Want to set off a whole room of “horror fans” without a lot of effort? I’ve got two words for you: jump scares.
For some reason, people act like jump scares are a brand new thing that just happened in the last ten years which is puzzling as they’ve been a part of the genre from almost the beginning.
Now admittedly, there are films that take it way too far and the jumps are all they have going for them. It’s unfortunate, but an abundance of jump scares does not make a film terrible. It simply makes it ineffective for some audience members.
As a side note, I think most of us could benefit from repeating the mantra: Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.
Regardless, some jump scares have become legendary due to near perfect placement in a film, and it’s time we dug into this much maligned trope for some of the best examples in horror history.
#9 Jaws–“You’re going to need a bigger boat…”
Though relatively tame by today’s standards, I was all of 8 or 9 years old when I first saw Jaws, and this scene had me messed up for weeks. I’m not sure what Brody was expecting sitting on the side of the boat when he knew damn well there was a ravenous shark on the loose, but it definitely wasn’t what he saw. He was shook, and so was I!
#8 It Follows–The Tall Man Emerges
I’ll admit I wasn’t completely blown away by everything about It Follows. Still it had a really cool premise, and it was unlike anything we’d seen in a long time. For that alone, I give this film its props.
I’ll also admit that the scene where the “tall man” emerges from the darkened doorway into the bedroom made me feel like my stomach evacuated my body and took my soul with it.
#7 Final Destination –Terry Chaney and the Bus
Final Destination was a franchise filled with perfectly placed jump scares. Jeffrey Reddick and the subsequent writers perfected teasing an audience to repeatedly make them uneasy only to sideswipe them with an amazing kill out of nowhere, but few of them will every outdo Terry Chaney’s death by bus in the first installment.
#6 Paranormal Activity–Micah’s Death
This whole franchise got a bad rep after a couple of mishandled sequels, but I still love it, and I will NEVER forget seeing it in theaters the first time. I went with a friend of mine who is much more reserved than I am generally. As the tension built to those final moments of deafening quiet, we were both on the edge of our seats.
When Micah’s body flew out of the dark hallway after those pounding footsteps, my friend yelled ‘SON OF A BITCH!!” and I just screamed. It was an awesome bonding experience, and it’s also perfect for this list.
#5 Sinister–Lawn Work
Why does this scene make my heart nearly explode every time I watch it?! I think it has something to do with the darkness that surrounds the spotlight on the lawnmower and the sudden appearance of a body ready to be turned to mulch…
#4 Carrie–Hand from the grave
I had no idea what was about to happen the first time I saw Carrie, but let’s face it, in the pit of my stomach I knew something wasn’t right. There was Sue (Amy Irving) looking like an angel in white with a soft glowing aura around her. There was that beautiful, haunting melody playing over the scene.
There’s a bloody hand and arm coming up out of the ground and grabbing Sue in a perfect echo of the film’s opening scene! Carrie proved, in that moment, that some of the best scares happen in brought daylight.
#3 Alien–Xenomorph surprises Dallas
Has anyone else ever wondered how something as large as a Xenomorph can be so damned quiet?! They are like 7 1/2 feet tall and armor-like exoskeletons! There should be come kind of warning that the thing is approaching.
Alas, as poor Dallas found out, that just isn’t the case, and it’s solidly #3 on this list!
#2 Psycho–Mummified Mrs. Bates
Some will probably argue that this is not a jump scare, but for my money that reveal was terrifying and completely unexpected the first time I saw this perfectly executed scene.
Poor Mrs. Bates…exhumed, taxidermied, and made out to be a murderous villain by her son. She wouldn’t even hurt a fly!
#1 Exorcist III–The beheading…
A lot of people hated on this movie in its initial release, but as with so many things, it’s cultivated quite the cult following and this scene has a lot to do with that fact.
The utter quiet and the completely unexpected appearance of the specter-like killer in white coupled with the sudden burst of sound and transition to a headless statue is just amazing!