How to do a Jump Scare

Quick but true thing I’ve noticed in visual media: The best way to give audiences a jolt while making it feel totally earned is to build up to a moment so that it’s pretty clear something is coming, and then matter-of-factly introduce a thoroughly disturbing site. Everyone will think the grotesque imagery was the reason for the build-up; they’ll relax while simultaneously dealing with the onscreen horrors. That’s when you hit them with a horrific bit of kinetic fury that’s tied directly into whatever was just revealed. As an example, here’s a clip from David Fincher’s phenomenal Se7en:

That’s just a perfectly set-up scene that’s more or less guaranteed to startle the hell out of anyone watching, and best of all it manages to do so intelligently. Here’s one more brilliant use of the method from season 2 of Breaking Bad:

I sort of feel like I’ve stumbled onto this little exploit for how our brains react to things we’re shown. Fun stuff, yeah?

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