Swimming pools are meant to be relaxing, tranquil, and maybe even awe-inspiring. In horror movies, however, they are usually meant to be a catalyst of fear. This is where the masked killer is lurking. This is where your demonically possessed loved ones are looking to drown you. This is where an orgy is not as appealing as Asa Akira or Lacey Duvalle would have you believe.
Yes indeed, this is the 15 Greatest Horror Movie Pool Scenes (minor spoilers ahead).
15. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)
Picking up where its predecessor left off, a high school prom faces a deadly threat: a flesh-eating virus that spreads via a popular brand of bottled water.
As the infection begins to spread to the children at the prom, Rick (Thomas Blake Jr.), a popular student, ditches his mean-girl girlfriend then, in a turn of events, he meets and seduces the token fat girl, Frederica (Amanda Jelks). When Rick convinces her to skinny dip in the school pool, she begins to show signs of infection in the water while they are having sex. Her skin starts to slough off and Rick jumps out of the pool, only to realize she can’t swim. He tries to save her with the pool strainer (how he intended to do this is unclear…) but she pulls him in, causing him to whack his head on the side of the pool and drown. Poor Frederica then drowns as well. But hey, at least she didn’t die a virgin, right?
14. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
When Wes Craven first imagined the infamous dream-stalker Freddy Krueger, the ideas bouncing around in his head were equally sick and clever. While sleeping, people are at their most vulnerable, making it nearly impossible to stop Krueger from offing whomever he pleases in gory, imaginative ways. Furthermore, nobody can stay awake forever, so, eventually, whether it’s after a week or two months or longer, you’re going to enter Freddy’s domain. And the outcome won’t be ideal.
In NOES 5 Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter) is the sassy take no crap girl who doesn’t believe in anything supernatural. She learns the truth the hard way. Specifically, Yvonne falls asleep while in the Springwood High School’s Pool area bathing in a jacuzzi. Her nightmare oversees her jump from a diving board as monstrous arms overtake the platform (via some with pretty impressive stop-motion animation). Surprisingly, she survives the ordeal.
13. The Prowler (1981)
A soldier returning from World War II receives a Dear John letter from his lady, Rosemary, saying she’s tired of waiting for him and has found a new man. This rightfully pisses off soldier boy, and he gets revenge by murdering the two of them on the night of the Graduation Dance. Cut to the present – well, 1981 – and the dance hasn’t been held in Avalon Bay since the murders. This year it’s back, and someone apparently has a problem with that because a “prowler” is stalking kids at the local college dorm and murdering them in gruesome ways.
The best looking death scene in the movie is undoubtedly the throat slashing of a young lady in the pool. It’s awesome because our killer doesn’t just slit her throat all quick like. No, he goddamn saws that thing into her neck until the blade is almost all the way in. We see EVERYTHING!
12. The Final Destination (2009)
As a whole, the fourth entry of the Final Destination series isn’t that great. But it does have its moments.
Specifically, the film’s greatest moment/death happens to male bimbo Hunt (Nick Zano), and it’s a real doozy. At the town swimming pool, Hunt drops his “lucky” coin into the water; in true dumbass fashion, he dives in to find it, but instead gets sucked, ass first, directly onto the pool’s drain. The pressure escalates, Hunt clenches in agony, and the drain sucks up the poor dude’s insides like dust into a vacuum. And with that, BAM… our man’s gory remains, now liquefied, explode through the tank and rain down (in tacky CG mind you) all over the premises. It’s great.
11. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Freddy Krueger appears on the list once again. This time it’s one of the rare occasions where he isn’t constrained to the dream world and actually gets to attack packs of unsuspecting teenagers while they’re quite awake.
During a pool party, Freddy bursts out of the ground and, as you can probably guess, pure pandemonium ensues. Every exit is blocked by fire, teenagers are hurled into a now boiling pool which soon ignites into flames, bodies are used as stepping stones to try to escape and Freddy kills no less than a half of dozen people in under three minutes (including one person who tries to act like some kind of peaceful diplomat). This is all before he turns to the rest of the party guests and declares: “You are all my children now.” He then casually strides away before disappearing into a ball of flame – like a boss!
10. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Thanks to a Satanic ritual gone wrong, former high-school cheerleader Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) is a literal man-eater, forced to consume human flesh in order to stay alive. She limits her diet to horny classmates, mostly because she’s so hot that they don’t think twice about traveling to dark, secluded spots with her.
Soon enough, though, Jennifer sets her sights on the boyfriend of her bestie, Needy (Amanda Seyfried). The site of the penultimate showdown between the friends turned foes is an abandoned pool house; it’s overgrown, and full of disgusting brown goop. In fact, the state of the water works pretty well as a visual representation of their ruined friendship. Plus it’s just… gross. Being pushed into a swimming pool is an annoyance at the best of times, but when it’s as grimy and full of dead things as this one, it’s the last place you’d want to end up.
9. Species (1995)
Earth’s scientists receive transmissions from an alien source regarding an alien DNA along with instructions on how to splice it with human DNA. A government team proceeds with the genetic experiments. They choose to induce a female, because a female would have “more docile and controllable” traits. Or so they thought.
The end result of these experiments is Sil (Natasha Henstridge), a killer alien seductress who will stop at nothing to successfully mate with a human male. In one scene she tries to mate with a man she meets after a car accident. They swim in his pool where Sil forces him to open his swimming trunks in order to copulate, but he refuses. After being interrupted, she kills the poor sap, morphing into her alien form, a bipedal mutant with tentacles on her shoulders and back, and flees naked into a forest without being seen.
8. The Neon Demon (2016)
Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest journey into cinematic WTFery, The Neon Demon, follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), a 16-year-old newcomer to Los Angeles who hopes to break into a career in modeling. Her youth and beauty prove irresistible to everyone she encounters – agents, photographers, fashion designers, and even a rogue mountain lion. But Jesse especially catches the attention of makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone), whom she meets at her first photo shoot.
After a series of bizarre events occur, a terrified Jesse calls Ruby, who tells her to come to her place for safety. After Jesse comes to Ruby’s house, Ruby tries to initiate sex with Jesse, who rejects her. Upset, along with two model gal pals, Ruby gets revenge by murdering Jesse by shoving her into an empty swimming pool. We watch Jesse, bones broken, still alive, slowly bleed out. The sight of this unfilled pool suddenly being filled with a pool of blood is both sad and frightening. Not to mention what happens next; namely, the girls eat Jesse and bath in her blood. Sheesh. Guess, you got to stay young somehow.
7. It Follows (2014)
After a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) learns that she’s been given a sexually transmitted entity, one that takes the form of various people only the inflicted person can see. You’re dead if the creature catches up to you.
Soon enough, Jay and her friends form a plan to kill the entity by luring it into an abandoned swimming pool and dropping electrical devices into the water to electrocute it (a plan the director of the film has liken to a Scooby-Doo strategy). Jay, waiting in the pool, spots the entity and realizes it has taken the appearance of her father as it throws the devices at her. Firing at an invisible target, one of her friends shoots the entity in the head, causing it to fall into the pool. As it drags Jay underwater, he shoots it again and Jay escapes. The entity leaves a large cloud of blood but no body is present. Is it dead? Who the heck knows!?
6. Shivers (1975)
The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.
Eventually, our protagonist Roger (Paul Hampton) is the last to be infected. Before he finds an egress, he (and the audience) is subjected to horrid scenes of degradation: two tween kids being walked like dogs, Salo-style; an old bearded man making out with his daughter, etc. Things have started to get a bit beyond the pale. In a somewhat schizophrenic ending, Roger, in an attempt to escape, gets stuck in the apartment block’s pool, and is surrounded by a whole horde of infected, horny residents (hey, what’s wrong with that?!..jk) and gets infected himself. It is his cat-eyed nurse, Forsythe (Lynn Lowry), who does the honors of the final Judas kiss. And in slow-motion, to boot.
5. Burnt Offerings (1976)
Simple story: A family moves into an old, haunted house that regenerates itself by feeding off of the life forces of its occupants.
One of the most memorable moments of the film occurs in the back swimming pool. The father, Ben (Oliver Reed), plays with his son, picking the boy up and flipping him into the water. What begins as a playful, affectionate moment, however, slowly turns into a horrifying display of power. Ben grabs his son and shoves him underwater repeatedly, holding him down, lifting him up, slamming him back and even putting him into a choke hold as the boy tries to scream. The scene is horrifying. The subversion of the trust and bond between a parent and son, particularly a small child in a vulnerable situation is what appalls us, not merely the implication that the pool has somehow possessed Ben to do this. At the same time, Ben’s inability to stop himself taps into our fundamental fear of inadvertently hurting someone we love. In Ben’s thrashing, there is a truly potent force we recognize in ourselves: our own suppressed ability to kill.
4. Poltergeist (1982)
The Freeling family have been living in thee Cuesta Verde housing development for some time. Life has been comfortable and the family’s health and well being are in the green. For Steve and Diane Freeling their existence is a smooth rotation on an ideal axis. Until they wake up one night to find their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, communicating with voices in the television.
It’s all downhill from here as, in one scene, Diana (JoBeth Williams), escaping her haunted house, tumbles into a swimming pool flooded with dirt, rain and human remains (their house is built on a burial ground after all). It’s a quick shot, but quite disturbing. Oh, and FYI… the filmmakers used actual skeletons in this scene. Apparently this was a cheaper option than getting those plastic skeletons that cover the front doors of every other household during Halloween.
3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The Midnight Movie to which all others are compared, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical dressed in cheap monster suit filmed on a sound stage with plenty of leftover sci-fi props. It launched a thousand midnight screenings, created a cult of devoted followers that trail-blazed screening traditions like shouting at the screen, ritual jokes and dress – if you’ve been to a showing of The Room where people yell the dialogue back at the actors, it’s because The Rocky Horror Picture Show did it first.
The finale finds Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) nonchalantly floating in a pool, wearing a corset, high heels, and elaborate arm-warmers, as he sings Don’t Dream It Be It to himself before an orgy kicks off. But there’s something else going on here, too – the ring Frank’s floating in is actually a life-buoy with an SS Titanic logo on it, which suggests Frank’s heading to his doom. Also, at the bottom of the swimming pool is a replica of The Creation of Adam, which is, obviously, thematically relevant.
2. Let The Right One In (2008)
Let The Right One In tells the story of Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), a young boy and girl with complexions whiter than the Swedish snow, who develop a more-than-unusual friendship. There is something not quite right about Eli. And when she learns of Oskar’s constant subjection to humiliation at the hands of school bullies, she believes she can help.
After a chilling buildup, things come to a head at the local swimming pool. Oskar’s bullies initiate a raid that encourages the remaining children to scatter, and are left alone with Oskar as a result. The fiendish gang then stuff poor Oskar underwater, threatening that he must hold his breath for three minutes. Cue Eli. The swimming pool soon begins to resemble the spilled contents of a Dexter Morgan bin bag, as severed limbs bob gently across the water. It’s nice to have friends.
1. Cat People (1942)
Cat People is one of the early “show, don’t tell” movies, frightening audiences with long stretches of silence while keeping everything scary off camera. Take the classic scene where Irene (Simone Simon) is swimming in a pool and hears horrifying panting sounds from somewhere around her. You never do see another person, but just with the use of audio, director Jacques Tourneur terrifies the audience with a bunch of simple shots of a dark pool.
The manipulation of shadows in the black and white cinematography – how it captures the ripples of water flowing across the walls, distorting your perception and alternatively blinding you with waves of light and dark – masterfully heightens the sense of suspense, and the scene retains its power by ending ambiguously rather than with a sudden shock. Brrrrrrr. It’s scary in the best possible ways.
Are there any other scenes you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.