Top 10 Most Difficult Horror Movie Scenes Ever Filmed

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Top 10 Most Difficult Horror Movie Scenes Ever Filmed

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: Joe Shetina
Making movies ain't all sunshine and rainbows. For this list, we'll be looking at horror movie moments that, for one reason or another, were hell for the filmmakers and actors involved. Our countdown includes “28 Days Later", “Poltergeist”, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, and more!
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Top 10 Most Difficult Horror Movie Scenes to Film


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Difficult Horror Movie Scenes to Film.

For this list, we’ll be looking at horror movie moments that, for one reason or another, were hell for the filmmakers and actors involved.

Were these scenes worth the trouble? Give us your takes in the comments.

#10: London Deserted

“28 Days Later” (2002)
Most post-apocalyptic movies use more rural or rundown locations to stand-in for less populated areas, but “28 Days Later” took on the herculean task of shooting one of its opening scenes in a seemingly-deserted London. Though there’s not a lot going on in the scenes, getting these shots was a complicated process. Director Danny Boyle and his crew had to close off sections of the street periodically, and could only manage to shoot just after sunrise before the city’s population filled the streets in numbers too large to control. This limited the number of takes they could complete. Their work paid off, as shots of these real, eerily empty landmarks add to the movie’s realistic tone.

#9: Got Your Back

“The Exorcist” (1973)
“The Exorcist” is full of impressive practical effects. To that extent, some of its more physically demanding scenes were performed by the actors themselves instead of stunt doubles. One such scene left actor Ellen Burstyn with chronic back problems. After several takes of the actor being yanked in a harness to simulate her character being thrown to the ground, she warned director William Friedkin that the stunt person was pulling her too hard. Friedkin—known for his extreme methods—instructed the stunt person to give her an even more violent pull for the next take. Burstyn was lifted off her feet and slammed to the ground. This is the footage that was actually used in the film. Burstyn’s cries of pain are very real.

#8: The Monster Carries Frankenstein

“Frankenstein” (1931)
Tensions ran high on this Universal classic. For starters, Boris Karloff’s heavy makeup not only took hours to apply, but the full Frankenstein’s Monster get-up weighed almost fifty pounds and left the actor exhausted after long shooting days. Meanwhile, Karloff’s relationship with director James Whale deteriorated over story disagreements. This culminated in the shooting of the climactic scenes which find the monster carrying his maker - played by Colin Clive - up a mountain. Forbidding Karloff to carry a dummy for the scene, Whale forced multiple retakes. After the shoot, Karloff required back surgery. He later credited the conditions on the set for his involvement in the new Screen Actors Guild.


#7: Attack of the Trees

“The Evil Dead” (1981)
The ramshackle production of this 1981 cult classic took place in a house as isolated as the one in the film. There was no heat and no running water, which already made the shoot very difficult for the amateur cast and crew. The scene in question features a gruesome assault on actor Ellen Sandweiss’s character by animated twigs and branches. Sandweiss sustained real injuries during the scene, which she filmed in the cold woods, without proper footwear and dressed in little more than a nightgown. Conditions on the film were so rough that there were even rumors—since proven false—that Sandweiss quit acting as a result. Director Sam Raimi expressed regret over including this controversial scene in the final cut.


#6: Dead Pool

“Poltergeist” (1982)
“Poltergeist” is one of those movies with as many weird, creepy things going on behind the scenes as there are on the screen. Urban legends about a “Poltergeist curse” striking several members of the cast still persist. However, one very real, terrifying onset incident involved the famous swimming pool scene. In it, actor JoBeth Williams was terrorized by real skeletons in a muddy pool. Torrential rain, strong fans, and mud already made the scene difficult to shoot, but Williams was terrified by the presence of electrical equipment and live wires around the pool. To get her to complete the scene, producer Steven Spielberg jumped in the water with her, declaring that if the worst happened, they’d both die.

#5: Tina’s Nightmare

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
When your horror movie involves nightmares, surreal imagery is a must-have. That’s exactly what Wes Craven achieved in this scene, which features a character being attacked by an invisible Freddy Krueger. Cribbing a trick from an old Fred Astaire routine, the bedroom set was constructed on a frame that would allow the entire room to be rotated, thus giving the illusion that only the actor Amanda Wyss was moving, and not the entire room. This meant that every piece of the set—even an actor’s hair—had to be reinforced to stay in place. Wyss was terrified of the scene. She even confessed that the set gave her vertigo at one point, and Craven had to talk her down.


#4: Dinner Time

“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)
The original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” has been praised for its realism, but viewers might be shocked to learn just how authentic it was. Filmed in the sweltering Texas heat on a minuscule budget, production was grueling for all involved. Due to actor availability, makeup effects, and limited funds, the climactic dinner scene was filmed in one long, twenty-six-hour marathon. As a result, the house where filming took place was unbearably hot. The smell of rotting meat props made the cast and crew sick at various points. On top of this, Leatherface actor Gunnar Hansen’s costume couldn’t be washed because they couldn’t afford to replace it if the color changed, so it was soaked with weeks’ worth of sweat. Talk about gritty realism.


#3: The Shower Scene

“Psycho” (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock redefined what was possible in the horror genre with “Psycho’s” infamous shower scene. Although the famous scene accounts for less than four minutes of the runtime, it took a week to film. It required delicate and intricate planning. Every shot had to be accounted for, every light strategically placed, and every possible violation of censorship standards had to be avoided. The set was tiny and cramped and the sheer number of shots meant lighting setups had to be changed frequently, which was a time-consuming process. Hitchcock never shied away from ambitious suspense set pieces, even if it meant going to extremes—like using real birds.

#2: “Smile, You Son of a…”

“Jaws” (1975)
Before it became one of the biggest moneymakers of all-time, director Steven Spielberg thought “Jaws” might sink his entire career, no pun intended. The animatronic shark stopped production several times once production set sail on the open ocean. Salt water interfered with the shark’s mechanical system, causing production delays. By the time the climax was shot, budget constraints required the crew capture the final moment of the shark exploding in one take. Any mistake would spell disaster for the already over-schedule and over-budget production. Preparation for this scene had been so tense that Spielberg was absent for the filming, saying he was sure the crew would throw him overboard once the movie was finished.

#1: Stop Swinging the Bat

“The Shining” (1980)
Stanley Kubrick was known for his strict, demanding directorial style. No one knows this better than Shelley Duvall, who bore the brunt of the director’s perfectionist streak during the long, arduous production of “The Shining.” The long hours and abuse stressed the actor to the point of losing her hair. But one scene in particular had Kubrick demanding 127 takes of a terrified Duvall swinging a bat at Jack Nicholson while moving backwards up a flight of stairs. It’s not hard to imagine that the character’s frayed nerves and breathlessness are as much a result of Duvall’s acting as they are her very real exhaustion.
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