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Fright Club: Horror at the Dinner Table

The dinner scene is a staple in all of film. It’s a way to get to know the family, tweak tensions, display power struggles, uncover secrets, get sentimental, get gross.

And horror filmmakers have mined the anxiety of the dinner table brilliantly for decades. Hereditary‘s “I am your mother!” to The Invitation‘s big reveal, Invisible Man‘s public, damning murder to Beetlejuice‘s singing possession to every amazing scene in The Menu. There are dozens of worthy scenes and films to discuss, but since we must limit ourselves, here are our five favorite dinner scenes in horror.

5. Freaks (1932)

It’s the turning point in Tod Browning’s controversial film. It’s the moment when all the circus freaks embrace Cleopatra, accept her as family.

Gooble gobble gooble gobble, one of us! One of us! The proud call of the outcast, a phrase adopted and beloved but horror fans and weirdos the world over. Could Browning have known when he filmed this boisterous celebration that he’d instantly created a classic?

4. Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992)


Peter Jackson knows gross out splatter gore. If he didn’t prove that with his first films, he owns it with Dead Alive. Power tools and priests, zombie babies and Sumatran Rat Monkeys, and one delicious custard.

That custard bit wins. The dinner scene in this film – a movie spilling over with viscera – is among the most disgusting things ever set to film.

Bravo, Peter Jackson!

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Master! Dinner is prepared!

Poor Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, perfection). These party crashers have ruined his big event AND Rocky’s birthday party! And now that repugnant old scientist is here looking for Eddie – a rather tender subject.

An exceptional cast, a clever dance of allegiances, a showy reveal and my favorite “Happy Birthday” meme all roll into one delicious dish!

2. Eraserhead (1977)

Henry (Jack Nance) is so uncomfortable in this scene, and it’s the first scene where the audience really associates with him. He’s a hard character to get behind until he goes to his girlfriend Mary’s parents’ house for dinner.

Her dad tells this weird story and asks him to do the honors of cutting the meat. He’s nervous, wants to vanish, is afraid to say no but has no idea what to do.

Which is probably everybody’s fear in such a situation. Although, this being a David Lynch film, none of us will ever have exactly this experience. Man, Mom seems to be really invested.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

It is around the dinner table that a guest gets to see the true family dynamics. Sally’s getting a good look. Like a really close up, veiny eyed look.

This is the scene that grounds Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece. Suddenly it’s a family with a lived-in vibe and a backstory. And another person’s face. And a metal basin and a nearly mummified old man.

Edwin Neal’s already had his chance to nab the spotlight in the van, and of course Gunnar Hansen’s the star of the show. It’s in this scene that Jim Siedow gets to dig in and create an unforgettable character. And Sally (Marilyn Burns – god bless her) – goes through a lot and comes out the other side.

Fright Club: Best Jump Scares

We spend a lot of time ripping on weak and lazy jump scares. But today we want to acknowledge that, when done well, jump scares can be an incredibly effective tool for a horror filmmaker.

Here are our 10 favorite jump scares from horror movies.

10. It Follows (2014): tall man at the door

This movie is a freak show of scares beginning to end, and the different images the demon takes throughout is forever terrifying and fascinating. But it was the tall man at the door that really got to us.

9. Les Diaboliques (1955): alive in the tub

First of all, this is a spoiler. But the film came out 65 years ago, so if you haven’t seen it by now (we even showed it once!), that’s on you, man. It’s a classic, and a classic scare.

8. The Ring (2002): I saw her face

Again, here is a film chocker block full of utterly fantastic creeps, all told a moment at a time. But it was that first one, when we see Samara’s first victim, that set the stage and made us jump out of our seats.

7. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003): under the sink

So much nuttiness, so many confusing ideas to keep track of, such a master class piece of atmosphere building in this film. You just are not expecting jump scares in this one. And yet, as one dinner party goes wrong…

6. Hereditary (2018): signpost

Tell us you saw this one coming and we will tell you that you are a liar.

5. Carrie (1976): Carrie White’s grave

Oh holy shit. You think Sue Snell has been through enough, what with missing out on prom and watching every friend she has die in a flaming blood bath. But you would think wrong.

4. Audition (1999): What’s in the bag?

Ring ring. Ring ring. The way Takashi Miike frames this scene, lovely Asami’s hair draped in front of her, her spine showing, that loud phone – you can’t take your eyes off her, waiting for her to rouse, to answer. You might not even notice that burlap sack…

3. Jaws (1975): Hey, it’s Bruce!

Jaws has two classic jump scares, and it was hard to pick. Remember when Hooper’s digging that tooth out of Ben Gardner’s boat and then, all the the sudden, a human head! Well, that would have been enough for most movies, but after waiting nearly 2/3 of the film to see that shark, Steven Spielberg introduces his lead with authority.

2. The Conjuring (2013): bureau

James Wan’s instant classic haunted house movie also boasts more than one strong contender for this list. That hand clapping scene, showcased in the trailer, was reason enough for us to buy our tickets. But the one that did the most damage starts with a sleep walker and ends with the best jump scare in the last twenty years.


1. The Exorcist III: guy in the hall

There are so many utterly priceless moments in this underrated horror show: Patrick Ewing and Fabio as angels, Sam Jackson as a blind man, that terrifying confessional scene. But there is this one flash of white that is the reason everybody who sees this movie remembers it.