It’s been 40 years since one of the most unsettling horror films ever made was released – but did Poltergeist contain the scariest movie scenes of all time?

We asked the Weird Norfolk Facebook Group to tell us the films and the scenes which have terrified them most and lingered in their minds – and I watched them all to check the fright factor (this was not my brightest idea, particularly when alone in the house. In the dark).

Eastern Daily Press: The Shining: here's Johnny...The Shining: here's Johnny... (Image: Submitted)

Would it be the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho? The head turning scene in The Exorcist? The wardrobe scene in Halloween? Carrie at her prom? The chest-bursting scene in Alien? The opening scenes of Ghost Ship? The shaky film footage in The Blair Witch Project?

There follow a whole host of spoilers, you have been warned. Although frankly, you may thank us, we might save you a laundry bill at some point in the future.

As Weird Norfolk’s writer, it may come as no huge surprise that I am a great fan of a scary movie: I think I can trace it back to the night my parents unexpectedly allowed me to stay up to watch the TV premiere of Jaws on ITV in 1981.

The streets emptied, the lights were switched off, everyone vied for the best seat on the sofa, and I hungrily anticipated the moment I’d be in the playground the next day discussing this, the most important cultural moment of MY WHOLE LIFE. It was a big deal.

It was also pure nightmare fuel.

More than half the population of the UK tuned in to watch Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark thriller (there were only three TV channels, hardly anyone had a video recorder and the internet was something the military used).

I was TERRIFIED. Ben Gardner’s head popping out of the boat with only one eye! Aled Kitner being dragged underwater as the sea fills with blood! The bird’s eye view of Jaws approaching the surfer on July 4!

It’s still one of my favourite films and I’ve passed on the love: my son even has a Jaws tattoo.

When I was 17, my boyfriend at the time worked at one of Norfolk’s biggest cinemas and we were able to watch horror films on pre-release virtually alone in vast auditoriums after hours. We were also able to watch bootleg video nasties, albeit that bit possibly may not have been legal.

This was how I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: it was a somewhat grainy version, but this added to the absolute, abject terror.

I don’t think I have ever got over Kirk’s ‘introduction’ to Leatherface, which involved a hammer, pigs squealing, skulls, an in-house slaughter room, a mask of human skin and some grunts. Tobe Hooper’s first long play movie was marketed as being based on true events and was banned in the UK for general release until 1998.

There were also after-midnight showings of The Hills Have Eyes, Children of the Corn, Poltergeist (my stand out scene: when the investigator takes his face off, and I don’t mean removes his make-up), Nightbreed and Pet Sematary. Happy days.

Eastern Daily Press: The Blair WitchThe Blair Witch (Image: Submitted)

As a reporter, I was invited to a pre-release press screening of The Blair Witch Project and was congratulating myself on making my way through it without feeling particularly unsettled until…the ‘man facing the corner’ moment.

I remember having to come out of the cinema and walk back to the office in the dark – I didn’t take the graveyard shortcut that night.

There are too many scenes that – ahem – jump out at me to mention them all, but in my list I’d also have to give a mention to 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle’s 2007 post-apocalypse horror (credited as a zombie movie, but worse, because the assailants aren’t actually zombies. Rather than lumbering hungry corpses, they’re healthy, FURIOUS adults with blood lust who want you to die just because they can see you) and the Winkie’s Diner scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

Eastern Daily Press: Mulholland DriveMulholland Drive (Image: Submitted)

Lynch literally walks his characters over in broad daylight to a jump scene and still manages to scare everyone senseless – it gives me the horrors just thinking about it.

Now to our Weird Norfolk readers , who offered enough horror films and terrifying scenes to fill anyone’s nightmares for the foreseeable future. Here are a selection of their choices.

Sarah Walker: “The last 10 minutes of Get Out [dir: Jordan Peele, 2017]. He’s escaped ‘the low place’, he’s killed his captors...and he’s a young black guy running down the road leaving dead white people behind him…The whole of Sicario [dir: Denis Villeneuve, 2015] is a giant panic attack.

The Blair Witch Project is one of two films I’ve seen in a crowded cinema where every member of the audience reacted as one (the other was the head/plate glass scene in The Omen). You could feel the building shake.”

Mat Brown: “There's a shot in The Ring (the Japanese version, not sure if it exists in the remake) where you should be able to see the camera in a mirror but you can't and it's very disturbing for some reason. There's also a fantastic sequence in 28 Weeks Later where they go into the underground with only a night-sight gun scope to see where they're going and a lot of it is done point of view through the scope and it's just so perfect. It's really oppressive and dark and you just know something is waiting to jump out, but you also know you probably won't see it until it's too late…Rumour is that The Navidson Record is probably the scariest film ever made but I've never met anyone who has a copy.”

Eastern Daily Press: Jason and the Argonauts. Picture: Valence HouseJason and the Argonauts. Picture: Valence House (Image: Valence House)

David Nobbs: “I always found Jason and the Argonauts a bit frightening and unsettling. Especially the skeleton scene…”

Heidi Madsen: “I know it’s not horror in the strong sense of the word, but I do find the chasing across the beach and through the pinewoods in the 1970s BBC adaptation of ‘Warning to the Curious’ [MR James] deeply unsettling. Can’t help feeling the spooky pursuer would have been a bit quicker had he taken his hands out of his pockets, mind.

And don’t get me started on an incredulous, thumb-sucking Michael Horden getting harassed by bed sheets at the end of ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’; gives me the chills every time.”

Karen Han: “’The Changeling" [dir: Peter Medak, 1980] and ‘The Haunting of Julia’ [also known as Full Circle, dir: Richard Loncraine, 1977] are still among my all-time favourite horror films. They're both atmospheric slow-burners that rely on a solid script and excellent acting, rather than on special effects. The soundtrack for Julia is certainly creepy.”

Eastern Daily Press: A Nightmare On Elm Street. Pictured: Katie Cassidy as Kris Fowles.A Nightmare On Elm Street. Pictured: Katie Cassidy as Kris Fowles. (Image: Archant)

Sarah Cockles: “Nightmare on Elm Street… being attacked when you’re asleep. The Shining, the first X-rated film I ever saw and The Evil Dead terrified me. In fact, most 1980s horror movies…”

Candi Davies: “Sinister [dir: Scott Derrickson, 2012] - each of the home videos. They are so unsettling in the way they are filmed and the sound effects used. The Haunting [dir: Robert Wise, 1963] - the scene with the two ladies on the bed and the thumping gets louder and louder and closer and closer and then the door handle slowly starts to turn…So suspenseful.

Annabelle Comes Home [dir: Gary Dauberman, 2019]- the scene where the girl is trapped in the Warren’s basement with all the haunted items. Scariest concept ever and so well executed in my opinion, loved the scene where she is looking in the mirror and it shows her what will happen next.”

Janet Quinn: “The Haunting [1963] - the original film in black and white, no blood and gore like lots of modern-day horror, this was just plain spooky goings-on and nothing like the modern version remake. The fact it was black and white just added to it I feel. Made in 1963 it became a cult classic and has remained my favourite.”

Eastern Daily Press: Don't Look Now, starring Donald SutherlandDon't Look Now, starring Donald Sutherland (Image: Archant)

Deb Nocks: “Don’t Look Now [dir: Nicolas Roeg, 1971], The Thing [dir: John Carpenter, 1982], The Shining [dir: Stanley Kubrick, 1980] , The Haunting [1963], The Wicker Man [dir: Robin Hardy, 1973] , Alien/s [film franchise began in 1979, original director Ridley Scott]. As for scary scenes that stand out, in the above order...when the 'kid' in the red coat turns around, the spider-head thing, most of the film, when you hear the ghosts, the bit at the end in the giant man, most of the film/s…when the alien turns, points and screeches for the first time...”

What are the most frightening scenes or programmes you can remember watching on television? Email Don’t have nightmares.