Alex Riviello at /FIlm posted A Brief History Of The Horror Movie Jump Scare with excellent examples. Before you click over, here are my five favorites from Riviello”s list plus three that didn’t make his list, but would have made mine.
Carrie. I saw Carrie at a midnight movie when I was 18. It was nearly 2am and it appeared the movie was done. Remember this was in the days when happy endings were common (and jump scares at the end of movies were not). When the jump scare happened I came out of the seat and probably scared my date more than the jump scare.
The Descent. The first part of The Descent sets up the horror of being underground in tightly enclosed spaces. Finally they get to an area with some breathing room. As they use the night vision glasses to see the best way to proceed we get the jump scare and it is great one!
Friday the 13th. I saw Friday the 13th for the first time on HBO and had no idea the jump scare was coming. It was well after midnight. I thought the end credits were getting ready to roll so I got up to to turn off the tv (no remote control in those prehistoric days). As I stood in front of the tv the jump scare happened and it’s a miracle I didn’t wake up the entire apartment complex.
Psycho. Hitchcock is the master of suspense. He slowly builds tension as Detective Arbogast slowly goes up the big staircase. He cuts to a door with a sliver of light and then back to Arbogast reaching the top of the stairs. Hitch switches to an overhead shot of an old lady attacking with a knife! Wha-what?
Wait Until Dark. I’m glad this one was included because it is one of the best jump scares. Audrey Heburn plays a blind lady with two killers in her house. I don’t want to give anything away. Watch Wait Until Dark. It’s an underrated gem.
Here are three classic jump scares that would have made my list…
Exorcist III: Late at night a nurse is checking on things. The camera views her doing this from a distance. As she walks across the hall we see someone (something) walking quickly behind her holding huge shears at her neck level. Perfect set-up for this jump scare with the person in background called away and then back and away again.
Play Misty For Me. Clint Eastwood plays a popular DJ who had a one night stand with a woman. She becomes unhinged when he dumps her. The jump scare happens in a scene when Eastwood wakes up to find her in his bedroom. I saw this at a drive-in when I was 13 and I’ll admit that I jumped more than Clint Eastwood — and he came out of his bed!
Alien: Dallas has a flamethrower and is looking for the alien. His crew members are monitoring and telling Dallas the alien is close. Dallas sees evidence of it but not the alien itself. The crew continues to tell Dallas the alien is getting closer and finally they tell him to run… cue the jump scare!