10 of the most effective jump scares in horror movie history

The Conjuring - Hide and Clap Scene (2/10) | Movieclips
The Conjuring - Hide and Clap Scene (2/10) | Movieclips / Movieclips

Horror movies are made with several intentions in mind. Two of those key intentions are to evoke fear and anxiety in the audience, and one of the ways to do that is through jump scares. We've watched our fair share of horror films here at 1428 Elm, and while some consisted of some pretty iconic jump scares, others fell short. If you're interested, we shared a list of some of the most effective jump scares in horror movie history below, and of course, we had to start with the clap game scene in The Conjuring.

Clap game scene from The Conjuring (2013)

The suspenseful buildup to the jump scare made me feel even more uneasy while watching it. We watch as the main character, Carolyn Perron, searches for the person making clapping noises in her house late at night. As she searches the basement, the lights suddenly go off, and she's forced to light a candle to see, but it's still pretty dark. As she looks around, a kid's voice is heard saying, "Hey, want to play hide and clap?" Then, boom! A pair of hands emerge from the darkness right next to her and clap beside her head. You can check out this scary scene in the clip above.

Red-faced demon scene from Insidious (2010)

What startled me the most regarding this jump scare was how it came out of nowhere. Typically, jump scares in movies happen at nighttime or when it's dark so I wasn't expecting one to happen at this moment in the film since it's the daytime. Also, there's usually some buildup to a jump scare, but that didn't happen either. In this particular scene in Insidious, one of the main characters is having a calm conversation with his mother when suddenly a creepy-looking red-faced demon appears behind him. Then, there's the loud sound effect when the demon appears, which makes the jump scare even more effective.

Car scene from The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

Look, I know The Haunting of Hill House is not a horror movie and is instead a horror miniseries. But this jump scare was so iconic that I just had to include it on the list. In this scene, we see two sisters who don't get along arguing as they make their way to their old haunted house. As the argument gets more intense, their younger sister's ghost suddenly appears between them and lets out a loud scream, scaring the audience as well as the two sisters.

Babysitter scene from The House of the Devil (2009)

In this scene, a woman has just dropped off her friend for a babysitting job when she pulls over to try to light a cigarette. However, her lighter doesn't work, so she just sits in her car, staring out the front window. Suddenly, a man's hand holding a lighter appears through her side window. The woman and the man have a brief, seemingly harmless conversation before the man asks the woman if she's the babysitter. But just as the woman begins to respond, the man quickly pulls out a gun and shoots her in the head. What made me startled by this scene is how quickly everything happens. While it was obvious that the man was up to no good, I still wasn't expecting him to shoot her point-blank in the face.

Birthday party scene from Signs (2002)

In this scene, a father is recording his son's birthday party when the kids yell that they see something outside. The father follows the kids to a window to see what they're talking about when suddenly a tall alien appears outside and casually walks by the house. As an audience member, I was so focused on trying to figure out what was going on in this scene that when the alien appeared, I was caught completely off guard. What made this jump scare even more effective was when the alien stared directly at the camera. Talk about creepy!

Hospital corridor scene from The Exorcist III (1990)

Many consider this jump scare one of the greatest and most terrifying in horror movie history due to the buildup of tension and its masterful execution. In this scene, the camera remains static, focusing on a long hallway in a hospital. We watch as a nurse carries out her duties when suddenly a hooded figure comes out of a patient's room that the nurse just left and follows after her with a pair of shears aimed at her neck. The extreme zoom-in and loud noise that happens once the hooded figure appears on-screen make this jump scare even more terrifying.

Ending scene from The Blair Witch Project (1999)

While this scene isn't really a jump scare, it's easily the scariest moment in the film that it was worth putting on the list. At the very of The Blair Witch Project, Mike and Heather try to find their missing friend, Josh, in the woods and come across an abandoned house. As they search through the house, Mike walks down the stairs to the basement and is immediately attacked and knocked down by something off-camera.

The movie then switches to Heather's camera as she makes her way down the stairs to the basement, screaming in agony. Once she enters the basement, her camera pans to Mike, standing in a corner, facing the wall, completely motionless. She starts screaming his name when suddenly she's attacked and knocked down by something off-camera. Her camera hits the floor, and then the movie ends.

Lawn mower scene from Sinister (2012)

In this scene, the protagonist is watching old home videos. In one of the home movies, the audience is shown a lawn mower that's being pushed by an unknown person at night. Everything seems fine until suddenly, a tied-up man appears on-screen in the grass, and the lawn mower runs over him. While it's obvious that something bad is going to happen in this scene, the audience doesn't know what exactly is going to happen and when. The prolonged tension and anticipation of this scene really heightens the audience's anxiety that when the jump scare happens, you're instantly jolted out of your seat.

Tall man scene from It Follows (2014)

In this scene, a young woman hides in a room from a supernatural entity that only she can see. Her friends try to comfort her when suddenly a knock is heard at the door. The girl's friends open the door to see another one of the friends standing there. At this moment, you think everything is fine until suddenly a freakishly tall man appears behind the friend and begins walking towards the protagonist. This is truly an unsettling scene.

Clown scene from Hell House LLC (2015)

Typically, a loud noise is played right as a jump scare occurs to startle the audience, but Hell House LLC chose to forgo one with the clown scene, and it still managed to freak me out. You have a guy filming his surroundings when he notices a creepy-looking clown that's staring down a staircase. The guy films the staircase before panning the camera back to the clown, who is now staring at him. I'm not sure if it was the clown's creepy face or just how it had turned to look at the guy. All I know is that this scene definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies.

What do you think are the most iconic jump scares in horror cinema?

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