Of course, not everyone is going to agree with our choices, least of all hard-core horror geeks. And so we'll admit, we were a little nervous when cult horror experts Zack Carlson and Lars Nilsen, of the famed Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, offered to weigh in on our list. Would they love it? Hate it? Praise its genius? Rip it to shreds?
It is with great pride that we turn our picks over to Zack and Lars, who will be commenting on our list (five picks at a time) and then, after the big reveal on October 31, offering their own ranked lists of Most Iconic Horror Scenes. Whom will you agree with more -- them or us? Stay tuned and find out.
Our last collection flops directly from the feverish mind of Sir Lars Nilsen...
Lars Nilsen is more excited, obsessive and knowledgeable about underappreciated movies than any other Nordic man. He's the programmer for Austin's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and the programmer/host of Weird Wednesday, the world's single greatest weekly 35mm exploitation film series. He has so many movie reference books that the shelves bend like upside-down wooden rainbows. He collects out-of-print VHS tapes and music by non-caucasians. He almost beat up a guy for locking a dog in a hot car with the windows up. Don't do that.
See our full list of 20 Most Iconic Horror Scenes, which we'll keep revealing -- at noon daily on the Moviefone Blog -- until October 31.
5. 'Halloween' Opening Sequence
Lars: This wasn't the first Point Of View Kill, Bob Clark's 'Black Christmas' was before this and D.W. Griffith did it in 1919 ('Face Stabbers of Musket Alley', now lost), but this is the one that most people saw first and it's pretty damn good. Carpenter's strategy of confusing audience identification is set up here and continues throughout. While hundreds of films aped the style of 'Halloween', few of them understood that under the suspense and murder there is an underlying subtextual core of role and gender reversal that powers Carpenter's film. A significant portion of Carol Clover's essential book "Men, Women & Chainsaws" is devoted to 'Halloween' and is required reading for anyone genuinely interested in horror films.
4. 'The Shining': "Heeere's Johnny!"
Lars: Little known fact: until the master filmmaker's death, every year on the anniversary of the release 'The Shining's release, Jack Nicholson sent a card to Stanley Kubrick's home that read, "Thank you for turning me into a grotesque Jack In The Box simulacrum and ruining my ability to ever be perceived as anything but a total fucking lunatic." This movie is undeniably effective but Nicholson seems like a barely-contained maniac even before he loses it and starts chopping the place up.
3. 'Alien': Chestburster
Lars: One of the most visceral shocks in movie history is the scene where John Hurt's chest bursts open and a razor-toothed alien creature that looks like something you'd see hanging in a Korean seafood market flies out of his thorax. Though only moderately more disgusting than actual childbirth, the carnage is completely unexpected and the excellent cast does a great job of selling the scene.
2. 'The Exorcist': Pea Soup & Head Spins
Lars: This movie probably got more people on the Jesus train than Billy Graham and the Insane Clown Posse combined. It's so expertly done in all ways that even the most sophisticated cinephiles can still get caught up in the illusion. And even if you think the idea of demonic possession is just a sack of old underpants, this scene will play Chopsticks on your spinal column.
1. 'Psycho': Shower Scene
Lars: In this classic scene, Hitchcock plays on the audience's knowledge of how movies work. In 1960, when audiences saw the silhouette of "Mrs." Bates through the shower curtain they reassured themselves that nothing would happen to the top-billed star of the film, Janet Leigh. But it does, and in a manner far more frenetic and violent than anything seen in a mainstream film. Bates slices through the curtain and so does Hitchcock, again and again and again. Both Bates and Hitchcock lose themselves in a frenzy of cutting. If the impact is muted now (and let's just admit that it is), it's only because the scene has been aped and parodied thousands of times since.
(And Happy Halloween from everyone at the Drafthouse!)
The Alamo Drafthouse, called the #1 theater in America by Entertainment Weekly and one-upped by The Guardian which called it "the best cinemas in the world," is known for its one-of-a-kind film programming. Zack Carlson, programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest, and Lars Nilsen, creative director for the theater, have helped build the theater's esteemed reputation with regular cinematic trips into the horrific and weird with their weekly Terror Tuesday & Weird Wednesday midnight shows.