the victim’s confusion, pleading and blood-curdling screams will leave you feeling nauseous, and wondering what you did to deserve such visual punishment.
This crime thriller, directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, needs no introduction. The all-star cast includes Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey. As the gruelling game unfolds, we follow clues and solve puzzles guiding us through seven-deadly-sin-themed murders. Each of the kills – Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Sloth, Envy, Pride and Wrath – is more sickening than the last.
Although the true horror of the final murder is hidden from us, the plaintive sound of detective Mills screaming “What’s in the box?” is truly harrowing.
Thanks to Paranormal Activity, people are now a lot more reluctant to leave their foot dangling over the side of the bed. For protagonist Katie, this mistake proved fatal.
Katie was being terrorised by a demon and no amount of talcum powder ghost traps could save her! At the film’s climax, she is brutally dragged down the stairs when the demonic entity ensnares her hanging foot. Although you may have guessed it would eventually happen, her harrowing final shriek is sure to leave you with chills.
This independent horror offering from Kevin Smith is every bit as weird and wonderful as you would hope. Arrogant podcaster Justin Long only wanted an interview with a harmless eccentric to raise his profile and get a little exposure. What was to take place in that stately home is nothing short of completely bizarre, and the situation swiftly becomes so surreal that you’ll have difficulty believing what you’re witnessing.
The scene by the water will have you holding your breath and covering your eyes as you watch our hapless protagonist plunge below after being drugged, kidnapped, dismembered, beaten and starved – only to then be forced to live his life as a mutilated sea creature… and he wasn’t the first victim! Justin Long’s anguished cries as he starts to contemplate his true fate are extremely unsettling.
The Human Centipede
Tom Six’s controversial The Human Centipede set tongues wagging when it shook up the world of horror back in 2009. Whether you’ve watched this macabre flick or not, you are sure to have an opinion about it. Perhaps the most haunting moment is the scene in which Dr. Joseph explains his terrible plans to his three reluctant guinea pigs.
While his plans are calmly displayed in what resembles a PowerPoint presentation, the doctor explains the procedure in cold hard science. It is as if he is describing a recipe, with no remorse or regrets. The good doctor may be completely unfazed by the wails and blood-curdling screams from the doomed trio, but they are sure to stay with the viewer long after the end credits have rolled.
Before the days of 24-hour trains in London, missing the last tube home meant about 23 night buses and encounters with some seriously shady characters. Despite the inconvenience, final girl Kate (Franka Potente) probably wishes she had chosen that other journey. When Kate misses the last train and ends up locked inside Charing Cross Station, she soon realises that she is not alone.
Forced to brave the winding tunnels of the underground in order to avoid the advances of a wannabe rapist, Kate hides in an office inside the confines of the tunnel. However, once the dust has settled and the torch comes on, we come face to face with the results of a nightmarish wartime experiment gone wrong.
Kate’s screams intertwine with the creature’s in a symphony of terror that will leave you feeling like you’ve just plunged down the slope of a rollercoaster. What ensues is a terrifying ordeal as she embarks on the fight of her life, making you question ever getting the tube again.
Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous shower scene has had people checking behind their shower curtains for intruders since 1960. This magnificent sequence set the bar for any horror worth its salt, creating a gold standard against which all new offerings of terror must be judged. It remains one of the most iconic scenes in film history.
The image of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she takes her final breaths has been recycled through the decades and remains just as relevant now as it did all those years ago. This scream is one that reverberates through horror history, and we can still hear its echoes to this day.
The Hills Have Eyes
Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes is widely recognised as one of the better horror remakes of recent years. It is an update that remains true to the spirit of the original while bringing new creative ideas to the mix. When a suburban family are stranded in the desert, it soon becomes apparent that their mini-van breaking down was no accident.
Though the father and son-in-law are on hand to get the van back into action, they are met with some resistance from the mutated inbred clan who want to keep them right where they are. In its most harrowing scene, the father’s screams can be heard across the desert. We are forced to spectate as he writhes in agony for several minutes after being tied to a tree and burned alive. It may make you rethink that road trip you had planned.
British classic Eden Lake is set in a very quaint, albeit sinister, part of the countryside. When a young couple embark on a romantic weekend away, they are soon confronted by a mob of nasty young boys and a dog that makes Cujo look like the Andrex puppy.
The couple are soon fighting for their lives, realising just how dangerous it was to underestimate people who have no moral compass. As Jenny (Kelly Reilly) attempts to escape, the mob take a young boy hostage in order to lure her back. Convinced they will not go through with their threat, our girl is left devastated as she witnesses the little boy perish in a ball of flames. His confused screams and cries for her help are left unanswered as the flames engulf him and he is burnt alive.
How could we not include the most popular ’90s slasher franchise! With the series spanning a decade and roping in some famous faces, Scream poked fun at the very foundations horror is built on. Wes Craven breathed new life into the slasher franchise with this expertly executed satire, which became a cult classic in its own right. The series then gave birth to more self-parody, including the likes of Scary Movie and the TV slasher series Scream streaming on Netflix. It is also responsible for other self-referential slashers like Final Girls, Cabin in the Woods and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Lesley Vernon.
With all the razor-sharp humour, it is easy to forget the central premise of a group of young children being brutally butchered by a maniac in a mask. Perhaps the most chilling scream in the franchise is from its iconic opening scene, where Drew Barrymore is first confronted with the contorted mask of Ghostface.