Horror filmmakers have a collection of tricks and tools at their disposal to make their film as effectively chilling as possible. Execution is everything when it comes to making a scene scary, so it’s imperative that they hone their craft. While sound design is crucial in heightening the atmosphere and keeping audiences on edge, editing is just as, if not more, important for filmmakers to master.
Editing isn’t just how we make sense of the images on the screen; cuts are likewise what dictate the tempo of a scene and can control the mood. Holding on a specific shot for a prolonged time, for example, is an effective way of creating suspense, whereas frantic quick cuts make for punchier action scenes.
One such editing trick a filmmaker has is the jump cut. First used by cinema pioneer Georges Méliès to create early special effects, a jump cut is an abrupt transition from one shot to the next. Though it has an assortment of uses, horror filmmakers like to use it as the cinematic equivalent of an exclamation mark.
When used right, this technique can catch viewers completely by surprise and confront them with some shocking imagery that they’re not likely to forget.
10. The Ring (2002) - "I Saw Her Face"
When it comes to horror remakes, especially of foreign cinema, you don’t get any better than Gore Verbinski’s English-language version of The Ring. By staying true to the original’s subdued and uneasy atmosphere, whilst sprinkling in some new ideas of his own, Verbinski crafted a chilling ghost story that was vastly different from American horror films at the time.
The film opens with two teenagers talking about a video rumoured to kill whoever watches in after seven days. While it’s assumed to be just an urban legend at first, we soon realise the stories are true when one of them is murdered by an unseen presence.
Skip to the teenager’s funeral and we meet the victim’s aunt, an investigative journalist named Rachel (Naomi Watts). We learn in a sombre conversation between her and the teenager’s mother that nobody can determine exactly how the 16-year-old died. The mother asks Rachel to uncover the truth, explaining that she “saw her face”.
It’s at this point the film deploys two swift jump cuts that reveal the teenager’s face distorted in frozen agony.
Catching viewers completely by surprise, this sudden scare only raises more questions about the lingering mysteries surrounding the ominous tape and its supernatural killer.