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Horror Moments in Films That Aren’t About Horror

Horror in Other Genres Oppenheimer Watching Test Bombs

Genre-Bending Moments That Make For Terrifying Spectacles

Horror films have had a bad history of just being seen as low-budget and generic, with audiences starting to predict how they will go and only really going to watch them to experience a jumpscare. That history has been picking up positively, though, as films like Talk To Me hit the spotlight. It goes without saying, though, that there are a lot of times when horror films have succeeded in creating a truly horrifying and unforgettable cinematic experience. This then begs the question, why aren’t horror films recognized at big award shows like the Oscars? That discussion about the illegitimate treatment of horror films as their own category can be saved for later, but this doesn’t mean that horror as a concept isn’t recognized. There have been a wide variety of films that have been able to achieve horror without specifically being horror movies, and prestigious filmmakers and awards academies have received them with open arms. This article will highlight some good examples of these moments in the film that filmmakers and audiences should look out for and appreciate more. 

The Birthing Scene in Blade Runner 2049

Horror in Other Genres Blade Runner 2049

Starting off with a scene from Dennis Villeneuve’s visionary sequel to the original Blade Runner film, we have the birthing scene. This is a scene in which the Wallace Corporation, largely recognized as the villainous antagonist of the film, birthing a replicant into the dystopian world. The birth of the replicant is shown in great detail as the camera pans into the scene of the replicant falling to the ground and gasping for air. This is all accompanied by Jared Leto’s creepy and ominous voice that puts to light the idea of living with fear even when we are just born. It sets in stone a theme of the film about whether replicants are truly alive or not. This scene brings a great experience to the viewer in terms of uneasiness and suspense as Wallace lightly grazes his hand on the newborn replicant as she breathes uncontrollably. It seeks to create an unwarranted sense of immersion that impacts not only the viewer but the performers and the crew alike. It’s another masterclass by Villeneuve in his filmography, which may seem like an almost throwaway scene at first glance but brings so much into the character of Wallace. 

The Unearthing of The Body in Once Upon A Time in Anatolia

Horror in Other Genres Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

This scene from Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2012 film is another one that brings horror, this time to the thriller and investigative genre. It is featured around the first half of the film and is a great example of bringing the horror genre into the thriller genre. It’s a well-crafted scene that leaves the audience gasping and almost vomiting as they see the accuracy of the human body that the investigators are unearthing. It can be argued that the accuracy of said body was intentionally horrifying in order to bring a more truthful reaction from the actors and the audience. The foggy and gray landscape also helps to set the scene for the events that take place and makes it apparent in the looks of the investigators and the suspects that they are not in a hospitable location. Nuri Bilge Ceylan builds on this further in the movie, with one key aspect being shown throughout the film: facing who one is and what one is capable of.

The Snake Briefcase Scene in Prisoners 

Horror in Other Genres Prisoners

With another entry on the list, Dennis Villeneuve and his film Prisoners take the concept of horror a level further with this scene. The scene is composed of Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) going to a suspect’s home to question them. When he arrives, he greets the suspect, and the conversation takes place with the suspect seemingly hiding behind the door of his home.

This already alarms the viewer as to their intentions, and Loki is very cautious in approaching him until the suspect tries to close the door, and Loki pushes it open. As he makes his way through the house, he finds several labyrinth drawings on the walls, seemingly drawn by the suspect. He also stumbles upon a number of briefcases, which end up containing none other than snakes (it makes sense in the context of the film as a whole), but most importantly, they contain several blood-ridden clothes, specifically those of the missing children. The scene serves as a great example of the audience taking part in putting the dots together as if they were this sort of omnipotent detective who can see all. It also shows Detective Loki using the knowledge that he has been provided with at this point to connect some dots, although not as impactful as the ones the audience puts together. The entirety of the film could take up at least ten spots on this list, but this scene, in particular, tends to take the cake as it is the most shocking and eye-opening scene in the film. 

What’s In The Box? Scene From Se7en

Horror in Other Genres Seven

The next entry in the list is that from another detective movie that has been known to have impactful moments. The scene takes place in an open field where one of the detectives is found holding one suspect at gunpoint while the other detective investigates a box. As they open the box, they make a terrifying discovery that is apparent to the audience without the use of a specific visual. It’s a great example of how the film’s director, David Fincher, is able to create a horrifying visual in the minds of the audience without the actual showing of the horrifying visual. Another impactful part of the scene is how the characters react to the discovery. This comes down specifically to Brad Pitt’s character, who is almost on the verge of crying as he keeps asking, “What’s in the box?”. Morgan Freeman’s character also reacts in disbelief, and part of the terrifying aspect of the scene is the suspect’s reaction, as he is completely monotone for the most part. It’s truly a masterful scene that is sure to be considered iconic for the masses who have viewed the film. 

Post-Bomb Speech Scene in Oppenheimer 

Horror in Other Genres Oppenheimer After the Bomb Speech

Finally, as the list draws to a close, the most horrifying scene in a non-horror film would have to go to the post-bomb speech scene in the recently released biopic Oppenheimer. It follows Oppenheimer as he makes his first speech following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He is shown to be anxious and on edge with himself and his life choices that led to this moment. The scene itself is seen from his mind’s point of view, and it’s seen how he visualizes the horrors of what it must have felt like to be affected by the bomb on a physical level. It also pays attention to how the bomb has affected him and others mentally as well. Christopher Nolan’s mastery of directing and coming up with these types of scenes in the film is unmatched. It shows his ability to tell a story like none other and creates a truly harrowing moment in cinema. Details like the silence followed by the sudden boom of the crowd as they celebrate this historically impactful moment in time make this scene unique and unforgettable. It is the best example of the horror genre-blending with other genres of cinema, and it leaves the audience asking for more while also being terrified to see more. 

Oppenheimer will be available on digital mediums in November.

Oppenheimer (2023) Official Universal Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Hi! I am a Dramatic Writing and Performing Arts major at SCAD from Puerto Rico. I have an intense passion for all things film, tv, and music. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and putting it out there is the most important.

Elke Simmons' writing portfolio includes contributions to The Laredo Morning Times, Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears, Extinction Rebellion (XR) News/Blog, and Dead Talk News.