If you’re anything like me you probably would take a good psychological scarring over some dick in a mask jumping out at you any day of the week – at least when it comes to horror films. Nowadays it seems like the best is behind us when it comes to the genre, and what’s left is less a collection of disturbing concepts and more so the movie equivalent of a carnival spook house. That being said – I do like carnival spook houses – a fleeting scare is good when it’s done right. Sure, in the end these scares don’t hold a candle to say, the end of Rosemary’s Baby, but we can’t deny them either. So that’s what this list is: me sucking it up and admitting that the dick in the mask totally got me.
I should tell you that I don’t wish to demerit these films for having jump scares in them; most of them have plenty of psychological scarring as well… take number ten, for example.
10. The Thing – Chest Attack
Yikes. That’s like… the last thing you want someone’s chest to do.
First off, let me just say that Rob Bottin is amazing. He’s the special effects artist you have to thank for having the image of a mans severed head crawling around like a spider burned forever in your nightmares.
What I love about this scare is that the characters are already in a bad situation trying to save the guy’s life – and then in the blink of an eye it’s a total 360 and suddenly they are making sure he never moves ever again. It’s horrifying the first time you watch it too because you’re not really expecting a scare, let alone expecting the scare to be so… unusual. And before you can recover you are treated to a barrage of carnage so bizarre and disturbing that you’ve completely forgotten about the jump that introduced it all. The Thing is truly a spectacle of amazing practical effects, disturbing grotesque, and glorious man beards.
9. Se7en – Sloth
I can’t tell if it’s the jump that gets me here or what the jump reveals – that the tattered corpse tied to a bed isn’t a corpse but rather what remains of a guy who is currently having a very bad year. The whole scene leading up to it is bad enough when it is explained just what happened to this guy, and we realize that it is probably the worst murder of the film… But then finding out that the job isn’t even finished is down right bananas – a word I don’t easily throw around, mind you.
There’s no way to see this coming because well… why the hell would we? This isn’t a movie where corpses just come to life willy-nilly, as far as we know the rules in their world are the same as the rules to ours. Even with the cop getting way too close to the guy (who must smell awful mind you) making the situation perfect for a scare, it just doesn’t seem like that kind of film. Never would we suspect the idea that someone who looks like that guy does could possibly be alive in any capacity – which is exactly what this scare is betting on.
8. The Decent – Night Vision Creature
You know, I loved this scare but I wasn’t actually surprised by it… the reason why is because some ass decided to stick it in every preview for this film when it was coming out, making everyone who saw it thoroughly ready for the best scare moment of the entire film. I hate that – it’s like when they stuck the ending shot to Quarantine on all the movie previews and posters… did no one stop and say “Hey guys… maybe it’s not a good idea to reveal the end of our movie in all our ads…” That kind of seems like advertising 101.
Anyway – it was only years later when I watched this with a friend who hadn’t seen the previews did I witness just how good the scare is. Firstly – if they didn’t set it up so quickly you’d see it coming, but you don’t have time to realize that. Secondly they actually give you a second to see the creature without indicating it with any scare chords or anything. It’s this nice silent moment that lasts barely a second where your heart drops into your stomach, then a boom of sound and action. It’s not the most original thing in the world, but it’s very solid and perfectly timed.
7. Signs – The Pantry
I’ll probably get some shit for this one – and I wouldn’t blame anyone for it either. I’m not a huge fan of this film but I do think it has its moments – I just wish it didn’t try to be more than what it was… which goes for all of M. Night Shyamalan films, actually.
There are several moments in this film that got me – another that comes to mind is the alien arm in the basement, and also the TV reflection part… but this one really did it for me because it relied on no external sounds or music. It was that lack of scare chords that oddly enough made me jump. It felt, well… alien – off in pacing. There’s this tension buildup of trying to see what’s on the other side of this door, and then when he walks away and comes back you expect at the least a second buildup, if only for a moment. But instead we instantly get the scare without any warning and any indication in the sounds – just the natural clicking of the claws of the hand and it’s over.
6. Psycho – Meeting Mother
Psycho is a really hard film to put into perspective. Most people know the ending of the film before they’ve even seen it – that alone puts the movie at a complete disadvantage to modern audiences. So far I’ve only met one person who didn’t know the end – and when finding that out I promptly sat them down to watch it, only to have someone walk into the room and spoil the ending half way through. You can imagine my anger.
Now – obviously there is another scene I could mention here, a scene that did have audiences jumping their seats because not only was it unexpected in a fleeting sense but also because no movie had really ever just killed off their star that suddenly before. However I really think this scene is scarier as a jump, firstly because we see the killer coming in the shower scene, and secondly because this one has two reveals right after another. The initial reveal of mother’s corpse is slow but also a huge blow to the audience, and then before they can put it all together we are hit with the classic Psycho chords and our first and only sight of Norman in all his drag glory – his face deranged and desperate as he is held back from stabbing this woman to death.
It’s just so much in so little time.