Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Horror Movie Annoyances: Jump Scares

I wish I could pinpoint a specific time when jump scares became the prevalent source of fear in horror movies, but my mind is overwhelmed with various information and tidbits that I can't think. Sure, jump scares have been around for decades, otherwise we wouldn't have my favorite cliche: the bathroom mirror. The bathroom mirror jump scare is when, usually, the main character goes into the bathroom for whatever reason, opens their medicine cabinet, and closes it, revealing someone is behind them or inside the mirror that's either a friend of foe. This cliche has been modified in some instances such as building suspense for the cliche and nothing happens until the character moves elsewhere for the scare, the rule of threes where the character experiences the same action 3 times and nothing happens until the third time, or nothing happens at all.

While I don't dislike jump scares as a whole, my annoyance with them is how movies have relied on them for majority, if not all, of their scary parts. Because of this, they lose their initial effect on the viewer and simply become that annoying person who jumps out from around the corner and yells "Boo" to get a cheap thrill.

Aside from cutting down the usage, jump scares lack build up to be legitimately scary. Like I said, they're just irritating. Good build up requires a certain tone and atmosphere. It also helps if the viewer and characters have a close relationship to experience the tension together and it does not have to rely on a musical sting to make it scary. A simple scene of a character wandering in the dark with a tiny source of light for a long moment ends up being scared by the antagonist is usually an effective jump scare. Running away from a cult into an amusement park and looking at a bloody bunny mascot that eventually moves, then suddenly have the character waking up to realize it's a nightmare and the scene fades to black then opens to a PopTart coming out of a toaster is an annoying jump scare.

Good sources for effective ways to build proper suspense is to check out The Strangers and Sinister. Movies like Silent Hill: Revelation, which is described above, and Jeepers Creepers 2 are littered with ineffective jump scares.

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