A jump scare is a technique mostly used in horror movies to scare the audience. It involves an individual or an object or item suddenly jumping into the scene accompanied by frightening music. Directors and producers mostly use this technique when there is complete silence for a couple of seconds before the jump scare actually happens. It was introduced in the 1980s and has been described as one of the most basic building blocks of horror movies.
Although a lot more techniques have been used since then but jump scares have still managed to remain relevant in movies and TV series. Some critics describe it as a lazy way to frighten the viewers but the fact that it still manages to do so is nothing but interesting.
Jump Scares In Films
Prior to the 1980s, jump scares were hardly ever seen in horror movies. However, they, later on, became popular in the late 80s, especially when the ‘Slasher’ subgenre raised in popularity as well. An interesting fact is that one of the earliest jump scares was used in the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ when Christian removes the mask of The Phantom. At the same time, silent movies can be hardly seen utilizing this technique. Therefore, the examples mentioned above were already using this technique that was a common element of the dramatic structure.
Additionally, the first-ever significant jump scare from the sound era took place in the Cat People. If you have seen the movie, you might remember the scene where Alice is being chased down an alley while out of nowhere a bus suddenly appears at the end of the valley accompanied by a loud screech and hiss. This technique that involved a jump scare from an object that was non-threatening became known as “the Lewton Bus” after the producer of the film. Furthermore, one of the most spectacular and significant jump scenes of the black and white era was from “Howards Hawks ‘ The Thing from Another World”, when the creature attacks while the characters are opening a closed door.
Another movie that had one of the first modern jump scares was “Carrie” released in 1976. The jump scare that appears at the end of the film was intended to show that apparently, a dead villain had survived. At the same time, the jump scare from the movie “The Exorcist III” has been described as “one of the greatest jumps scares in all of cinema”.
Lastly, “No Country For Old Men” includes a jump scare that perhaps overtakes all the jump scenes ever introduced. The scene where Anton Chigurh is driving through in a vehicle while another vehicle jumps the signal and rams into him. If you notice, the scene was almost completely without any sound effects until the vehicle collides. Sending the audience into an instant jump scare of a lifetime.
Jump Scares in Video Games
If you were wondering about the first-ever video game that used a jump scare, it was ‘Rescue on Fractaclus!”. It was a first-person game where the navigator attempts to find and land to pick up other downed pilots. However, some of the pilots tend to be aliens in disguise who would suddenly jump into the view, roaring and smashing to get their way into the cockpit.
In addition to that, Resident Evil is also known as the first modern video game to include jump scares. During the game, the player walks through deserted streets and alleyways with nothing in sight while the music suddenly begins to lower. Almost halfway through the hall or the alleyway, zombies and zombie dogs will appear out of nowhere with the music touching its peak instantly.
Furthermore, the video game “Daylight” was referred to as the “vehicle for jump scares” and although the viewers and critics applauded its successful use of jump scares they stated that they alone were not sufficient for scaring the players.
In Yakuza 2, there is a side mission that features a protagonist being given a videotape by a strange NPC. The character takes the videotape to a shop where he watches it. The video contains a blank background with a sudden appearance of a pale-faced woman with dark black hair similar to Samara from the ring.
Then there is an interesting video game “Wii Fit Plus” that contains a game called Lotus Focus. The game involves the player sitting still with their back straight and focusing on the candle until it burns all the way down. During the game, the player will hear some strange noises trying to distract him/her. The score relies on how long the player is able to keep candlelit. If the player happens to move too much, a large white kanji will suddenly flash on the screen accompanied by a loud voice, ending the game.
An internet screamer or just screamer is a video or a game online that features a sudden change in design to jumpscare the player. Screamers have been popular since 1996 as that was the peak time with the best-known appearing during the time period. With that being said, one of the best examples of an internet screamer is ‘The Maze’ designed by game developer Jeremy Winterrowd.
The game involves the player moving the cursor into a red square along a given path without having to touch the walls. As both the player and game progress, the walls tighten, making it more difficult for the player to avoid touching the walls. At first, when the player touches the wall, he/she has to start over.
However, as the player reaches level 3, the walls become too tight that it becomes almost impossible to avoid touching them. At this stage, the players tend to position themselves close to the screen for details. When the player reaches the end of the level 3 maze, regardless of whether the wall is touched or not, a picture of Linda Blair from ‘The Exorcist’ appears suddenly with extremely loud screams.
Jump scares continue to frighten the audience when it comes to video games and movies. The point is to add a bit of excitement and take the horror to the next level. Today, jump scares are not only limited to just horror films but thrillers and action movies as well. This makes the overall playing or watching experience much more interesting and unique.