Why jump scares suck, and why there is still hope for them

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/06/why-jump-scares-suck-and-why.html

Why jump scares suck


why there is still hope for them

Nope. Not when your first example of a good one is from LOTR:TFOTR.


(post withdrawn by author, will be automatically deleted in 24 hours unless flagged)


Large Marge.


I hate the term “Jump scare”. I’m being pedantic, I know, but the correct term is “startle”. Movies that rely on startles aren’t scary. True fear is deep and lingering. So when people ask if I found a certain movie scary when all it has to offer are cheap startles, I say “No, it wasn’t scary, all it had were a few startles.” Using the word “scare” in any form just gives credence to weak material.


Yup. Can’t top that jumpscare. Pretty much shit my pants in the theater. Buddy claims he had a half-way barfed up heart.


Wanna see something really scary?

I vaguely remember (though I can find no mention of it on the interwebs) John Carpenter saying that there wasn’t much artistry to startling an audience: he could run 10 feet of black leader through a projector followed by a single white frame and a loud noise to accomplish the same end.

Or something like that.


What you did there…


Oh, you know about that? I actually did it last summer.


I’m with you 100% on this one. Jump scares/startles are cheap and fleeting.

My best comparison would be video games. I got tired of the predictable startle-y “resident evil” series awfully quickly. More creepy/atmospheric/unpredictable games like “Silent Hill” were much more frightening.

I walked sideways with weapon out around this damn thing every time and nothing happened!

Sometimes pyramid head notices you and tries to maul you, and sometimes he’s just walking around dragging a dead nurse monster…

And in the first one… The creepy skittering footsteps and children’s laughter in the elementary school. Pretty much had me crapping my pants waiting for something horrible to happen.


Exactly. A truly scary film is like a skeleton key reaching into the primal fear-center of your brain, using image, sound, and careful pacing to wake up your instincts little by little. Once that’s been fully turned-on, you can show the audience something utterly innocuous and their imagination will do the work of making it terrifying and distrubing for you. I’ve experienced this waking up from a really bad nightmare–it’s very difficult to find a thought that doesn’t twist into something fearful.

Hellboy works, though. Yeah, seriously. Ron Perlman as Hellboy? Impossible to be afraid of him. Best character to think about when waking from a nightmare.


A good jump scare that genuinely is based off some unique premise is awesome. Jump scares are not the problem; it’s the fact that film makers use them as a crutch.

Awesome example. The other one that comes to mind is the first glimpse of the alien in ‘Signs’. (Won’t post the clip; without context it loses its punch, but in context it’s brilliant)

1 Like

The scariest moment in any movie ever in the history of movies.

1 Like

Exactly why I preferred Silent Hill to other games. Especially played in the dark.

Scariest non-startle movie scene for me? When Damien and his stepbrother are out in the woods in Omen II.

The only good startle I ever got from a movie was in Stir of Echoes, when Kevin Bacon’s character turns around to see the ghost girl has appeared next to him on the couch. Usually something like that would just piss me off as a lame cheap shot, but somehow that one was perfectly executed.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.