10 Iconic Opening Horror Scenes in Film History

10 Iconic Opening Horror Scenes in Film History

It is one of the hardest tasks as a filmmaker to capture the attention and maintain engagement until the credits roll, could be a gruesome killing or a tragic disaster. It’s particularly difficult to achieve this feat in the horror genre, which often walks on a tightrope between being perilous and unnerving to being comical and ridiculous. Many films with an interesting premise or mystery have unfortunately fallen off the tightrope.

It is one of the hardest tasks as a filmmaker to capture the attention and maintain engagement until the credits roll, could be a gruesome killing or a tragic disaster. It’s particularly difficult to achieve this feat in the horror genre, which often walks on a tightrope between being perilous and unnerving to being comical and ridiculous. Many films with an interesting premise or mystery have unfortunately fallen off the tightrope.

‘The Shining‘ (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s seminal classic The Shining is a must-watch for any greenhorn horror fan. Jack Torrance ( Jack Nicholson ) takes a caretaking position looking after the remote and vacant Overlook Hotel for the winter. Cracks start to appear in Jack’s psychological condition due to the crushing isolation that affects his relationship with his family causing a catastrophic chain of events.

The first droning notes of The Shining’s iconic melody that immediately give the viewer a visceral sense of impending doom – are juxtaposed with beautiful tracking shots of picturesque rivers and mountains following the Torrance family car en route to the “Overlook Hotel“. The viewer is uneasy, not knowing what to think or what to expect but is instantly invested in where they were going, knowing where it is – it is going to be hell on Earth. Almost 40 years later, the ominous drive was recreated in the sequel Doctor Sleep showing it still has relevance to this day .

‘Alien’ (1979)
The opening credit scene is a slow panning shot of the sheer expansiveness of dark space. The stars are slowly obscured by a dark ominous planet, while the music score is creepy and disconcerting, with chilling strings haunting our senses. The camera finally settles on the Nostromo, our character’s ship and home – the ship is completely deserted. The sense of dread, loneliness, and fear is palpable; it immediately demands the audience’s attention.

Don’t Look Now , is considered a staple film in the British horror genre for its unrelenting portrayal of grief. John Baxter ( Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter ( Julie Christie) are grief-stricken parents attempting to rebuild their lives in Venice, Italy, after losing their young daughter in a tragic accident.The opening act of Don’t Look Now is truly horrifying and gut-wrenching, slowly building up to their young daughter’s death. Everything seems normal at first, but as you slowly progress through, the sudden jump cuts between the daughter playing near the lake and parents working, you slowly realize something terrible is about to happen. The use of the color red, signifying blood, which John spills on a photograph of a church, and her red jacket also becomes a pivotal plot point. The moment his daughter falls into the lake. The lack of music until the tragic moment John discovers her, then steels the scene with a soul-destroying piece. Finishing off with John’s ear-crushing scream as he’s witnessing every parent’s worse nightmare.

A Clockwork Orange‘ (1971)
A Clockwork Orange , is often touted as being one of the most controversial films of all time due to its graphic and explicit detail of violence and rape. In Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian nightmare, Alex ( Malcolm Mcdowed ) and his “Droogs” enjoy inflicting misery and despair on anyone they unfortunately meet. RELATED: The 20 Best Horror Movie Soundtracks, From ‘Psycho’ to ‘It Follows’ There are so many iconic elements that make the opening scene so unforgettable; audiences are immediately invested in the film. From the incredibly haunting theme that is eerily similar to Beethoven’s funeral march, to the slow panning back of the camera as Alex stares menacingly straight down the camera, breaking the “4th wall” which straight away puts you on edge. However, it is probably Alex’s monologue that is sure to send goosebumps down anyone’s spine: “Sharpen you up for a bit of the old ultra-violence.”

‘Midsommar‘ (2019)
Midsommar is a folk-inspired psychological horror that delves into the toxic aspects of modern-day relationships in an idyllic Scandinavian setting, that of course, hides a dark and disturbing secret. The film opens with a chilling one-note violin string that slowly builds and is layered with other strings that mimic the cadence of a siren.This isn’t a coincidence because it is soon apparent the camera is guiding the viewer through a horrible double murder-suicide. Outside, we see a young man, Christian Huges ( Jack Raynor) hesitate to enter the house to comfort his girlfriend, Dani Ardor ( Florence Pugh ) showing the first inclination that not everything is right. Dani is the only surviving member of her family as her sister killed her parents and herself. Dani’s grief is utterly palpable on screen as she screams, cries, and is completely inconsolable, burying her head in Christians’ lap as he comforts her coldly. There are many mysteries and unanswered questions that are sure to capture any horror fan.

‘Jaws’ (1975)
Stephen Spielberg’s, trailblazing Jaws is often credited to be the first-ever summer blockbuster and has inspired countless films since. Jaws is set in the summer of Amity Island and is beset by a vicious great white shark. Police chief Martin Broadly ( Roy Scheider ) is called upon to capture it and save the town.The Jaws theme is one of the most iconic themes in movie history. John Williams’s simple two-note structure, mimicking a shark stalking its prey, is sure to make anyone scream “Get out of the water” louder and louder as the theme builds. The inevitable is about to happen, the viewer is hooked and can’t look away as the poor girl is dragged underwater. The shark is never actually shown, adding to the fear and anxiety; a truly timeless opening.

‘The Devils (1971)
Ken Russell’s controversial film, The Devils , is about a Roman Catholic priest in 17th Century France who is accused of witchcraft. The Devils gained an infamous reputation for its graphic scenes of violence and sex at its time of release in 1971, so much so, that it had to be edited for many countries. RELATED: The 50 Most Iconic Horror Villains Ranked From the opening frames of The Devils , you instantly are discombobulated. The weird and creepy dance ritual makes it seem like you shouldn’t be watching this. As the play finishes, a priest kisses one of the actors and says “I pray for a new France where the church and state are one.” The actor visibly, shaken and scared, mumbles “amen.” This is where viewers see the first signs of the power hierarchy and are transfixed to see where The Devils will take them next.

’28 Days later’ (2002)
Danny Boyle’s British horror classic, 28 Days Later is even scarier and more disturbing watching it in 2022 due to the subject – a pandemic. 28 Days Later follows Jim ( Cillian Murphy ) who wakes up from a coma and finds England decimated by an epidemic.The opening scenes dive straight in, detailing how the virus was released out into the world and the 28 days it took for society to fall. Jim wakes in the hospital – usually one of the busiest places – only to find it absolutely empty. In his hospital gown, Jim then goes out on the streets of London, again completely deserted. The scene shows Jim looking around completely shell-shocked in the middle of Tower Bridge with Big Ben in the background, with only complete silence for company. It’s something everyone had to live through just a few years ago, making it hit even harder.

Under The Skin’ (2014)
Amidst all the Marvel films, Scarlett Johansson somehow found the time to star in a chilling horror sci-fi independent film. A strange woman spends nights going around the streets of Scotland and adopting young men and adorning their skin. Under The Skin wastes no time in capturing attention. A young mysterious woman takes a lifeless body from the side of the road and begins to undress it, taking the clothes for herself. All this is accompanied by a chilling violin score and absolutely no dialogue. Thus, the darkness and drabness of Scotland at night take center stage, invoking a sense of danger and mystery right from the start.

‘Halloween’ (1978)
John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween stands as a pinnacle standard for the slasher horror genre and helped create a 40-year-old franchise that has just released a fitting conclusion with Halloween Ends (2022). Michael Myers ( Nick Castle ) is a convicted serial killer who’s escaped from prison and starts to terrorize a young student.The opening scene takes place, predictably, on Halloween in 1963. Carpenter’s iconic piano motive and high-pitched synth instantly put you on edge. It’s an innovative one-shot first-person perspective from a young Michael. He meticulously and methodically heads up the stairs with a knife, puts on the iconic white mask, and kills his sister. Witnessing the brutal murder from Michael’s point of was a brilliant move, forcing the audience to be in a position they don’t want to be in. NEXT: 10 Worst Horror Movies of All Time, According to Rotten Tomatoes

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