Top 10 Horror Movie Openings
Scream opens with a sequence that kick-starts the story but works as a terrifying short film disconnected from the remainder of the movie. It’s a perfect demonstration of escalating tension, and immediately turns ‘Ghostface’ into an all-time classic character in film horror. Including Drew Barrymore, arguably the biggest name attached to the the marketing for the film, and killing her off before she interacts with any other cast member shook the audience into paying attention.
CABIN IN THE WOODS
We can’t mention the opening to Cabin in the Woods without acknowledging the title card drop being lifted directly from Funny Games. What makes this opening work is which cards are put on the table and which are held back. Sold entirely by Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins and Amy Acker and how well they conjure up a somewhat obnoxious office culture with the insane purpose of the operation being kept behind the curtain for the time being. Knowing that something is wrong, but not know what, sets the right mood for this meta gem.
In a very intentional subversion of expectation, we open with a one black man walking through a suburb at night. Jordan Peele deftly plays on our expectations, having already seen a number of news stories beginning this way and ending in a wrongful death. This is a heightened and all the more sinister telling of events, as the one long shot brings in a slow moving car following Andre, followed by the reveal that someone has gotten out of the car. It’s disorientating, confusing and the perfect start to this movie.
It’s difficult to convey how unsettling this jaunt into the Giallo sub-genre of horror. The surreal atmosphere is a combination of the language barrier faced by our initial point of view character, the dark visions light by patches of neon, the synth-minstrel music by composer Goblin. Just when you’re settling into the off-kilter film, you get a girl thrown through the stained-glass skylight with a telephone cord around her next.
FINAL DESTINATION 2
It quickly became clear that the Final Destination film series is going to start with an explosive and horrifying accident that results in the nightmarish death of our upcoming cast members. The best ones will produce images that will stay will you for years to come, and this is most accurate in regards to the second effort. A highway pile up is all too real for a silly movie series like this, and the sight of a bouncy log carving through a patrol car or the soda bottle getting trapped under the brake pedal are intense to say the least.
Straight away, this slow building sequence makes the most of the movie’s two biggest strengths: the setting and the mystery surrounding their alien interloper. We open on a wide, frozen landscape as a husky dog sprints whilst being chased by a helicopter containing a sniper. It’s not clear why they scared if this dog and are desperate to kill it, but the situation ends at a US base where they’re left to unravel this curious serious of events.
DAWN OF THE DEAD
Just to annoy people, we’re going with the Zack Snyder remake for this one. Much more like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, we spend about ten minutes getting to know one of our main cast before the zombie horde is fully revealed. Once revealed we get an absolute cracker of an title sequence made up of stop-motion animated blood and Johnny Cash while the world falls apart.
There’s a fair number of teasers that could be making the list, but aside from Scream this is the one that managed to make the list. In another example of a tease that leaves us scratching our heads, we see a young woman in a partially undressed state running onto her suburban street, dismissing concerns from her neighbours, darting around before heading to her car and speeding off. When we next see her, she’s leaving a message of farewell for her parents from a deserted beach before he cut ahead to her fate. The twisted and broken body left behind looks more than a little disturbing, and we’re left wondering what had her so scared before killing her in such a frightening manner. Finding out didn’t make us feel any better.
28 WEEKS LATER
It would be hard to pick this sequel opener over the original film’s creepy shots of a deserted London while a confused Cillian Murphy tries to piece together what happened while he was in a coma. It would be, if that was the opening scene, but it only takes place after some hippies cause a potential extinction level event. Instead we’re going elsewhere in the UK during the outbreak to see one tiny, awful, heartbreaking moment between a married couple. She puts herself at risk to save a child, but he saves his own skin and is left with her screaming in betrayal and horror as he makes his getaway. It’s grim.
Whenever you look up a list of the best opening scenes in horror movies you’re either going to find this one or Halloween. They’re both well paced, build up a great sense of dread and feature first person stalking. What makes this one more memorable is the setting, the dark and impenetrable ocean hits a bit more close to home and the feeling of isolation makes it all the scarier.