The Art of Suspense: How Scary Movies Keep Us on the Edge of Our Seats


Suspense is a powerful tool employed by filmmakers to captivate audiences and keep them on the edge of their seats. Scary movies, in particular, have mastered the art of suspense, using various techniques to create tension, anticipation, and fear. From the eerie soundtracks to the clever cinematography, these films are designed to elicit strong emotional responses from viewers. In this article, we will delve into the art of suspense in scary movies, exploring the techniques used and the impact they have on our viewing experience.

The Use of Sound

One of the most effective ways to create suspense in scary movies is through the use of sound. The soundtrack plays a crucial role in building tension and anticipation. Ominous, discordant melodies or sudden, jarring noises can instantly raise our heart rates and send shivers down our spines.

Sound effects are also strategically employed to enhance suspense. The creaking of a door, the distant whispers, or the sound of footsteps approaching gradually can all create a sense of impending danger. By manipulating our auditory senses, filmmakers are able to heighten our fear and keep us engaged in the story.

Clever Cinematography

Cinematography is another essential element in creating suspense in scary movies. The way scenes are filmed and framed can greatly contribute to the overall feeling of tension. Dark lighting, tight close-ups, and strategic camera angles can make us feel trapped or disoriented, intensifying our fear and discomfort.

Directors often use long tracking shots or slow panning movements to build anticipation. By slowly revealing the environment or the impending threat, they prolong the suspense and keep us guessing about what might happen next. The use of shadows and silhouettes can also add an element of mystery and increase our anxiety.

Masterful Editing

Editing plays a crucial role in sustaining suspense in scary movies. Quick cuts and jump cuts can create a sense of urgency and unease. By manipulating the pacing and rhythm of the film, editors can control our emotional responses and keep us engaged.

Montages and cross-cutting are also commonly used techniques to build suspense. By intercutting between different characters or events, filmmakers create a sense of parallel action, heightening the tension as we anticipate the convergence of these storylines.

The Power of Silence

In contrast to the effective use of sound, silence can be equally powerful in creating suspense. The absence of sound can make us feel uneasy, as it leaves us vulnerable to unexpected events. Filmmakers often employ moments of complete silence just before a jump scare or a climactic scene, heightening the impact and catching us off guard.

By manipulating the sound and silence within a film, directors can control our emotional states, creating a rollercoaster of suspense and fear.


Q: Why do we enjoy watching scary movies?

A: Scary movies provide an adrenaline rush, triggering our fight-or-flight response and releasing endorphins that make us feel exhilarated. They also allow us to experience fear in a controlled environment, providing a sense of excitement and escapism.

Q: What makes a scary movie successful?

A: A successful scary movie effectively builds tension, surprises the audience, and elicits strong emotional responses. It usually has a compelling storyline, relatable characters, and employs innovative techniques to create suspense.

Q: How do filmmakers manipulate our emotions in scary movies?

A: Filmmakers manipulate our emotions through various techniques, including the use of sound, clever cinematography, masterful editing, and the strategic deployment of silence. These techniques work together to create an immersive and suspenseful viewing experience.

Q: Are jump scares the only way to create suspense in scary movies?

A: While jump scares are commonly used, they are not the only way to create suspense. Suspense can be built through atmospheric tension, psychological horror, or slow-burning dread. These techniques often have a longer-lasting impact on the viewer.

Q: Can scary movies have a lasting impact on our psyche?

A: Scary movies can leave a lasting impact on our psyche, especially if we are particularly susceptible to fear. They can influence our dreams, make us more cautious in real-life situations, or even trigger anxiety. However, for most people, the effects are temporary and wear off over time.