Be advised: there are some plot spoilers in the following article and accompanying video. Proceed with caution.
It was a scary year at the movies, wasn't it? And gross, too. Very, very gross. The scalping scene in “Bone Tomahawk,” to cite just one example, ranks as one of the most horrendous displays of human cruelty and degradation I have ever seen on film.
I'm conflicted about that disturbing moment in S. Craig Zahler's very good Western, which also sees the character in question being split in two as he screams in agony. While it doesn't particularly lend itself to satisfied squeals of glee from gorehounds in the way that, say, one of the “Saw” movies would, something feels unnecessary about the way Zahler lingers over the savage act. Conversely, by presenting the moment without frills — no eerie soundtrack cues, no gratuitous closeups of torn flesh (so as to provide a showcase for the special effects makeup team) — at the very least he doesn't glorify what's happening or make it seem cool.
I was a little shocked when I watched the rough cut of the accompanying clip our fabulous video team put together, because I'd forgotten that so many of the “scariest” moments I had listed were also some of the goriest. Another scene, from Eli Roth's controversial cannibal film “The Green Inferno,” shows a man having his eye gouged out — also alive — before the eye is voraciously consumed by a tribe elder.
Like “Bone Tomahawk,” I'm also of two minds about “The Green Inferno,” which is simultaneously smarter and more knowing than many have given it credit for (ditto Roth's two “Hostel” films) and occasionally cringeworthy in its homage to the cannibal films of the 1980s, which presented native people as nothing more than savage brutes intent on consuming every square inch of human flesh they could get their teeth on.
I would similarly take issue with Roth's casting of an actual Peruvian tribe, whose total lack of pop culture knowledge (they had never seen a television before) inevitably rendered them ignorant of the way their likenesses would be used to, in some ways, further negative stereotypes of indigenous peoples across the globe. Roth may be taking satirical aim at the blind, often self-serving political activism that takes place in the Western world, but there are many impressionable minds out there who will fail to get the joke.
The gruesomest moment from Ciaran Foy's “Sinister 2” also made my list, and here's the thing: I didn't even particularly like the movie, which suffers from the same problem as “Inferno” in that it's a smarter-than-expected film that ultimately undermines its own thematic aims by catering in gross exploitation.
I note all of this only to point out that while I wasn't a fan of every movie on this list, each featured a moment that shook, shocked, unnerved and perturbed me in spite of my misgivings about the work as a whole. If I were making a traditional “Top 10” horror movie list most of these films — excepting “It Follows,” “Goodnight Mommy” and “The Boy” — most likely wouldn't have made the cut.
Now, without further qualification and in no particular order, here are my 9 scariest movie moments from 2015 (with one special mention):