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June 09 2008

Classic-Horror's great episodes of horror television. Did The Gentlemen creep you out when you watched 'Hush' for the first time?

I'd have had a hard time deciding which was scarier Blink or Hush. Both are awesome.
I didn't see Blink, but I have seen the others. Good list. Some scary, quality TV there.
Yes, yes, they certainly did.
Blink was very scary. The Gentleman themselves are scary (but not the episode as a whole... I mean, it was scary, but not THE scary).
Glad folks are appreciating our article!

Making the decisions for this list was hard, especially when I decided to keep it an easy six (partially to reduce the amount of writing, but mostly to make a tiny Prisoner reference). Some other Whedon-y episodes that were in contention included "Conversations with Dead People" (BtVS), "I Fall to Pieces" (Angel), and "Bushwhacked" (Firefly).
I've only seen 3 of the 6, but those are very,very good ep.
I'm still scared of statues. and of someone ripping my heart out.
I rememeber the first time I watched Blink was about 4 or 5am, I was sitting in my room with the laptop in absolute darkness. I screamed more than once. I think I just gasped during Hush.Had no voice to scream with.
No mention of Camden Toy? Shame.

And Blink is great. As a rule, any episode of Doctor Who written by Steven Moffatt is good.
Conversations with Dead People, the Dawn section, I still get a little scared watching it! Yeesh!
"Hush" is definitely of the scary, especially when you watch it for the first time, all by yourself, in the middle of the night, in a dark house, as is "Conversations with Dead People," but I think the episode that scared me more than any other is "The Puppet Show." I'm weird like that.

And, easily scared person that I am, I definitely found "Blink" scary, but not as scary as "The Empty Child."

I was actually at the Who exhibit in London a few weeks ago and they had one of the Weeping Angels...the person in front of me was having her picture taken with it when a friend snuck up behind her and touched her. She was so freaked out after that that she wouldn't go near enough to the statue to actually get a picture.
zz9, Camden was mentioned in an earlier draft of the Hush essay, but I couldn't really fit him into the final version. I'm a big fan of Camden's work. I interviewed him at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005, actually (but I lost a whole slew of interview tapes from that year before I had a chance to transcribe them).
Hush is the perfect Buffy episode. It singlehandedly made me a fan of the show.
Hush epitomizes why I love Buffy...creative, inventive, scary, thought-provoking, and laugh-out-loud funny...Buffy's pantomime staking during Giles's presentation (and the reactions it elicits) makes me laugh every time I think about it.
How random for them to list a show that went for 2 years in the 60's. Makes me want to see that episode, because... well, it must have been something if it's still talked about.
The Gentlemen still creep the hell out of me, so do their little henchmen. And the skin-eating demon from season seven. blrah.
Hush is the episode I tell people who haven't seen Buffy to watch, so they can see just how good the show is.
I have to admit, whilst I didn't find it scary per se, I did really enjoy "Blink", it's one of the few new Who episodes that I thought was actually decent. That said, I've haven't seen them all, so maybe there are some more out there.

I found Hush very scary. It's one of the few places I've seen the "running through the corridors, trying to hide" actually be tense, and all because the Gentlemen themselves are just so creepy. It reminded me of nightmares.

This list has given quite a bit to watch over the Summer -- I've never seen The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and I think I might be missing out.

Not entirely random. :D The Outer Limits has always been considered a major genre influence -- enough so that there was a revival in the 1990s that lasted five seasons longer than its predecessor.

As for Thriller, well, that one is obscure (it's not officially available on DVD), but I'd heard many great things about it and this episode in particular, so I spent some time tracking it down through less official channels. Well worth it, even if the video quality was pretty poor. I'll also admit that I picked that one because I'm a huge Boris Karloff fan (I also go by KarloffLives on some other forums).
Blink is the only episode of Doctor Who I've seen (which is a shame, because I hear it's also the best, meaning I have no place to go from here but down), but it was amazing. One of the best episodes of television I've ever seen, really. I don't know what the rest of the series will be like, but that episode seems to me the perfect introduction to Who, at least in terms of sheer quality.

Thriller and the Outer Limits were the only ones on that list I hadn't seen... not a bad list, I'd say. Though I've heard a lot of praise for Detour lately, and I gotta say, it never particularly struck me as an episode. I mean, it was fine, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't stand out for me in any way. Bad Blood, now. That was a good episode. But in a very different way, I guess.
Nothing was as scary as seeing Joyce's corpse behind Dawn in "Conversations." But the Gentlemen are truly spooky. The one that spooks Olivia at the window still makes me jump.
I'm so glad both Blink and Hush made the list as both terrified me, and both are absolutely wonderful episodes of beloved shows.
Someone mentioned "Bushwacked" and, yeah, the atmosphere of "Bushwacked" is certainly haunting. It's partially about what you don't see (and the Reavers were still one big giant question mark at the time that ep originally aired, especially since Fox hadn't aired the pilot beforehand), but also hugely effective were the shots and musical score used. I know it's not on a lot of people's favorites list, but turn out the lights and turn the sound up and it's still effectively creepy, IMO (less so when the Alliance cruiser shows up. Then we get some funny. Though the shot of the dead ship being destroyed are also kinda haunting, in a different way).

I've almost entirely forgotten about that X-Files ep, but I remember those red eyes in the moss.

"Blink" sounds incredible. Still haven't seen a lick of Who.
I always get creeped out by "Bushwacked". It actually gives me goosebumps. Also, I view it as a prequel to Serenity, because it does give hints that River and the Reaver secret were intertwined.
'Blink' was great (in the most recent episodes he's just done the same thing - slightly less effectively IMO but still well - for the dark itself. Bastard ;). Moffat's great strength is that he remembers what scared him as a kid watching Who but rather than just re-produce it, he's internalised it, adapted it and then re-created it. To those that have only seen 'Blink' BTW, watch all Moffat's episodes and the series 3 two parter from Paul Cornell. You probably won't have a clue what the hell's going on (and you're missing plenty of other great episodes) but you'll have seen the best of the new 'Doctor Who' IMO ;).

From Buffy, must admit not much scared me. 'Hush' was maybe a bit creepy and there were some nasty bits (Buffy coming back to life in her coffin pressed a lot of my buttons for instance) but no really decent jumps or scares that I can think of. 'Forever' was creepy at the end too thinking on it (probably partly because of the 'Monkey's Paw' baggage that i've carried around since I was a kid ;).

Nice to see 'The Twilight Zone' and 'The Outer Limits' getting their props too. Watching those is a bit like reading the Bible or Shakespeare - you see the origins of a great deal of TV sci-fi in there.
I think the scariest episode of Angel was Billy, seeing Wesley acting like that around Fred was truly terrifying, in a very similar way to why I find The Shining scary.
Yeah, I'm with Vortigun. Billy was really scary.
I just saw "Blink" recently. Loved it, but it made my 14-year old jump into my lap.

The TV episode that scared me the most was the Night Gallery where the guy washes a little spider down the drain and it keeps coming up bigger and bigger. Think of it every time I see a spider in the sink.

ETA: Er, I saw it many many years ago.

[ edited by jcs on 2008-06-09 22:57 ]
To me, "The Shining" doesn't hold up. I laughed. Shelly DuVall is terrible. And for that matter, neither does the original "Halloween." I cried I was laughing so hard at that.

And I jump at EVERYTHING.
The Gentlemen creep me out when I watch Hush NOW.
Darn it, now I have to see The Form of Things Unknown.

Detour wouldn't have been my choice for The X Files - I'd have gone very very old school with Squeeze - but it's certainly a valid one.
Havne't seen B"link or D"etour," but can applaud the toehr choices. My one gripe with "pigeons from Hell," unless this was a cut for syndication/more commercials, was that they changed the big reveal from one suspect to a more obvious one. But the story itself was spot-on.

Craig Oxbrow; Recommend it highly; some minor cop-outishness, it should have had, would have been more interesting with, a more circular ending. But the story itself isn't hurt by that. And the whole poison angle would be hard to believe if the storyline (no real plot) didn't catch you up. One really unnerving little detail; it's obviously set in the summer but the photography makes it "look cold," making some of the summery details kind of "chilling" in themselves.
The Gentlemen still creep me out!
Definitely "Blink" and "The Lost Child" are the two that give me shivers just thinking about.

"Mummy? Mummy? Are you my mummy?" Geeugh!

I think one of the major wig factors of "Hush" is that no one had a voice - "Can't even shout, can't even cry." If you're seeing creepy floating smiling guys and can't tell anyone how do you not go insane? that Giles w/the syringe in the banner of that page? 'cause...props - I almost hated him in that episode. But then I loved him for going against the Council and telling Buffy of the test.

"Home" was a massively disgusting episode of X-Files, and was never again aired after its initial airing. (AFAIK) I'm trying to remember if there were any episodes that made me shudder, aside from that one.

Anyone remember "Tales From the Darkside"? (I still remember the opening and closing voice-overs) I can only remember bits of episodes, but those are disturbing images.

As for movie jump-out-of-your-seat heart-thudding moments, the two that stick in my mind the most are the leg sinking through the water in Jaws and the bad guys popping up in front of Willie & Short Round, right after Indy leaves them, in Temple of Doom - that still gets me.
Hush is a scary episode (mostly for me because of the lack of voice thing). Blink, in my very humble opinion, is one of the best episodes of television of any genre in recent years, and third on my personal list of best episodes of TV ever.

Moffat, more than any other New Who writer just simply gets what Dr Who is all about. Which gives me hope for when he starts running the show. (And he's admitted that his most recent two parter is setting things up for when that happens.)
I haven't seen many of those episodes, but I can say that the Gentlemen scared the beejesus out of me. The reason, I believe, was because I was only 11 at the time of it's original airing, so it wasn't all that hard to frighten me. I remember being terrified to sleep, and I was constantly afraid that one night I would awaken to find the Gentlemen's shadows creeping along my wall, or to find them themselves standing over me, ready to take my heart.

Even now, the very thought is just downright creepy. Thanks a lot, Joss.

The guy with the syringe is Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) from the film Re-Animator. Sorry to disappoint!

[ edited by TheJoyofZeppo on 2008-06-10 09:34 ]
Fun film 'Re-animator', first time I noticed the brilliance that is Jeffrey Combs.

As for movie jump-out-of-your-seat heart-thudding moments, the two that stick in my mind the most are the leg sinking through the water in Jaws ...

Ben Gardners's (?) head popping out at Hooper is still one of THE best jump scares in the movies IMO. I must've watched 'Jaws' 15 or 20 times and I still sometimes jump at that bit (ever notice how some scenes are so great they just transcend reality ? No matter how many times I see it, there's still some tiny part of me that thinks Steve McQueen might actually clear that fence ;).

Scariest film i've seen recently is still 'The Descent'. I'm mildly claustrophobic so I was terrified before the horror even started (it's set in a cave for those that haven't seen it).
That scene with the nurse in Exorcist 3, talk about a jump out of your seat moment.
I think Hush definitely deserves to be on this list. In addition to the creepiness of the Gentlemen, there was a lot of scary sub-text about the horror of being unable to communicate and how that relates to feeling powerless. Plus humor = Joss at his best.

I'll never get the Dr. Who devotion but I've watched all the new series to get background on Torchwood and I have to say I thought The Empty Child was far scarier than Blink. And on that note, I'd definitely include Torchwood's Countrycide on this list.

I agree with a couple of observations up-thread, that the X-Files episode Country was far creepier than Detour, and that Billy was the scariest Angel episode ever (and one of the best).

I guess someday I'll have to break down and watch some of the reruns of both The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, I've only seen a few eps of both shows.
'Countrycide' (all its other problems - IMO - aside ;) was a fairly standard stalk and slash style of horror and that stuff doesn't usually scare me, maybe because i've seen so many that i'm familiar with their "tricks".

I was re-watching 'The Parting of the Ways' the other day and I saw a great test scene for 'Doctor Who' fandom. It's the side-on view of the TARDIS spinning through space towards two oncoming Dalek missiles and it had, in precise measure, just the amount of coolness-from-absurdity that separates fans from non-fans. If it's just daft to you then you'll probably never be a fan, if you can laugh at it while also laughing with it AND "get" the excitement of one silly looking blue box going up against the might of the Dalek armada then 'Doctor Who' might be just the show for you ;).

(none of which is to imply that Who fans are somehow a cut above, I can't stand that "If you don't like my show you're an idiot" attitude but it is definitely an odd taste to acquire and many SF&F fans never do)
Careful Saje, you don't want to become predictable *reels in the bait* ;-)

If Countrycide was ""a fairly standard stalk and slash", then Angel's Hell Bound was a "fairly standard stalk and slash", ghost sub-genre. There are only so many stories in the genre, so it comes down to execution. And IMO, Countycide is head and shoulders above most of what I've seen in that category, easily as much so as Hell Bound.

Both episodes had a lot of clever twists on the standard issue, another hallmark of rising above a standard storyline.

Umm .... I think I just noticed a piece of bait in my teeth. ;-)
Hee ;), nah i'm not going over what I thought of the first 7 (ish) eps of 'Torchwood' series 1 again - poor bloody horse, let the beast rest (if not in peace then at least in glue pots ;). Out of curiosity though, can you remember which developments struck you as clever twists in 'Countrycide' Shey ?

(I wasn't that scared by 'Hell Bound' either BTW for the same reasons BUT due to better execution IMO - and the fact that I cared more about Spike than any of the TW characters at that point - it at least cultivated a creepy atmosphere and sense of foreboding)

I mean it about the image from 'Parting of the Ways' BTW and mention it because it actually occurred to me at the time in roughly this order: "That's absurd", "That's cool because it's absurd", "OK, now it's just cool", "That's a good way to tell Who fans from non-Who-fans" ;).
Blink and Hush are both definitely tens on the Reichter Scale of horror coolness IMHO. Haven't seen the others but thanks for the list as I'm positively checking them out.

I stumbled onto Blink while flicking channels and got entralled so kept watching. Glad I did, as it was bloody brilliant. The disjointedness, the mystery and of course those scary statues. I hadn't seen any recent Dr Who episodes and became an instant fan after that. Smart, smart writing.

Speaking of which, I felt totally the same with Hush and fell even more in love with the Buffyverse after that. Hadn't come across anything like it before. The Gentlemen floating in and invading Sunnydale, my Sunnydale where I felt safe cause Buffy and the Scoobies were on the watch. Can't scream, don't know what's happening or why it's happening, or how to stop it from happening. Just know its horrible and evil and literally heart wrenching. Was feeling the helpless and as usual, Joss comes to the rescue with his trademark wit. And when Buffy and Riley discovered who each other really were, awesome, awesome television.
Out of curiosity though, can you remember which developments struck you as clever twists in 'Countrycide' Shey ?

OK, I'll go there:) Not sure if this lands squarely in the "clever twists" category but definitely speaks to my broader point of good story execution.
Start with the fact that a very early episode "opened up" the show, both visually and in the sense of "we're not going to necessarily stay stuck in 'what fell through the rift this week?' mode".
Add the witty dialog around Owen's distaste for the countryside. Mix in character development (the beginning of Owen and Gwen's affair, however you felt about that, aside).
Add some really excellent camera work, moving from sweeping outdoor shots to tight, confined, claustrophobic spaces, some very effective "mood and tone" setting with visuals, without a single "special effect".
Finish off with Gwen's absolute need to understand the motivation for such monsterous acts by human beings, as opposed to aliens, and the extremely creepy response from the "patriarch" of the clan, a nice blending of something really chilling and a bit more revelation of the nature of Gwen's character.

....If it's just daft to you then you'll probably never be a fan,...

And there you have it. Although there are more reasons than I would want to mention, why I'll never be a Dr. Who fan. Different strokes, yadayadayada .... :)
That scene with the nurse in Exorcist 3, talk about a jump out of your seat moment.

Right you are, Simon. My brother-in-law told me that he not only jumped out of his seat, he ran out of the theatre at that moment! Exorcist 3 is an underrated horror film, full of great psychological horror and creepiness, and marred only by an over-the-top finale.
Pretty sure I haven't seen 'Exorcist 3', may have to check it out, but it reminds me of another good jump, the dream within a dream in the hospital in 'An American Werewolf in London'.

... why I'll never be a Dr. Who fan. Different strokes, yadayadayada .... :)

Yeah exactly, like I say, not everyone enjoys it and that says absolutely nothing more about either those that do or those that don't than "not everyone enjoys it" ;).

Ah OK, those sound more like what you considered to be "good bits" rather than necessarily doing anything new with "stalk and slash" (which is cool, you enjoyed it and I didn't actually miss any new twists on an old genre, win-win ;).
I'll agree with "Hush" and "Blink" on that list. I just rewatched "Blink" last night and I told someone that they would never look at statues the same way twice. Additionally, "The Empty Child" was unnerving in its own way.

I've seen "Hush" a couple of times on a big screen before the late lamented Buffy Sing-alongs and of course when Buffy finally gets her voice back, everyone in the audience screams along with her - except those that don't know they're supposed to and who then are probably more scared than at any other time in the episode! ;-)

I remember watching an episode of "The Outer Limits" when I was young and home alone, even though it played between 6 and 7 pm. There was a scene where someone was home alone and a shadow was creeping up on the wall behind her. I got so freaked out that I ran out of our house to the next door neighbour's where my mother was visiting, leaving the TV on and the doors open! (We lived in a small town and didn't lock our doors during the day then.) I watched the rest of the episode with them.

I've always found psychological thrillers to be much scarier than most physical-type thrillers. Plots that focus on our fears - of the dark, of being take over by alien beings or just the unknown (in other words, when we aren't in control) - are more shiver-inducing to me than a typical blood and gore episode.
While I haven't seen most of the episodes named in the article, this discussion here has reminded me of a few Whedon-related horror moments....

YES on "Billy" being the scariest episode of Angel - very good call. "Hell Bound", though... I guess it has some moments, but really, it felt to me like it was trying way too hard.

"Hush" does have some good scary moments - and funny ones, and brilliant ones... (though I first saw it a couple of years after its original airdate, so it couldn't quite live up to the amount of hype which it had accrued by then). And I agree that the Dawn portion, particularly, of "Conversations with Dead People", as she's battling whatever-it-is to free her mother - I'm still not completely convinced that that was the First, as whatever did the haunting here displays a lot of abilities which the First never exhibited before or since - was pretty creepy.

But the Buffy episode which I found to be the creepiest hasn't come up yet here. (And even I had to look up its title.) "Listening to Fear", featuring the ceiling-crawling Queller demon which Ben summoned to clean up Glory's mess of crazy people, has what I found to be the creepiest, most scary moments in all of BtVS, personally.

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