Horror movies notoriously make audiences jump. After all, most fans expect at least a few jump scares in the genre. These moments — which, as the term implies, are supposed to give viewers a jolt — can be an effective tool in a filmmaker’s arsenal. But sometimes, this horror trope is a cheap way to try to enliven a film. Here are five of the worst examples of horror movie jump scares.
‘The Amityville Horror’ (1979)
1979’s The Amityville Horror remains a horror classic. It spawned several sequels and a 2006 remake starring Ryan Reynolds. But it’s also one of the best-known examples of an all-too-common jump scare, as the sudden reveal of a cat as a false threat gives fans a short-lived sense of security. Perhaps if the filmmakers had known this would be the beginning of an unfortunate trend, they might have replaced this moment with something more terrifying.
‘Paranormal Activity’ (2007)
Paranormal Activity — like The Blair Witch Project before it — spearheaded the found-footage horror subgenre. The movie spawned an ongoing franchise of sequels and spinoffs. But the central couple’s story still concludes with a cheap jump scare. The fact that multiple versions of the film’s final moments exist further proves the filmmakers were perhaps less than confident about the best way to send viewers out into the night.
In an era where the COVID-19 pandemic exists, the term “quarantine” is perhaps weightier than ever. But this American remake of 2007’s Rec is another example of a found-footage horror film that leans too hard on jump scares. Quarantine’s marketing campaign hinges on the final jump scare, which sees Jennifer Carpenter’s Angela dragged into darkness. The image is in the trailers and even features on the movie’s poster (via IMDb).
Sinister is heralded as one of the scariest horror films. And director Scott Derrickson has since reteamed with star Ethan Hawke for 2022’s The Black Phone. But Sinister’s overall scare factor makes its final moment a letdown. Right before the movie sends viewers into the credits, Bughuul — the boogeyman causing all the trouble — leans directly into the frame. It’s a tactic many films have done over the years, but Sinister didn’t need it.
Sending movies out with a final jump scare is a play many horror movies use. And Unfriended — told nearly entirely through webcams — almost breaks its conceit to do so. Like Quarantine, Unfriended had a marketing campaign that depended on an image from its final moments, as Blaire (Shelley Hennig) screams in terror. As she meets her fate at the hands of a vengeful spirit, the movie arguably goes one step too far in having the same ghost seemingly break the fourth wall.