The spray painted portrait with the line through it's eyes gives me the willies. There's just something wrong about it.
The Great Game
Holmes and Watson's first encounter with the Golem. The guy is freakishly large and all you see of him is his shadow, lurking behind a corner in an underground tunnel; then there's a vague shot of him running to his car in the creepiest way possible, magnified by that freaking shadow.
The moment when the Golem creeps up on Sherlock from behind in the Planetarium is pretty unsettling too, especially with the flashing lights and garbled audio.
All those poor people in The Great Game. The palpable fear. The sobbing breaths. The things they were forced to say. The laser sight trained on them. The little boy.
The little boy who, incidentally, is Moffat's son. Brr. "Okay, kiddo, act scared for Daddy." Brr.
In particular: "Hello, sexy." The dissonance between those words and the woman's sobbing is horrifying. Also "this stupid bitch is reading it out."
This: "I can stop John Watson too...". It's the only time John has any difficulty calmly relaying what he's being told to say. The other hostages knew they were in danger and made much more obscure references to the consequences of Sherlock not solving the puzzle, things like "I'm going to be so naughty" or "I can soon stop that"—but Moriarty forces John to relay the threat using his own name. A completely chilling thing to force a hostage to say.
One could almost say that Sherlock himself was working towards nightmare fuel in The Great Game. Especially at the very end, with Sherlock grinning most of the time the little boy is being held hostage; he has a nice little moment of swagger and egotistical pleasure before finally giving the answer that saves the child's life. Remember that the previous victim — and eleven other people — died.
The moment at the end of The Great Game when Moriarty gives the first real flash of what he really is — with just a single word at the end of a four-word sentence. Give the actor a gold star.
Sherlock: People have died.
Jim: That's what people DO!
Andrew Scott's acting abilities - he punctuates Moriarty's speech with little gulps when he's losing control - cannot be praised enough. Rewatch the following fragment. No, you can't leave the lights on.
Jim: If you don't stop prying, I will burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.
When Sherlock questions Moriarty as to why he would provide a clue about Janus Cars, Moriarty's response is equal parts blunt and terrifying.
Jim: Why does anyone DO anything? Because I'm bored.
A Scandal in Belgravia
Irene stabbing Sherlock with a hypodermic needle that causes him to collapse, completely weak and helpless on her bedroom floor, eventually becoming a delirious babbling mess *
Apparently so 'hilarious' that it deserved to be filmed: thanks, Lestrade
. She then tells John to see that Sherlock doesn't choke on his own vomit. With Irene half-naked while whipping Sherlock with a riding crop and John not seeming all that concerned, the scene is played more for Fetish Fuel. But just think of how it must feel to be drugged against your will, your body basically paralysed and unable to speak, to say no.
Mycroft threatens to have Irene tortured for the password to the phone: "You have a pass-code to open this. I deeply regret to say that we have people who can extract it from you..."
Even more horrifying, Sherlock's objection is not that torturing people is horrible and wrong, but that to torture Irene would simply prove ineffectual as there are likely two pass-codes. The Holmes brothers have a lack of empathy that is often Played for Laughs or otherwise causes offence to those around them with no real harm done, but here they're discussing whether or not they're going to torture Irene and decide not to for practical reasons only.
The plane full of corpses. Oh God.
In this scene the mood whiplashes so fast your head will spin:
Jim: SAY THAT AGAIN!! ... Say that again, and know that if you're lying to me, I will find you, and I will ssssskiiiinnnnn you...
... His face. Holy crap. And he probably would very literally skin someone.
The Boomerang. Just the fact that losing sight of a boomerang led to a man's death.
The Hounds of Baskerville
The Hound of The Baskervilles has always been one of the most chilling of Holmes' adventures. Updating it to the modern day setting of the series does little to change this. Especially when the end leads one to believe there isn't an actual hound. And then the damn thing turns up anyway. Sure, the hallucinogens in the mist made the characters see it differently from what it actually was... but what they saw (and subsequently what we see) is terrifying.
Especially when you take into account that all four of them — Sherlock, John, Henry and Lestrade — they are all seeing something a little different. They're all presumably seeing an enormous black dog with huge teeth and red eyes, but the details are totally subjective. They're all seeing whatever scares the hell out of each of them individually.
In a similar way, the sequence with John locked up in the lab works on the premise that what was scaring John the most was not just in his own mind — it was his own mind. This whole episode is fuelled by the psychology of fear and that's what makes it great.
Anyone who has watched The X-Files, in which the first indication of the presence of the utterly terrifying aliens is usually bright white light, can be forgiven for completely losing their shit at that point in the episode.
Sherlock's hallucination of Moriarty.
At the end of the episode, we get a look at Jim's Room Full of Crazy. Sherlock's name, scratched into the walls, over and over and over again. Dear God.
The information they find on the H.O.U.N.D hallucinogen using the Major's password. We never get details, but the photographs and snatches of headlines like "blood-brain" "severe frontal lobe damage" "gross cranial trauma" and "multiple homicide" projected across Sherlock's face are incredibly creepy. Then in retrospect we find out our heroes have all been hanging out in a mist full of this stuff.
Dr Stapleton is chillingly matter-of-fact when she agrees with John that she has very little compassion (toward her own daughter), and that sometimes she hates herself.
The death of Henry Knight's father. His traumatised memories of the event are bad enough, as we hear his father screaming as he's mauled, but the reality is actually even worse. A man wearing a creepy gas mask with red lenses and Vader Breath brutally battering Mr Knight to death, then slowly turning and staring at young Henry.
Henry tries to shoot the hound as it's chasing him across the moor. As soon as he fires the gun, a sudden cut reveals that it was just a hallucination. He was still at his house and almost shot Louise.
The Reichenbach Fall
Kidnapped children are nightmarish by definition, but Moriarty's not content with that. He locks the terrified brother and sister alone in a dark factory, where they will starve to death unless they eat the chocolates he has left for them. The wrappers are painted with mercury.
Sherlock's chilling re-enactment of the kidnapping of the children. "Help us" glowing eerily on the wall. Sherlock's silhouette at the door, hand held like a gun. The details of the boy on tip-toe with a gun to his head. The little girl being grabbed around the neck. Holy shit, no wonder they thought he did it.
Moriarty smirkingly asks a young female police officer to fish into his pocket for a mint and put it on his tongue at his trial. The way he does it takes his character into the new and terrifying implications of his also potentially being a sex offender.
When Moriarty's team offers no defence at his trial, he looks up at John in the gallery and smirks. John is visibly upset by this. Sherlock described his standoff with Moriarty as "five minutes... I pointed a gun at him, he tried to blow me up." But for John, the ordeal went for hours. He was knocked unconscious, unarmed, totally unable to defend himself, and he was the one actually wearing the bomb. He has impressive nerves, and considerable loyalty to Sherlock, to bring himself to be in court at all.
The series itself never tells us what happened between John leaving the apartment for Sarah's and Sherlock arriving at the pool some hours later. John later blogged a basic outline —he was bundled into a car and knocked unconscious— but most of the details are missing. It was clearly extremely traumatic for him; in terms of his blog, he posts that he took some time away from guns and bombs and maniacs after that incident. In the actual series itself, the effect that being Moriarty's hostage had on him is hinted at earlier than the trial. When John intercepts Jim's text on Sherlock's phone, and tries to bring it to Sherlock's attention, he looks like he's about to pass out. Not a reaction we've come to expect from someone who developed a hand tremor because he missed being in constant danger. It's highly implied that there are some details of his hostage experience prior to Sherlock appearing that he's unwilling to share, because they are really, really bad.
Metatextually, this is definitely a case of Nothing Is Scarier, and it is definitely a justified example of it - it makes sense that Watson wouldn't want to talk about it, and the fact that he doesn't want to talk about it makes it scarier to us.
Moriarty pretending to be Richard Brook, a scared actor who was 'hired' by Sherlock to be Moriarty in an attempt to take Sherlock down. He's so convincing that he can almost (maybe even completely) make you believe it, that Sherlock is the bad guy.
Also known as: the moment where everyone in the fandom doubted their entire existence.
Moriarty threatening not just John (which is expected at this point), but everyone Sherlock has ever cared about, in order to convince the detective to leap off a building to his death. If Moriarty's words alone don't do it for you, the sick, ferocious glee with which he says them probably will:
Moriarty: Ok. Let me give you a little extra incentive... your friends will DIE if you don't.
Moriarty: Oh, not just John. Everyone.
Sherlock: Mrs. Hudson?
Moriarty: Three bullets. Three gunmen. Three victims. There's no stopping them now.
This was a bit of a Hope Spot for this troper — Moriarty made the mistake of revealing his hand here by telling Sherlock that he only had three gunmen trained on three of his friends. He obviously ignored Molly in his plan. If terror was the objective, he would have been better off letting Sherlock use his imagination.
There's also something absolutely chilling about his words to Sherlock when he arrives on the roof about "staying alive" and "All my life I've been looking for a distraction." Because he freaking means it. He's not thrilled that he thinks he's beaten Sherlock Holmes. He's suicidal because he thinks he's beaten Sherlock Holmes. As Sally Donovan pointed out in A Study in Pink, psychopaths get bored. They tend to commit suicide in prison because of it. Jim's realisation that he could commit suicide to solve the problem of "staying alive" and scupper Sherlock's chances of beating him makes perfect, horrible sense.
A less internal detail, but if you look closely you can see pieces of Jim's brain floating on the edge of the blood.
All this to prove just how The Unfettered can get deconstructed. Jesus...
I missed this on my first viewing, but look closely at Sherlock when the paramedics (real or not) turn his body over. He was lying on his right side, and yet there's a lot of blood at his left ear, from where it seems to have splattered or flowed down over his eyes. Think about that for a moment, and the implications are as clear as they are horrible...
What are the "implications"?
And it gets even better. This level of realistic and utterly gruesome detail must have come from Molly. She's a forensic pathologist, after all, it's what she does for a living. She probably "decorated" him herself, even. She has/had a major crush on him, and the more realistic she makes his "death" look, the more she is guaranteing she'll never see him again... And that she'll have lots of guilt whenever she runs into their grief-stricken mutual friends...
John unknowingly in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. Sherlock's 'suicide' saved his life by mere minutes.
The idea of Moriarty having his own kid's show. The guy has strapped bombs to children. He has poisoned children with mercury (symptoms include losing hair, teeth and nails, kidney dysfunction, itching, burning, pain, light sensitivity and ...you know... death). Not to mention the crap he pulls on adults. He's the storyteller on TV. Small children trust him. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Fake death or not, John witnessed his best friend fall from a building and saw his head smashed in on the ground, blood pooling everywhere, felt his non-existent pulse and saw the lifeless eyes on Sherlock's 'dead' face. It doesn't matter how many dead bodies John has seen in his life, which no doubt is a lot, this was someone he cared passionately about. It wouldn't be surprising if Series 3 mirrored Series 1's opening by showing us John reliving that moment in a nightmare.
Moriarty's ("Richard Brook's") telling of the "tale of Sir Boast-a-Lot." The bad, gritty, home video-like visuals, Moriarty's creepy grin throughout, that fact that such a horrifying metaphor is being disguised as a children's program... Sherlock is visibly unnerved as he watches the recording on a cab's TV. Oh, and the cabbie is Moriarty.
Moriarty breaking into 221B while Sherlock and John are out and recording his whispered observations on a shaky video camera, then posting the whole thing to John's blog? Verycreepy. The fact that he did it while Mrs. Hudson was home? HEAPING BUCKETS OF NIGHTMARE FUEL.