Though Raiders of the Lost Ark is a Steven Spielberg/George Lucas action adventure film, it’s also kind of, sort of a horror movie. Am I wrong?
Look, I know genre sticklers will immediately call me silly for writing this, but Raiders of the Lost Ark(and even its followups) are pretty jam-packed with macabre elements. Actually, the opening sequence sets that tone straightway. Dodging booby-traps in a Peruvian temple, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is hellbent on retrieving a golden idol. Along the way we see plenty of corpses, and Indy’s less-than-trustworthy guide (Alfred Molina) betrays him only to gruesomely fall prey to another trap. Even the ball that rolls after Indy could be seen as a freaky moment, honestly — no less so than the recent traps in the (also great) film Escape Room.
As Jones escapes René Belloq (Paul Freeman) and some indigenous arrows, he has to put up with a snake in his getaway plane (And why does that sound familiar? A snake on a plane? Surely that combo would never happen again). Clearly, we have a setup for Indiana Jones’ future ordeal, and it can instantly tap into some viewer’s strong serpent phobias. Of course, you also have Nazis and the blatantly sinister Gestapo interrogator, Major Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey). Not only does he seem wicked, but definitely sleazy. In fact, he reminds me a little bit of Choptop (Bill Moseley) from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, or maybe even Bricktop (Alan Ford) from Snatch. Sure, he’s not as obscene in his word choice, but the sleaze factor is evident. Also, he’s a friggin’ Nazi.
Watch out for Snakes!
I already hinted at Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s big snake sequence, but it merits mentioning that it lays on the snake scares pretty heavily. In fact, even if a person’s not afraid of snakes, this scene might just turn them right back around. Pretty much only the bravest or most snake-jaded viewer won’t wince a single time, especially when we see snakes morbidly oozing from walls and even from human skulls! Honestly, just watch this scene again and tell me it doesn’t at least win a little horror cred. Of course, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has gross-out moments which rival this one. Still, that only goes to show a consistency in the series’ tone.
Finally, how could I neglect the face-melting scene? Basically everybody’s seen this, or at least have seen it parodied somewhere. It is not only freaky for this film but for any movie. In fact, any movie that shows people’s paces melting away like wax is kind of a horror movie. So, is this the scariest movie ever devised? Of course not! It also doesn’t have to be. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t shy away from mentioning this as what it is — an action/adventure/fantasy/horror film. In fact, I’ll even say Raiders of the Lost Ark is genuinely scarier (or at least freakier) than some horror films that are supposed to be terrifying
What are your thoughts on Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s horror aspects? Let us know in the comments!