Today’s Favorite – Spooky Places, Memorable Pubs

Today’s Favorite – Spooky Places, Memorable Pubs August 20, 2008

This weekend, I discovered a journal that I kept in college. In those pages, I wrote brief descriptions of my favorite big-screen moments, much the way the critics who write for FilmComment have done in their annual year-end issue.

It was inspiring to read back through pages of pages of great moments from movies that range from great to disposable.

I was inspired to spend more time inquiring about your own favorite moments.

So, from time to time I’m going to post “Today’s Favorite”, and ask you to share the most memorable moments that fit that particular category.

Let’s start off with TWO SUBJECTS:


Which onscreen environment creeps you out the most? And why?

Last night, I was writing a particularly spooky scene in Cal-raven’s Ladder, the third book in The Auralia Thread. I spent a lot of time constructing the environment for the scene, paying close attention to the details of a physical space that can set a reader (or a listener) to twitching in discomfort or dread. I found myself replaying some of the creepiest moments I’ve seen at the movies, paying attention to the details of the physical space in which the scenes played out.

Here are a few that came to mind:

  • The unnaturally sterile environments on the spaceship in Alien always bother me… the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • The hotel room in Barton Fink makes me feel as if there are cockroaches everywhere, even though I don’t remember seeing cockroaches. Maybe it’s that melting wallpaper glue.
  • The big tree in the foggy woods in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow comes to mind. Maybe it’s the green fog that slimes the air, or the way the tree looks like a contorted corpse.

What are some of your favorites?


What’s your favorite scene set in a pub, tavern, or alehouse?

I’m also working on a scene set in an inn late at night. The ale is flowing, there’s raucous singing, and hushed conversations are happening over shadowy tables in the corners.

This has me thinking back through all of my favorite “pub scenes”:

  • The hobbits stirring up trouble in Bree in The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Obi-Wan striking a deal with Solo at Mos Eisley in Star Wars.
  • The Three Amigos singing “My Little Buttercup.”
  • The hellish Roadhouse in Twin Peaks, where Laura Palmer and her friends keep getting into trouble.
  • Steven Rea is served by Jim Broadbent, who introduces him to an enigmatic beauty in The Crying Game.
  • Nicolas Cage gets into the beginnings of trouble in Red Rock West.
  • The love monologue at the conclusion of Wings of Desire.

Where would you like to go for a nightcap? What bars would you like to avoid?

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17 responses to “Today’s Favorite – Spooky Places, Memorable Pubs”

  1. It’s may not be a total pub/bar, but my one of my favourites is the watering hole establishment from Once Upon A Time in the West. The feel of the place is perfect, and then you have that amazing exchange between Jason Robards and Charles Bronson…”In the three coats were three men…”

  2. The decks of the Enterprise in Star Trek: First Contact that are being slowly assimilated by the Borg. It’s a brilliant example of set design creating dread, as slowly, step after step, our heroes find themselves walking deeper and deeper into a nightmarish world of black machinery…a brand new world that just hours before was a normal starship deck. It terrified me when I saw it at 7 years old back at release, and it still terrifies me now.

  3. The closest I’ve come to getting nightmares from a movie is Lynch’s Eraserhead. There was something about the juxtaposition of seemingly normal domestic life in a dilapidated wasteland, along with the reversal of normally comforting things (a family dinner, a baby) into grotesque images.

    My favorite bar scene comes from the TV show Millennium (an X-Files pseudo-spinoff from the late 90s). I didn’t regularly watch the show, but one episode showed a group of four demons sitting in an all-night coffee shop discussing their work. Their conversations were similar to Screwtape’s letters. I remember that the walls were a faintly red color, the kind that you might not even notice if it didn’t match the demons’ skin so perfectly.

  4. The spooky scene would be in Silence of the Lambs so the place would be the dungeon. The why is pretty obvious… her vulnerability, his total control and the impending evil that must be about to happen but we don’t know how it’s going to play out.

  5. Spooky: the orphanage in (aptly titled) The Orphanage. It’s so big and ancient and quiet. It was unnerving how it would be completely silent throughout the house. I could imagine sitting in that enormous mansion and just feel a deep sense of discomfort from not knowing what could be happening somewhere else inside the house.

  6. Remember, folks… I’m not just asking for “spooky scenes.” I’m asking about spooky places.

    Regardless of lurks there, regardless of the events that take place… which environments, which rooms, which landscapes give you nightmares? And why?

  7. Ooh… spooky scenes might take me awhile to come up with, but first and foremost in my nightmares is the house at the end of Murnau’s Nosferatu. *shudder* Just the suggestion of the shadow of the count’s fingers creeping up the hallway is enough to give me bad dreams for a week.

    For pub scenes, though, nothing beats the pub from Waking Ned Devine, especially the final scene of the film. I want to visit and have a pint!

  8. Scary stuff:
    -Room 217, from the TV miniseries version of The Shining. It’s so simple looking, but so dreadful. I can barely watch that scene without flinching.

    -The room with the pool in The Devil’s Backbone. You know the one.

    -The control room that the space marines are holed up in in Aliens. It’s so claustrophobic, plus there are so many entrances…both above and below.

    -The second floor landing in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I still get scared no matter how many times I’ve seen that movie.

    -The only place I’d really like to go is the bar most of the cops hang out in on HBO’s great The Wire. I’m sure it’s a real bar in Baltimore. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head.

  9. The hallway of the Deep River Apartments in Blue Velvet–a dark place full of ominous sounds where anything can and does happen. Dennis Hopper might come creeping around the corner with his goons at any moment.

    Also, this is an obvious one I know, but I was terrified by the hallways in The Shining (1980). One of the doors might be open, and you’ll see something you never recover from.

    As for bars, I can’t think of many scenes, but one that pops immediately to mind takes place in Paris (I think) toward the start of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Bill Murray overhears two rude men putting him down–not knowing that he understands French and is very hurt. He soon retreats to a nearby alley for some crying, discarding of his earring and receiving consolation from his long-lost son Ned (Kingsley).

  10. In Blues Brothers, the bar where Jake and Elwood find Murph and the MagicTones, shag carpet on the speakers and all. Quando, Quando, Quando.

  11. I’m not sure why, but I always love the bar scene where Tom Cruise and Demi Moore’s characters meet in A FEW GOOD MEN. I think it’s the way they smash their lobster (or is it crab legs?) and suck the meat off the knife blade.

  12. The bar where Indiana Jones first finds Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark straddles the line between a place to grab something to warm you up and a place to avoid, depending on how far into the scene things are.

  13. Favorite Spooky Scenes:

    1. In THE CHANGELING with Geogre C. Scott when he is playing the piano and stops before finishing the last note. He leaves the room, the camera comes in on the keyboard and the last note sounds out all on its own. That whole movie was one big scary scene.

    2. The hallway in BARTON AND FINK when all the shoes are out to be polished at night but you never really see anyone staying in the hotel.

    3. The entryway to Dracula’s castle in DRACULA (the one with Frank Langela). The old stone, the dead leaves blowing through the house, very creepy.

    Favorite Bar Scenes:

    1. Ditto on the scene in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING.

    2. The scene in GODFATHER II when Fredo is sitting at the bar in Michael’s house after his mother dies and Michael comes to embrace him. Fredo thinks he has been forgiven, but one look from Michael, and we know it is isn’t true.

    3. The bar in ROAD HOUSE. I know it’s an awful movie, but I really liked the Jeff Healey Band.