Wait... did you hear that? There’s still time to back away slowly, before they know you’re here.
These 10 GIFs of ultimate horror are strong stuff; you won’t find Alvin and/or the Chipmunks in vampire drag or some silly sorority girls in “Slutty William Shatner” costumes in this roundup. Sit down. Things are about to get eldritch.
1) The Begotten
The opening scene of E. Elias Merhige’s 1990 work of cinematic genius, Begotten, features minute after interminable minute of watching this hideous, silently screaming creature brutally, slowly, eviscerate himself with a straight razor. Although Begotten is often described as a silent movie, it is not actually so merciful. The image is nigh-unendurable, but when combined with the morbidly squelching soundtrack it creates an effect that, as one critic said, “makes Eraserhead look like Ernest Saves Christmas.” This image convinced me to watch the film; don’t make the same mistake.
2) Headless and heartless
The best thing about this GIF is, you can indeed try this at home, kids, and you will entirely freak out your friends if you do. It’s a shockingly effective prank designed by magician Rich Ferguson, and displayed to much advantage in his viral hit YouTube video, with over three million views since Oct. 19. His guiding philosophy? “They do say "trick or treat?" I say TRICK!”
3) Norman Bates
From the appropriately named Drinks at the End of the World Tumblr comes this image, a pensive Anthony Perkins as mama’s boy Norman Bates in the horror classic Psycho. For such an isolated, ill-educated yokel, Norman has some startlingly clear insights into the tragedy inherent in the human condition. We’ve all felt that way sometimes, and who is ultimately able to say that we were wrong? In Norman’s world, every living thing is trapped in its own prison, but some of us, for a time, can seem to escape. Is it ever more than that, Norman?
4) It’s in the Blood
It may be in the blood, whatever “it” is, but thanks to the intentionally poor focus in this scene from the 2012 film by Scooter Downey, it’s never clear what “it” is, and that is exactly the point. Ambiguity is an essential element of true horror, as differentiated from simple bodily fear, necessary to raise the one’s reaction from animal reflex and revulsion to a truly soul-corrupting experience of divine awe. If you truly understand what is happening, fear is lessened, confidence grows, and humanity feels that surely there must be a solution. If you don’t understand the problem, can’t even determine its nature, you become something worse than a scared rat in a cage: You become a scared rat with an awareness of the possibility of transcendent damnation.
5) Send in the clown
A fanged, nodding clown GIF, oversized.
Enough said, I think?
6) Dorian Gray Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa is the world’s greatest eternal beauty. Her smile has captivated all who’ve seen her for more than half a millennium, and her elegant understatement has transcended fashion, becoming an icon of loveliness for every age. What do you get when you put La Gioconda together with Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray? The ageless rake was free to debauch at will, his flawless face and person showing no signs of Keith Richards-levels of damage, but locked away, his perfect painted portrait did the ageing for him. What if the Mona Lisa were to her original as the portrait of Dorian Gray was to his?
It would look something like this. And you will look at mirrors strangely for the rest of the day.
7) A Gorey GIF
Edward Gorey—eccentric bachelor, cat fancier, artist and author, master of whimsy and weirdness—simply OWNS Halloween. There has never been anyone better at capturing the unique blend of horror and humor that suffuse this strangest of all holidays. This image is from his iconic animated introduction to Mystery, the supernatural counterpart to Masterpiece Theatre. It reminds us that not everything is as solid as it seems and that behind every extravagant monument and exquisite mansion lies a secret.
8) Death by Miron
No matter what cosy, comforting fairy tales we may tell ourselves to sleep through the night, if we stare our fears straight in the eye they gradually resolve into only one. One Fear. The Grand Unifying Force of Fear: Death.
And artist MiRon has brought this very real nightmare to life, eschewing his usual black-and-white palette for something a shade more visceral, the whole thing pulsating in an eternal mockery of the beating heart of life. Are those tentacles? Is that an exposed brain? Best to turn away, because this visitor comes with only one answer, and that is final.
9) Don’t look down
C.H.U.D. wasn’t much of a movie, but it’s one hell of a GIF. The basic premise was that so much unspeakable stuff got flushed into a sewage system already packed to the festering gills with homeless underground untouchables that sooner or later something noxious was bound to be produced by spontaneous...deus ex machina. Cannibal turd monsters aren’t everyone’s idea of The Ultimate Horror, but this snippet is a perfect moment of foreboding. We don’t know what that was, but we’re very, very glad it decided to stay down there.
10) Batman flees
There are some things no man can face. No, not even Batman. The ultimate horror comes, claws clattering, fanged jaws wide, in the throes of some insane ecstasy, seeking only one thing: seeking the Batman.