My horror and cult movie expert friend Nick plucks out some of the most insane moments in the history of cinema.
If you like men wrestling actual sharks, massacres of evil children, sensitive songs about Bigfoot, and deaths by basketballs, dodgeballs and mutant genitalia — this one is for you.
This list would’ve taken me about six months to research. Fortunately, I did not research it. This was compiled and written by a longtime co-worker of mine named Nick. He and I had discussed him doing a guest list and this was a natural fit — he’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure and cult movies, so he was able to do this from memory.
So these are the 11 biggest WTF movie moments. This isn’t about surprise plot twists (“At the end of the Sixth Sense, you find out that dude in the hairpiece was Bruce Willis the whole time”). It’s about that one moment in a movie that, as Nick told me, “makes you question your own sanity, not to mention your faith in humanity — and watch it again immediately.”
Here are those 11 moments. Nick wrote the list; I’ve added my comments at the end of each. Most of the clips are available online and embedded here, but a few could take you some leg work.
11 | Zombie (1979): Zombie vs. Shark
Outrageous set pieces were one of the trademarks of Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci… and it didn’t get more outrageous than this.
He actually dressed a guy up like a zombie, put him underwater and made him wrestle around with a *real shark*. He even gave the dude a fake arm for the shark to bite off.
This is one of those things that would have been nothing in the era of CGI. But in 1979, if you wanted a zombie to fight a shark and you didn’t have the Spielbergian budget required to build your own mechanical shark, you used a goddamn real shark.
Sam’s comment: Way too much realism here — and I don’t like it. It’s like the shark fighting equivalent of the chest waxing scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin. Or that one scene in “Brown Bunny”.
10 | Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002): Dinner Invitation
The shark effects in Shark Attack 3 are bad, but in a ballsy, audacious way that Z-movie fans can truly appreciate.
But when it comes to ballsy and audacious, that 20-ton shark’s got nothing on our hero Ben, played by John Barrowman… who delivers perhaps the greatest pickup line in the history of film, when he tells actress Jenny McShane, “You know, I’m really wired. What do you say I take you home and eat your pussy?”
And IT WORKS. The film cuts right from that line to these two in the shower. Barrowman says he ad-libbed that line just to make McShane laugh, but to his surprise, the director kept it in.
Sam’s take: No matter how many times I see that, I still get caught off guard. It’s like eating Milk Duds — no matter how many times I try, I know I’m going to hate them. But I keep going back.
9 | Maniac (1934): Cat’s Eye-Gore
If you think movies are depraved today, you should see what they were churning out in your grandma’s (or great-grandma’s) day.
In 1934, Hollywood started enforcing the Hays Code… a set of rules developed to restore decency to the movie industry. The film Maniac!, released that very year, is a perfect example of why Hollywood was under such pressure to censor itself.
This one’s got everything: Murder, reanimation of the dead, nudity, animal mutilations, Satanic hallucinations, adrenaline overdoses and two catfights… one involving actual CATS.
At its heart, the movie is a loose reworking of Poe’s The Black Cat… (although it also pulls in some elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Re-Animator.) And just like in the classic story, our protagonist gouges out the eyeball of his own feline companion. But in Maniac!, he takes the insanity one step further by throwing the cat through a window, then dropping they eyeball into his upturned mouth and swallowing it!
It should be noted that a stunt cat is obviously used for the eye-gouging scene. For realism’s sake, they needed a cat that was already missing an eye. Although it would have been nice if the two cats were at least the same color.
Still, it’s as shocking and gruesome a scene as you’ll see in a black and white movie pre-1960. Especially if your idea of black and white film is Jimmy Stewart, Bogey and Bacall or Abbott & Costello.
(YouTube only has the trailer for Maniac! You can see an abridged version of the eye-gouging at the 3:06 mark. For the full effect, check out the DVD… preferably the edition put out by Kino Video, which paired it up with another exploitation classic, Narcotic.)
Sam’s comment: It must’ve been hard to find a good one-eyed stunt cat in the pre-Craigslist era. Now I bet I could put up an ad and have at least a dozen come to an audition.
8 | Night of the Demons (1988): The Disappearing Lipstick
In 1985, Linnea Quigley cemented her status as one of the all-time great B-movie scream queens with her graveyard striptease in Return of the Living Dead. It was a seminal moment in zombie movie history… and soon became a “seminal” moment for young male fans who knew how to use the rewind and pause buttons on their VCR remotes.
Enjoyable though it was, it wasn’t really WTF-worthy. But three years later, Linnea would have her WTF Moment in Night of the Demons. The predictable plot revolves around a group of blockheaded high school kids who decide to hold a Halloween party in a haunted, abandoned funeral home.
These punks are just asking to be possessed and the resident demons don’t disappoint.
As one of the first kids to get demonized, Linnea spaces out and becomes fascinated with her lipstick. She smears it on her face and then puts it against her bare chest. She draws a spiral around her left breast, and when she gets to the center, she pushes the lipstick into her nipple. And I mean all the way. It disappears into Linnea’s breast, leaving no evidence that it ever even existed.
This is another one of those effects that don’t seem like a big deal in the CGI era… but in 1988, it was downright flabbergasting. It was achieved with a set of prosthetic breasts that had a small slit in the left nipple.
Today’s audiences are conditioned to expect anything, because computer-animation can make anything happen. But this WTF Moment was one of the great movie mindeffs of the late ’80s. Especially because Linnea’s boobs were already fake. Thus, the slipover boobs didn’t have to look 100 percent natural for us to buy the gag.
People watched this scene over and over again just to figure out how it was done. It was the second Linnea Quigley moment in three years to spark multiple rewinds.
(I had to scour the Internet for a clip of this. The best one I found is dubbed in Spanish. Luckily, this one’s all about the visuals. Your WTF Moment commences at the 2:53 mark. Link)
Sam’s comment: I can’t believe it took almost three years before this website discussed a woman pushing a full tube of lipstick into her nipple. Why back in my younger days I would’ve had that in the first week. I might’ve even just dropped the pretense of calling the website “11 Points” and gone with “LipstickNippleExtravaganza.com”. Although that domain name is probably taken.
7 | Deadly Friend (1986): Full Court Death
Before she was the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Christie Boner in Dude, Where’s My Car, Kristy Swanson starred in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend.
Despite having some of the greatest genre flicks on his resume (Last House on the Left, the original The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow and the Scream franchise) Craven has made plenty of shitty movies. This is one of them.
Kristy plays Samantha Pringle, a girl with an abusive father and a love interest named Paul who has built his very own, nearly-sentient robot called BB.
When BB is destroyed by a crotchety neighbor and Samantha is beaten nearly to death by her abusive father, Paul does what any mad scientist would do: He puts BB’s computerized brain into Samantha’s body. And that’s when the killing starts.
Samantha and BB both get their due vengeance; first by offing Samantha’s dad, then by going after Elvira Parker, the aforementioned crotchety neighbor who dispatched BB with her trusty shotgun.
Elvira, played by the late, great Anne Ramsey (Goonies, Throw Momma From the Train), gets her head smashed like a watermelon at a Gallagher concert. But not by a giant mallet. Instead, she gets it via BASKETBALL… thrown with Godly force by Samantha, who now has super strength for some reason.
It’s ugly, it’s messy, and most importantly, it’s shamelessly over-the-top. It’s the messiest exit involving a basketball since LeBron hightailed it to Miami. And it makes Deadly Friend a much more noteworthy film than it deserves to be.
Sam’s comment: Despite what people might think, I don’t want to see LeBron’s head explode from a super-strength basketball. Just think of how it would curb Delonte West’s sex life.
6 | Fear No Evil (1981): If You Can Dodge a Wrench, You Can Dodge a Ball… Unless it’s Propelled by the Power of Satan
Fear No Evil may very well be the most homoerotic horror movie of all time (Gay Bed & Breakfast Of Terror excluded).
You could write an entire thesis on the gay subtext in this movie. It’s about a high school kid who’s actually the Devil reborn. And frankly, he’s the gayest Devil I’ve ever seen. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Seriously… when this kid finally embraces who he is, he becomes a half-naked cross between Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. And the first thing he does is kiss one of his high school tormentors violently on the mouth.
(To be fair, he’s only retaliating for an earlier incident in which the macho bully kissed HIM… while all the guys were naked in the showers after gym class. Again, the subtext.)
This is the only movie I can think of where Satanism is used as an allegory for latent homosexuality. And if it wasn’t intentional, then somebody needs to tell writer/director Frank LaLoggia that HE’S gay. (Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
No movie about how tough it is to be a gay teenager would be complete without a dodgeball scene. And Fear No Evil has a great one. You might even say it’s killer. (HI-YO.)
While Andrew is on the sidelines doing pushups for being 54 seconds late to class, the rest of the boys get down to business… and the power of Satan whips the gym teacher into a murderous frenzy.
As the game goes on, he gets more intense, shouting, “Go! Get ’em! Get ’em” until finally, he can take no more. He runs onto the court, picks up a ball and yells, “Kill the son of a bitch!” Then he hurls it… and does just that. The ball, with Satan’s power behind it, impales one of the jocks against the rolled-up bleachers.
As blood spurts from his mouth, it’s clear that his teammates can catch as many balls as they want; this kid ain’t gettin’ back into the game.
Sam’s comment: My favorite part is how realistic the death looks. Not sure why getting hit by a super-fast rubber ball makes someone end up convulsing in a crucifixion position.
5 | The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972): It’s Hard Out Here for a Sasquatch
Any movie about a giant, hairy beast that purports to be a true story had better be a biopic on Alec Baldwin (or a Kardashian). The Legend of Boggy Creek is not. It’s a pseudo-documentary about the Fouke Monster: a Bigfoot-like creature that’s been a nuisance to the backwoods residents of Miller County, Arkansas since the 1940s.
Over the years, he’s been known to kill and eat livestock, thrust his hand through people’s windows while they’re relaxing in their homes and, worst of all, offend their nostrils with his urine-like stench.
Now, most Bigfoot movies — at least the ones I remember from my childhood — tend to paint the Sasquatch as a pretty decent guy. Feral, yes; but mostly gentle and misunderstood.
Boggy Creek takes that conceit one step further by spelling out the poor Fouke Monster’s fate in song.
In a gentle, affecting musical interlude accompanying a montage of nature scenes that culminate in a shot of our hirsute hero ambling through the foggy swamp all by his pathetic lonesome, we are asked to ponder just how difficult it is to be a monster in this topsy-turvy world.
In a nutshell, Bigfoot’s got 99 problems… and bitches be all of them. As the song explains…
Here the Sulfur River flows,
Rising when the storm cloud blows.
And this is where the creature goes,
Safe within a world he knows.
Perhaps he dimly wonders why,
There is no other such as I,
To touch, to love before I die,
To listen to my lonely cry.
Bottom line: Sasquatch wants the same damn thing all men want. Unfortunately, a heady urine stench is a dealbreaker even to lady Bigfoots. (And maybe even to Alec Baldwin.)
Sam’s comment: Well, it’s still better than the Aerosmith song from Armageddon.
4 | Beware! Children at Play (1989): Beat on the Brats
Killer kids: Can’t live with ’em, can’t explode their tender little heads with a shotgun blast at close range. Or can you?
Beware! Children at Play, released under the auspices of the wonderfully twisted folks at Troma Entertainment, answers that question with an emphatic YES! You can do that — and a hell of a lot more.
The plot concerns a small town in New Jersey where kids are being systematically abducted and indoctrinated by a forest-dwelling clan of cannibal children led by a confused teenager who thinks he’s Grendel from Beowulf. (Making this, I believe, the first Troma movie to be based, however loosely, on classic literature. Its release predates that of Tromeo and Juliet by a good seven years.)
Killer kid movies are nothing new — from little Rhoda Penmark in 1956’s The Bad Seed to the eerie towheads of Village of the Damned four years later, right up through the Children of the Corn in 1984 and the very well-done 2008 shocker The Children.
But the most direct inspiration for Beware! Children at Play is probably the excellent 1976 Spanish flick Who Can Kill a Child?… which perfectly spells out the conceit of this subgenre in its title.
No matter how evil the deeds of these children, they’re still just kids, dammit. And how do you bring yourself to kill a kid?
In most of these movies, that point is dwelt upon carefully and intelligently. But that ain’t Troma’s style.
Beware! Children at Play ends with the adult townsfolk tearing these little bastards to shreds. In a mere two minutes of screen time, no less than 18 kids are graphically butchered with guns, knives, arrows and various other deadly objects.
One kid gets a pitchfork to the neck… another is stabbed in the back by his own mother. One kid’s head explodes when it’s shot at close range.
And in perhaps the most audacious moment in the whole flick, a dude puts the barrel of a handgun right into a child’s mouth and sends his brains flying out the back of his newly-aerated skull.
It’s graphic and it’s ugly, but the scene is so artless, it’s hard to be offended by it. I have a feeling everybody, including the kids, had an absolute blast the day this stuff was filmed. Like a community picnic, but with more exploding heads.
Sam’s comment: If only violence against children like this had been in-bounds for the horrible Karate Kid remake, maybe that movie could’ve been more interesting.
3 | Welcome Home, Brother Charles (1975): Is That a Thick, Black Necktie, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
Penis envy was a recurring theme in the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Whitey had all the money and all the power, but the brothers were the ones bringing it to the bedroom. Even the white women knew it, and that made their men furious.
But in very few films of the genre was the metaphor as thinly veiled as it was in Welcome Home, Brother Charles (also available on DVD as Soul Vengeance).
Charles Murray is a drug dealer who gets busted by a white, racist cop. To make matters even worse, this guy recently found out that his wife has been banging black guys on the side because he’s impotent. So you know this isn’t going end well. He puts Charles in the backseat of his car, takes out a knife and tries to castrate him.
Charles ends up severely wounded, but still intact. But the brutality is glossed over by the system, the cop is celebrated for his heroism and Charles gets put away for three long years.
We’re never told how or why, but during this time, Charles’s damaged penis acquires the ability to grow to ridiculous lengths. It also has the dexterity of an octopus tentacle, which makes it ideal for strangling the white devils who did him wrong.
Charles has also somehow obtained the power of hypnosis. And to add insult to fatal injury, he doesn’t just kill these doughy white guys with his unnaturally large penis. First he bangs their wives, then wills them to become accomplices to the murders.
The true method of execution is kept from us until the second murder. The first time Charles kills, we see only a close-up of his face. He sweats, he shakes and he grimaces as his pythonic pecker takes care of business off-screen.
But when he kills again, nothing is left to the imagination. And it’s glorious. Truly one of those religious experiences of exploitation film watching; a scene that makes you believe, if even for just a day or two, that you truly HAVE seen everything. Trust me on this one.
Sam’s take: This video wasn’t flagged by YouTube’s adult filters because the “pythonic pecker” is so far from realistic. At least I hope it’s far from realistic.
2 | Troll 2 (1990): Mom Must Not Have Known Too Many Songs
There’s really nothing left to say about Troll 2 that hasn’t already been said. Worst movie of all time? It’s a distinct possibility. But in no way whatsoever does it fail to entertain. If you love bad movies, I challenge you to find a better way to spend 95 minutes.
This movie is shot through with so many distinct WTF Moments that it truly qualifies as a WTF Movie. It simply should not exist. At several dozen moments throughout the making of this film, someone should have shut it down. Thank God they didn’t.
You always hear movie people say things like, “We had no idea how bad it was when we were making it.” But in this case, they had to know. All of them.
So how do you pick just one WTF Moment out of a mess of incredulity such as Troll 2? It’s not easy. But I chose the moment that, for me, outshines them all.
It’s kind of low-key. It’s probably not a scene most people would pick out as the most absurd in the film. But the more I watch this movie, the more its WTF-ness just jumps out at me.
The Waits family — Michael and Diana and their kids Joshua and Holly — are in the car, on their way to the small town of Nilbog. Since no one had the foresight to write that name on a piece of paper and look at it in a mirror, they have no idea that they’re heading right into the clutches of some nasty little creatures.
As often happens on family road trips, the Waitses begin to lose that loving feeling. Dad and daughter start bickering, and Mom springs into action.
Figuring that the best way to restore peace to her clan is through song, she entreats Joshua to, “sing that song I like so much.” After a hem and a haw, Joshua relents. And he begins singing that song his mother likes so much: Row, Row, Row Your Boat!
Then everybody else joins in, and we’re singing in the round, baby. Family unity is restored, Mom is enjoying one of her very favorite songs and life is good once again. Until those damn goblins show up.
Not exactly a Von Trapp moment, but it’ll do.
Sam’s comment: The fact that Nick picked this moment shows how twisted the cult movie fanatic’s brain really is. Row, Row, Row Your Boat registers higher on the shock scale than a cat having its eyeball plucked out or an old woman’s head being exploded by a demonic basketball.
1 | To Grandmother’s House We Go (1992): Double the Cuteness, Double the Racism
Here it is, folks: THE #1 WTF moment in all of film. It involves Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, a black street musician and some fried chicken.
You really can’t hold the Olsens responsible for this. They were only six years old. Then again, they are the spawn of Satan, so anything’s possible.
But assuming they were indeed innocent and unaware of the racism that simply oozes off this scene, there’s a question that must be asked of every adult who was on the set the day it was filmed: WTF were you thinking?
Sam’s comment: I, as well, cannot believe this exists.