While it's unlikely a horror movie's opening credits will steal the show in terms of scares, plenty have done an excellent job of setting the stage for what's to come, invoking dread or an offputting tonal dissonance that intimates all is not right. Whether placed at the very beginning following the production company logo or after a cold open, the horror maestros behind various opening titles have found ways of making the reveal of a film's creative team compelling in a way that unsettles, entices, and ensares.
The art of the opening credits sequence has evolved drastically over the last century of filmmaking, influenced by new visual techniques as much as by contractual changes regarding when they can be placed and who among the cast and crew should be spotlighted.
It's often the case that opening credits simply get overlayed on an introductory scene. However, more elaborate and deliberate approaches devote space to the opening titles, contributing a unique, memorable layer to the viewing experience. Animation, graphic design, music and typography are all integral to the development of a killer opening credits sequence, and the horror genre has provided fertile ground for these techniques to coalesce and impart something truly iconic, gripping, and yes, scary.
From those menacing Texas Chain Saw Massacre flashbulbs to the simple scares of a static title drop, here are the scariest opening credits in horror movies.
Jordan Peele's 2022 sci-fi-horror masterpiece Nope is a tour-de-force of tension - a riveting, introspective film that examines the relationship between art, suffering, and exploitation, as well as the craziness that is "getting on with it" in amongst it all.
Peele doesn't render each of these themes individually in the opening credits for Nope, which drop following a startling cold open where Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) is killed by debris from the sky, but he does enshrine that connection between cinema and trauma by situating the camera within Jean Jacket, enveloping the lens in what we later discover are the muffled screams of the creature's victims before settling on projected footage of Animal Locomotion.
All of this is marinated by the subtle, haunting tones of Michael Abels' score, as well as Jean Jacket's tissue rippling in the wind. On a first watch it's unsettling, but with the reveal of what Jean Jacket actually is in mind, it's downright haunting.