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10 Scariest Opening Horror Movie Scenes Ever

 

The first five minutes of a movie are everything. Whilst you don’t want to set a precedent the film can’t then live up to, the opening sequence is what is going to get your audiences to stick around, and in the case of horror movies: the bigger, the badder, the gorier – the better.

We want to know exactly what we’re getting ourselves in for when it comes to the spooky central arc of the story, with filmmakers consistently delivering sample-sized scares to get a taste of the action coming up. More often than not, horror movie openings act as their own mini-narratives, delivering a separate precursory story to explain what our protagonists are coming up against without giving the game away entirely.

It takes time to build up intensity for monsters and to get us to care about the characters – so might as well bin some unknown off in the opening to sate the bloodlust for a while. We’re a sick bunch.

For some truly bite-sized terror, there’s nothing better than a eye-popping (sometimes quite literally) opening to get you going before you’re knee deep into the good stuff: so you better bring your wellies along for the ride…

 

10. Trick ‘r Treat

Warner Premiere

Following Halloween tradition and the unfortunate fate of those that decide to go against it, Trick ‘r Treat is a film featuring four intertwining tales of horror unfolding in a neighbourhood: linked by one strange, burlap-sack wearing little creature with a penchant for gory murder. Aww, what a sweetheart.

Before we get stuck into such menial stuff as school bus massacres and sex parties however, we’re introduced to the black comedy in dramatic fashion, starting with two Halloween revellers returning to their heavily decorated home.

Frustrated and wanting to finish up cleaning to make the job easier for the morning, Emma decides to start taking down the spooky ghost sheet props there and then – but punishment always comes for those that break Halloween rules. As it turns out, taking decorations down before midnight is one them.

This is useful information to know, considering she gets her throat slashed by a broken lollipop after an attack by an unseen force, then hung up on her own ghostly prop frame. It seems a bit of a lose-lose situation when it’s the choice between a raging house fire caused by unattended jack-o-lantern or bloody crucifixion via candy death, but hey.

 

9. Ghost Ship

Whilst not necessarily worth it after the opening scene, Ghost Ship will at least give you a good ride for the first five minutes, functioning as a campy introduction to a mediocre movie. If you’re squeamish, this maybe isn’t the one for you.

Ghost Ship opens to a sultry Italian song performed to a ship of cruise passengers, idly dancing away and generally having a lovely old time. With pink cursive credits gracing the screen and a young girl dancing with the ship’s captain in a mushy display of family friendliness, it isn’t long until the film decides to f*ck that, and slices everyone in half with a rogue metal wire set loose by a mysterious saboteur.

It comes quite out of nowhere, with even the passengers themselves taking a moment to be shocked before their torsos slither apart and they spend their dying breaths clutching their separated body parts. It’s scary in the same way as Final Destination, utilising freak accidents to make something that is fine to laugh at until you realise that it could, in a very unlikely, but still plausible scenario, actually happen. Then you just laugh so you don’t cry instead.

 

 

 

8. Scream

Miramax

Probably one of the most infamous horror openings of all time, Scream is the ultimate show of selling a character’s star power short within the first ten minutes, knocking Drew Barrymore off before 15 minutes of the movie has even played out – and that’s to say nothing of her poor boyfriend.

Acting as a spoof movie that blew the tired slasher genre wide open again in 1996, the opening remains one of the most ingenious of all time. A man rings up a lonesome Barrymore whilst she prepares for a night in watching a ‘scary movie’, and she’s soon forced to live out her own when the mysterious caller subjects her to a surprise test with dire consequences. I mean, it’s one way to make Trivial Pursuit interesting, at least.

With a surprising amount of bloodshed and questions that will have you screaming at the screen, the opening scene is one that has branded itself as one of the best in the horror hall of fame. You won’t want to answer the phone without caller ID for a good long while, at least.

 

7. It Follows

Disasterpeace

Built on the concept of creeping dread in more ways that one, It Follows is a cult favourite of the genre for all the right reasons; its slow-burning, intense, inescapable narrative spearheading the trend for spooky smart movies like we’ve never seen before.

The film itself is one that follows a terrifying, invisible entity that stalks those like an STD, attaching itself to a host that it relentlessly walks after when they have sex with an infected person, and moving onto the next when they boink someone new. In the opening, we see the terrifying effect of being a part of the string of sexy targets, in which a young girl flees an unseen pursuer and says goodbye to her family, before turning up crumbled like a ryvita biscuit on the beach.

It’s a gripping opening and one that’s terrifying for the unknown quantity of the attacker – but becomes all the more deeply upsetting when you’ve seen the film and rewatch. The stark rationalisation, death of hope, and grisly end become all too real by the end of it all.

 

 

6. 28 Weeks Later

20th Century Fox

Any zombie movie worth its salt will have an opening packed full of gnashing, bloodied, undead bad boys – from Dawn of the Dead to Zombieland, and 28 Weeks Later is no different. Coming as the sequel to Danny Boyle’s genre-sparking 28 Days Later, Weeks had something to prove very quickly if it was going to live up to the heady heights of its predecessor.

Going in on claustrophobic, instantaneous nightmare fuel when a horde of undead nasties breaks into the home of a group of survivors, it isn’t long until almost everyone is effectively wiped out in the space of ten minutes: setting the scene for Robert Carlye’s cowardly escape and subsequent attempt at redemption throughout the rest of the movie.

Seeing the terror on the inhabitants faces paralleled with the uncomfortably well-designed harbingers of the rage virus makes for an incredible opening, all the more so for establishing such a tight-knit group of friends, complete with sweet old woman, prior to the attack. No one wants to see old granny smith take a bite of those apples.

 

 

5. It

Warner Bros.

It’s almost hard to decide which iteration of It is more effective, as whilst the 1990 mini series has definitely not aged well – looking at you, giant deadly spider showdown – Tim Curry remains one of the most intense character creators on screen. His version of Pennywise is something that has haunted poor, unsuspecting adults and children for generations, but it’s Bill Skarsgard’s fanged maw that wins it by the skin of his teeth.

Drawing down an unsuspecting child into his sewer lair after a paper boat falls into the drain, Pennywise the clown takes his time to convince young Georgie that he isn’t a threat, and has simply been blown into the sewer along with the circus. Reaching in to collect his lost boat, Pennywise tears off the poor thing’s arm without a second thought, resulting in some special effects work that will have you keeping your hands to yourself for the forseeable future.

It’s a brilliant set up for a continuously horrifying movie – but don’t worry, just don’t go making friends with sewer dwelling demons and you should be okay. Maybe move somewhere it never rains for good measure.

 

 

4. Suspiria

Fox

Suspiria’s opening scene is undeniably effective from its synth-heavy soundtrack, as jangling, uncomfortable music interwoven with eerie whispers dominates the frames from the outset and throughout.

Telling the story of a prestigious dance academy with a dark secret student Suzy slowly uncovers, Dario Argento’s influential horror masterpiece isn’t to be messed with – and it makes it clear right from the opening sequences.

After being locked out of the building she’s supposed to stay in after arriving late at night, Suzy sees student Pat burst out and run away as quickly as possible. Fleeing an unknown terror, she makes it to a friend’s apartment – though it isn’t much help. Pat ends up launched through a sunroof after getting stabbed repeatedly in her still-beating heart, and the falling glass from the ceiling all but slices her pal’s face off. Leaving something to the imagination then, this one.

Don’t let the bright red paint blood fool you – this film is the grandaddy of modern horror, and all but inspired the earlier Scream entry at the very least, if you correlate the visuals.

3. A Quiet Place

Paramount

What better way to introduce an almost entirely silent film than with some… well, silence? Very clearly setting the tone through a raid in an abandoned shop for medicine, a family executes their movements with painstaking precision, letting us know that the ‘who can stay quiet the longest game’ is actually a serious endeavour and not something dire to entertain their children. Car trips, bus rides, apocalyptic nightmare alien invasions – it’s all the same really.

Of course, the one time a toy comes with batteries included leads to the break-neck speed death of the youngest child, executed with terrifying speed and visuals that will make your stomach turn. What started as a movie that you’d assume to build slowly and carefully suddenly comes crashing in with all guns blazing, and the quietness you sit through afterwards becomes an exercise in self preservation as much as dramatic tension.

Honestly, it’s just a bloody scary opening, and one that keeps you on your toes for the entirety of the feature.

 

 

2. The Stepfather

Shout Factory

Bringing an eerie calmness to mass destruction and death, The Stepfather’s opening is one that will send shivers down your spine – building up as Terry O’Quinn goes about his daily routine with a remarkable ease considering what’s waiting for him downstairs.

After seeing his face covered in blood, we watch as he changes and takes a shower, altering his appearance in the process by cutting his beard and hair. Dressing smartly and cleaning up the corridors as he travels around the house, it isn’t until he descends the stairs that we truly see the extent of the man’s actions: a room littered with the remains of his family and a home destroyed in the struggle.

The Stepfather’s narrative then goes on to reveal a man that repeatedly makes a whole new identity for himself, remarries, settles into a family, and then brutally murders them; leaving it up to one particularly spunky stepdaughter to spot the man’s violent tendencies before it’s too late. Brings a whole new meaning to family man, really.

 

 

1. Jaws

Universal

The granddaddy of shark films, the big guy of horror movies, the cool dude of Steven Spielberg’s long and wonderful filmography, and now titled the bad boy of scary openings: Jaws is still the ridiculously high-set bar for movies to aspire to. And apparently, the gold medalist of badly titled but appropriate accolades. It’s just a damn good movie.

Opening to some carefree youths swimming on a beach at night, the water isn’t safe for dear skinny dipping Chrissie – which to be honest she should know since the naked ladies are always first to go in these films.

Expertly switching between unknowing prey and lurking predator, the camera tells us that something is coming, but not exactly what, creating a masterclass in tension until the very first bite. After that, Chrissie’s all too real reaction as she’s sloshed around the surface before blipping into non-existence is something that will stay with you long after watching.

No thank you, I shall now live out my life in a high rise apartment building as far away as possible from the sea.

 

 

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