Horror is a genre that can be anything from strange and surreal to raw and visceral. It can show you a fever dream unlike anything you’ve seen before, or it can prey on the well-founded fears of the world around you. Sometimes, you’re enjoying a film that seems to balance impeccably between the two, before it takes an unexpected dip into full-on craziness. If you’re brave in the face of spoilers, read on for four of the most bizarre, outlandish, and surreal scenes in horror! Starting with…
The Ghost Children from Sinister
I was watching horror long before I was able to see it at the cinema. When I did finally get to watch a new terror flick on the big screen, it was in the form of Sinister, which I was expecting to be part found-footage and part murder mystery. The screech of the kid coming out of the box rattled my eardrums and made me cringe. And the appearance of Bagul was terrifying. But the one thing I couldn’t look beyond was a scene that had me trying not to laugh in the theatre. The 3:23 AM ghost children sequence.
By the point that this particular scene happens, you’re well aware that the sadistic murders found on-tape in Ellison Oswalt’s attic go far beyond the trophies of a serial killer. When he wakes up at 3:23 AM, you’re already on the edge of your seat, wondering what eerie horrors await him as he goes to investigate. But it wasn’t all that eerie. Instead, it was, well, bizarre.
Queue a load of ghost children with Halloween- face paint dancing on the furniture and following our protagonist around the house. I get where they were going with the kids being playful, sneaking up on him and vanishing. But something about it just feels out of place. The rest of the movie is gritty but this sequence is all sorts of strange, leaving as quickly as it came with the green-faced ghost of a former target of Bagul further proving that the demon has set his sights on Oswalt’s children. Terrifying in theory, a weird ghost train of playful trick-r-treaters in actuality.
The Drawn-Out Dance Sequence in Strangeland
Freddy Krueger is, without doubt, Robert Englund’s most iconic role. Still, the first thing I think of when I hear his name is not the scrapes of claws in the boiler room. I could fill an entire list of bizarre and outlandish scenes with Robert Englund (“Now I’m playing with power!”) but this oddly lengthy sequence from Strangeland is something my family and I reference on an almost daily basis.
For those of you who haven’t seen this iconic film, penned by and starring Twisted Sister‘s Dee Snider, Strangeland follows possibly the most extreme sadist ever to grace our screens, played by Snider himself and going by the name “Captain Howdy”
When he is caught in the middle of torturing and defiling a detective’s teenage daughter, he is remanded to an institution, though it is only three years until he is released, much to the shock and horror of his old neighborhood when he moves back in. Post-treatment, his tattoos are covered with makeup and his personality now shy and withdrawn.
There are few less happy than Robert Englund’s character, Jackson Roth, who leads a lynch mob to hang him from a tree, inadvertently destroying his medication in the process and bringing “Captain Howdy” back to life, his first target being the leader of the group, or more specifically, his wife.
Roth sits enjoying a beer, ready for a night of passion with his bride, when she begins to dance out of the shadows. Somehow, the puppet-like dancing and her dead eyes do little to perturb Jackson Roth, who soon joins her with a dance of his own. The name hardly disguises the fact that the movie is strange but watching Robert Englund excitedly pumping his fists rhythmically in the air to one of the weirdest pieces of music I’ve ever heard in a horror film has its own particular level of strange.
After about a minute and a half, which seems a lot longer in context, Captain Howdy drops her body and reveals himself. It has a good pay-off and knowing that she is being used as a puppet by an infuriated sadist does feel creepy – but that doesn’t make the fist pump dance and the strange music any less peculiar.
If anyone is wondering how this scene became a family joke, it is referenced when something is very exciting. One person will do the fist pumps while humming the tune, the other will imitate Roth’s wife. All that’s missing is an illustrated sadist.
The Retcon in Brahms: The Boy II
The other three movies on this list are films that, for the most part, I would rate positively. Brahms: The Boy II is not one of those movies – but as a fan of the undoubtedly flawed The Boy, I couldn’t fail to include the one thing that makes a mediocre “child obsessed with a dodgy toy” film an absolute travesty. The bizarre retcon ending that tries to ruin even the effective twist of the first movie. If you haven’t seen The Boy yet, I’d suggest you scroll on down to the next entry in this list, because despite its cliché ideas and faltering execution, I would say it is a must-watch. If you have, or you just don’t give a damn, read on.
The whole premise of The Boy is that the grieving parents of a dead child have now taken to looking after a porcelain version of him, one with its own set of rules and needs. The nanny who arrives to take on the unusual assignment begins to believe that the doll is truly alive or haunted, her paranoia leading to vivid dreams and hallucinations that leave the audience wondering if that is the case.
The ending reveals that Brahms was never dead. He was in-fact living in the walls of the old manor, covering his face with a porcelain mask. The rules were set up for him to use the doll as a way of sustaining himself, his grip around the household was absolute, and (almost) everything falls into place. I remember an article from around the time of the first film where they author said they hoped Brahms would be the next big thing. The next Michael Myers, the next iconic horror villain. I presume they meant the mute psychopath living in the walls. But it turns out that the screenwriter Stacey Menear had other ideas. The entirety of Brahms: The Boy II is for lack of a better word, ridiculous. But the ending that reveals the doll to be a demonic entity, squirming behind a wall of porcelain is laughable, as well as coming out of the blue. I think they heard how people praised the twist in the first film and decided that they really would shock people by reversing the twist in a twist of its own. It doesn’t work. It’s strange, it’s eye-roll inducing and weirdly, it puts the cherry on the cake of mediocrity.
Anyway, despite the doll-sized demon being cast into the furnace, the movie does end with Jude still under the influence of the porcelain terror. I’m sure another few million dollars will join Brahms in the fire when Jude: The Boy III is inevitably announced. I can’t wait… Truly...
The Bat in The House by the Cemetery
Number one on my list is the most bizarre scene I have ever seen. Lucio Fulci’s fantastic movie The House by the Cemetery is essential viewing for all horror fans. The eerie atmosphere, the grisly gore, and the spooky backstory all come together for a truly classic piece of genre cinema. Despite all this, it is also (much like Fulci’s other films) extremely bizarre.
In a film with off-sync dubbing, a child named Bob with an ill-fitting voice (see image below) and some very unnatural acting, one thing stands out as particularly crazy. It was one that I could hardly blink while watching, my mouth open in half-amusement and half-confusion. When the world’s most hostile bat emerges from the cellar, fishing wire visible at every angle, spurting blood like a sprinkler as the family tries desperately to kill it. It takes multiple scissor stabs, hammering against the worktops, and more. The bat loses more blood than could fit in its body, and still, it only dies when they decide to dig at its exposed innards with the aforementioned pair of scissors.
I couldn’t make a list of surreal and outlandish Scenes in Horror without including Lucio Fulci, and I can think of nothing better than House by the Cemetery, and it is the one entry on this list that I can’t end without linking you to.