Doctor Sleep is now available to rent and everyone is buzzing about the king of horror, Stephen King, once again. After decades of terrifying films based on his work, we wanted to look back at some of the most bone-chilling scenes from a few of our favorite Stephen King films of all time. But beware: we have these ingrained in our memories forever – and after watching them, you will too.
The Shining (1980)
We can’t talk about Doctor Sleep without its predecessor, the horror classic, The Shining. Set in the Colorado mountains at the Overlook Hotel, Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, has taken on the role of caretaker through the winter with his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, in an attempt to cure his writer’s block. The isolation from the outside world and Jack’s underlying demons slowly unravel through the film and uncover a darkness that drives him further and further to madness.
The Bathtub Scene
In one of the most disturbing scenes of the film, Jack wanders through the hotel and finds a room with a beautiful young woman in a bathtub. Fully ignoring the fact that the hotel is supposed to be empty, Jack watches the woman get out of the bathtub and embraces her for a kiss. After a few seconds, the young woman transforms into a corpse, laughing and mocking him as she rots. Jack backs out of the room fully horrified – and we’re left feeling the same.
Misery starts off innocently enough, a famous novelist who crashes his car on a snowy road and gets taken under the wing of a woman – who just so happens to be his biggest fan. What starts off as nursing Paul, the writer, back to health turns out to be much more sinister. Annie, played by the legendary Kathy Bates, eventually finds out that Paul has been plotting an elaborate escape to get away from her and her growing obsessiveness.
The Hobbling Scene
In the scene where Annie finds out Paul has been outside of his room, he wakes up strapped to his bed and unable to get up. Annie stands over him, sledgehammer in hand, and puts a wooden plank between his ankle as she explains this is how diamond miners would be punished should they be caught stealing. Beyond the violence, the most excruciating part of the scene is how calm and nonchalant Annie looks while breaking Paul’s ankles – even comforting him and telling him that it’s “all for the best.” Shudder.
Stephen King’s It (1990)
Stephen King single-handedly terrified an entire generation and gave every 90’s child a phobia of clowns with Stephen King’s It. When his little brother Georgie is mysteriously killed, Bill makes it his mission to find out what really happened to his brother and other missing children in town. Bill bands together with other kids who have visions of the red-haired clown to stop him.
The Shower Scene
Tim Curry makes the movie as the horrifying Pennywise, but our favorite scene is particularly terrifying. In it, Eddie is showering after gym class when suddenly all the surrounding showerheads surrounding him turn towards him and spray Eddie violently with water. Just when we think it can’t get any worse, Pennywise pops up from the shower drain and climbs his way out like a demon out of hell. He taunts Eddie and makes fun of him and his terror, excitedly saying, “You’re gonna like it down here.” And it’s not just the clown makeup that’s frightening – it’s his guttural voice and his exaggerated, contorted facial expressions that are really the stuff of nightmares. As if we needed more reasons to stay away from public showers.
Andy Muschietti takes the original film story of Stephen King’s It and adapts it for a modern audience, keeping up the gritty suspense but adding an element of gory violence that stays with you. It still follows a group of young teenagers trying to figure out why they’re all seeing the same terrifying clown in their town (while none of the adults can) and continues to remind us how scary childhood can be.
The Painted Lady Scene
Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise in this iteration of the film. With an updated clown makeup look and CGI that’s a little too real, Skarsgård keeps us on our toes as Pennywise, transforming into a different custom nightmare for everyone who has the displeasure to see him – especially in this scene. Stanley is walking through the library, trying to avoid a painting of a distorted and elongated looking woman holding a flute. He notices the painting is hanging crooked so, he straightens it and walks away. He hears a bang behind him and turns to see the painting has fallen. As he replaces it and realizes the woman is gone from the frame, he hears an eerie flute begin to play. Suddenly, Stanley realizes she’s standing right behind him, revealing a sharp, toothy grin reminiscent of Pennywise’s. Good luck going to bed after seeing that.
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Another must-see Stephen King movie that lives on in infamy is Carrie. Played by Sissy Spacek, Carrie is a girl who is tormented by her classmates and her domineering religious mother. With no place to escape, the abuse and cruelty eventually become too much for Carrie. She gets pushed over the edge at the high school prom in one of the most pop-culture referenced revenge scenes of all time – and boy is it worth it.
The Bloody Prom Scene
In the climactic final act, Carrie is standing on stage beaming, thinking she’s just been crowned prom queen. We see a bucket full of blood hanging over her, and as her tormenters pull the rope the bucket falls and covers Carrie’s pastel pink dress in dark red blood. She slowly starts to realize what’s happened – it’s been a prank and everyone is laughing at her. Then all hell breaks loose. Carrie uses her telekinetic powers (did we mention she has telekinesis?) and attacks everyone in sight. Fire hoses, electrocution, the works – all bursting into a crescendo of flames as Carrie stares on in a demonic rage, only to walk away from the burning building in a fantastic, metaphorical mic drop. Disturbing, yes, but after what she’s been through, we just can’t help but root for her.
There are so many more bone-chilling moments crafted by the mind of Stephen King, but these are our unforgettable must-sees for any true horror lover. For even more throwback classics, check out our Stephen King 8-movie collection.