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The 7 best opening scenes in horror movies

It’s essential for a movie to hook the audience with its opening scene, and this is especially true for horror movies. Such scenes give them a chance to show viewers what kind of foul terror they are about to experience.

Many portray the film’s villain making his first kill in genuinely terrifying, but creative ways. The intro might be the only thing that determines if the audience will stick around for the whole ride, and these seven horror films opened their stories on a shockingly high note.

Evil Dead Rise (2023)

Jessica floating over a lake in "Evil Dead Rise."
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.

Opening on a traditional cabin in the woods, audiences see Teresa check on her cousin, Jessica, who seems to have fallen ill. However, things get creepy when Jessica recites the words of Teresa’s book despite not looking at it. Jessica then grabs her cousin’s hair, ripping it clean off her scalp, before doing the same to her boyfriend’s head.

As she floats up from beneath the waters of the lake, the film’s title rises from the trees behind her, making for arguably the greatest intro ever seen in the Evil Dead franchise. And with the opening POV shot through the woods surprising die-hard fans, this intro is a perfect example of a reboot honoring its predecessor while subverting expectations and creating something new.

Get Out (2017)

Get Out Andre Abduction First Scene (2018)

Presented as one continuous shot, this modern masterpiece opens with Andre Hayworth navigating a suburban neighborhood, which makes him uncomfortable as a Black man. He then finds himself tailed by a white car and tries to ignore it and walk away. Unfortunately, he gets jumped by the driver, a man wearing a knight’s helmet, who traps him in a chokehold until he passes out and puts him in his trunk.

Get Out starts off strong by creating terror in a regular, suburban setting. Also, the shocking sight of Andre’s kidnapping contrasts nicely with the song Run, Rabbit, Run as it plays from the car’s speakers, establishing the dark but comedic tone of the film.

Scream (1996)

SCREAM "Opening Scene" Clip (1996) Wes Craven

Wes Craven’s meta-horror classic Scream begins with Drew Barrymore’s Casey getting a phone call from a stranger. Though it seems like this mystery man called the wrong number, he and Casey end up talking about their favorite scary movies. But the scene turns scary when she learns her caller is watching her and has kidnapped her boyfriend.

In the world’s deadliest game of Jeopardy ever, the caller forces Casey to answer a series of questions, only for her to fail and watch her beau get slaughtered and the killer break into her home. Though she tries to escape, she gets the sharp end of his knife just as her parents return home, where they find Casey hung from a tree in an unforgettable intro to Ghostface’s rampage.

The Shining (1980)

A wide shot of the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining."
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick’s horror opus begins with the camera gliding over a crystalline lake and high above the ground, following a single car as it winds its way up the Colorado mountains.

With the bird’s-eye view of the car and the creepy music playing in the background, audiences can’t help but feel like they’re seeing through the eyes of a soaring spirit waiting for Jack Torrance to arrive at the Overlook Hotel, where countless undead terrors await him and his family.

Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975) - Chrissie's Last Swim Scene (1/10) | Movieclips

Steven Spielberg‘s terrifying blockbuster begins with the death of Chrissie Watkins. The film first depicts her at a beachside party as she meets a boy and decides to go skinny-dipping with him. However, as Chrissie enjoys herself out in the water, audiences see through the eyes of a killer shark as it swims up and attacks her, with John Williams’ iconic music intensifying the terror.

Though Chrissie screams out for help, the shark ultimately drags her down to her watery doom, juxtaposed to perfection with the calming sound of the waves back on the beach.

Halloween (1978)

A young Michael Myers holding a knife in "Halloween" (1978).
Compass International Pictures / Compass International Pictures

Also displayed in a long take, John Carpenter’s classic begins by following a mysterious killer as he stalks Judith Myers on Halloween night in 1963. Donning a clown mask and grabbing a kitchen knife, the unknown intruder makes their way upstairs and repeatedly stabs Judith to death.

But once the killer leaves the house, Judith’s parents arrive and unmask the perpetrator, revealed to be Judith’s six-year-old brother, Michael. The shocking twist, combined with Carpenter’s chilling score, establishes the evil that the future Haddonfield Boogeyman has unleashed.

It (2017)

It Opening Scene (2017) | Movieclips Trailers

This Stephen King classic begins with Georgie as he plays out in the rain with the paper boat his brother Bill made for him. Unfortunately for him, the boat sails its way into a storm drain, where he comes face-to-face with Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Though Georgie is understandably wary of this stranger from the sewers, Pennywise offers to give Georgie his boat back.

But when Georgie reaches for it, the clown bares a monstrous set of fangs and bites the boy’s arm clean off his body. It’s a gruesome and heartbreaking scene as Georgie tries to crawl away, only to get pulled into the sewers as he screams Bill’s name. If audiences weren’t already afraid of clowns, this scene will surely do the trick.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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