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The Most Terrifying Moments In 65

After revolutionizing the horror genre with "A Quiet Place," writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods went on to direct a sci-fi thriller almost as intense. In "65," a pilot named Commandant Mills (Adam Driver) crash lands on an alien planet — though for viewers it won't seem quite so alien, because it is actually prehistoric Earth. Together with Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), the only other survivor of the crash, Mills must evade dinosaurs and escape the planet before a certain asteroid-sized catastrophe occurs.

Unlike "A Quiet Place," the film doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel — in fact, some critics argue that this dino doesn't have an original bone in its body. Nevertheless, it's a chance to watch Adam Driver shoot laser guns at dinosaurs, and in that respect, at least, the movie does deliver.

This thriller does manage to maintain a consistent sense of peril, as well as some effective jump scares. But how many of these twists actually succeed at terrifying audiences, and how many fizzle out? Read on for a (spoiler-heavy) breakdown of the big scares.

The T-Rexes in the climax

The final battle with the "boss monster" ought to be the scariest part of a thriller, but if anything the opposite is true of "65." The novelty of the T-Rexes has worn off by this point, and so has their creep factor. Now they're just two big, dumb beasts easily fooled by a hologram who can be toppled with a well-placed shot aimed at their toes.

In the climactic scene where Mills and Koa battle two T-Rexes, it is too dark to make out anything clearly, and unlike the scene with the oviraptor, the film doesn't take advantage of the lighting for dramatic effect. The action scene is utterly unremarkable and frankly kind of predictable. It's almost as if the filmmakers sat around a table and said, "Okay, how can we up the stakes in the climax?" and somebody suggested, "What if there are two T-Rexes?" The sequence isn't thrilling, and more importantly, it's not scary.

It's worth noting that the moment when a T-Rex looms outside the window of the escape pod, fixing its beady eye on Koa, seems to be borrowing heavily from the iconic T-Rex scene from "Jurassic Park." Sure, it could be considered a homage, but it's awfully on-the-nose.

The T-Rex in the cave

Taken on its own merits, the scene where the T-Rex looms in the cave entrance is pretty terrifying. Although this moment might have been one of the biggest scares in the movie under different circumstances, the problem is that it loses its impact because audiences have seen it before. The shot with the T-Rex was featured prominently in the trailers — in fact, it's probably the most memorable part of the trailer, because it's the moment where the film's unique twist is revealed. This means that viewers will know what is coming the moment that Mills and Koa set foot inside the cave. As a result, it makes for a pretty lousy jump scare.

What's more, viewers have seen it before in another dinosaur movie. Observant fans will notice that the scenario seems to be lifted almost directly from a scene in a Disney movie (2000's creatively-named "Dinosaur"). The setup is almost exactly the same. Just like in "65," the main characters are holed up in a cave while it's raining buckets outside, so the mouth of the cave becomes a waterfall, which parts like a curtain when a gigantic predator pokes its head inside. Sound familiar?

Granted, this scene from "65" still manages to be a bit frightening, because it follows so close on the heels of an even creepier moment. Viewers will still be reeling from that scare, so they might be caught off-guard by the T-Rex.

The first encounter with a dinosaur

Nothing really stands out about Mills' first encounter with a dinosaur, but it's still worth mentioning. It may only be a jumpscare, plain and simple, but it certainly does the trick. Audiences will probably assume that the moment is just an establishing shot with dinosaurs far off in the distance, so Mills must not be in any immediate danger. That, of course, is when a raptor leaps at him. Like the T-Rex, this moment was also featured in the trailer. Unlike the T-Rex, however, the trailer doesn't spoil anything, because the clip happens so quickly that audiences can't be sure where or when it is happening.

After the initial shock wears off, the raptor isn't terribly frightening. After all, Mills manages to kill it fairly quickly. However, there is a nice moment when Mills prods the creature, thinking it's dead, only to jump back as the raptor twitches to life again. This rattles Mills and shows just how hard it is to kill a dinosaur.

The moral of the story: always kill 'em twice, just to be sure.

Mills fighting with a dislocated shoulder

The scene where Mills injures his arm isn't technically a scare, but it more than compensates by ramping up the dramatic tension.

After trying (and failing) to climb a tree, Mills falls and dislocates his shoulder. Mills is right-handed, so with his right arm out of commission, his gun is basically useless. What's worse, he and Koa don't speak the same language, so he can't even communicate what is wrong with his shoulder and what she needs to do to fix it. (Though, it does make you wonder why Mills doesn't hand Koa the gun while he's trying to fix his shoulder. He must have been awfully convinced that Koa was useless at basic survival skills if he'd rather ram his shoulder desperately into a tree than entrust Koa with the gun.)

While Mills is at his most vulnerable, that's when a pack of carnivorous dinosaurs join the party. For the first time in the film, Koa can't rely on Mills to protect her. She needs to figure things out herself — and quickly, as the dinosaurs are about to lunge. 

Mills sinking into the swamp

Given that the biggest allure of "65" is arguably the dinosaurs, it's ironic that some of the movie's biggest scares don't involve them — at least, not directly.

Whenever Mills gets stuck in what appears to be quicksand, it sneaks up on audiences. The entire patch of swamp is covered with a bed of fallen leaves, so there is no way Mills could have seen it coming. The scene is especially unsettling when the camera lingers on the surface of the swamp for several seconds after Mills goes under. Viewers are likely holding their breaths (as Mills is no doubt doing on-screen). The stakes of this scene are further amplified because Koa is being chased by a relentless raptor and Mills is completely powerless to help. (Luckily, Koa proves to be quite capable of taking care of herself — and saving Mills from the quicksand, to boot.)

As fun as the scene might be, quicksand isn't exactly anything revolutionary in the realm of action. It's a Hollywood cliche dating all the way back to the 1909 silent film "Rescued from the Quicksand" and prevalent throughout the decades in everything from Abbott and Costello to "Lawrence of Arabia" to "The Princess Bride." "Krull" and "Baywatch" reruns. In real life, it's nearly impossible to come across quicksand, and even more impossible to die from it, and for these reasons and that of sheer audience exhaustion, quicksand lost any semblance of dramatic potency long ago.

The T-Rex spotted over the hill

One uneasy scene near the beginning of "65" teases the horrors that are about to come. It starts when Mills and Koa stumble upon what appears to be just a rock or mound, but it gradually dawns on them that it's something else entirely. As the camera draws closer, flies can be seen buzzing around this mound, and that's when it is revealed to be the rotting corpse of some kind of sauropod. This reveal comes with the ominous knowledge that the predator who killed this dinosaur must be nearby.

Sure enough, viewers hear the lumbering footfalls of a T-Rex. However, the beast isn't shown up close, which is somehow scarier. Instead, it's just glimpses of the top of its head over the hill. 

The scene takes a page from the book of Ridley Scott's "Alien," a classic movie to which many sci-fi horror films owe a debt. Scott chose to give audiences only brief glimpses of the titular alien, only revealing the creature at the very end. It makes sense that this moment from "65" would remind viewers of "Alien," because Adam Driver has cited Scott's sci-fi classic as a major source of inspiration for "65."

The claustrophobic cave

Even before the oviraptor shows up, the sequence in the caves is terrifying, because Mills and Koa are walled in on all sides by solid rock. They can't go back the way they came, so their only escape appears to be an air passage too small for either of them to fit. Eventually, Mills and Koa find an aperture big enough for them to crawl through — but just barely. It's a tight fit for Mills, to say the least. He doesn't even get halfway through the tunnel before some kind of disturbance from above them (A rockslide? A meteorite? A T-Rex stomping around?) causes the tunnel to collapse, trapping him inside. By this point, anybody remotely claustrophobic will be curling their toes in their shoes.

To add to the intensity of the scene, the film shows that Mills has given up hope. At first, he doesn't even bother helping Koa try to dig her way out. Since Mills lied and told Koa that her parents survived the crash, that hope to reunite with them is giving her the will to live. However, Mills and the audience know this is a false hope. Mills feels he has nothing left to live for, since his daughter is already dead. This emotional undercurrent makes the terror of the scene even more visceral.

Koa rescuing a dinosaur

Most viewers wouldn't expect a jump scare in this otherwise quiet scene where Mills decides to help Koa rescue a baby dinosaur stuck in a tar pit. If "65" was a family-friendly movie, this probably would have been the part where Koa teaches her grouchy father-figure the value of kindness. Maybe they would even adopt the baby dino and take it with them on their journey. But since this is a much darker film, viewers know nothing of the sort is going to happen. Still, they might expect some kind of similar sentimental moment, simply because the cliche is familiar. Perhaps audiences were predicting that Mills would start opening up and trusting Koa's judgment a bit more.

Nope. Instead, the movie yanks the rug out from under its audience. In a jarring twist, this character-development scene quickly morphs into a scene of suspense — and not necessarily the one audiences were expecting. If anything, viewers probably predicted the T-Rex that was foreshadowed earlier would lumber in while the pair were busy trying to rescue the baby dino. Few suspect that a bunch of tiny predators — no bigger than Koa — will pounce on the newly-rescued dinosaur and then drag away its corpse. (It turns out Koa went through all that trouble for nothing.)

The oviraptor in the dark

At the beginning of the sequence in the caves, the film shows there's an oviraptor somewhere in the tunnels. This casts an ominous shadow over the following scenes. Later in the movie, viewers see the raptor brush past Mills while he is busy consulting his scanner, adding to the sense of dread. Viewers know it is only a matter of time before the dinosaur strikes — and it does.

Never before has Mills been so helpless. He is cut off from Koa, his gun is out of reach, and he is effectively blind. Since the oviraptor can presumably see in the dark, Mills is easy prey. Watching this scene, horror fans might be reminded of the basement chase scene from "Don't Breathe," where Stephen Lang's blind old man has a significant advantage over the protagonists because he doesn't need any light to navigate his basement. While the scene from "65" is nowhere near as good as the one from "Don't Breathe," it's still one of the most chilling moments from the movie.

Although the shot of Mills being dragged away by his feet is a cliche that has been used to death in horror movies, there's a reason why it's a horror movie staple: It can be quite terrifying, if done right.

The nothosaurus dragging Koa away

As frightening as the dinosaurs in "65" may be to the average moviegoer, they are ten times more terrifying to Mills and Koa, who have never seen a dinosaur before. They haven't been exposed to these creatures via "Jurassic Park," nor have they seen the countless toys that make T-Rexes seem harmless or even cute. To them, this monster with gigantic teeth and shriveled little arms is an unspeakable creature. To the viewers ... not so much.

The only dinosaur in this movie that even comes close to capturing the sheer terror of truly coming across a monster for the first time is the nothosaurus. This is the dinosaur that attacks Mills after he falls from the tree and later drags away Koa by the hood of her jacket. (Technically, the species of this dino is never canonically confirmed, but there are theories.) The nothosaurus is terrifying because it seems alien to viewers. That's because, unlike T-Rexes and velociraptors, the nothosaurus hasn't been depicted to the extent of desensitization in movies and TV. Outside of the Netflix series "Camp Cretaceous," you don't really see this creature in movies. With a head like a crocodile and a skinny torso like a starving animal, the nothosaurus is imposing. The end result is that, out of all the creatures in "65," the nothosaurus is by far the most monstrous.

Mills searching for survivors

Sometimes, you don't need a bloodthirsty dinosaur or some sort of imminent danger to send shivers down the spine of a viewer. All you need is an unsettling image that forces audiences to stare death in the eye. 

Viewers do this quite literally with "65," because the movie holds on the glassy eyes of the passengers killed in the crash. Mills finds them floating in the swamp, in positions eerily reminiscent of the way Mills will sink into the quicksand later in the movie. 

Mills blames himself for the accident. In his eyes, each body that he finds in the mud means more blood on his hands. It's like walking onto a grisly crime scene and thinking you were the killer.

Also in the mud is the scaly fin of some sort of serpentine sea creature slithering beneath the surface. This is the first real clue that the planet is inhabited by dinosaurs, but viewers never get a good look at the creature. It could be anything, which is enough to give even the most hardened horror fan the creeps.

This sequence may remind viewers of the opening sequence of "Alien 3." Aside from the obvious parallels of characters dying pointless deaths in their cryopods, both moments have a similar atmosphere of dread. Just like in "Alien 3," this scene may be depressing, but it certainly does an effective job of leaving the viewers disturbed. Watching the scene allows viewers to appreciate that Mills is truly alone.

The insect on Koa's tongue

The most terrifying moment in "65" (by a mile) involves a prehistoric creature, but maybe not the one you'd expect. The movie does a clever bit of misdirection here, relying on the scene from the trailer to trick viewers into thinking what the next jump scare will be. During the scene in question, Mills and Koa are so concerned with the T-Rex lurking outside the cave that they are blindsided by the horror right under their noses. 

Viewers are expecting the T-Rex to appear any minute. (How could they not? The T-Rex in the cave was shown repeatedly in the promotional materials.) The last thing they are expecting is for Koa to start foaming at the mouth. Mills is horrified to discover a creepy insect nestled inside Koa's mouth.

Who'd have guessed that the most menacing creature of the prehistoric world was not a gigantic carnivore but a tiny bug that crawls into your mouth while you sleep? This moment is jarring precisely because it's so unexpected — and unexplained. Viewers never see the insect crawl into Koa's mouth, and in fact the movie never even confirms how it got there. 

Sometimes, the creepiest moments in films are the things that happen with no explanation and for no reason. These occurrences make viewers shudder at the unknown, just as a dark room can be terrifying because anything could be inside.

So a bug on Koa's tongue — sure, why not?