The first scene in a movie should, ideally, set the tone for whatever else is to follow. The opening scene is where the director grabs your attention, takes you under their wing, and hopes to give you enough of a reason to come along for the ride. In a lot of ways, one might consider the opening of a movie to be the most important part of the entire experience – it is, after all, where the relationship between filmmaker and movie-goer is originally forged.
With that being said, simply because a film opens brilliantly doesn't mean that, overall, it isn't going to fall off the rails immediately afterwards. Sometimes a screenwriter will come up with a fantastic hook of an opening scene, only for the rest of their screenplay to crumble to pieces, leaving a decent idea for a short film tacked in front of what is largely a terrible movie. On the other hand, sometimes the opening is great, and the rest of the film simply follows suit.
Whatever the case, this list will be taking a look at some of cinema's greatest opening sequences. More specially, within the horror genre. From the birth of the Springwood Slasher to Drew Barrymore getting a phone call from a horror obsessed madman.
Minor spoilers ahead.
20. Martyrs (2008)
The Movie: Riding at the forefront of the bloody New Wave of French horror, Martyrs is nothing less than the most punishing genre experience since Gaspar Noé's Irréversible. Watching this gruelling account of two women who encounter a deranged cult bent on seeking transcendence through vicarious suffering is like staring into a blast furnace. The film is a smouldering cell of anger, heat and marvel. It’s difficult to watch head on and downright painful to endure over time.
The Opening Scene: The film begins with a news flashback to 1971, where a girl named Lucie has escaped from captivity. The single tracking shot that follows the terrified, bloodied young girl is a masterclass of mood-setting that achieves scares simply through the power of suggestion.
What could possibly have left the girl in such a state? The audience doesn't find out until much later, but the suggestive power of this opening moment is enough to leave anyone in a state of dread.