Halloween is just around the corner, so I thought there would be no better way to prepare for the festivities than by looking back at some of the scarier moments TV has given us over the years. Whether they were shocking, frightening, or just all around disturbing, this collection is the stuff of nightmares. So join me, if you dare, as I journey into the the more haunting side of television. Someone cue the maniacal laughter.
Anthony's Jack-In-the-Box (The Twilight Zone, “It's a Good Life”) There has always been something truly unsettling about taking the innate innocence of a child and flipping it on its head. The only thing worse than a monster is a child monster; and little Anthony Fremont was certainly that. The idea is simple, give a young boy godlike powers and the malice to use them strictly for his own enjoyment. As terrifying as a human jack-in-the-box is or being “wished to the cornfield” by a six year would be, as with most episodes of The Twilight Zone, there was an underlying fear that cut much deeper than what was on the surface. The truly horrifying aspect comes from contemplating on whether Anthony was actually evil or whether he is was just another study in what happens when omnipotence is bestowed on even the most innocent of persons.
Two Young Lovers With Nothing Better To Do (Supernatural, “My Bloody Valentine”) Generally I'm not a fan of gore in my horror, except when it's used as effectively as the cold open from Supernatural's “My Bloody Valentine.” Watching a couple who were just awkwardly sharing a first kiss suddenly start tearing into each other like slabs of beef jerky was, as you might expect, quite discomforting. Their couples-only buffet is made even more freaky by the sheer joy they each express at devouring the other and -even creepier- in being devoured. Having gone into the episode expecting the usual rather ho-hum monster kill to kick things off also added about a Mack truck's worth of shock value to the already deeply upsetting scene. While the rest of the episode was of the more action-oriented fare that Supernatural normally produces, let's just say the opener was frightening enough to leave a taste behind.
Probably Best To Leave That Door Closed (The Walking Dead, “Days Gone Bye”) In a series about the undead returning to life you would expect a fair share of scary scenes, but none since have topped one of The Walking Dead's earliest moments. What made the shots of Rick's walk out of the hospital so effective is what you don't quite see for so long, but know all too well is there; unlike Rick, who at that time had no idea what kind off hell he had woken up to. You anxiously await the appearance of the first zombie, while you simultaneously feel for Rick, knowing he he won't be prepared to face one. When he does realize that something is very wrong, and by that I mean when supposedly dead bodies desperately try to reach him through barricaded doors, that is the moment when the horror becomes as intense for Rick as it is for the audience.
Do They Float? (Stephen King's It) Not one to really stand the test of time, in fact it would now be difficult to even sit through ABC's wholly hokey TV movie, but to a kid, Pennywise was one creepy character. If you have a fear of clowns, it's quite possible that it stemmed from Tim Curry's sadistic take on the “inter-dimensional predatory life-form.” Luring in children with promises of toys and candy only to murder them is about as creepy as it gets, but Pennywise went above and beyond that level of horror. As the “Losers Club” takes on It as both children and adults, we are instilled with the fear that the things that haunted us as youngsters will once again return to torment us when we are grown. Georgie's untimely demise over the love of his paper boat is a scene that always stands out, and has been made famous by Curry's disturbingly memorable piece of dialogue.
Bob Doesn't Like Identical Cousins (Twin Peaks, “Lonely Souls”) It is actually a little difficult to discuss what was one of the more notable scenes in television history, mainly because of the reason it was so notable. Answering beyond a doubt the question originally posed by Twin Peaks, “Who killed Laura Palmer?”, the scene is pretty much a giant spoiler, but it is also remarkable for how utterly disturbing it was. Without saying too much, Bob's attack on Maddy was a horrifically brutal moment, and unlike so many that have come after it on television, it actually felt brutal. We are so used to seeing dead hookers and psycho killers on the dozens of police procedurals that currently air, that we forget the unnerving quality of true violence. If you don't mind having one of TV's biggest mysteries spoiled, or witnessing one of its most distressing moments, then by all means, take a gander.
Crazy Joe Davola (Seinfeld, “The Opera”) He may not be the scariest clown on the list, but the emotionally unstable writer who tormented Jerry and the gang on more than one occasion was never more frightening then when he donned the role of Pagliacci. As the “great sad tragic clown,” Davola brought some genuinely creepy moments to the episode, and admittedly plenty of laughs as well. Having an unhinged man who is off his meds trying to put the kibosh on you is frightening in itself, but throw in a clown costume, and it's down right terrifying. Even before Davola painted his face he was creeping out out almost every character; most notably when he confused Elaine with Pagliacci's unfaithful wife. Not that his threatening message to Jerry wasn't also disconcerting, but having someone hold you captive while calling you Nedda definitely takes the cake.