Another year, another plethora of horror films with some truly disturbing moments. One of my favorite parts about year-end lists is going back through all of the horror films of the year and picking out the most fucked up scenes to include on the “Most Disturbing Movie Moments” list. It may actually be my favorite list to compile at the end of every year. Does that make me depraved? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. Anyway, below are 13 of the most disturbing scenes the horror genre gifted us with in 2017. To qualify for this list the scene in question had to inspire some sort of visceral reaction in the viewer. It didn’t necessarily have to be gory or violent. It just had to provoke a strong reaction.
This year I even decided to rank them in order of level of intensity. The first entry on the list is still disturbing, but it may be something that more sensitive viewers will be able to handle. The last entry on this list is only for the most hardcore viewer. Also, for the sake of not letting readers feel left out, I only included films that saw a wide release in 2017 on this list. Films that only screened at festivals were not taken into consideration. Those films will go on 2018 lists (should they actually get a release in 2018).
***WARNING: NSFW and SPOILER-FILLED imagery & videos below.***
13. Segregating the Cereal – Get Out
It’s should come as no surprise that Jordan Peele’s Get Out has become one of the most successful horror films ever made. It is one of the most socially relevant films of the decade, horror or otherwise, and has rung true with critics and audiences alike. It isn’t an in-your-face scary movie, opting to ask the viewers questions that aren’t easy to answer rather than talk down to them with cheap “Boo!” scares. One of the more unsettling moments in the film comes after it is revealed that Chris’ (Daniel Kaluuya) girlfriend Rose (Allison Wiliams) is actually the honeypot in her family’s racist body-snatcher business. Once Chris has been detained, the film cuts to Rose sitting on her bed listening to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack as she scopes out the next black man (or woman) she will bring home to her family. While doing this, she is popping dry Froot Loops into her mouth and sipping milk from a glass. What makes this scene so disturbing is its ties to white supremacy: she is literally separating the colors from the white by refusing to mix the two. It also exhibits her stunted growth by showing her eating food like a child in her childhood bedroom while, you know, psychotically stalking black people at the same time. It’s creepy and funny all at the same time.
12. The Ghost Texter – Personal Shopper
Personal Shopper won’t be for everyone. It is a slow burn story about a (wait for it) personal shopper (Kristen Stewart) who is still dealing with the emotional trauma from the death of her twin brother. In her down time she stays at his house and makes attempts to contact him in the spirit world. Eventually, she starts receiving mysterious texts from an unknown number that she believes may belong to her dead brother. These texts start out innocently enough (Hi. How are you? You know me. How is your day?) but gradually increase in intensity. The creepiest part of the film occurs when Stewart’s character checks her phone after a few hours and sees multiple messages from the texter over the past few hours, including one from 15 minutes before where he/she/it said it would come to her apartment if she didn’t respond. Following that is a text from 3 minutes ago saying it was in the street. After that is a text from a minute ago saying it is at her front door. I’m not doing this scene any justice by describing it. Director Olivier Assayas masterfully builds suspense and terror from this sequence, sending chills down the viewer’s spine. If you haven’t seen Personal Shopper yet, seek it out immediately.
11. Father-Son Story Time – The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Nothing like some good old father-son bonding time, right? Well, if you’re Colin Farrell in Yorgos Lanthimos’ brilliant The Killing of a Sacred Deer (my very positive review, Benedict Seal’s very negative one), you may wish you had just kept your mouth shut. In an effort to get his son, who has recently been rendered paraplegic, to eat some food, Farrell’s Steven Murphy tells him a story about how he once walked into his father’s bedroom as a child and masturbated him until he ejaculated. That this monologue is told in such a blunt, matter-of-fact way makes it all the more disturbing. Don’t take parenting lessons from this guy.
10. I’ll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours – Creep 2
Patrick Brice’s Creep 2 (review) is just as good (if not better) than its predecessor. The sequel sees serial killer Aaron (Mark Duplass), luring in another unsuspecting filmmaker in the form of Sara (Desiree Akhavan), a graduate student who hopes to make a name for herself with a YouTube series where she meets strangers on Craigslist does things for them. Towards the end of the first act, Aaron tells Sara that he intends to break down all of the barriers between them, and to do so they must see each other completely naked. Aaron the strips down in front of Sara, showing her (and us) his fully nude body. He then asks Sara to do the same, which she does. The timeliness of this scene makes it all the more disturbing. Watching this particular scene in a year when we have been plagued daily with horrific accounts of sexual assault is extremely uncomfortable. Akhavan does an excellent job of selling Sara’s strange combination of uneasy willingness and shock, making it all the more disturbing.
9. Puppetry of the Georgie – It
No, It is not the scariest movie of the year, but damn if it didn’t have some wonderful set pieces (That projector scene! That sink scene!). The creepiest of which was almost spoiled in the trailer, but they thankfully cut away before the money shot. When Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) goes down to his flooded basement, he sees his dead brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) taunting him in the corner. Eventually, Georgie’s face begins to rot and Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) rises from the water. It is revealed that Pennywise is using Georgie as a puppet before he violently lifts the Georgie puppet up and slaps him down face-first into the water. Seeing this desecration of Georgie’s rotting corpse and the gleeful way in which Pennywise does it is one of It‘s standout moments. It sticks with you long after you’ve left the theater.
8. A Trip to the Dentist – A Cure for Wellness
Anyone with a fear of the dentist need not tune into Gore Verbinski’s beautiful (if overlong) film A Cure for Wellness (my review). In the film, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to a mysterious wellness center to locate the CEO of the company he works for. He eventually becomes trapped there, and is subjected to some horrific experiments by Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs). The first procedure he undergoes is some impromptu dental surgery without anesthetic. Your jaw will surely start to hurt the moment you see the drill penetrate the enamel. A Cure for Wellness probably didn’t need to be two and a half hours long, but at least we got one memorable, cringe-worthy scene out of it.
7. A Family Murder – It Comes at Night
Anyone expecting the “it” in It Comes at Night (review) to be revealed may have walked out of the theater disappointed, but as an exercise in unbearable tension it gets the job done. Set in a future where a virus has ravaged most of humanity (we assume), the film follows Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as they attempt to survive. One day they hesitantly invite Kim (Riley Keogh), Will (Christopher Abbott) and their son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) into their home and allow them to stay there. Things go well for a few days before the seed of paranoia begins to grow and tensions rise. Eventually, Paul and Sarah kick out Kim, Will and Andrew when they believe Andrew to be infected. This leads to a confrontation in which Sarah kills Will and Paul kills Andrew. Kim, having just witnessed her child be murdered, begs Paul to killer her to. He obliges. It’s a truly harrowing scene that serves as the perfect capper to the slow-mounting dread that preceded it.
6. Bedside Rape, Torture and Poop – Hounds of Love
Ben Young’s psychological horror film Hounds of Love (review) will be one of the more difficult films you watch this year, but it will also be one of the best (it is easily in my top 10 horror films of the year). While the film as a whole is all kinds of disturbing, no moment sticks with you more than the one in which rebellious teenager Vicki (Ashley Cummings), who has just been kidnapped by married couple John (Stephen Maloney) and Evelyn (Emma Booth), must endure multiple rapes by the former before emptying her bowels on the bed that she is handcuffed to. It’s harrowing and heartbreaking.
5. The Snap Heard Around the World – mother!
Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (review) is probably not the film audiences thought they were going to see after witnessing its sublimely creepy trailer just one month prior. While it may not have been the home invasion horror film people were expecting, it was certainly a powerful assault on the senses. The final 20 or so minutes of mother! culminate in a vicious crowd (us) overtaking the titular matriarch’s (Jennifer Lawrence, standing in for Mother Earth) home while she is giving birth to a baby (representing Jesus). Once she gives birth, Javier Bardem’s Man (God) hands the baby over to the crowd, where they crowd-surf it to the other room. On its journey there the baby breaks its neck and the crowd proceeds to eat the baby (a very literal representation of the Eucharist). You don’t actually see the crowd digging in to the baby’s flesh (though you do see a few chunks of it being passed around), but you most certainly hear the snap of its neck when it breaks. The sound in the movie cuts out for a moment to give you time to ask the person next to you if you just heard what you think you heard (you did). It’s incredibly unsettling.
4. Incest Porn – We Are the Flesh
2017 was filled with controversial horror films, but none may be more controversial than Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are the Flesh (review), a Mexican trip to hell that sees siblings Fauna (María Evoli) and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) seek food and shelter in an apocalyptic world from the crazed Mariano (Noé Hernández). Filled with cannibalism, incest and explicit sex (the film is practically a porno), We Are the Flesh will . If audiences didn’t know what kind of film they were in for, they most certainly did when Mariano forces Fauna and Lucio to have sex. And make no mistake: you see their fornication in explicit detail. The entire sequence (well, the entire film, really) is one big exercise in discomfort. It’s sickening and it’s disgusting, but it’s also very powerful.
3. A Necrophiliac Orgy – Leatherface
One sure-fire way to make it on to a list like this is to put necrophilia in your movie (just look at my list from last year where The Neon Demon most definitely earned a spot). Julien Maury’s and Alexandre Bustillo’s Leatherface (review), a sequel to Tobe Hooper’s original, may not have been particularly good but it did feature plenty of gruesome moments (despite the almost complete lack of chainsaw action). After a night of murdering, bloodthirsty lovers Ike (James Bloor) and Clarice (Jessica Madsen) have sex on top of a corpse. There really isn’t much else to about the scene, but un(?)fortunately I couldn’t find a clip of the scene. Just know that it’s really, really gross.
2. The Brazilian Wax From Hell – Raw
For a coming-of-age tale about cannibalism, Julia Ducournau’s Raw (review) is surprisingly tame when it comes to the gory details. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few moments of pure ickiness though. Take, for example, the scene in which Alexia (Ella Rumpf) gives her sister Justine (Garance Marillier) a Brazilian wax. Not only does the cloth strip get stuck(!) on Justine’s pubic area, but Alexia loses a finger in her attempt to cut the cloth off of Justine. As if that weren’t bad enough. Justine then takes a bite out of Alexia’s severed finger. You would think it would be the finger-eating that would be the most disturbing thing about this scene, but it’s actually the extreme close-ups of Alexia trying to pull the cloth and wax off of Justine’s skin.
1. Peeling Off the Glove – Gerald’s Game
I actually took a poll on Twitter and Facebook to see which horror movie scenes other people found to be the most disturbing, and the degloving scene in Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game (my review) received an overwhelming amount of mentions. It is understandable of course. It’s not every day you get to see a woman (Carla Gugino, in a mesmerizing performance) peel the skin off of her own hand. I was fortunate enough to see this in a theater at Fantastic Fest (the film is made for a theatrical experience if only because of this scene) and someone actually fainted during the degloving. Flanagan doesn’t hold back, showing every tendon rip in graphic detail. Just try to make it through the scene without looking away!
Which moments in horror films for 2017 did you find to be the most disturbing? Let us know in the comments below!