UK survey tabs The Exorcist as scariest scene Simon Fitzjohn October 30, 2016 Features, Halloween 1986 The scariest horror scenes in cinema history, as voted for by the British public The head spin scene from The Exorcist was voted the scariest scene in cinema history, with 18% of the vote 45% of people admit to switching all the lights on after watching a scary film in an effort to dispel the horror The single quality most fans are looking for in a great horror film is a building sense of suspense With scary season in full swing, hmv.com have surveyed 2,000 people to get the definitive take on the scariest horror film scenes of the past six decades. The survey, conducted by OnePoll, found that the spine-chilling head spin scene from The Exorcist was the most frightening moment in the history of horror. Classics like Psycho, Carrie and The Shining also picked up a substantial share of the votes. The full top 10 are shown below: The scenes that scared people the most % The head spin – The Exorcist (1973) 17.95% The shower scene – Psycho (1960) 16.85% The hand grabbing the arm – Carrie (1976) 15.10% Girl coming out of the TV – The Ring (2002) 14.90% Chest burst scene – Alien (1979) 14.10% Grady Twins in the corridor – The Shining (1980) 12.80% The children being attacked – The Birds (1963) 11.45% Night vision scene – Silence of the Lambs (1991) 10.05% Man cutting off foot – Saw (2004) 9.95% The rocking chair – Woman in Black (2012) 9.10% The 1970s – the decade that brought us strikes, recession and Thatcher – was deemed the scariest decade overall, with horror movie scenes from that period accounting for 27% of all votes across more than 50 different films included in the poll. Titles from the 2000s had the second-highest share of the vote at 18%, closely followed by 1980s horror with 17%. Despite Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho and The Birds making the top 10, the 1960s, famous for its hippy spirit and free love philosophy, emerged as the least creepy decade, with films from that era making up just 11% of all votes. People were asked to describe what makes a great horror film. The top themes included a strong story, a well-crafted soundtrack, and plenty of shocks and surprises along the way. And as one person suggested, perhaps the key to a great horror is simply “Jack Nicholson’s face”. Ian Hunter, Professor of Film Studies at De Montfort University, offered some insight on how the genre has evolved: “Traditionally horror films were either about supernatural and primal fears or monsters that transgress what seem to be natural boundaries (the dead who live, humans who are also animals, and so on). Today, while such films still exist, the most frightening are perhaps about the terrors of everyday life and the worst monsters are versions of ordinary people – psychopaths, serial killers – who threaten our sense of rationality.” Richard Hand, Professor of Media Practice at the University of East Anglia, also offered his thoughts on the inner-workings of great horror cinema: “A masterpiece like Psycho may be (in)famous for its shower scene, but the genius of the film is established long before that scene happens, in the slow tightening of its suspense, gradually unnerving the viewer with a simple but compelling narrative, a genuine ‘composition’ of excellent performances, editing, design and, perhaps most importantly of all, soundtrack. Indeed, it is often the sound of horror that can haunt us most thoroughly, worming its way deep beneath our skin and haunting our nightmares even when we turn away or cover our eyes.” This theme of lingering dread was reflected in the results of the survey. 51% of people said they feel “fearful” after watching a scary film or TV show. For women, the figure was 64%, and for men, it was 36%. To most popular ways to stop feeling scared are: How people stop feeling scared % I switch all the lights on 45.94% I watch a comedy show on telly 41.78% I go to bed 18.71% I read a book 18.61% I watch another film 17.13% The idea of simply going to bed to escape the film-induced fear may seem like an odd strategy to some, but this wasn’t the only surprising response from the 2,000 people polled. 3.4% said they would “go for a walk” (these 68 brave souls seemingly felt exposing themselves to the unknown dangers lurking outside would help calm them down). And 2.8% said they would simply “drink a chamomile tea” – an option that was more popular with men than women overall. 4.75% of people preferred other antidotes, such as “get a cuddle,” “drink some wine,” and “check the wardrobe to make sure nothing’s hiding in there.” One person advocated a more matter-of-fact approach: “tell myself it’s only a film and to grow up.” If you want to know how hardcore a horror fan you really are and perhaps get some inspiration for your Halloween viewing, hmv have created a quiz to test your knowledge of the genre, which you can find here.