Picture it. You’re hanging in, plodding your way through a terrible horror film with a muddled plot, poor acting, terrible effects, and all the rest. We’ve all been there. You consider turning the film off halfway through its runtime out of sheer disgust because you know this dumpster fire won’t get any better, but you don’t. Perhaps out of laziness, perhaps out of morbid curiosity, you decide to stick around and see where this thing is going, and then wham! One single shining, chilling, resplendent good scene breaks up the monotony of this terrible movie.
It happens pretty frequently, especially in B-horror films. It would even seem that some bad horror movies were constructed to exist as scaffolding around the unique original vision of this one good scene. Because they are so unexpected, these good scenes in really bad horror movies are sometimes the most memorable. Some of our writers reminisced over this tendency in horror, and they picked out their favorite good scenes in bad horror movies. Read on to see what stuck out for them!
Dead Birds (2004): Opening/Ending
Made during the early ’00s, Dead Birds features what I’d call “spooky long face,” a trend popularized by Grave Encounters and other films of the time. The camera shows a person, they turn around, and their face gets all stretched out with vacant eyes and a long mouth usually full of pointy teeth. It’s a cheap and easy scare. It’s also slapped on the poster and frankly looks terrible. The setting is fairly unique following a group of Civil War deserters taking refuge in an abandoned house. Also, Michael Shannon is here!
The bit that’s stuck with me is actually how the film both begins and ends, with the group shooting a strange deformed dog-like creature. In the end, it’s hinted that the plantation house and surrounding fields are a sort of dark magic or supernatural zone. The main lead character William tries to run away and is shot by a new group of Confederates, who pan over to see Will has become one of the dog creatures. Will this cycle keep happening? I don’t know, but it’s kind of spooky and sad to think about.
Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story (2015): Milo’s Death
The internet is a fascinating horror show, giving opportunities to everyone far and wide to be a creator. One of the spookiest creations to come from the internet was Slenderman, and boy did we get our fill of that tall skinny creep. In 2015 Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, based on the YouTube channel, Marble Hornets, which brought much more attention to Slendy and his mythos, released to the masses. It was pretty much panned by critics and audience alike. While the movie is pretty forgettable, there is one really great moment that took me aback on my first viewing.
Towards the end, Milo (Chris Marquette), Sara (Alexandra Breckenridge), and Charlie (Jake McDorman) rent a cabin in the woods in hopes of dealing with their Slenderman aka The Operator (Doug Jones) problem. This scene follows a somewhat emotionally poignant scene when Mr. Man kills Milo’s dog, so emotionally his arc is pretty much “f*ck it” at this point. The Operator makes Milo hang himself, audibly snapping his neck. The rope breaks and Milo falls dead to the ground, leaving Sara and Charlie unsure with what to do next. Seconds after, Milo gets up and brutally kills Sara and Charlie.
The movie as a whole is very choppy, and for found footage standards, it still seems pretty half assed, but Milo’s death and rebirth scene is pretty well done, with wonderful acting from Chris Marquette.
Dracula Untold (2014): Vlad’s Transformation
In the pantheon of disappointing horror reboots, few can reach the heights (or lows, depending on how you look at it) that Dracula Untold effortlessly attains. This movie totally misunderstands why Dracula is one of the most enduring characters in any genre, and it tries to turn him into some sort of Marvel-style superhero instead. It’s a shining example of how a lot of big studio executives don’t have a clue about what makes a good story, and it’s arguably the worst version of Dracula ever put up on the big screen.
But it’s not entirely bad. The first half hour or so is actually pretty good, and there’s one scene in particular that’s even legitimately creepy. At one point in the film, before Vlad becomes a vampire, he meets an undead bloodsucker in a cave, and everything about this creature is utterly terrifying. He looks, moves, and talks like a living nightmare, so you can’t help but feel a slight chill crawl down your spine every time you look at him. It’s hands down the best scene in the entire movie, and it’s arguably even one of the greatest vampire scenes in horror history.
Creature (1985): No Spacesuits
Creature is an Alien ripoff that even has special effects done by some of the crew from the James Cameron helmed sequel. Originally titled Titan Find (and later released as this on physical media), the premise is a space crew discovering a room filled with specimens, one of which contains the xenomorph-like creature. After their ship is trapped in a cavern, they’re stalked by the alien and predictably picked off one by one.
Hinted at with the tagline “First you die…Then the terror begins,” victims are brought back to life after being killed and controlled by parasites—alien zombies! It does not make complete sense scientifically, but still, quite an unsettling scene involves Susan walking around sans spacesuit. She strips nude and seems to hypnotize Jon into approaching her, where she removes his helmet and infects the man. Something about a naked woman walking around an alien planet with no issues bothers me. It’s just unnatural! Creature is now public domain and easily available if you want to experience it for yourself.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003): The Fight Scene
Freddy vs. Jason was by no means the film we deserved from these two beloved franchise characters. By this point in the Nightmare series, Freddy (Robert Englund) went from an ominous and intense nightmare stalker to an obtuse comedian and a satire of what he once was. Jason (Ken Kirzinger) was still Jason—and super badass. Genre fans were petitioning for some sort of crossover event between any of the prominent franchises, but what we got was an ugly mess and a half.
The one saving grace was the title card fight, the championship match…who would win between Freddy vs. Jason? Well, sadly the answer is no one. But the fight was pretty badass! Oxygen tanks as torpedoes, flying sticks of rebar, a fight in a burning house, and blaring NU METAL! It had the early aughts’ fingerprints all over it, and the scene was just incredibly badass.
That’s when the movie gets meaningless again, when we think Jason wins the fight by beheading Freddy, but nope. Freddy is still alive. I get the *literal* wink at the audience and the canonicity of this for his character, but story-wise, it seems like a middle finger. The fight we waited years and 80 minutes to see had no consequences. At least the fight is gnarly.
What did we miss? What are some other great scenes in otherwise terrible horror movies? Let us know in the comments!