In our modern, internet age it’s not hard to find a ‘top’ list online. There’s always someone sharing a list of best songs, best films by a certain director, the heroes that could beat another hero, ways to improve your life, things to watch out for in a new relationship, etc. Lists are handy, they’re easy, and they’re a good way to absorb lots of information. And with their prevalence in print form it’s unusual that there aren’t more TV offerings that make the most of the format. One topic that seems to get the list treatment every few years, however, is horror films, and this time Shudder take a go at it.
Split across eight episodes, the series, directed by Kurt Sayenga, picks 101 horror movies that, as the title would suggest, have the scariest moments in them. As you’d imagine, compiling a list of what are the ‘scariest’ moments from across all of horror is a bit of a monumental task, especially when it comes to picking out an order for them. And there are times when watching the show where it feels like several of the entries could be moved around and it wouldn’t really make much of a difference, and it seems to be personal favouritism that’s picking out spots.
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That being said, pretty much every moment, and film, featured on the list are ones that I’ve either seen or heard of, and as the show goes on the entries start to become more and more iconic, with pretty much every big name film in horror making an appearance here. The early entries cover some decent enough movies that have some good shock moments in them, things such as the opening sequence from It Follows, the bus coming into frame in Cat People (arguably the very first jump scare ever put to screen), and the jump scare in Mulholland Drive, all of which I agree are surprise moments, but don’t feel particularly frightening.
As the series progresses, however, and you get closer to the end, the scares become less easy to argue against. The series starts to include moments that absolutely sick out in people’s minds, such as the birthday party scene inn The Omen, the dream within a dream frights of An America Werewolf in London, and shock monster attacks in A Quiet Place. But it’s not just western movies that get the spotlight treatment in this list, as in so many of these horror lists, as there are inclusions for Italian horror films like Suspiria, the work of Guillermo del Toro, and a few Asian films that make it into the top ten slots. And speaking of the top ten, the final places are filled by some of the best horror films you’ll see. The choices for the top spots are great, and a film I was hoping would appear somewhere in the entire list made it in there. The number one spot is taken by a film that isn’t my favourite, but is easily the one that disturbs me the most.
But how is this list presented, and is it worth giving over several hours of your time to watch it? Rather than having a narrator talk you through each movie and its reason for being on the list, the show gives over the floor to a number of big names from the horror community, such as Tony Todd (the Candyman himself), horror writer Mick Garris, special effects make-up maestro Greg Nicotero, director Edgar Wright, Joe Dante, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Brea Grant, and Tom Savini to name but a fraction of the famous faces that appear. These experts in the field bring a lot of passion to things as they talk about the films that gave them a love for horror, the shots that inspired them to become a creator, and the moments that filled them with fear. Every person appearing brings a level of almost infectious joy for the topic that elevates this from a simple list, to a series long discussion on the joys of finding a truly great horror moment that will stick with you.
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Shudder’s 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time is an honest joy to watch through. There were moments where I found myself fondly remembering the first time I saw certain movies, with the scenes picked out here leaving a mark on me. There were films that I’d only ever heard of briefly given a chance to shine, and I was left wanting to watch more. And ultimately, it just felt like a wonderfully enriching dive into the subject of horror scares. Even if you consider yourself an expert on the genre, if you think you’ve seen it all and know everything it’s still worth a watch because you get swept up in the fun of listening to people with a passion talk about that passion.
Whether just stopping in to check out what made the list, or coming along to try and find some great films to watch this Halloween, this series absolutely has you covered.