What Makes a Horror Movie Scary?

Horror movies have been a popular genre for decades. From classic films like Psycho and The Exorcist to modern-day hits like A Quiet Place and Hereditary, audiences continue to be drawn to the thrill of being scared.

But what exactly makes a horror movie scary? Let’s take a closer look.

The Unknown

One of the biggest factors that makes horror movies frightening is the unknown. Fear of the unknown is a primal instinct that dates back to our earliest ancestors who had to constantly be on high alert for danger. In horror movies, this fear is often amplified through the use of suspenseful music, dark lighting, and mysterious characters or creatures that are not fully revealed until later in the film.

Jump Scares

Jump scares are another popular technique used in horror movies to elicit fear from audiences. These sudden moments of terror are designed to catch viewers off guard and create a sense of unease. They can come in many forms, such as a loud noise, a sudden movement, or an unexpected appearance by a scary character.


Horror movies often play on our vulnerabilities and fears as humans. We all have things that we are afraid of, whether it’s spiders, clowns, or ghosts.

When these fears are brought to life on screen, it can be extremely unsettling. Additionally, horror movies often feature characters who are vulnerable or powerless against the threats they face, making audiences feel even more helpless and scared.


Tension is another key element that makes horror movies scary. As mentioned before, suspenseful music and lighting can help build tension throughout the film.

Additionally, pacing and editing play important roles in creating tension. Horror films often include long periods of quiet anticipation followed by sudden bursts of action or terror.


While not present in all horror movies, gore can be a factor in making a film scary. When done well, graphic violence or disturbing images can create a visceral response in viewers that elicits fear and disgust.


In conclusion, there are many factors that contribute to what makes a horror movie scary. From the fear of the unknown to jump scares, vulnerability, tension, and gore, filmmakers use a variety of techniques to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Whether you’re a horror movie aficionado or simply looking for a good scare, understanding these elements can help enhance your viewing experience.