Ok, we’re Severn Trent, we’re supposed to give a positive image of water, so for the record, it’s wonderful and we highly recommend it. But it can also be a great source of terror – something that horror movies have exploited to great effect over the years. So, with Halloween on the horizon, here’s our suggestions for some great water-based scares
10. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
It’s not the only shark-featuring movie on this list (spoiler alert), but this late-90s favourite has become something of a cult favourite over the years. It features a group of scientists in their remote-sea based lab who are using genetically modified sharks (you can see where this is going) to search for a cure for Alzheimer’s.
It’s a trashy premise, and the film doesn’t disappoint, as a storm hits the base, the super-smart sharks escape, and start eating the cast in a variety of inventive ways (since it’s over 20 years old, we feel safe in saying Samuel L. Jackson’s death scene is one of cinema’s greatest). Interesting factoid – the manner in which the sharks are dispatched are the same as in the first few Jaws movies.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven’s 1984 shocker may not have aged brilliantly (to be honest, it looked cheap in the ‘80s), and its impact lessened by numerous inferior sequels, but the original still retains the power to scare the bejesus out of people (that’s the technical term by the way). And one of its creepiest moments comes courtesy of a great water-based scare. The film’s heroine, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) attempts to enjoy a rare moment of tranquillity with a relaxing bath – in-between bouts of being terrorised by the monstrous Freddy Krueger – only for a familiar gloved hand, complete with razor-sharp knives, to slowly emerge from the water, dragging her under. We’d normally say, “it’s ok, it’s just a dream,” but in this film, that’s not very reassuring.
8. It Chapter One (2017)
While it’s based firmly on dry land, many of the best shocks in this wildly successful adaptation of Stephen King’s popular novel take place in and around sewers – the favoured hiding place of the maniacal Pennywise.
And none more so than the film’s opening scene, which sees a six-year-old child pursue his toy boat to a storm drain, only to be greeted by a clown who lives inside it. Or at least something that looks like a clown. We won’t go into details in case anyone’s of a squeamish disposition, other than to say bad things happen, and we’re never going near a clown, or indeed sewer ever again.
Severn Trent would like to reassure readers that our sewers are completely devoid on homicidal clowns. To the best of our knowledge.
7. Lake Placid (1999)
If you only ever watch one movie about a giant crocodile terrorising a small community, watch this one.
Essentially Jaws, but with a crocodile, this late ‘90s monster movie is great, dumb fun, with some good scares thrown in for good measure. And, like Jaws there’s several dubious sequels (including a crossover with the equally stupid Anaconda series) but the original is well worth your time, as an A-list cast including Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda fight both the giant croc and its B-Movie roots.
And if that whets (see what we did there?) your appetite for giant reptiles attacking people movies, may we also suggest the recent Crawl (2019). That sees a young woman being trapped in a flooded building with a number of unpleasant alligators during a hurricane. And yes, this is the kind of thing we watch for fun.
6. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
One of the last Universal monster movies, the series that gave us classics like The Wolf Man, Dracula, and Bride of Frankenstein. Creature came 20 years after the series’ heyday but is one of their finest.
The film follows a group of scientists on an excursion to the Amazon rainforest where they come across the titular Black Lagoon and its monstrous inhabitant, who proceeds to pick off members of the expedition. Presumably inspired by King Kong the creature becomes enamoured with a member of the party (Julie Adams) and abducts her.
Unlike Kong however, there’s no attempt made to generate sympathy for the creature, and following her rescue and its ultimate demise, it’s relief we feel, not tragedy. However, a more romantic take on the tale was recently made to Oscar-winning form, with The Shape Of Water (2017) being inspired by the movie.
5. Friday the 13th (1980)
Made at the height of the ‘70s/’80s slasher movie boom, this knock-off of the (far superior but less water-based) Halloween, Friday the 13th saw a group of doomed teens working as camp counsellors at the idyllic-sounding ‘Camp Crystal Lake’ where they’re gorily dispatched by an unseen killer.
Despite the series’ killer, Jason slashing his way through no less than ten sequels and a remake, he’s not the killer in the original (it’s actually his mother, avenging her son’s death, and sorry for the slight spoiler for a film that came out in 1980). That’s until the closing scene, where the sole survivor, Alice (Adrienne King) falls asleep in a canoe, only for Jason to jump out of the lake and grab her. It’s a great, soggy jump scare, even if it does turn out to be a dream.
4. The Host (2006)
Before he was the Oscar-winning director of the brilliant Parasite, Korean auteur Bong Hoon-Ho made this gem of a monster movie, about a creature terrorising Seoul’s Han River. A few years after the US military dump dangerous chemicals in the river, a vicious creature emerges from it, killing several people and abducting a young girl. As her father desperately leads a hunt from her, they run into resistance from both local authorities and the US military.
As you’d expect from the director of Parasite (have we mentioned that’s brilliant by the way?), The Host is far from your typical monster movie, with lashings of social commentary mixed with the scares, and a great creature to boot.
3. The Thing (1982) / The Fog (1980)
Ok, we’re cheating slightly here by a) choosing two movies, and b) neither of them feature a huge amount of actual water but The Fog features, well, fog, and The Thing features more snow than any film ever, and they’re both water-based so they count in our book. Add to that the fact that they’re both made by one of the great horror directors, John Carpenter (Halloween) and we feel justified in including them. Plus, it’s our list, we can choose anything we want. Don’t like it? Make your own list.
For the uninitiated, The Fog features a seaside community terrorised by the ghosts of drowned sailors: their arrival heralded by the ominous fog of the title. Starring both a young Jamie Lee Curtis (who worked with the director on Halloween) and her real-life mother – Psycho’s Janet Leigh, it’s a cult classic, which was remade to dubious effect in 2005.
The Thing on the other hand is a bona-fide classic and one of the greatest horror movies ever made, as Kurt Russell fights a shape-changing alien (who can disguise itself as anyone) on a remote Antarctic based. Featuring some of the most outrageous effects ever seen onscreen, an almost unbearably tense blood test scene, and one of cinema’s greatest downbeat endings, The Thing is a stone cold (it’s set in the Antarctic!) classic. It’s also definitely watery and therefore eligible for this list.
2. Psycho (1960)
Considering we’re Severn Trent, we probably shouldn’t put Psycho as high up the list as we have since it sends the wrong message. There’s Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) having a nice, responsible shower (as opposed to a far-more-wasteful bath), only for her to get brutally murdered for her water conservation attempt.
That aside, Psycho’s shower scene more than earns its place as one of cinema’s greatest scenes (water-based or otherwise). Besides being a technical masterpiece, (there’s a total of 52 shots in the 45 second scene), the way Hitchcock builds up to it adds to the terror is masterful – for the first 45 minutes, it’s an entirely different film with no hint of the terror to come. Oh, and a little side note, Psycho also features Hollywood’s first onscreen flushing toilet. Possibly not as memorable as the shower scene, but almost as shocking to audiences back in 1960.
1. Jaws (1975)
What else could be number one other that Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece? Besides offering up some genuinely great scares (we’ve got two words for you: boat and head), it’s one of the great adventure movies, as the film’s second half see a trio of characters head off on a small boat (word of advice guys, you’re going to need a bigger one) to capture the Great White shark that’s been terrifying a seaside town.
Add to that an element of social commentary, where local politicians put the town’s economy ahead of public health concerns (a parallel that’s been drawn to real world events by many commentators over the last couple of years) and, in Robert Shaw’s Indianapolis speech, one of the greatest scenes in the whole of cinema. Aside from the depressing fact that Spielberg was a precocious 27 when he made it, it’s a perfect movie
Don’t see your favourite on this list? Ok, we’ll also throw in It Follows, Gremlins (hey, you know what happens when you get them wet), The Shallows, Deep Rising, Bait, The Meg, 47 Meters Down, Piranha, Dark Water, The Ring, Open Water, Dead Calm, Underwater, The Bay, and of course Sharknado.
Movie still images used under fair usage.