Despite being essentially ghettoized by film critics and the mainstream film press, horror movies (the good ones, at least) are some of the most inventive, captivating pieces of pure cinema that exist. It may seem like a crew can toss of a horror movie in a weekend, but truly scaring an audience isn’t easy, and the tricks horror movies use to scare you are a combination of technological know-how and an understanding of human psychology and physiology. Classic horror movie devices like the jump scare may seem old hat, but that’s because these techniques work time and time again to send a shiver through the audience. Whether you’re a master of horror, or you’d just like to know how you’re manipulated by your favorite directors, this list will help you discover truly terrifying horror movie tricks.
Of the techniques horror movies use to scare you, a few work every time they’re used. Others require other elements to be firing in tandem, such as the script and performances. Thing is, everyone has buttons that are pushed by a horror film; even if you don’t react when something crab-walks across a room, you might get anxious when you see a mirror in a shot. Horror films utilize as many of these techniques as possible to manipulate you into a puddle of fear. Most of these techniques are so pervasive, it’s rare you would see a horror movie that doesn’t use them.