Stephen King is nothing short of a modern master of the horror genre, known for his seminal literary investigations that have spawned countless film adaptations. An indispensable part of current popular culture, King’s works are still earnestly read by devout fans while major streaming platforms like Netflix are continuing to publish miniseries based on King’s works.
During the course of his domination over the public sphere, King has utilised his platform to comment on the state of horror on multiple occasions. As a columnist for major publications, the legendary writer has tried to introduce his fans to some of the horror masterpieces that have influenced his own artistic sensibilities during his journey.
King has acknowledged his love for some of the classics of the genre, claiming that Robert Mitchum’s bone-chilling performance in The Night of the Hunter still subjects modern audiences to multiple nightmares even after all these years. The only film in Charles Laughton’s directorial career, The Night of the Hunter is truly a surreal horror experience that remains unparalleled.
While King has been openly critical of big horror productions handled by Hollywood today, he has still acknowledged modern pioneers like Zack Snyder and Robert Eggers for their vision. He is particularly fond of Eggers’ fantastic 2015 debut feature The Witch which actually terrified him, unlike some of the other horror films in the current landscape.
However, King maintains that the scariest horror scene that he ever witness came in George A. Romero’s unforgettable classic Night of the Living Dead which has now become a definitive work of the genre. According to King, horror is an extremely intimate experience and Romero’s 1968 gem knew how to exploit that to the fullest.
“The scariest sequence I can remember is in Night of the Living Dead,” King declared, while writing about the true meaning of horror in an article where he attacked the horror conventions adopted by studio executives today. He continued: “The cemetery-visiting heroine, Barbara, is chased back to her car by a lurching zombie with white hair and dazed eyes.”
King writes about the scene in question, explaining just how effective the moment is even through his writing. “She locks herself in only to discover her brother has taken the keys. The zombie reaches down, finds a rock, and begins to bash it strengthlessly against the car window. The first time I saw this (and twice after), the scene reduced me to jelly.”
Night of the Living Dead is truly the perfect example of what King is talking about, a masterpiece made on a relatively tiny budget that ended up becoming a huge commercial success. The film proved that transgressive art with cultural value can still be financially viable because many horror fans are desperately looking for something original.
Watch the full scene below.