What Makes a Jump Scare Effective?

Ever wondered why some movies belong to the horror category but aren’t that scary? One reason for this is that the jump scare of these movies isn’t the one that could startle the audience or cause an instant fear. There are chances that it might as well be totally missing. However, with a few tweaks, most directors are able to enhance the jump scare of their movies and create a truly horrifying experience for the viewers. 

Why is Jump Scare Important?

For those who don’t know, jump scare is a technique used in horror films, places, games, and internet documentaries with the intention to create instant fear in the audience. Mostly, this is done by doing the unexpected and bringing up something that did not exist earlier. Abrupt changes such as the appearance of a creature, any image, item, or perhaps a sudden frightening sound are all the different ways in which jumpscares are created. Without the proper kind of jumpscare, the movies may not stay as exciting for the fans and they can be bored out easily. 

Jump scares are important because of the abruptness that exists. If any event occurs gradually, our mind is already prepared for that but with events like jump scares occurring out of nowhere, there is a situation of chaos in our mind. In addition to that, jump scares are sometimes used for the big reveal. For example, during the movie The Phantom of Opera, Christine removes the mask of Phantom at a point when people were really not expecting that to happen. In a way, it can be said that jump scares are ending the long-drawn suspense of the viewers too. 

Jump scares are also important because they add more detail to a particular story. Since jump scares are meant to come suddenly, the viewer is quite intrigued in the entire film throughout. Jump scares make a film more organic due to unpredictability being the key element. Some of the top horror movies of all times such as The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, Annabelle, and others do have a well-defined jump scare on multiple occasions throughout the film. 

Jump scares are important for an instant thrill to the audience. 

How to Make an Effective Jump Scare?

To make the jump scare effective, you need to add different types of known jump scares that have been known to aid the horrifying experience of the viewers. Rather than making random jump scares which might make no sense, it is always better to make an effective one out of the tested techniques.

Fridge Scare

A fridge Scare is the one where one character closes or opens any particular door (fridge, cabinet, main door) and finds out a revealing character on the other side. It’s important to execute this in the right way by adjusting the camera angle in a way that the revealing door obscures the view of the watchers unless it is closed or opened. Therefore, in many horror movies, the camera does not face a fridge from the front rather it is placed on the side where the main character is opening up the fridge. On the other side, any horrifying element such as a scary clown will appear as soon as the door closes. 

Fridge Scares have been done in many movies including Mother, The Purge, Pandorum, and many others. Directors usually like this technique because normally the audience is too engaged in a film to think that something will come out from the other side of a door. 

From a logical standpoint, some critics believe that fridge scares are quite an artificial way to bring horror because there in most films, the fridge, door, or any other element may not have a direct link to the storyline. However, if it is executed the right way, a fridge scare could be sufficient to scare your audience. 

The Car Window Scare

The Car Window Scare is a great way to scare the audience. This mainly involves scaring the passengers in a car with some outsider that appears suddenly. For example, a car being driven in the jungle could be met by an unexpected dark creature. Sometimes, the car breaks down and any weird noises along with unidentifiable creatures come up. It can also become quite mysterious once the character appears and disappears repeatedly. 

The car window scare could work well specifically because once it occurs, the suspense is increased for the viewers. Films like Jeepers Creepers have this type of jump scare and you can watch it to learn more about how to make the jump scare effective. Other movies that have it include Annabelle: Creation, In Don’t Breathe, and Chernobyl Diaries. 

Imagine seeing this image from the mirror of your car. 

The Mirror Scare

This one is among our personal favorites! If you have watched the movie Mirrors, it becomes an ideal reflection of this kind of jump scare. There are two types of mirror scares usually followed in horror movies. One of these involves a mirror attached at a position where it reveals a character. What makes it more exciting for the audience is that when the actual character sees this revealing character from the mirror, he immediately looks back and finds no one. He then looks at the mirror once again but now the revealing character is no more. 

It is a great idea to keep the viewers hooked and stay in the mystery of where the horrifying character went. The second set up of mirrors involves the criteria of the movie Mirrors where the reflection of a person in a mirror acts differently than in reality. The film shows an exorcist approach highly depicting the torture that the characters have to bear once they stand in front of the mirror. Other movies employing this jump scare include The Haunting in Connecticut, Halloween II, and Orphan.

Mirrors is one of the most horrifying films of all time

The Peephole Scare

The jumpscares may get effective when you use the peephole scare. It involves having a revealing character peep through a small hole such as door locks, peepholes, or any other such items. This type of scare requires effective adjustment of the camera in the first-person perspective so that the viewers are watching it closely. It would then give them a jump scare when an object or character suddenly comes up the peephole. 

This one is quite effective because all the attention of the viewer is diverted to a small hole only. The mind is fully focused at a particular point and having someone pop out from there brings claustrophobia while giving the suitable level of anxiety too. You can learn more about the peephole scare from the following movies: The Devil’s Backbone, You’re Next, Under the Shadow, and Rings.

Are jump scares suitable for health? Find out here – Do Jump Scares Have Any Effect On Our Health?

The Delayed Scare

The Delayed Scare is actively used in many Hollywood movies as it helps in keeping the viewers hooked to the movie till the end. The Delayed Scare is when the audience is made to believe that the danger has passed and nothing scary will occur now. However, this illusion soon breaks off when there is some sudden jump scare. This one is the most unexpected because no one sees it coming. The best example of a delayed scare is Final Destination where many people avoid death at first but then die just a few moments later. 

Moreover, the delayed scare also refers to a point where the audience knows something scary might happen but they are unsure of what exactly that would be. This is again seen in Final Destination movies where every death is a different one. There is no way that the viewers can figure out what will happen next just based on a previous death. Other movies such as The Exorcist III also have delayed scares making it one of the best horror movies of all time. 

Poster of the film, Final Destination 5.

Awake or Not Scare

To make the jump scare effective, many directors have followed this technique where they give the impression that a person is dreaming something horror and wakes up later only to find out that it was all a dream. However, as soon as the character would wake up, there could be any kind of horrifying elements around him such as the ringing of bells, dark, a corpse, scary figure, shadows, and a whole lot of other spooky stuff too. 

Since the person has woken up from a dream, the viewers are also relaxed but that is exactly when the jump scare gives the audience chills down the spine. It can also be considered as one of the ways where a delayed scare is being followed since the actual danger seems to fade away but that is just a hoax. We have seen the American Werewolf in London which indicates the not awakening form of scare. It was also seen in recent films such as The Haunting in Connecticut 2. 

Appearances can be scary. 

Find out about elements other than jump scare which make up a good horror movie. – The Elements of a Good Horror Movie


Jump scares are surely terrifying and if they aren’t, then they aren’t jump scares at all. The above-mentioned tips have been tried and tested by expert Hollywood directors and actors. Many of the films in which these types of jump scares were used emerged to be highly successful. Therefore, if you are also planning to direct a short film or any movie, using these tips could help you in planning an effective jump scare.