When asking about the qualities that makes a horror movie truly scary, it can be hard to narrow down the exact reasons. This is because of varying styles among directors, scriptwriters, cinematographers, and the like. You can see these different styles for yourself when you watch movies online via free streaming sites.
In the long existence of horror films, however, one element has truly stood out: the jump scare. The jump scare is the moment wherein the film’s protagonist does something routine (i.e. looking at the mirror), then he/she looks down and a few seconds later, the ghost, killer, or some other ghoul pops out of nowhere.
Creating the “best” jump scare requires several parts, according to renowned English actor and author Michael Caine. First, the protagonist is introduced into a situation where danger is imminent (called “The Pledge”); then comes the “Turn” wherein the character somehow finds a logical explanation for a certain disturbance and forgets about the threat. Lastly, there’s the “Prestige” or the actual scare, often accompanied by brilliantly composed music or an apt sound effect. As legendary director Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There’s no terror in a bang; only in the anticipation of one.”
Varying qualities truly make a horror movie terrifying. It only relies on the proper execution and timing to make different scare tactics work.