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  • A.C. Bauer

Growing Up With Horror #1: A Brief Ode to Jump Scares

I’ve always been a bit of a scaredy cat.

Well, maybe that’s not quite the right word. Maybe I’m just a little jumpy.

Oh, who am I kidding? I spook really easily. I mean really, really easily. I can’t tell you how many times a friend, roommate, or coworker has nearly sent me through the roof with an unexpected “hey” or with their sudden appearance.

These moments always send my heart racing and leave me struggling to recover from embarrassment. But it usually puts a smile on the other person’s face. Honestly, after the heart palpitations fade away, these encounters usually put one on my face too. A sheepish smile, but a smile nonetheless. I guess at the heart of it, I kind of like being scared like that. I’m not afraid to admit it: I’m a fan of jump scares.

Some of my favorite moments in horror happen to be jump scares.

I remember watching It (2017) in my apartment with some friends years ago. We weren’t watching it on a big TV or anything, just a cheap $100 TV I’ve had since college. But man, let me tell you, when we got to the scene below where Pennywise jumped out of that projector screen, he might as well have been jumping out of my TV too. I lost it. I went flying off the couch, convinced Pennywise was going to get me in that very moment. It was only the laughter of my friends that brought me back down from the ceiling.

Another terrifying moment for me was in the movie It Follows. If you’ve seen the movie, you probably already know what scene I’m talking about. When the Tall Man suddenly comes through the doorway… yeah, that’s a scene I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

I also remember playing the videogame Singularity (which I highly recommend if you haven’t heard of it). I was moving through a flooded hallway, about ready to turn a corner, when I saw a body floating in the water. Then suddenly, as I was passing the body, there was this dramatic swell of music. No doubt it was supposed to be timed when I first saw the body, but it still spooked me. I jumped, and then laughed to myself. The game “got” me, and I loved it even more for that little bit of fun it threw my way.

These scenes are seared into my memory, almost like GIFs. They will always live (rent-free) in my mind as testament to the tremendous power of horror to get reactions out of the audience. And honestly, I’m all for them. I know jump scares can be kind of cheap, but when they're done right and well (and preferably sparingly as to not stop my heart from beating), they’re just one more reason to love the horror genre.

How about you? Do you like jump scares? Let me know in the comments below!

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