Video: Most frightening scenes in horror movies

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The head-spinning scene in The Exorcist has been voted the most frightening scene in the history of horror movies.

Classics like Psycho, Carrie and The Shining also picked up a substantial share of the votes.

The Shining

The Shining

In a poll carried out for hmv, 17.95 percent of people voted that iconic scene in The Exorcist (1973) the scariest.

The shower scene in Psycho (1960) got 16.85 percent of the votes, while the hand grabbing the arm in Carrie (1976) got 15.10 percent nibbling their nails in terror.

Others to have made the top ten were: Girl coming out of the TV in The Ring (2002) 14.9 percent, chest burst scene in Alien (1979) 14.10 percent, Grady twins in the corridor in The Shining (1980) 12.8 percent, the children being attacked in The Birds (1963) 11.45 percent, night vision scene in Silence of the Lambs (1991) 10.05 percent, man ccutting off foot in Saw (2004) 9.95 percent and the rocking chair in Woman in Black (2012) 9.10 percent.

The 1970s – the decade that brought us strikes, recession and Thatcher – was deemed the scariest decade overall, with horror movie scenes from that period accounting for 27% of all votes across more than 50 different films included in the poll. Titles from the 2000s had the second-highest share of the vote at 18%, closely followed by 1980s horror with 17%. Despite Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho and The Birds making the top ten, the 1960s, famous for its hippy spirit and free love philosophy, emerged as the least creepy decade with films from that era making up just 11 percent of the votes.

People were asked to describe what makes a great horror film. The top themes included a strong story, a well-crafted soundtrack, and plenty of shocks and surprises along the way. And as one person suggested, perhaps the key to a great horror is simply “Jack Nicholson’s face”.

Ian Hunter, Professor of Film Studies at De Montfort University, offered some insight on how the genre has evolved: “Traditionally horror films were either about supernatural and primal fears or monsters that transgress what seem to be natural boundaries (the dead who live, humans who are also animals, and so on). Today, while such films still exist, the most frightening are perhaps about the terrors of everyday life and the worst monsters are versions of ordinary people - psychopaths, serial killers - who threaten our sense of rationality.”

Richard Hand, Professor of Media Practice at the University of East Anglia, also offered his thoughts on the inner-workings of great horror cinema: “A masterpiece like Psycho may be (in)famous for its shower scene, but the genius of the film is established long before that scene happens, in the slow tightening of its suspense, gradually unnerving the viewer with a simple but compelling narrative, a genuine ‘composition’ of excellent performances, editing, design and, perhaps most importantly of all, soundtrack. Indeed, it is often the sound of horror that can haunt us most thoroughly, worming its way deep beneath our skin and haunting our nightmares even when we turn away or cover our eyes.”

This theme of lingering dread was reflected in the results of the survey. 51% of people said they feel “fearful” after watching a scary film or TV show. For women, the figure was 64%, and for men, it was 36%.

So how do people stop feeling scared?

The poll found: Switching all the lights on - 45.94%, watch a comedy show on telly telly 41.78%, going to bed 18.71%, reading a book 18.61%, wtching another film 17.13%

The idea of simply going to bed to escape the film-induced fear may seem like an odd strategy to some, but this wasn’t the only surprising response from the 2,000 people polled. 3.4% said they would “go for a walk” (these 68 brave souls seemingly felt exposing themselves to the unknown dangers lurking outside would help calm them down). And 2.8% said they would simply “drink a chamomile tea” - an option that was more popular with men than women overall.

The survey was carried out by OnePoll for hmv.