When asked to think of a scene in a movie that really scared me as a child I immediately picture on particular moment from The Wizard of Oz involving The Wicked Witch of the West. It isn’t when she melts like most people think it might be, it’s when her face fills the screen as she laughs. The Wizard of Oz was my favourite movie as a child and I would watch it as often as I was allowed, but I couldn’t watch that one scene alone. As a child, it felt as if she was bursting out of the screen and was directly in front of my face, laughing at me. In fact, that scene and that feeling made me think the triangular shape of the moths that would sit on my window were the tip of the witch’s nose. It took me a while to get to sleep sometimes. If I watch this scene now I no longer find it quite so scary, but the little Johanna within me still cringes. Although, I do notice that the witch’s face doesn’t seem as big as it did when I was small.
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Trying to think of a scene in a movie that scares me now like this scene used to doesn’t result in much. I find that I’m more likely to be disturbed by something and have that stick in my mind rather than something scary. I’ve certainly been scared plenty of times during films – The Conjuring (2013) had me on the edge of my seat and hiding under a blanket the whole time (like just about any of James Wan’s films), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) gave me the shivers, and I stupidly watched Case 39 (2009) alone and I think that speaks for itself – but there isn’t anything in particular from these films that really scared me or made me look twice in the dark. The things that really stick with me now are the things that I can relate to my life, the things that could actually be possible.
I remember watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and seeing Leatherface hook a girl in the shoulder and collarbone with the kind of hook we would use in the woodshed to move bales. That gave me the shivers and really stuck with me. I think that is because I have often been around those tools being used and know how easy it would be to get in the way and have one of those hooks land in your arm. I also just really hate the idea of sharp things landing in people and I don’t really trust people with knives or other sharp things, so that may have something to do with it too.
There’s another scene from a movie that disturbs me far more than the hooks in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Again, it’s something that could plausibly happen, although I’ve never actually been around anyone in this particular situation.
In Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. II (2013) there is a particularly horrific scene where the lead character, Joe, terminates her pregnancy alone on her kitchen floor. It’s brutal. I won’t go into detail. Before watching this film I had known that abortion was an horrific ordeal, but this scene made me realise that on a new level.
Nymphomaniac certainly focuses on a delicate and controversial topic and is quite graphic, but I did enjoy both volumes. I found it quite refreshing that it focuses on such a sensitive topic and doesn’t shy away from being really honest about it.