Since I’ve been a child, I’ve always loved horror movies. I can remember watching Goosebumps, Tales From The Crypt, and even reading Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.
And my love for horror didn’t stop there. I remember summers where my siblings and I would play the Silent Hill video game series.
I’m still a diehard horror lover, but sometimes it’s hard. Especially with the recent “scary” movies that have been released.
Is it me, or does it seem like the horror movies of today fall into two categories?
They’re either really gory, or rely too much on jump scares.
Now while I don’t care for either option, the jump scares are what bother me.
Why Jump Scares Make Horror Movies Less Scary
Even if you can’t define what a jump scare is, you’ve probably seen it in a horror movie before.
It’s that moment in the movie where the director wants to scare you by abruptly changing the setting of the movie. This can either be a frightening image or a quick shift in a scene.
These effects are supposed to fear you, the audience, using the element of surprise. But it actually does the opposite.
In fact, it can actually make you angry.
Jump scares cheapen the movie experience. Think about putting a bumper sticker on a Jaguar.
That is what a jump scare does to a horror movie.
It’s used as a cheap trick to inspire the fear that could have been created by other parts of the movie.
What’s So Scary?
Now don’t get me wrong. There are times where the jump scare has been effective in past scary movies.
I’ve seen Friday The 13th I don’t know how many times. I know that Jason is going to pop out of the sea and get that girl. But it’s still effective decades later.
One reason is because it was totally unexpected. As a viewer, you think the camp counselor is in the clear and that she’s safe. It was the false sense of safety that took us for a loop.
The second reason is because there were other elements of the movie that make it very frightening. For the majority of the movie, you’re wondering who the actual killer is. (Spoiler: it’s Jason’s mom).
And the way that the killer is revealed is eerie in itself. It’s the last person that you would least suspect. And it’s not until a certain conversation happens that you start to see that something is not right.
That is what makes a real horror movie. It’s not the cheap effects or the bloody gore. It’s that suspecting feeling that something is wrong.
And when you’re watching a horror movie that pretty much confirms that that nagging suspicion is right, it’s the most thrilling feeling in the world.
The Right Atmosphere
The reason why jump scares are not as effective as they could be is because everything else up until that point has been lackluster.
In the past, people have looked down on horror movies because in their minds, they’re not real movies. Most of them operate on the same slasher theme that’s been popular since the ‘80s.
The issue with this is that it can’t be more wrong.
In fact, horror movies can do what some Oscar worthy movies can’t. They can create an atmosphere that’s so unsettling that you’re lost in the moment. That you’re convinced that something is wrong and are naturally afraid.
What a jump scare is supposed to do can actually be created if the right atmosphere is created in the movie.
Creating Authentic Fear
There are many scenes in a horror movie that can do this. But one that comes to mind is the opening scene of “The Conjuring 2”, where Lorraine Warren is experiencing the Amityville murders from the perspective of Ronald DeFeo Jr.
Depending on what you’re into, you’ve probably heard about the Amityville murders for years. But the scene becomes really eerie when she walks up into the mirror and you see that she’s literally walking in the shoes of DeFeo Jr. as he’s murdering his family.
Another eerie feeling is when she takes a moment to collect herself and notices a demonic child staring right back at her.
These are the moments in a movie that create authentic fear in an audience. You don’t have to resort to cheap tricks to wake the audience up.
Because that’s what jump scares are starting to feel like. A cheap way to get the audience to wake up because you know the plot or the pacing isn’t cutting it.
Even with my issue with jump scares, I’m still going to enjoy Spooky Season.
I will admit, I don’t need to wait until October to watch a great scary movie. One really weird movie I’m kind of looking forward to is the Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey movie coming out.
But there’s so many good horror movies out there that you can enjoy that don’t have jump scares.
I would personally start with Tubi. Their horror movie section is underrated.
I also love the Halloween series (even though I have mixed reviews about Halloween Ends).
What are some of your favorite horror movies? Share in the comments below.