At least a half-hour passes in Psycho before Marion Crane takes that fateful shower. Even more running time elapses before John Hurt gets some very nasty chest pains in Alien. And the best fright flick of the new millennium is half over before anything remotely frightening occurs. Plenty of great horror movies, in other words, take their time getting to the good stuff. But there’s still something exciting about a scary movie that’s scary from the very start—one that opens with a big shock, sets a perfect tone immediately, or begins ratcheting up the suspense from the first frames. When it comes to the spooky stuff, sometimes it’s good to get right down to hair-raising business.
With Halloween right around the corner, and Horrors Weeks in full swing, The A.V. Club is counting down the scariest, creepiest, and most nerve-shredding opening scenes in horror-movie history. The films range in release date from 1960 to next year, when a festival favorite of ours will finally hit theaters. (Because beginning with a bang is a fairly modern tradition, we couldn’t find anything particularly applicable from cinema’s first half-century—though we wracked our brains, honest!) The scenes themselves range in length, from about a minute to a good 15 or 20, with the only criteria being that they must constitute the first scene or passage, excepting a credits sequence. The films range in quality as well, because even a terrible horror movie can start exceptionally strong. Steel your nerves and secure your popcorn, because these are The A.V Club’s 25 scariest opening scenes in horror-movie history.