10 Horror Movie Background Scares That Will Scar You For Life

It's behind you! Oh, god, it's behind you...

Ouija Origin Of Evil
Universal Pictures

Though critics have historically turned their noses up at horror films, the genre has come on leaps and bounds the past few decades, transitioning into the mainstream and securing larger budgets, hipster followings and critical acclaim. But, all along, there has been a subtle art to the craft, and many surprises to unearth – not least of all the background scare.

The antithesis of the jump scare, the background scare is the mark of a horror director who's in it for the long haul. Rather than throwing itself at the screen, forcing you to react, the background scare lingers, waiting for you to cotton on and do the scaring all by yourself, tears in your eyes, chills up your spine.

From the demonic apparitions of The Exorcist, right through to Hereditary's gravity-defying matriarch, the background of a shot can often be as important as anything going on in the front. This dedication to dramatic irony has made us unwitting participants in spooks, scares and screamers that the protagonists themselves are often unaware of, and which have left ineradicable marks on our psyches.

Have your caffeine pills at the ready, keep your phone in your pocket and clear a space behind the sofa; these 10 background scares will scare you for days and scar you for life.

10. The Coat Boy - Insidious

Ouija Origin Of Evil

Back in 2010, Insidious spawned a sizeable franchise that's still going today, and formed one of the pillars of modern blockbuster horror cinema, alongside The Conjuring and The Purge.

In the film, parents Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) summon a psychic and paranormal investigators to take back their new home from malevolent forces and rescue their supernaturally comatose son Dalton (Ty Simpkins).

While there are plenty of scares in the film's hundred minutes of runtime, including more cheap and cheerful jump-scares than you can wave a monkey's paw at, there are a couple that director James Wan (known also for Saw and The Conjuring) slipped in under the radar.

In one scene when Renai is unpacking by herself, she comes face to face with the old-timey spirit of a young boy, who dances and runs through the house to "Tiptoe Through The Tulips". What you might not have noticed on first viewing, however, is the ghost boy standing by the coat rack with his face to the kitchen wall, before Renai has ever laid eyes on him.

Makes you wonder what else you might have missed...


Slayer of gnomes and trolls. Pedants beware.