Didn’t really scare you, did I? Of course not. Text can’t really give you a good ol’ startle. It doesn’t make you jump from your britches and let out a yell of surprise, huh?
I guess the word I’m looking for is "jump-scare," the concept of a brief moment that induces an individual to, well, jump due to being scared. If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you are probably aware of that term: jump-scare.
It is a form of inducing fear into someone, indeed, but is it all that great? Is it a respected tactic in horror? Well, let’s discuss it. For a very, very long time, humans have enjoyed movies, shows, books, comics, and simple campfire tales that give us goosebumps (I mean, there is a literal book series called Goosebumps). Fear is a natural response to something that threatens our bodies, our safety, our system of order—yet, we purposely put ourselves into these situations to get a kick out of it.
What I think most of us enjoy in horror is the element of surprise. Not knowing what exactly we are getting ourselves into, but still having the aura of safety, knowing it isn’t actually harming us. You go into a haunted house knowing, the performers will not touch you, don’t worry. You rent a DVD from the local RedBox, pop it into your player, and the most dangerous thing is there being a scratch (cringe) on the disk preventing you from watching it.
Most people do not think twice about the methods behind what they ask to scare them. Go into a movie theatre to watch a film after seeing the trailer on MTV, no biggie: It’s obviously a scary film.
But, like any form of entertainment, there are specific methods behind what makes something enjoyable or not.
I get on here today to bring up the long-discussed topic: Are jump-scares a fair choice for the horror genre?
I mentioned earlier that, if you’ve been on the internet, you know what a jump-scare is. More than likely, you heard the term come from popular YouTube influencers who play scary video games and post their reactions to the website. PewdiePie, Markiplier, UberHaxorNova—the typical users you can watch play games like Amnesia, Limbo; if it’s scary, you name it.
No one truly complained until the rise of awareness of mental illnesses became more modern. Those with anxiety or paranoia started speaking up and asking, “Hey, could you tell me the times in the video in which something pops up or is loud?” They are nervous a jump-scare will induce anxiety or, worse, a panic attack.
Those comments are usually replied with timestamps where the jump-scares take place and people agreeing and also asking for the times—or people getting angry and saying, “Why watch a video about a scary game? Don’t be coward; don’t spoil it for others; get off of here.” Of course, the people wanting to avoid getting scared don’t want to get into the whole “well I have anxiety and the loud noises scare me, but I still want to enjoy the video” speech. I understand since I too have some complications.
I’ve had some panic attacks in my day, one of them being when I was very young and—guess what—got startled due to a graphic image and loud scream from a video game that I was told wasn’t scary. It actually induced a long-running fear of mirrors for a few years after that, sadly.
So, you might think I’m against any and all jump-scared or things like it, right?
Well... kind of?
You see, I absolutely adore the horror genre. There are a multitude of sub-genres like thriller, psychological, gore, and so on that I am obsessed with discovering new titles under. You can find me trying to dig in the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble for comics with intense storylines I have not already devoured. Those YouTubers I mentioned earlier, they are a daily watch for me—and I make it a mission to play the same scary games because the tales, myths, and backstories for them intrigue me so.
I can respect a good jump-scare. When it’s unexpected, when executed correctly, when it’s not repeated over and over—I can get with it. Sure, I might need to take an anxiety pill later, but I signed up for it by entering the land that is Horror!
On the other side of things, I also respect why people hate, hate, hate them. I said earlier I developed a phobia because of a scare in a video game (it tied in with my developing anxiety, too, though). Sometimes it seems the tactic is useless. It’s repetitive and unnecessary. Seems like it is used only for the reason of causing the viewer to get startled—even if the content is not actually meant to be truly scary.
I wanted to write this because it’s a whole debate that some people will never truly hear both sides of. Hopefully, through this, I can get everyone to understand why "Side 1" likes the jump-scare tactics, and "Side 2" has to avoid them like the plague. Judging each other for our opinions on the matter is just silly—it’s a genre, not a political issue.
So, what about you?
Are you a horror fan?
Do you mind the jump-scares? Or, do you have to avoid them?
Have you ever participated in a conversation about the topic?
What’s your personal favorite horror concept? Mine is definitely psychological horror video games, ones that don’t rely on visual or audible scaring methods but instead use the storyline and small details to really freak you out.