This Star Trek: Picard article contains spoilers. Do you remember how great it felt when Jean-Luc Picard stepped onto the bridge of the restored USS Enterprise-D, with all the members of his senior staff around him and ready for one last adventure? Remember how much better that was than watching Icheb from Voyager get mutilated […]
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Love it, hate it, or love to hate it, Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn has left an impression on viewers. With its acerbic (and maybe muddled) allegory about social and economic class in the UK, the movie is a big twisty swing from the writer-director of Promising Young Woman. It also features star Barry Keoghan going there. In some scenes, there constitutes prancing around a luxurious manor in his birthday suit, galloping as free and liberated as a baby elephant charging a watering hole.
In others, there consists of the literal water (and other fluids therein) pooling around the hole of a bathtub. You know the scene: After Felix (Jacob Elordi), the wealthy patron and object of obsession for Keoghan’s Oliver Quick, is spied pleasuring himself in the bath, Ollie sneaks in afterward to slurp up the remainder that didn’t go down the drain. It’s disgusting, off-putting, and supposedly “titillating,” as per the film’s producer Margot Robbie. Yet it arrives in a long pantheon of bathtub scenes that have left us wincing. Below are seven of them.
David Cronenberg’s breakout horror movie is a psychosexual nightmare that deliberately pushes boundaries, as residents of a luxury high-rise get infected by a parasite that makes them aggressively horny. It’s full of subversive set-pieces and gross body horror which would become Cronenberg’s signature style for the next couple of decades, but the most memorable scene could be the bathtub invasion.
Starliner Towers resident Betts (played by horror legend Barbara Steele) is settling in for a relaxing soak, complete with precariously perched glass of wine, when out of the plughole comes an entity which looks like a cross between a penis and a poo, trailing a rotten brown residue. The poo wriggles up the bathtub and (off screen) penetrates Betts, turning her into a sex maniac. It’s sort of funny and sort of not—being raped by a bath poo is no laughing matter, but it’s so shocking and gross that it’s hard not to react. Disgusting, visceral, grim. – Rosie Fletcher
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street was always a cut above—and below, and to the side, or wherever else Freddy’s fingers got handsy!—the rest of the slasher genre. Part of this was because, unlike Jason and little Mikey Myers’ October temper tantrums, Freddy Krueger actually has a personality and a voice. Both were given devilish life by Robert Englund. However, another core appeal (or repulsion) about the character was also right there in Wes Craven’s original film. He came at you in your sleep. He could get you anywhere or at any time. All you have to do is dream, dream, dream…
Take the most unsettling image in the ’84 classic: Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson is so haunted by the jokester in a sweater that she refuses to close her eyes. So perhaps taking a nice relaxing bath to wake herseful up was a bad idea. It doesn’t take a Freudian psychiatrist to unpack what Freddy’s four finger blades have in mind as they rise out of the soap bubbles of Nancy’s rinse and inch ever closer between her legs. Thank God her mother is the type to knock at the door and say hurry up. But even then, the sequence just devolves into something a little more Jungian instead as Freddy drags Nancy down the drain and into an ocean. – David Crow
Before James Gunn set up permanent shop in the superhero genre, he was a Troma guy: a young and hungry filmmaker eager to make his mark, even or especially if that mark resulted from the viewer gagging on the floor. This started via happy screenplay schlock like Tromeo and Juliet (1996), but his taste didn’t get any classier by the time of his feature directorial debut, Slither. A chipper and slightly bigger budget reworking of ’80s exploitation sleaze, this horror-comedy about alien slugs impregnating and/or pod-personing anyone they touch is a riff on a thousand other genre pictures. But its infamous bathtub scene is Gunn’s peppy attempt to one-up A Nightmare on Elm Street.
As with Freddy’s sick suds sequence, Slither was partially marketed around the image of a teenage girl (Tania Saulnier) taking a quiet evening bath when one of the aforementioned slugs joins her for a dip. As the little critter paddles across the water, the perverse scenario plays out like an unwanted love child spawned by a Nightmare, Shivers, and Jaws menage a trois, except Gunn refuses to allow Saulnier’s heroine to be saved by mama. Instead the alien parasite slithers(!) its way into her mouth and halfway down her throat with all the verve and determination of a college thesis paper’s most loaded metaphor. That is until she saves herself by digging her nails in and biting down. – DC
Director Harmony Korine’s experimental 1997 film Gummo is filled with disturbing moments: various scenes of violence against animals, a house filled with cockroaches, brutal depictions of different kinds of abuse. Gummo really is designed to unnerve viewers and regularly succeeds at doing just that. Yet that movie filled with indescribable horrors is often best remembered for a seemingly simple scene involving a kid named Solomon eating a plate of spaghetti in a bathtub.
The scene becomes an outright gross-out when Solomon drops a chocolate bar into dirty bathwater and eats it anyway, but this sequence manages to chill long before we get to that bit of unpleasantness. There is something viscerally horrifying about watching someone eat a plate of spaghetti and drink a glass of milk while being surrounded by filth (and, for some reason, a piece of bacon taped to the bathroom wall). Perhaps it’s the ways the scene exposes the almost bestial nature of eating and bathing in ways that force us to confront the primal nature of these things we’ve converted to pleasures. Maybe dirt, milk, and spaghetti happen to form the unholy trinity of on-screen visuals. Either way, there aren’t enough baths in the world to scrub this scene from your mind. – Matthew Byrd
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Up until now, this list has consisted of movies that sought to desecrate a space we associate with cleanliness and restoration. But with Ghostbusters II, director Ivan Reitman and screenwriters Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis took aim at making the space itself a thing of horror. Because in Ghostbusters II, new mother Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) cannot get even five goddamn minutes to herself and her baby boy Oscar without the spooks and specters bugging her again!
In the first film, it was the dog from hell hanging out in her ice box that wouldn’t take no for an answer, and in Ghostbusters II it’s a river of slime which has the indecency to slither its way into the bath she was making for Oscar. As viewers had previously seen this liquid goo hanging out in the New York City subway tunnel system, we already subconsciously knew to shiver at such dirtiness. But it gets worse when the tub itself comes alive and like a proto-velociraptor attempts to jump mother and child from the side. Rude, much? – DC
What Lies Beneath (2000)
One of the 10 biggest hits of 2000, it’s strange that Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath has pretty much receded from the collective memory, not least of all because the movie has the curious benefit of being co-written by Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg! So at the risk of spoiling a 24-year-old flick you probably already saw, the film ends on a pretty great twist. It’s not that audiences didn’t suspect Michelle Pfeiffer’s husband of being no damn good; it’s that no one wanted to really believe that Harrison Ford could be so evil!
Hence this truly disturbing bathtub scene. Realizing that his troublesome wife won’t leave well enough alone (in fact she’s being possessed by the ghost of the college student he murdered), Professor Norman Spencer (Ford) drugs Claire (Pfeiffer) and attempts to frame her death as suicide by leaving her in the bathtub with the water running and the drain clogged. It’s the one genuinely thrilling sequence in this thriller, and Zemeckis films it mostly from Pfeiffer’s point-of-view as the water slowly rises to her eye and mouth level. The only monster in this ghost story is the handsome, nice-seeming man who’s mutated their domestic sanctuary into a hideous tomb. – DC
The Shining (1980)
After so many entries about slugs, claws, sentient poo, and even Harrison Ford doing horrific things to women in tubs, it’s time that turnabout is fair play. So we come to probably the most famous moment on the list: that time Jack Nicholson got pranked by a horny ghost in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. With a sequence written wholly for the film—much to Stephen King’s chagrin–Nicholson’s bad dad Jack Torrance decides to investigate his son’s reports of a mean old ghost in Room #237.
When he enters the garish lime green commode space, however, Jack finds neither a crone nor a terror. At least at first, his nightly spirits seem a lot more inviting as the ghost in the tub appears like a beautiful young woman (Lia Beldam) who doesn’t need to do much to tempt Jack to break his marriage vows. He’s soon enough breaking into a cold sweat, too, as the soapy siren turns into an aged, wrinkly cadaver (Billie Gibson) in his arms. She then has the temerity to laugh at him!
We admit the primal fear in this sequence is predicated on ageist anxieties about obsolescence, dying, and skin conditions. But you know what? It works so well that you recall the very first time you shuddered and looked away from the Overlook’s Emerald City water closet. – DC
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