Not every movie scene that shows a character getting the heebies and/or jeebies scared out of them can be credited to a thespian’s acting skills. Sometimes, whether it be by the cruel hand of fate or the even crueler machinations of a scheming director, the on-screen terror is genuine. In everything from horror flicks to children’s movies, these are the times memorable movie moments were the result of someone actually being frightened out of their wits.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Movie audiences weren’t the only ones shrieking and gasping in shock when the baby Xenomorph made its grand entrance by violently exiting John Hurt’s chest cavity in the original 1979 Alien.
The actors in the scene (apart from Hurt, of course) arrived on set knowing nothing of the gory hijinks that were about to ensue. But they soon found out why the crew had splatter-proofed their equipment and themselves with plastic shielding - especially when a stream of spurting blood hit Veronica Cartwright and "caught her smack in the kisser."
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Ridley Scott pulled a similar stunt to his Alien ploy on unsuspecting actors in Prometheus. During the scene where Kate Dickie (who played Dr. Ford) has to interact with a dummy (who played the part of the deceased character Millburn), she was completely unaware that the special effects team had rigged up a surprise for her.
Namely, they attached a rubber Hammerpede (you know, the space cobra) to some monofilament wire, then pulled the fake creature out as the dummy was rolled over. Reportedly, “the screams were real."
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with an unkind word to say about the late, beloved comedic actor Gene Wilder. But during the boat scene in the classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the one in which he spends a few moments channeling his inner ranting maniac), the child actors present thought he was actually a raving lunatic.
As the one who played Mike Teavee would remark years later, the general reaction was “What the f*ck is wrong with this guy?”
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is considered a bloody masterpiece today, but the production process was a grueling - and terrifying - one for everyone involved. The actor who played Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) was kept away from the cast in order to elicit realistic reactions, and the screams from the actor playing Jerry as Leatherface rushed at him to hack him to bits were quite sincere.
And then there was the instance where actor Marilyn Burns (as Sally) was supposed to have her finger cut using a fake knife and stage blood. But when it didn’t work after multiple takes, Hansen got impatient and cut her for real, making Burns wonder if she was going to leave the farmhouse alive.