The Most Terrifying Opening Scenes In Horror Films

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Ghost Ship is, by all reasonable measures, not a very good film. Despite sporting a killer cast including Gabriel Byrne, Juliana Marguiles and Karl Urban, it suffered from problems in the writing, plotting and pacing departments; famed critic Richard Roeper bluntly called it "a dumb movie with dumb characters doing dumb things," which pretty much sums it up. But improbably, its opening scene has repeatedly been called among the greatest in the history of its genre, and with good reason — it's a doozy.

As the opening credits roll, we see a fancy ball taking place on the deck of a luxury ocean liner in the '60s; the scene is shot in soft focus, with sweeping big band music playing, and even the credits are rendered in a suitably elegant and classy font. Lovers stare dreamily into each others' eyes, a young girl gets a dance with the captain, and everything seems to be going smashingly — until an unseen assailant unspools a thin steel cable at a high rate of speed, causing it to snap and whip across the ballroom. For a sickeningly long moment, nobody is sure what happened... and then things start to fall apart, quite literally. It's the jarring juxtaposition of dreamy elegance with unthinkable carnage which makes the scene so brutally effective, and — the rest of the film notwithstanding — deserving of its place among the ranks of the greatest openings in all of horror.

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