The Scariest TV Scenes in History

by thethreepennyguignol

So, a couple of weeks ago, my writing partner and I wrote an article over on our film blog, No But Listen, about the scariest scenes in movie history, and that got me to a-thinking. I love all things horror, and it seemed a shame to stop there when there’s so much freaky shit on TV to delve right on into. So while these may not be the scariest scenes in TV history, they’re certainly the ones that kicked the emotional crap out of me when I first saw them and the ones I most often bring up in therapy sessions. Time to rake over some traumatic childhood (and miscellaneous) memories!

1. The Haunting of Hill House – Car Jumpscare

Now, I’ve written before about how much I bloody loved this show, and a lot of my passion for it is encapsulated in this moment- the best jumpscare I’ve ever seen in my life. Jumpscares are usually a quick jolt for the horror-abiding audience to wake up and tune back in, but here, the use of this scare is so much more than that – it forces an emotional breaking point between the characters, but from the audience, too. It carries over that energy into a powerful confrontation that is both driven and underlined by this moment; as an audience, we are so engaged by the shock of what just happened that the power of what follows is even more potent. It’s a jumpscare not just for the sake of one, but to force a re-evaluation between the characters and the audience.

2. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances – This is it’s room

As I’ve written before, Doctor Who was the beginning of a great love of horror that would span the rest of my life, and if I’m going to bring it down to one episode, one moment – it’s this one (about the first minute of the clip above). The Empty Child/Doctor Dances two-parter from the first season of the rebooted show felt like a fucking revelation the first time I saw it. It’s an exercise in long-range period-piece MR James-style dread, dripping with slow-building tension that pays off into surprisingly graphic horror for a teatime family TV show. But it’s this scene, from the second episode, that still sends shivers down my spine – the POV shots from the monster, the dreadful reveal that it has been in there the whole time, this is just a great example of classic horror tropes made to work for a young audience.

3. Hannibal – Face/Off

Now, Hannibal is packed full of the kind of moments that will haunt you to your grave, and cheerfully delivers them wrapped up in a package of great acting, astounding cinematography, and bold deconstructions of both the horror and crime genres. Hannibal is one of the only shows I’ve had to turn off on multiple occasions because I was not Emotionally Prepared for what they were going to show me. This, though? This is the worst it ever got. Michael Pitt’s superb performance as antagonist Mason Verger comes to a head here, as he is drugged and convinced to feed his own face to some dogs right there in front of us. I still remember the first time I saw that glorious reveal, when he tilts his face to camera after a brutal build-up, and not being sure whether I wanted to sue showrunner Bryan Fuller for damages or vomit first. Hannibal balances visceral gore and psychodrama carefully across the course of its (sob, only) three seasons, but this is just pure splatter-horror mastery and I love it.

What are the scenes that scared the most shit out of you? Let me know in the comments below, and, as ever, if you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

(header image via Radio Times)