What is it that makes a line of horror dialogue "perfect"?
Is it the manner, affectation or timing of the soundbite's delivery? Does the strength of the quote derive from the overall quality of the movie's narrative or character development? Or does the line perhaps symbolize a deeper unspoken meaning, a metaphorical message to be gleaned from the horrific events unfolding before one's very eyes?
As with all great cinematic endeavors, there is an element of intangibility about the enduring success of these soundbites. Case in point, parodying the introduction from a universally beloved television show or musing about the critical credentials of a favorite band sound like laughable recipes for disaster on paper - especially in terms of fright factor or lasting impact. Accordingly, it seems legitimately baffling that both of the aforementioned examples constitute just two examples of some of the more celebrated quotes in horror history. Go figure.
There's ultimately no magic recipe for a perfect horror line at the end of the day; it's a coincidental amalgamation of various cinematic factors that combine to inexplicably create an unforgettable piece of dialogue. Think of it as horror's answer to the Big Bang, except the end result is a one-liner that makes your blood run cold and your hair stand on end.
10. "Be afraid. Be very afraid." - The Fly
There's a reason David Cronenberg chose this legendary soundbite as the tagline for what is arguably his most celebrated work to date. 1986's The Fly was released to a wave of critical acclaim off the back of a brilliantly stomach-churning performance from electric lead Jeff Goldblum and a stunning display of never-before-seen special effects work.
Depicting the nightmarish transformation of eccentric scientist Seth Brundle after he becomes genetically fused with a fly in an experiment gone wrong, the film is universally regarded as a seminal installment for the horror genre. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged that Goldblum's mesmerizing performance was unjustly shunned at the Academy Awards. Legendary late critic Gene Siskel accurately surmised that the older and fustier voting members likely refused to give serious consideration to a horror film - an eye-watering display of prejudice typical of the Academy.
There's just something indelibly perfect about Geena Davis' delivery in the sequence where she produces the line, confronting a clearly unwell Brundle off the back of a one night stand. The actress' words and tone are restrained, but still effortlessly convey the tumultuous mixture of love, concern and disgust that she feels for Goldblum's character in his current hellish predicament. It doesn't hurt that her impeccable timing and the chilling simplicity of the portentous line combine to create one of the more memorable soundbites in horror history.
Sheer perfection all around. In a nightmarishly gruesome, body-horror based sort of way.