A jump scare is a technique often used in horror films and video games, intended to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event, usually co-occurring with a loud, frightening sound. The jump scare has been described as "one of the most basic building blocks of horror movies". Jump scares can surprise the viewer by appearing at a point in the film where the soundtrack is quiet and the viewer is not expecting anything alarming to happen, or can be the sudden payoff to a long period of suspense.
Some critics have described jump scares as a lazy way to frighten viewers, and believe that the horror genre has undergone a decline in recent years following an over-reliance on the trope, establishing it as a cliché of modern horror films.
1976's Carrie has one of the first modern jump scares. The scene, which occurs at the end of the film, is credited as the inspiration for the use of a final jump scare in the 1980 movie Friday the 13th, to show that an apparently dead villain had survived.
The 1979 film When a Stranger Calls uses a form of jump scare to suddenly reveal the location of the antagonist to both the protagonist and the audience. Film writer William Cheng describes this as causing a "sudden vanishing of the protective walls surrounding the film's protagonist", in turn giving the viewer at home a sense that the intruder is also somehow closer to them.
The jump scare from the 1990 film The Exorcist III is considered by horror fans[by whom?] to be the most famous and scariest jump scare in movie history. In the scene, a nurse enters a room in a hall, while a guard walks by in the background. As soon as she leaves the room, locks it and begins to leave, the camera quickly zooms in, and a figure clad in white and wielding large scissors suddenly walks out of the room and kills her offscreen, along with loud chord music.
In video games
Resident Evil is often cited as the first video game to use jump scares. The player, during the course of the game, walks through a hallway where the music begins to lower. About halfway through the hall, zombie dogs will suddenly leap through the windows and the music will peak in volume and intensity.
The video game Daylight was described as being a "vehicle for jump scares", and though reviewers praised its successful use of jump scares, they commented that as the game wore on jump scares alone weren't a sufficient tool for scaring players.
In 2004, K-Fee (Kaffee), a caffeinated energy drink from Germany, launched a series of advertisements that featured a peaceful clip, like a car cruising through a grassy hillside, or two lovers running toward each other at a beach. The clip is interrupted by a zombie or gargoyle potentially jumpscaring the viewer. At the end of the advertisement appears the slogan, "So wach warst du noch nie", which translates from German to "You’ve never been so awake", simulating the effect the energy drink will have on its consumers. The internet version has the final words "Now...go change your shorts and get back to work!". Three "less caffeine" commercials were released, featuring a man in a monster suit or a man dressed as a teddy bear, minus the screams.
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An Internet screamer, or simply screamer, is a video or game on the Internet that has a sudden change designed to jumpscare the user. They often include a jumpscare. Screamers have been around since at least 1996 with some of the best known appearing at that time.
An early example of an Internet screamer is The Scary Maze Game by Winterrowd. In the video "How to complete level 3 in the Scary Maze Game", it shows there are four levels in the game, but three in the original. Disguised as a computer game, the player is supposed to use his or her mouse to move a blue square along a given path without touching the walls. As the player progresses, the walls get smaller, making it more difficult for the player to avoid touching the walls. At first, if the player accidentally touches the wall it will lead back to the start menu and the player has to start over, but once the player reaches level 3, the walls get so thin it becomes very difficult to avoid touching them. When the player reaches a certain point, regardless of whether a wall is touched or not, a horrifying image, usually from The Exorcist pops up with a bloodcurdling scream.
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