The 19 Most Terrifying 'American Horror Story' Scenes, Ranked
This Wednesday (October 7), "American Horror Story" will return with its fifth brand new series, the Lady Gaga-led "Hotel." And while we already know a whole lot of information about the series' plot -- it takes place in a hotel, obviously, but a hotel that is populated by the likes of a 100-year-old hemophiliac, violent heroin addicts, and demons -- we don't know which kind of scary it will be.
Like, you know -- will it feature the alternatively campy and historically sickening scares of "Coven," or the more emotionally charged, family-oriented scares of "Murder House?" Will there be jump scares? Body horror? All of the above? Either way, "Hotel" will have a lot to live up to when it comes to terror, since these 19 scenes still make us shudder and squirm just thinking about them:
Meryl's daughter gets tatted up, "Freak Show"
Everyone, vain or nah, has had a nightmare or two about facial damage. Everyone. "AHS," of course, took things a step or 10 further with this scene, which features Grace Gummer (lil baby Meryl) waking up to an entirely new -- and hideously tattooed -- face.
Elsa's snuff film, "Freak Show"
So, so many of the terrifying moments on this list -- and in real life, sadly -- involve body horror and sexual violence, and Elsa's amputation snuff film from "Freak Show" just so happens to involve both.
Piggy Piggy, "Murder House"
Who would have thought that Eric "Cam" Stonestreet could ever make them squeal in terror?
Twisty's scissors, "Freak Show"
We adore Finn Wittrock and his portrayal of Dandy Mott, but we still think that "Freak Show" would have benefitted from more time with John Carroll Lynch's Twisty, who is a horrifying creature to behold and a silent treasure onscreen. His "Freak Show" introduction is campy and scary and overall just really great... so, yeah, you best be on your A-game, "Hotel."
The fire poker, "Murder House"
Poor Patrick just wanted love, marriage, and the baby carriage to boot. What he got instead was a hot fire poker up the butt.
Minotaur sex, "Coven"
Beastiality is horrifying to any sane person with a pulse, so when you make the beast in question a freaking minotaur and have the sex lead to a torn-open tummy on the human side, sh-t gets weird.
Lana gives herself an abortion, "Asylum"
Tries and fails, but still -- she tries. And the body horror is real for men and women. (Trust me, I've asked them.)
Kyle gets raped by his mother, "Coven"
NOPE. Nothing says terror quite like incestual sexual abuse.
Tate's massacre, "Murder House"
Unlike the other "AHS" moments later in the list -- which tend to involve makeup, prosthetics, and supernatural scares -- Tate's school massacre in "Piggy Piggy" is disturbing because it's real. Too real. Murphy and co. clearly borrowed from the real-life massacre at Columbine for this scene, which I found to be so upsetting that I turned off my TV for the first and only time in "AHS" history. Some things, after all, are better left not glamorized on television.
Meet Murder-Santa, "Asylum"
The idea of a murderous St. Nick is nothing new ("Santa's Slay;" "Silent Night, Deadly Night"), but the idea of a murderous Santa played by Ian McShane is an "AHS" original. His Christmas murder rampage is unflinchingly brutal, and also great.
Thaddeus says hello, "Murder House"
Jump scares are a dime a dozen in horror flicks these days, but that doesn't mean they can't be great when they're done well. And the camera panning the darkness for Thaddeus -- a dead Franken-baby made of other dead babies --definitely qualifies as "done well." Shudder.
Bonnie escapes Twisty (and is instantly re-captured), "Freak Show"
Have you ever needed someone to live more on "AHS" -- Lana Winters aside -- than poor strong, likable Bonnie? Her captivity was so devastatingly creepy and terrifying, but she stayed strong and supportive of her babysit-ee throughout the whole ideal.
Vivien is raped, "Murder House"
AKA, the moment we all realized that this show was going to go there.
Delphine reveals her chamber of horrors, "Coven"
"Coven," overall, is not a particularly terrifying season of "American Horror Story." Campy and quippy yes, but overall, the lighter tone meant a lack of individually horrifying moments... minus the series opener, "Bitchcraft," which featured an unforgivably grotesque look at the greatest horror in our nation's history. Whether the LaLaurie slave scenes are in good taste is still in question, but whether they were scary has been confirmed: yes.
Violet finds her own corpse, "Murder House"
This is right up there with "The Sixth Sense" when it comes to reveals that feel like a punch to the gut. Violet was a young woman taken in her prime, and Tate's reveal of her fly-ridden and decomposing corpse is extraordinarily sad -- and scary, of course.
Twisty shows his face, "Freak Show"
FX can thank its makeup department for many of its most ghastly moments, but the reveal of Twisty the Clown's true face -- which was partially blown off in a failed suicide attempt -- is easily one of the most memorable, and viscerally terrifying. Everyone clutched their own jaw in terror when that aired.
Shelley takes a walk, "Asylum"
When we say that Twisty's reveal was only "one of" the best "AHS" makeup moments, it's because Chloë Sevigny's horrific school playground climb after being amputated and tortured is still the most definitively grotesque (and oddly hilarious) moment on this show. More body horror on "Hotel," please.
Bloody Face is revealed, "Asylum"
Is there anything more nightmare-inducing than a well-liked captive who thinks they've escaped their trauma, only to learn that their situation has gone from bad to worse? NOPE. It's the stuff nightmares are made of, and "Asylum" viewers were so desperate for Lana to be saved that few complaints were raised when Dr. Thredson took a special interest in her case. Looking back, we should have seen this coming -- but I'm glad we didn't, since the Bloody Face reveal is still powerful today.
Vivien gives birth (then dies), "Murder House"
Back before "AHS" was all about the big moments that will shock you and Lady Gaga commercials set to German metal, there was "Murder House" -- a show that was honestly just trying to scare you, and maybe even move you a little. Few moments that followed have since lived up to Vivien's emotionally fraught delivery scene, which manages to balance the very real body horror of childbirth gone wrong with the gothic horror of a haunted house story quite beautifully.