Creating a list of horror movies with memorable or impactful opening scenes would be a fairly easy task. After all, who could forget the clever setup for ‘Scream’, or the visceral terror of Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sunday’ opening gruesome witch execution? But several iconic horror films have opted for establishing themselves in a more risky fashion. While the gambles taken by these horror filmmakers might not match that of slots games that involve movie themes; they certainly presented scenes which challenged the norm. Let’s dive into three horror movies that took a gamble with their opening scene.
John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ is such an iconic, well-loved horror film that we sometimes forget how innovative it was back in 1978. In particular, the scene which launched the classic movie was a gamble in late 70s cinema.
The film opens with a point of view shot, a typical suburban home framed by a plastic Halloween mask. Every breath the masked figure takes is emphasised, as the now familiar scene unfolds in front of his eyes. Very little of the violent killing of a teenage girl is actually shown on screen, but the atmospheric setup results in a chilling sequence. Then, when the figure is outside of the house, the mask is peeled back to reveal what must have been a risky choice at that point in cinema history.
Yes, the killer beneath the mask is a very young Michael Myers. A child killer we realise has brutally slain his older sister. Depicting children as killers has a long history of controversy with the censors – and the general public. Yet Halloween set up the scene so perfectly, that the potentially controversial opening has become one of the most celebrated in horror.
The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)
Okay – the Human Centipede franchise has taken a few risks since it’s launch. But the opening of the second installment is particularly memorable. The viewer settles in for a warning regarding the film’s content – then a two minute recap of the first film ‘First Sequence’. So far, it seems unremarkable.
But then, the film shifts it’s tone completely in revealing that the events of the first movie are fictional within this universe. The first Human Centipede is the favorite film of Martin, a disturbed super fan who dreams of recreating the crimes of Dr. Josef Heiter in a derelict warehouse. A bold move from director Tom Six, who’s prior film was far better received than it’s plot might suggest – to flip it on it’s head and present it as a fictional part of Martin’s world.
We have often said that the scariest monsters are humans, and this gamble paid off in setting Martin up as a truly dangerous real-life individual rather than the cartoonish Doctor in part one.
The locker room opening scene of iconic revenge-horror ‘Carrie’ has been discussed by many, and has been branded everything from feminist, to artistic, to disgusting.
However, those who have viewed the film recently (or repeatedly) will remember that the film in fact opens on the gym class before moving to the locker room with the students. Carrie provided genuine shocks upon its release, so why did director Brian De Palma chose to open with a scene which makes the film look more like a high-school flick than a horror? Surely this was something of a gamble, risking losing the core horror audience before the horror has a chance to get started.
Because Carrie both is, and isn’t, a horror film. The telekinetic powers might be Hollywood magic, but the actions of the school bullies are frighteningly real. Carrie could very well be a teenage story about the popular girls who target the title character. From the opening, it is clear who holds the power in the student relations and friendship groups and who does not. But unlike traditional high school films, the victim has the opportunity to take brutal revenge on the antagonists, making the opening scene risk pay off.