Nerds Gets Spooky: The 10 Scariest Stephen King Movie Moments

Hannah  - Editor/Instagram Manager
9 Min Read
New Line Cinema

When people think of scary movies, naturally, they think of Stephen King. Book-to-screen adaptations for King novels have been haunting audiences since the release of Carrie in 1976 all the way up to the most recent adaptation, IT: Chapter Two in 2019. Check out our list of the 10 spookiest King movie moments below.

Opening Scene – IT (2017)

New Line Cinema

When it comes to the King universe, no one is safe at any moment. 2017’s IT proves this immediately with the opening scene between Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) and Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott). Georgie doesn’t last long after encountering interdimensional monster Pennywise in a sewer drain, immediately setting the tone for the remainder of the movie. Skarsgård’s gaze and drooling thanks to prosthetic teeth add to the menacing tone throughout the scene.

It’s (Ankle) Clobbering Time – Misery (1990)

Columbia Pictures

When super-fan gone horribly wrong Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) straps her favorite author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) to his bed, it’s obvious the scene is only going to go downhill from there. Annie explains the hobbling procedure used in the early mining days to Paul and proceeds to break his ankles using an unrelenting sledgehammer swing. What makes this scene truly scary is the acting by Bates in this scene, whose calm demeanor and bedside manner does not falter as she performs this horrific procedure. Annie believes she is doing the correct thing here, which will always add to the scare factor.

Gage’s Return – Pet Sematary (1989)

Paramount Pictures

One horror trope that will always work is creepy kids. King knows this and is not afraid to utilize kids in the ultimate way in the genre, using them to commit atrocious murders on more than one occasion. When Gage Creed (Miko Hughes) is brought back to life following his tragic, untimely death, his father Louis (Dale Midkiff) learns the hard way that “sometimes dead is better.” Louis doesn’t learn this lesson before their friendly neighbor and friend Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) is gruesomely murdered by Gage in a terrifying scene. What is possibly scarier than a back-from-the-dead child biting the throat out of someone? This scene was probably able to be so scary because this is one of the few adaptations where King actually had a hand in the script.

The Opposite of a Good Boy – Cujo (1983)

Warner Bros.

Not every St. Bernard dog is as cuddly and loving as Beethoven, it turns out. A much more frightening version of the breed can be found in 1983’s Cujo. After Cujo receives a bite on the nose from a rabies-infected bat, he becomes a terror to the town of Castle Rock. In one of the more heart-rate elevating scenes, Cujo relentlessly attacks Donna and her young son Tad. The pair are able to take refuge in a car, but that doesn’t stop the rabid dog.

Come Play with Us, Danny – The Shining (1980)

Warner Bros.

There is no shortage of creepy kids in the King universe, but perhaps none are more infamous than Alexie and Alexa Grady in the 1980’s adaptation of The Shining. Known simply as the Grady Twins, young Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) encounters the girls while he is enjoying a taste of freedom around the hotel in the form of riding his bike throughout the never-ending halls. As the twins call for Danny to play with them (forever and ever), Danny is faced with bloody scenes of the twins’ murder by their father, Delbert Grady. Unfortunately for Danny, the horror doesn’t stop here.

Let Me In – Salem’s Lot (1979)

Warner Bros.

There are several adaptations of Salem’s Lot, but the 1979 two-part television movie still maintains its position as the best. There are plenty of scares in Salem’s Lot, but the scene that always sticks out is when young Mark Petrie hears tapping at his window late at night. At the window is none other than his deceased friend Danny, back from the dead and beckoning for Mark to invite him in. Mark, unfortunately, invites Danny inside for a midnight snack.

Pennywise Grandma – IT: Chapter Two (2019)

New Line Cinema

2019’s IT: Chapter Two followed its predecessor in the most gruesome, horrifying way possible throughout the entire film. While every scene in which Pennywise (Skarsgård) torments the now grown-up Losers Club is terrifying, none bring the scare factor quite like Beverly Marsh’s (Jessica Chastain) encounter with Mrs. Kersh (Joan Gregson). The entire scene’s tone is enough to set viewers on the edge of their seats, but when Mrs. Kersh transforms into an incredibly tall (and naked) grandma monster to come running at Beverly, it sends the scene from creepy to terrifying quickly.

Zelda’s Return – Pet Sematary (1989)

Paramount Pictures

We wish we could watch the 1989 Pet Sematary without skipping the scene where Louis’ long-departed sister Zelda makes her reappearance, but, likely, that day will never come. By casting an adult male actor (Andrew Hubatsek) to play a young, deathly ill girl and adding in director Mary Lambert’s keen understanding of gauzy lighting, audiences get a truly frightening couple of scenes featuring Zelda.

Pennywise Ruins Projectors Forever – IT (2017)

New Line Cinema

There are two scenes that we distinctly recall the entire audience jumping/gasping/screaming: Bilbo Baggins snarling at Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring and Pennywise climbing out of the project in 2017’s IT. The setup for this jump scare is incredible as the Losers are innocently looking at photos on a projector when Bill Denbrough’s (Jaden Martell) mother begins to transform into Pennywise’s terrifyingly twisted face. It wasn’t enough to stop at that creepy imagery because when Pennywise then crawls out of the projector with gnashing teeth toward the Losers, I consistently yelp. We’re not ranking these scenes by any particular order, but if we were, this would be at the top of the list.

The Worst Ending, Ever – The Mist (2007)

20th Century Fox

There will likely never be a more harrowing ending to a movie than that of 2007’s The Mist. After facing a Twilight Zone -esque tale set in Maine featuring unknowable Lovecraftian monsters, David (Thomas Jane) is faced with the impossible decision of sparring the only survivors, including his son, a gruesome death. Using the remainder of his bullets before the monsters can get to them after running out of gas, David exits the car and screams into the void, inviting whatever is in the mist to put him out of his misery. Instead, the military begins to emerge from the mist to handle whatever monsters are amuck. If David had only waited a mere moment more, he could’ve been sparred from killing the car full of people.

What is the King universe moment that haunts you the most? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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By Hannah Editor/Instagram Manager
Hannah joined the Nerds & Beyond team in May 2021. You can likely find her filling her time pronouncing her love for Star Wars, Spider-Man, and many other fabulously nerdy fandoms and topics like video games (find her a fictional character she loves more than Arthur Morgan) — though her first love is for anything spooky. Hannah is based in Denver, CO.
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