A little while back (it may have been a year ago, guys–time has zero meaning when I’m drafting) I penned a post about horror thresholds. The TL:DR version of it? People who’ve seen/read a lot of horror will develop a higher tolerance for scares on account of extended exposure to the genre. You get familiar with the tropes, the way the lighting and music change during a scene to telegraph an incoming scare, certain character traits that mark the character as dead from early on . . .
Honestly, it kind of sucks being a horror person sometimes. It’s so hard to get my goat. BUT BELIEVE ME, I WANT MY GOAT GOTTEN. TAKE THE FRIGGIN’ GOAT. PLEASE GET HILLARY’S GOAT.
The good news is, while you have to work harder for my goat, it’s still there and functional. And in case you’ve lost track, the goat is my flinch button. Below is a list of scenes/episodes in television that have sent me flying through the roof. In these instances, my goat was gotten, maimed, and devoured whole before my eyes.
Well done, TV people. Well done.
My poor goat.
10: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Season Four, Episode: Hush
Trauma stare NOW. Season four of Buffy was not my favorite, but it did have Hush, my favorite episode. The long and short of it is some demons come to town (The Gentlemen) and need to cut out seven human hearts. The only thing that can kill The Gentlemen is the human voice so they silence everyone in Sunnydale. To herald their arrival, a kid chants out a really creepy song. I disliked this song tremendously, as should anyone with a clue.
Because I hate you all a little, I’ve linked it below.
The only thing that would have been better than Hush? If Xander got eaten.
9: AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Season Two, Episode: I Am Anne Frank (Part Two)
American Horror Story season two was my least favorite of the three seasons, but it had one of the best scenes of the series. Dr. Arden has been merrily experimenting on his patient, Shelley, injecting her with all sorts of horrible diseases and amputating her legs for fun and profit. (Great guy.) This is the episode where Sister Mary Eunice releases Shelley on the world. Shelley’s body is destroyed, and you see the fruits of Arden’s labors when a bunch of school children find the legless Shelley crawling up a stairwell at school, the poor woman covered in pustules and gross. Yeaaaaaaah. Yeaaaaaah.
8: THE X-FILES. Season One, Episode: The Host
I’m not going to link a video clip here because I don’t need to. I’m not going to link a picture either because I value each and every one of you reading this. There’s a Russian freighter carrying Chernobyl waste. Inside the waste is a man and a worm thing and those two things end up melting together and forming a flukeman. The flukeman reproduces by biting people and infecting them with his flukey offspring. People vomit up the offspring and die. Thanks for the nightmares, X-Files. No, seriously. You guys stink. This had some of the most effective costuming/makeup ever because holy GOD the flukeman was hideous.
7: SUPERNATURAL. Season One, Episode: Provenance
A young couple buy a portrait of an American family from the turn of the century. They are brutally murdered. Sam and Dean investigate and discover that every family who’s ever owned the portrait are sliced up with a razor blade (because that’s a great way to die.) Research shows that the patriarch was accused of murdering his family with the razor back around the Titanic’s sinking.
A haunted painting? Yes. Yes, please. Very cool premise. Less cool later on when the painting comes alive and the murderer comes out wielding the razor. Fantastically scary.
6: HANNIBAL. Season One, Episode: Amuse Bouche
I knew Hannibal was going to be wonderful and dark and disgusting. I mean, the main character’s a gentleman cannibal. There’s a lot that can go wrong there. (I’d say there’s a lot that can go right there, too, but y’all might look at me funny.) What I didn’t plan on was an episode where the main character has to figure out why diabetics are going missing. And upon figuring it out, discovering an entire garden of people who are buried alive in a mushroom patch so that they, too, can become mushrooms. WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN THAT? BESIDES EVERYTHING EVER.
(I’m suddenly compelled to belt out CIRCLE OF LIFE with the whole people to mushrooms thing. But that’d be wrong.)
5: DOCTOR WHO. Season One (? ish?), Episode: The Empty Child
I know, I know. Weeping angels. Yeah, they creeped me out, too, but a lot less than this episode. My friend Marty was the one who got me watching Doctor Who. Marty, knowing I was a horror fan, used The Empty Child to hook me. Well done, MARTIN. This episode takes place during the war, when Britain was being pelted by German air raids. When the sirens went off, starving children scurried out of their hidey holes, risking their lives to steal food. One such excursion puts the children in touch with an alien. This happens.
Doctor Who again proves that the creepiest things in our lives are the children surrounding us. Stop being so creepy, kids.
4: SUPERNATURAL. Season Four, Episode: Family Remains
There’s something scratching at the walls. No, really, there’s something in the walls and it wants to come out. And when it comes out, it might kill your dog, you, your kids. This episode was horrifying because it mirrored a real life horror. Until you get to the big reveal of the atrocities committed, though, this episode is very much a “monster under the stairs” type deal. Sam and Dean don’t know what kind of murderous creature they’re dealing with and neither does the viewer. Once you find out? It’s a no-gooder. Most of the time knowing your monster makes the horror more palatable. This is an exception to that rule.
3: THE WALKING DEAD. Season One, Episode: Days Gone Bye
For a while there, The Walking Dead was one of my favorite shows. Intense, heartrending, visceral. You never knew who or what was on the chopping block. Season one was pretty much perfect, and it’s hard for me to choose which episode to put here so I’ll go with the first. We meet our cast at the beginning of their very long night. Through Rick’s eyes, we see the terrible things that have befallen the world. Tragedy perfumes every pee-your-pants moment. We connect to the cast and we fear for them. These are insurmountable odds, after all, and you know it from the get-go. The show is not subtle.
2: THE X-FILES. Season Four, Episode: Home
What’s with the inbreeding, TV? Cause it’s pretty awful. This was one of those episodes that stuck with me and will likely always stick with me–sort of like the HOW TO SERVE MAN thing from The Twilight Zone, only for my generation. There’s a family who likes to keep it in the family. Weirdness. Uncomfortable content. Disfigured babies. This fan-made trailer pretty much covers everything you need to know (or not know) about Home.
Yeah, I don’t want to watch it again.
1: AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Season One, Episode: Halloween
Chills. This episode gave me chills. Watching the first season of AHS, I had a pretty good idea of what Tate did. From the moment I met the dead teenagers, I was like, “Yep, Tate’s a bad, bad dude.” The reason this particular scene tops my list is the combination of the music, the emptiness of the act, and the sheer brutality. No holds barred, unadulterated violence and hatred. The absolute lack of empathy. The fact that this episode had its fingers on a very raw nerve. We always knew Tate had a capacity for evil. This showed the depths of that evil and it was horrifying.