With Andy Muschietti‘s wildly anticipated adaptation of Stephen King’s IT hitting theaters this week (Thursday night can’t come soon enough for me), we’re dedicating our week to films based on the masterful storytellers work. Today’s particular focus is on terrifying moments in Stephen King films that don’t get enough recognition. Be sure to let us know your favorite moments in the comments and on social media!
5. Not your average pilot (The Night Flier, 1997)
Look at that picture. Look… at… that… picture. Do you see that vampire? It’s obvious from this image alone that, aesthetically, The Night Flier features the scariest movie vamp of all time. The fact that director Mark Pavia doesn’t waste the reveal of his beast during our introduction to it is admirable, and the fact that he still manages to craft a terrifying scene is damn impressive.
One of the most underrated King films in general, The Night Flier‘s introduction is terrifying in its reluctance to showcase the look of its monster, instead focusing on what that monster is capable of. The eerie piano score adds to the moment as a man investigates a seemingly abandoned plane in the middle of the night. After looking around the outside of the plane with his flashlight, he calls out to the pilot. The lack of response prompts him to open the door of the plane and have a peek inside. Shocked by what he finds, the man suddenly has his head slammed in the door repeatedly. He pulls his head out and turns toward the unseen attacker, getting slashed across the face by monstrous fingernails in the process. The man falls to the ground and shines his light towards the attacker, but the viewer sees nothing other than his cape and dark outline as the victim is murdered.
4. Bugs! Bugs everywhere! (Creepshow, 1982)
For the life of me, I have no idea how people can watch this scene without cringing in terror. I’ve spent my entire life freaked the hell out by cockroaches because of this particular moment in the Creepshow anthology. When hordes of those evil fuckers make their way into the sealed apartment of Upson Pratt (one of the biggest assholes in cinema history), he locks himself inside of his panic room to get away from them, only to find the room infested as well. With no way to escape, Pratt suffers a fatal heart attack. It’s the next moment, however, that earns a place on our list.
When electricity returns to the apartment, we see Pratt lying dead on the floor of his panic room, without a single cockroach in sight. Soon, though, Pratt’s body begins to contort as hundreds of roaches break through his skin and swarm atop his lifeless corpse. Why Raid bug spray doesn’t use this moment for marketing purposes, I’ll never understand.
Raid: “Had your fill of bugs?”
*Roaches break through Pratt’s skin*
Raid: “Eliminate those bloody pests with a can of Raid!”
3. Breathe (Cujo, 1983)
Personally, few things are scarier to me than a child in danger. The panic that comes from a young child’s tears is unrivaled. And when they choke on food? Holy shit, no. I’m a bundle of anxious nerves as it is, so having my own children might literally kill me- especially in the case that my child was overheated, dehydrated, and at the mercy of a beastly, rabid dog.
Such is the case in Cujo.
In regard to quality, Cujo falls more toward the middle of all the Stephen King films. However, the moments with Donna and her young son Tad being trapped in the car while the rabid Cujo attacks are intense as all hell. The particular moment that lands on our list is Tad’s fit. Practically on the verge of death due to severe dehydration and being overheated, Tad begins to frantically pull in air as his body begins to seize. Donna panics and tries her best to get Tad to breathe, and Dee Wallace’s realistic performance as the horrified mother is heartbreaking. This scene is legit nightmare fuel for anyone with kids, and undeniably one of the most underrated moments in Stephen King films.
2. Wait for it (Silver Bullet, 1985)
One of my personal favorite Stephen King films, Silver Bullet is also undeniably one of the most underrated adaptations of his work. While several scenes from the film deserve a spot on a list such as this (the bridge scene, Reverend Lowe‘s nightmare), the moment I’ve ultimately decided to include is brief, but nevertheless effective.
The moment in question comes in the tense finale of the film, on Halloween night. Marty and Jane have somewhat convinced their Uncle Red that Lowe is a werewolf and that he’s trying to kill Marty since he knows his identity. The three fall asleep in the living room, waking up late in the night with nothing having happened so far. Red begins to doubt the existence of the werewolf, however, it soon appears outside of the window and scares Jane. Red peers out of the window and sees nothing, but the werewolf then rips the power cables out of the box, causing the electricity to suddenly go out.
This small but terrifying moment is what lands Silver Bullet on our list. With only the light of the fireplace, Marty, Jane, and Uncle Red frighteningly anticipate the werewolf’s next move, turning their focus toward the dark doorway, expecting the monster to come barging through at any second. Much like the three characters, the viewer is left afraid and unable to see past the light of the fire. We hold our breath with the characters, waiting with the unbearable amount of suspense that director Dan Attias forces upon us, and when Lowe finally breaks through the wall in the living room, we’re almost relieved that the terrifying wait is over.
1. Zelda (Pet Sematary, 1989)
Do I really even have to discuss this moment? I imagine that everyone reading this is nodding in agreement, mumbling something similar to “Aw, hell no” or “Fuck that creepy bitch” under their breath.
Rachel recalls her sister’s death to Louis, and explains how afraid she was when Zelda’s body began to contort and convulse. The moment is downright terrifying, and since I already have trouble sleeping without potential nightmares, I’m just going to leave the scene here. It speaks for itself as one of the scariest moments in Stephen King films.