It takes a lot to scare me in a movie these days. After watching countless horror films for the past decade and a half, something really has to make an effort to make me jump.
Of course, there have been many “jump” moments that have gotten my goat, despite my relative nerves of steels. Over the years, I tried to look back and capture the exact moment in which I was the most scared in a given film. Sometimes this is a jump, other times it’s just something disturbing, but I have a hunch a few of these are universal.
Check out my eight picks below, and if you have your own, do let me know in the comments!
1. The Closet (The Ring)
Oh god, I’m having panic attacks just looking at this. When I first saw The Ring, my friends and I had gotten there late so we were stuck in the front row. That meant every moment of the film consumed my entire field of vision, this one included. This didn’t appear with a big jolt of music. Rather, they simply slipped it in to a casual conversation during the film and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a collective gasp this loud in a theater before.
2. The Face (Lord of the Rings)
Yeah, don’t even act like this one didn’t get you. One of the only non-horror films here, this was something that was simply so unexpected in Lord of the Rings, it got all of us. Bilbo get Gollum-face for a brief moment when lusting after the ring, and it freaked the hell out of everyone who didn’t expect such a thing in a such a calm scene.
3. The Girl (Sixth Sense)
God, The Sixth Sense is full of these. I could have picked any of them, from the hanging in the school, the biker outside the car, the woman in the kitchen. But man, little Mischa Barton vomiting has really stayed with me all this time.
4. The Creeper (Strangers)
I really like The Strangers, even if it is something of a forgettable horror film. It did the whole stalking serial killer very well, much better than most films that tried it. This moment where the face simply emerges from the shadows, then retreats was the most heartstopping of the film in my opinion.
5. The Fling (Paranormal)
You might not be able to tell what the hell is going on here, but this is the exact moment where I nearly had a heart attack at the end of Paranormal Activity. In the Spielberg cut, you’re shown an empty hallway when suddenly the main character of the film is thrown at the camera, knocking it over. For a movie with almost no action for ninety minutes, it’s terrifying, and the original edit of the ending isn’t nearly as intense.
6. The Corner (Blair Witch)
We’re going way back here now, and this isn’t a jump moment necessarily, but tell me this image hasn’t stayed with you since you watched this film. It plays into the lore of the movie, one stands the corner while the other is killed, and made the ending of the film incredibly cryptic and memorable.
7. The Basement (The Road)
Perhaps this wasn’t one still, rather a few brief seconds, but holy shit was this terrifying. The Road is a relatively quiet film most of the film, but when Man and Boy stumbled upon this basement where naked humans were kept as fresh cannibal meat, it was the most unsettling moment of the entire movie.
8. The Hallway (The Exorcist III)
This isn’t one that I was going to include initially as I haven’t seen this movie, but after watching a clip of this scene on YouTube, I knew I had to include it here. If a completely out of context clip can terrify you on a tiny laptop screen, I can only imagine what this would have been like in theaters.