What makes a scary movie scary

Sarah York

Scary movies seem to be coming out in theaters more frequently. From movies like “Sinister” to “Mama”, more recently released movies, the range of possibilities for a horrifying night out are endless. However, what truly makes a scary movie scary? Is it that face that keeps popping out every five seconds, or is it the psychological thought that someone could be hunting an innocent person in the woods?

Faces jumping out at the screen may seem scary at the time, but the scare factor only lasts for a while after the effect. They do it to keep any willing viewer entertained and scared continuously throughout the movie. If a movie has to rely on causing people to jump to keep them entertained, then it’s not exactly a scary movie, just a startling one.

Movies like “Friday the 13th“and “Sinister” involve a psycho-killer watching the victim’s every move. If at first the victim may not know it, they eventually find out later once people start dying. “The Ring” also has a killer who ends up picking the victims after they watch a certain tape. The thing that all these movies have in common is that they let the viewer wonder if something could be chasing them, possibly even be right behind them. Even though it is highly impossible to have a fictional character go from behind the screen into the home, the thought is always in the back of the mind.

Maybe that’s what makes a movie scary. If there’s an idea that someone out there who’s so horrifying that could be tracking their next victim, it never goes away and makes a viewer terrified long after the movie is over. However, shows like “NCIS” and “Law in Order” involve similar mass killers and aren’t considered scary TV shows.

Perhaps the reason these shows aren’t considered scary is because there’s no other worldly phenomenon involved like ghosts or people invading dreams. The psychological thought that someone chasing you may not be enough to have something be scary, even though it does add a lot to the horror value. Maybe a truly scary movie involves a good mix between the supernatural and murders to allow a viewer to really enjoy the plot and watch it again and again. Perhaps the director could add a scary face to jump out every now and then to keep viewers tuned in. Even though there is no true definition for what makes a scary movie scary, it is always up to the viewer to define horror for themselves.

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Sarah York

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