Some films begin with mystery, and some come roaring out of the gate. Having a great opening scene no matter what kind can be the most important part when an audience is considering staying for the ride or instantly checking out; for horror, it seems that the opening scene plays a large role when considering what type of film it is about to be. It’s always fun when a horror jumps right into the action and creates a deep sense of tension or dread for the viewer, though some do it better than other. These are the 10 scariest opening scenes to a horror movie.
10. When a Stranger Calls (1979)
Being in a complete stranger’s house for the night is odd enough, but what if someone keeps calling asking questions about circumstances that they shouldn’t even know exist? And what if that person calling is actually watching you? Well, that’s a whole other level of frightening.
This film’s opening sequences set the tone for a thrilling and frightening film that unfolds as the calls keep coming, and as the tension builds up. The silence and loneliness of the opening scene only being broken by the high-pitched ringing of a phone is chilling, and then with the first words spoken by the mysterious voice, create an idea of what will happen in the film.
9. Night of the Living Dead
“Night of the Living Dead” is a horror classic. It created a whole new idea for the zombie, and catapulted thousands of recreations, but the opening scene is what starts off the horrifying journey. On a long dirt road in black and white, we follow a brother and sister into a deserted graveyard as they place flowers on a grave site. With so many memorable scenes throughout the film, this scene seems to go beyond even those as we see in the distance a man stumbling around, looking lost, and possibly dangerous.
Here we hear one of the most recognizable lines in film history, and a foreshadowing of the rest of the film, as Johnny played by Russell Streiner says, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” Just as they’re finishing up, they have their first encounter with what they assumed was some random drunk, but is actually the living dead, killing Johnny and leading Barbara to run for her life where she ends up in a lonely farm house where the rest of the film takes place.
8. The Twilight Zone
Like the classic show, the film is an anthology, and is made up of four short films. While the films themselves are entertaining and feel like a few of the original episodes, they don’t hold any of the punches that the opening scene does. Called a prologue and directed by John Landis who is more known for his comedy, this part of the film uses that ability to create a light-heartedness that helps make the scare that much more memorable.
The scene is two pals, played by Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks, driving late into the night. Singing songs and looking for conversation, they begin to discuss what they think are the scariest “Twilight Zone” episodes; just as the conversation dies out, Aykroyd looks at Brooks and says, “Do you wanna see something really scary?” Intrigued, the driver says yes, and this is when a memorable jump scare occurs. A fun and scary opening scene that jump starts a film that, though not the best, is a fun and spooky ride.
7. It (2017)
What many consider Stephen King’s best and scariest work was originally created in a two-part miniseries that wasn’t the best, and if you think about it, was begging to be remade into something that had a theatrical release. Being known as a horrific story, it’s only right that it begins with a horrific scene. It starts with two brothers having a nice moment as Bill gives his brother Georgie a paper boat for him to go play with outside.
As the boat flows through the streets, it eventually falls into the sewer, a joyous moment turned into a nightmare. We are then introduced to Pennywise, covered by a shadow except for his horrific smile and bright eyes.
Through creepy dialogue, Pennywise tries to befriend Georgie enough to where he reaches for his toy boat, and just as he does, Pennywise attacks him, creating a horrifying moment as Georgie is then dragged into the sewers. Killing a child onscreen is scary enough, and it’s a perfect setup to re-creating one of the most iconic horror novels and a frightening film.
6. It Follows
“It Follows” begins the slow-burning film with one of the more exciting scenes it has to offer. It starts with a teenage girl frantically running through her neighborhood searching for something that we cannot see.
As she runs for her life, the audience is still out of the loop and has no choice but to hang on for the ride. With a sad and chilling call to her father as she reminds him how much she loves him and her mother, the teen is left sitting on the beach caught in the bright light of a car’s headlights, and the film then cuts away.
We then re-enter to that same spot in the daytime to see the young teen has been murdered in a brutal way with her body contorted and her leg barely hanging on. The shocking and horrific kill, though only showing the aftermath, is enough to start this film going 100 mph before slowing down to a brooding pace that creates an anxious wait for what is to come next.