To clarify, we’re talking about the most intentionally creepy moments here. No jump scares, either. The most effective horror burns slowly, and strikes most piercingly when its full implications slowly slink in. So, each show listed below takes full advantage of long-form television’s capacity to ask more complicated questions, give more troubling answers, and let tensions keep coiling until they snap. Read on, and enjoy the cold sweat that will surely form on the back of your neck. Warning: there may be spoilers ahead.
Put aside the demons. The most unnerving aspect of Light Yagami’s terror campaign is that he isn’t some ostracized loner. He’s the pretty boy. The big man on campus. And he’s just that good at hiding his true, terrible self. This show’s most effective episode is basically devoted to a single conversation, with Light giving a master class for high-functioning sociopaths as he plies information from one of his victims’ widow. He needs her name to kill her with the Death Note, she’s too smart to give it up, and for a half-hour, he uses every ploy–acting casual, playing dumb, laying on charm. And when he gets it, he commands her to commit suicide almost immediately. When you realize by the end that you’d probably cooperate with this unassuming personality, too, you realize just how terrifying Light’s persuasion is.
Science and the supernatural clash in the “Magnetic Rose” segment of this anthology, showing how ghost stories can be just as scary–if not even more so–in the space age. When the crew of a salvage freighter explore the remains of a derelict outer-space cruise ship, they find an opulent interior haunted by the ghost of an opera diva. Forced by this ghost to relive the worst moments of her self-sabotaged life, as well as their own upsetting memories, the crew discover that the diva actually murdered her “beloved” fiance. And now, she’s looking to transform one of them into his exact likeness. Even in the future, hell is truly other people.
For the majority of this series, Goto stands as a voice of reason, bringing the titular hero back to Earth during his ever-escalating flights of fancy. He even offers some cute comic relief throughout, texting his girlfriend with bewildered updates of the costumed lunacy he’s being dragged into. While there’s always an eerie question of what’s actually real and what’s just happening in Flamenco’s head, nobody ever questions that Goto might have a fractured psyche, as well. Then, we find out that his girlfriend has been missing for years. And she’s probably dead. And Goto’s been texting himself, all along. Even the sanest among us is still susceptible to madness.
There’s no shortage of graphic bodily horror during this invasion of body snatchers. However, the most unsettling sub-plot doesn’t revolve around razor-clawed mutations, or heads getting bit off. It’s just a quiet, emotionless conversation. When two alien Parasytes possess two humans, a male and a female, they determine that they should conceive a child to further study the qualities of human physiology. It’s just the most… inhuman approach to human intimacy. And when the female later realizes that a baby in her belly will be strategic leverage against the show’s half-human hero, the macabre perversion of parenthood deepens far further.
The entire premise of this long-form thriller is upsetting. Imagine being a surgeon who discovers that a child patient you once saved has since grown up into a monstrous serial killer? Though, since this show’s horror generally leans more psychological than visceral, when the blood does start pouring, it’s a lot more memorable. This is especially true when our noble and conflicted Dr. Tenma is joined by the driven journalist, Wolfgang Grimmer. Soon enough, corrupt policemen catch him, and… well… they prove that criminals aren’t the only monsters in this story. And nailclippers can be much more horrific instruments of torture than anybody could’ve imagined.
Are these scary scenes up to snuff? Which anime moments have crawled deeper under your skin? Drop your picks in the talkback. Maybe we’ll feature them.
Image Credits: Sentai Filmworks, FUNimation, VIZ Media, Aniplex of America,
Featured Image Credit: Sentai Filmworks