5. Rec (2007) – The attic scene
The film: Television host Angela and her cameraman Pablo are following a fire crew for their late-night show when the crew get a distress call from a nearby apartment building. At first, the call appears to be routine until events take an unexpected and horrifying turn. As the situation spirals, Pablo continues to film in order to show people the terrifying truth of what is happening in the building.
The scene: Angela and Pablo ascend to the attic, looking for a means to escape or to find out whether there is a source of the outbreak. As the camera pans around the attic slowly and in darkness, an infected boy leaps out at the camera.
Again, this jump scare is not unexpected but the increased tension of the small space and the fact that the infected person is a young boy, all adds to the effectiveness of the jump scare.
Trivia: The closing scenes were actually shot in complete darkness and used an infra-red camera. The actors couldn’t see a thing and had no idea what was going on.
4. It Follows (2014) – The tall man
The film: After teenager Jay sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time, she discovers that she is now the recipient of a fatal curse and she will be pursued by a supernatural entity until she dies. The supernatural entity will appear as a friend or stranger and will follow her unless she can pass the curse on.
The scene: Jay runs through the house and clambers up the stairs, hurrying into her bedroom and locking the door behind her. She sits curled up on the floor as we hear a knock at the door and her friends’ voices call out to her asking her to open the door and reassuring her that she is safe, and nothing will happen to her. Jay approaches the door cautiously and opens it, letting her friends in. As her friends reassure her, they open the door and suddenly a tall man appears in the doorframe, coming towards them.
This scene is so effective because it happens so suddenly and, thanks to the bulk of the actor and the small doorframe, feels so intrusive.
Trivia: Mike Lanier, who plays the tall man manifested as ‘it’ in the film is 7’7. He is from Detroit and designs engines for General Motors. He is one half of the world’s tallest twins.
3. The Orphanage (2007) – The woman run over by the bus
The film: As a young child, Laura spent some of her happiest years being cared for in a large orphanage by the Spanish seaside. Now as an adult, Laura convinces her husband to buy the orphanage and re-open it, along with their young son Simon. When Simon starts to behave strangely and then goes missing, Laura is forced to confront the terrible and dark secrets that lurk within the walls.
The scene: Laura limps towards a woman who has just been run over by a bus. A crowd is gathered around the fallen woman and a man attempts to resuscitate her. Laura watches on in horror as the man wipes blood from his mouth and shakes his head sadly at Laura. Laura pushes through the crowd and kneels down next to the woman. She touches the necklace that the woman is wearing and then all of a sudden, the woman grabs Laura’s arm.
In such a supernatural film, this jump scare is so effective because it happens in the most mundane of places and in a situation that happens every day thus it is so much more surprising to audiences.
Trivia: Director Juan Antonio Bayona would often improvise things to try and scare the actors and increase the tension whilst they were filming scenes. A few times he hid and jumped out to try and startle them.
2. Insidious (2010) – The demon face appears
The film: When devoted parents Josh and Renai move into an old house with their young son, their happiness is soon shattered when their son inexplicably falls into a deep coma. As their situation worsens and they become more desperate, they begin to realise that otherworldly forces are at work.
The scene: Lorraine sits at the dining room table explaining to Josh and Renai about the dream she had the previous night. The dream is re-enacted as we see a figure in a dark room that points to the sleeping child. As Lorraine talks, we suddenly see the lipstick faced demon appear behind Josh.
This scene is a clever use of misdirection as the focus is kept pretty much solely on Lorraine. The audience may be expecting something to happen, but we are expecting it to be centred on Lorraine so the demon appearing behind Josh is much scarier.
Trivia: Joseph Bisara, who plays the lipstick-faced demon went on to play another demon figure in a James Wan film. In 2013, he portrayed the demon embodiment of Bathsheba Sherman in The Conjuring.
1. The Conjuring (2013) – The clap scene
The film: In 1970, the Perron family find themselves forced to call in paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren after they encounter a supernatural presence at their secluded farmhouse. As events at the house escalate in horrifying fashion, the Warrens find out that the house has a long and macabre history.
The scene: Carolyn wonders through the darkened house after hearing unexplained noises. Eventually the noises lead her to the basement where she turns on the one dim lightbulb, calling out that she will lock in whoever is down there, when suddenly she falls violently down the stairs. Staggering to her feet, she attempts to acclimatise to the dark basement, She scrambles back up the stairs, screaming for help as the lightbulb shatters. Lighting a match and then another, a childish voice says “Wanna play hide and clap” and then suddenly two hands appear and clap.
This is a scene that is not uncommon in horror films and throughout we expect a jump scare, yet the unoriginality of the scene does not take away from the tension built up and the clever effectiveness of the simple act of the clapping.
Trivia: The filmmakers submitted a final cut of the film that they thought was more likely to get a PG-13 rating from the MPAA and asked for the MPAA’s guidance on the cut. The MPAA told them there was no edits or cuts that would ever make the film viable as a PG-13 as it was simply too scary.