Arts, Culture & Media

Are jump scares a hack cliché?

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Janet Leigh's scream during the famous shower scene in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film 'Psycho'.

Credit:

David Gray / Reuters

If you recently watched a horror movie, you’ve probably encountered a jump scare.

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That’s when a movie startles the audience with the unexpected: The maniac jumping down from the tree! The zombie appearing in the bathroom mirror! All accompanied, of course, by loud noise.

Is it a cheap technique or can it be used effectively? Video essayist Jack Nugent and Slashfilm contributor Alex Riviello retrace the origin of the modern jump scare to a single scene in a 1942 movie.

Sociologist Margee Kerr, author of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear,” reveals how the brain reacts to scary movies — and why “It” could trigger a dose of chemicals that’s a lot like THC.