Some of the most disturbing moments ever captured on celluloid can be found not in the works of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Carpenter, or Craven, but in films where their presence is genuinely unexpected -- and, in all likelihood, unintended. This Halloween, instead of watching the usual tired array of so-called scary movies, consider exploring the genre that I like to call “accidental horror.” Here are some illustrative examples:
Sex and the City 2 - Liza Butchers Beyonce
One needn’t have to study the filmography of John Waters to discover the point at which “kitschy and campy” ends and “bizarre and frightening” begins. Simply watch this torturous scene from Eli Roth’s Sex and the City 2, in which Liza Minnelli is exhumed to perform a cover of Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies”:
The Cat in the Hat - Yenta Furry Home Invasion
Dr. Seuss wasn’t called “the Stephen King of children’s authors” for nothing. Check out this haunting clip from the accidental horror classic The Cat in the Hat, about a hallucinogenic Yenta who terrorizes suburban children:
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Principal Pederast
Some scenes only become creepy in hindsight, long after a film’s initial release, when new revelations surface about the actors or filmmakers involved. Principal Rooney’s obsession with capturing a truant Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off gained a disturbing tenor in 2003 when Jeffrey Jones, the actor who played Rooney, was busted for allegedly taking nude photographs of a 14-year-old boy.
Norbit - Norbit Murders Good Taste
This film grossed nearly $160 million worldwide. If that doesn’t trigger an acute sensation of intense existential terror, consider reducing your daily lithium dose.
Spider-Man 3 - Spidey’s Snuff Film
Watch, if you dare, this eery and macabre sequence, in which a billion-dollar movie franchise commits suicide before your very eyes:
The Wiz - M.J.’s Scary Scarecrow
Had Michael Jackson never become embroiled in allegations of child molestation and substance abuse, this scene still would have creeped the hell out of me:
Big Top Pee-Wee - The Kiss of Death
In this sequel to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Paul Reubens inexplicably felt compelled to recast his heretofore asexual signature character as something of a bow-tied lothario, going so far as to grant him a handful of uncomfortably long makeout scenes. Watching Pee-Wee Herman passionately swap spit for several minutes is a punishing experience (except, apparently for the author of this YouTube clip):
Goldfinger - James Bond, Sexual Predator
James Bond didn’t become the world’s most promiscuous superspy by accident. It took a potent combination of style, charm, and a willingness to resort to coercion in the event that style and charm failed, to earn that distinction. It doesn’t require too much of a leap to reimagine the classic Bond flicks as a horror saga about a globe-trotting, serial date-rapist (skip to the two-minute mark for the highlight):
Soul Man - Black Like C.
I can’t decide which part of this clip disturbs me the most: the fact that blackface was still a viable comic device in 1986, or that C. Thomas Howell was once considered a star.
Labyrinth - Bowie’s Bulge
What do you get when you combine Bowie, a baby, and (presumably) lots of blow, then sprinkle in a dozen or so animatronic puppets? This psychic trauma-inducing nugget: