What's the scariest movie of all time? Is it The Exorcist? The Shining? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? No, it's David Lynch's, Mulholland Dr, and mostly because nobody would consider it a horror movie at all. Well, besides Vulture, which did an excellent job of detailing just why it's such a terrifying movie.
But yeah, the scares in Mulholland Dr. mostly lie in the fact that it's not billed as a horror movie, even though it's arguably scarier than any demonic child or naked old woman chilling in a bathroom. David Lynch, for those who don't know, operates in nightmares. Eraserhead, which is another "is this horror?" movie, detailed the internal fears of becoming a father and...God knows what else. But every frame of Lynch's first film has an unsettling quality to it that troubles you long after the movie is over. And the same goes for most of Lynch's films that aren't Dune (Though, that's horrifying for its own reasons), or that Disney movie he made about the guy on the lawnmower.
But Mulholland Dr. is something else entirely. While most of his movies are fever dreams put to film, Mulholland Dr. is his clearest nightmare. It's the little things that stick with you , like the infamous Winkie's scene, where a homeless man pops out from behind a dumpster.
What's so unnerving about this scene, and why it still freaks me out even though I know it's coming, is because it shouldn't happen. Horror movies operate on making you either jump in your seat or hide down into it with the fear of what's going to happen next. But this scene does both. Yes, there's that ghastly sharp sound that Lynch loves to employ to freak you out, but it's not a jump scare, not really, since you're told what's going to happen long before it happens. Horror movies, at least the good ones, make you tense because they try to relax you with exposition before they shock you. This is why the greatest horror movies really get under your skin in fear of what's right around the corner. But Mulholland Dr. takes that "what's around the corner" idea literally for this one scene, which begins in a diner with a man telling another man about one of his dreams. This is realistic, as who hasn't had a really creepy dream and just felt the need to pour it out to somebody else? But once we tell somebody about that dream, we usually tend to feel a sense of dread in reliving it, even if it's only through words. It's like telling the dream is conjuring up the possibility that it could be real, and only David Lynch would take that concept and MAKE it real in his story. It makes you question your own nightmares and the power they have over you. And any movie that can make you afraid of your own dreams WHILE YOU'RE AWAKE is freaking terrifying, and Mulholland Dr. does just that.
But what about all the other moments in the movie that just don't feel right? Like the cowboy without eyebrows.
Or even the way the film opens with a bizarre jitterbug scene, which feels both anachronistic and out of place.
But probably the scariest scene in the whole movie is the moment you realize the characters are just as bothered as you are while you watch what looks like a Spanish rendition of the Roy Orbison song, "Crying" only to realize that something else sinister is going on in the scene that your mind has to scramble to understand.
In truth, that might be Mulholland Drive's and most of Lynch's films greatest quality--the fact that your mind is trying to keep up and understand what is going on. But it can't, because your mind doesn't typically dissect nightmares, which is once again why I think Mulholland Dr. is the scariest movie of all time. It asks you to address your subconscious in a way that no other film--especially not a horror film--has done before or since. That's why Mulholland Dr. is officially the scariest. Movie. Ever. No other film comes close.