Horrific Scenes From Non-Horror Movies: ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987)

We all know that horror movies are supposed to be filled with well horror or scary scenes. So sometimes it can tough to truly shock viewers because they have seen it before or are simply ready and braced for something awful. However, there are times in non-horror movies where there are scenes that are more unsettling, intense, and horrific than the entirety of some horror movies. These scenes can catch the viewer off guard because they come at us unexpectedly or simply show the disgusting real side of life.

In this series we will take a look at some of the best and most memorable scary, unsettling or all around horrific scenes from a movie that are generally considered to not be in the horror genre. Let me know what you thought about the scene and share some of your favorite horrific scenes from non-horror movies. Maybe it will be featured in a future post. Enjoy!

*Warning: May Contain Spoilers*

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Scene: Private Pyle Finally Cracks

Well there is no denying that Stanley Kubrick knows how to do tense and horror extremely well and this late entry into his work is no different. From the beginning, Full Metal Jacket is filled with tense but albeit sometimes humorous moments. I wonder what Full Metal Jacket would have been like if there were safe spaces back then…Anywho, FMJ can essentially be broken up into two films. The first part is not so much about the horrors of war like Saving Private Ryan or Platoon but instead focuses on the preparation for war. It follows the basic training regimen of young soldiers before they are thrown onto the battlefield in the Vietnam War. Private James Davis (Matthew Modine), nicknamed “Joker”, narrates throughout the movie. When he arrives at boot camp, we all get the pleasure of meeting one of the greatest characters in all of history, Senior Drill Instructor Hartman (R. Lee Emery). Hartman immediately begins to berate and degrade these young men as a whole and face to face. And I mean face to face.

He particularly begins to single out the overweight, klutz Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) who seemingly can’t do anything right and is affectionately referred to as “Gomer Pyle”. This treatment of Pyle doesn’t seem to work so he is paired up with Joker to try and improve his work ethic. When that doesn’t work, Hartman simply decides to punish the entire platoon in order to create a group motivation tactic. The soldiers tire of this treatment, so they decide to take their frustrations out on poor Gomer by beating him in the middle of the night with bar of soaps wrapped in towels (which is brutal in and of itself). This seemingly works but Joker notices something eerily different about Leonard which brings us to our horrific scene.

On the final night of boot camp, Joker, while on barracks patrol, comes across Pyle in the latrine loading his rifle with live rounds. As Joker attempts to calm him down, Pyle recites the Rifleman’s Creed which brings Hartman into the latrine to continue his verbal assault of Private Pyle. Pyle takes aim and shoots his bully drill instructor in the chest. As Joker stand stunned, Pyle then sits on the toilet, puts the gun in his mouth and blows the back of his head off.

The scene is masterfully done to build the tension which began, very meticulously by Kubrick, from the moment we met Hartman. It being the dead of night, the subtle almost water dripping background noise, the slow methodical pace and the performances all do a tremendous job of making your heart beat faster and sit up in your seat to see what’s going to happen. D’Onofrio’s sinister scowl says everything you need to know about his mental state. Modine plays the part of us, the viewer in a sense, and he plays scared shitless very well. Emery does a fantastic job of showing uneasiness while still maintaining his bravado. The scene is extremely unsettling and without hope. The final image of the scene is haunting.