Today's horror movies are littered with cheap ways to scare and manipulate audiences. One of those ways, and the main problems with the mainstream horror genre today, is the jump scare.
Lets breakdown the jump scare. Let's start with the lead up.
- 1. Actors are doing trivial tasks like cleaning up, looking around, or taking something from a medicine cabinet.
- 2. All sounds drain from the movie entirely.
- 3. And last but not least there is a brief pause before the actual "scare" comes for more effect. This is to build off your expectations.
So once all those three elements play out the payoff is a ear shattering noise to wake anyone up who fell asleep. The noise can consist of the actors screaming accompanied by the score of the movie. Usually the jump scare is played off as a false scare. So, if a cat jumps out at someone, or if one of the main actors friends creeps up behind them that's a false scare. But now in mainstream horror, these scares are dominating throughout the movie. From start to finish they are there startling you.
By now, audience members should be able to predict when this is going to occur. It's not all that hard to figure out. And long term horror fans are sick of this. It should be classified that a jump scare isn't a scare at all. It's startling you. You're being jostled by a loud noise, and once that's over you go back to watching a terribly made movie where nothing of interest is happening.
The past few releases all have this cheap gimmick. All the Paranormal Activity films, The Gallows, Ouija, Annabelle, Sinister 2, and the Poltergeist remake. I just recently sat down with a friend and watched Ouija. He told me he really enjoyed it. Watching it I realized that not only was this a bad movie but it's completely uninteresting. The actors deliver their lines like they were fighting back an Ambien. The atmosphere is generic and the same as everything else we've seen in recent horror flicks. Plus the climax of the movie was underwhelming due to repeat jump scares, and tired cliches. After it was over I asked my friend why he liked it, and he couldn't really remember why he just said, "I'm so sorry."
When you keep at the jump scares eventually your audience gets numb to it. The jolt of adrenaline has worn off and all that's left is an unsatisfying movie. If that's all you have to justify your movie being "scary" that's sad.
Horror is more than being startled. More than loud noises. But it's made because it's easily digestible to a mainstream/broad audience who doesn't really care about anything else besides getting "scared." It's lazy filmmaking and an insult to the horror genre. And how can we stop it? Well don't go pay to see them. Or wait until reviews are out to accurately assess the movie. Also, you can support the indie horror movies that get released on VOD or through limited theater runs. Films like It Follows or The BabaDook.
The main thing is to avoid mainstream horror and it's lazy approach to filmmaking, and go watch either an indie title or just watch something from the 70's or 80's. You can't go wrong there.