Why do images of humans walking on all fours, especially bent over backwards (and speeded up!) creep people out so much? Horror directors have used this particular image to great effect for years. Horror film experts note that images in which the human body is shown in an unnatural way always seem to have a deep and unsettling impact on us. Think of blacked-out eyes, heads turning too far to the side, or fast jerky movements. Out of all the creepy images of the human body in horror movies, few (if any) are more disturbing than the dreaded spider walk. Here’s an overview of the use of the spider (or crab) walk in film, beginning with The Exorcist.
The Exorcist (1973)
The infamous scene of a possessed Regan spider-walking down the stairs and then doing lewd things to the houseguests was filmed using a real contortionist, but it never made the final cut of the movie when it was first released. Director William Friedkin did not like the quality of the scene because you could see the wires that suspended the contortionist. It was included in later versions of the film when, with the help of CGI, the wires were removed from the shots. Some horror experts argue that the spider walk scene should never be included because it’s the only instance when Regan leaves her room.
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
John Carpenter’s strange and disturbing film about a Stephen King-like horror writer whose fictional monsters seem to come to life and start wreaking havoc on the world. This film is famous for a scene with a girl who walks on all fours, and as a bonus, her head is twisted around too.
The Ring (1998)
No overview of disturbing horror movie crawling would be complete without The Ring. The image of Sadako crawling out of the TV and then creeping across the floor on all fours has been identified by many horror fans as one of the most terrifying horror movie images ever.
The Unborn (2009)
A young woman is haunted by a dybbuk, an evil spirit that has taken possession of the body of her great uncle, who died as a boy in the Holocaust. He was her grandmother’s twin, and poor grandma gets the scare of her life in a nursing home when one of the other residents (a paralyzed elderly man) begins to chase her, crawling on all fours with his head upside down. This movie also features a dog with an upside down head too.
A legion of angels come to Earth to bring about the Apocalypse and wipe out the human race. Strange things begin happening to people…including a bunch of creepy crab-walking. An old lady undergoes a demonic transformation and begins crawling on the ceiling, and a possessed ice cream man’s arms and legs lengthen and he starts scrabbling on all fours after people.
The Last Exorcism (2010)
A young girl who is suspected of being possessed is filmed by a documentary crew out to expose a preacher accused of faking exorcisms. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the girl really is possessed by demons, as evidenced by her being bent over backwards in a barn.
Two little girls who find themselves alone in an abandoned house in the woods are protected and raised by the malevolent spirit of a dead woman. The girls, especially the younger one, are feral from lack of human contact. They also take on the creeping on all fours movements of the entity called Mama.