Review: Shudder’ s 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time
Lists and rankings concerning the best of anything are bound to be controversial by their very nature. Some might argue against the inherently subjective dimensions of the premise itself, saying it invalidates the entire exercise altogether. Others find validation through them, a way to dole out a few “told you so’s” in a debate. For me, lists aren’t about any of that.
A good list offers a service, a good excuse to go through the things being discussed by either engaging with them for the first time or getting reacquainted with them to test out the premise of the list. Shudder’s 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time does precisely that. It’s not interested in laying down the law in the field of horror in an inflexible way (despite what the series’ title blatantly implies), instead it’s all about giving viewers more than enough reasons to indulge in well-crafted scares or to get reacquainted with old haunts with a fresh set of eyes.
The horror streaming service’s new series is basically a spiritual successor to Bravo’s 2004 miniseries The 100 Scariest Movie Moments, an influential production in its own right that gave horror fans material to debate and revisit once it aired. The first episode of the Shudder series, which is currently available to stream, goes from entries 101-89, stopping on each one to give a general idea of what the film is about and why it’s memorable as a whole before finally landing on its scariest moment.
I’m not going to spoil the whole list here, but I will reveal entry #101 as it sets the tone well and signals a desire to not just go over the same horror classics that have dominated these kinds of countdowns before. David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014) kicks things off fast and intense in what I took as a kind of statement. It had that “this isn’t your parents’ best of horror list” feel to it and it imbued the following entries with a surprising sense of anticipation.
Part of what also made the first entry so exciting was how it presented the format for the series, especially when it comes to its commentators. Instead of going for a mashup of quick edits and cuts of speakers giving bite-sized observations on the movie, each segment focused largely on one leading voice supported by shorter horror expert interventions, which included directors, journalists, scholars, experts, actors, and celebrity fans. The tone was celebratory but focused, not interested in quick quips or in making fun of the movie (something that Bravo, E!, and VH1 would go on to do in their own countdown-type shows).
An impressive cast of commentators graces the screen throughout, too. Tananarive Due, Mick Garris, Joe Dante, Tom Holland (the director of Fright Night and Child’s Play, not Spider-Man), Tony Todd, Brea Grant, and Gigi Saúl Guerrero are among the experts brought in to dissect each scary moment and their insight is the stuff of horror nerd dreams.
There’s a good mix of veteran industry names and newer or emerging voices within the community to make each discussion come off as fresh. Nothing feels recycled, giving every movie a chance to be seen through a different lens. This seems to be the aim of the series, to favor new interpretations and to dare consider films that haven’t had the chance to get much of a spotlight elsewhere.
For instance, I never expected David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) to be one of the selections, but its inclusion was not only welcome but given the treatment it deserves as a unique film that freely indulges in horror in its storytelling. Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963) follows close enough to make the ranking come off as modern and not tied down by tradition or cannon.
I was also pleased to see the range of time periods on display as newer lists tend to add newer productions at the expense of older ones despite their relevance and overall filmic impact. On the contrary, the show goes lengths to reassure fans the old and the new can coexist and elevate each other. There’s even recognition of a previous selection’s influence on a movie that comes further down on the list.
All of this to say that The 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time is shaping up to be an invaluable piece of horror content, especially in getting viewers to watch more horror. It’s a fun, non-combative celebration of the genre that invites appreciation rather than contentious debate over which movie should come first or last. Give it a watch and then go and get scared watching the movies that made it into the list.