Jump scare

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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.[1][2] Common in film since the 1980s, the jump scare has been described as "one of the most basic building blocks of horror movies".[2] 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,[3] or can be the sudden payoff to a long period of suspense.[4]

Some critics have described jump scares as a lazy way to frighten viewers,[5] 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.[6]

In film[edit]

Prior to the 1980s, jump scares were a relatively rare occurrence in horror movies; however, they became increasingly common in the early 80s as the slasher subgenre increased in popularity.[7]

1976's Carrie has one of the first modern jump scares.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

The jump scare from the 1990 film The Exorcist III is considered by horror fans 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.[11]

The 2009 film Drag Me to Hell contains jump scares throughout,[4] with director Sam Raimi saying he wanted to create a horror film with "big shocks that’ll hopefully make audiences jump."[12]

In video games[edit]

Rescue on Fractalus! may be the first video game to use a jump scare. In this first-person fly-through game, the navigator attempts to find and land to pickup other downed pilots. Some of the pilots are aliens in disguise, who would suddenly jump into view, roaring and trying to smash into the cockpit. [13]

Resident Evil is cited as the first modern 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.[citation needed]

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.[14][15]

The 2014 video game franchise Five Nights at Freddy's was described as "perfect for live streaming" in part due to its use of jump scares throughout the game.[16]

The 2015 game Undertale has a jump scare at the end of a genocide run, if the player decides to not delete the world, with the game crashing at the end.

The 2013 game Outlast is a game were jumpscares also occur a lot.

In the 2017 game Doki Doki Literature Club!, if the player attempts to record the talk during Act 3, Monika will notice and fake a jumpscare before doing a real one.

In advertising[edit]

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.[17][18] 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.

Internet screamers[edit]

An Internet screamer, or simply screamer,[19] is a video or game on the Internet that has a sudden change designed to jumpscare the user.[20] 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.[20] 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, Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist pops up with a bloodcurdling scream.

YouTube prohibits screamers in video advertising. A video marketing The Nun was removed in August 2018 for violating the site's "shocking content policy".[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Muir (2013). Horror Films FAQ. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 1-4803-6681-1. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b Bryan Bishop (October 31, 2012). "'Why won't you die?!' The art of the jump scare". The Verge. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  3. ^ Danny Draven (2013). Genre Filmmaking: A Visual Guide to Shots and Style for Genre Films. Taylor & Francis. p. 52. ISBN 1-136-07078-8.
  4. ^ a b John Rosenberg (2013). The Healthy Edit: Creative Techniques for Perfecting Your Movie. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1-136-04073-0. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  5. ^ Lucas Sullivan. "10 horror games that don't rely on jump scares". GamesRadar. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  6. ^ Diaz, Pedro (February 8, 2015). "Why Modern Horror Movies Don't Get it Right More Often". Movie Pilot. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  7. ^ "Do Modern Horror Movies Contain More Jump Scares Than Older Movies? - Where's The Jump?".
  8. ^ "10 Great Jump Scares in Horror! - Bloody Disgusting!". bloody-disgusting.com. 18 October 2012.
  9. ^ David Konow (2012). Reel Terror: The Scary, Bloody, Gory, Hundred-Year History of Classic Horror. Macmillan. p. 354. ISBN 1-250-01359-3. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  10. ^ William Cheng (2014). Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination. Oxford University Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-19-996997-3. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Feeling brave? Viewers have declared this scene from The Exorcist 3 as 'best scare ever'".
  12. ^ Blair, Iain (July 1, 2009). "Director's Chair: Sam Raimi Drag me to Hell". Post Magazine. Archived from the original on August 2, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  13. ^ "David Fox". www.dadgum.com. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  14. ^ McElroy, Griffin (April 29, 2014). "Daylight review: jump scare tactics". Polygon. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Daylight review". EDGE. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  16. ^ Riendeau, Danielle (13 November 2014). "Why Five Nights at Freddy's 2 is a viral success". Polygon. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  17. ^ Louis, Rosie (17 April 2014). "10 Of The Creepiest Commercials to Every Hit the Small Screen". Listverse. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  18. ^ Asis, Adrian. (28 September 2014). "The Scariest Screamers to Prank People This Halloween". TheRichest.com. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  19. ^ Osborne, Doug (17 November 2010). "What you don't want to happen when you computer prank someone". geek.com. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  20. ^ a b Menning, Chris (13 October 2010). "Screamers – The History of the Scary Maze Prank and its Cousins". urlesque.com. Archived from the original on 16 January 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  21. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (2018-08-14). "The Latest Ad For 'The Nun' Is So Scary, YouTube Removed It". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-08-15.