The Descent – one of my favourite horror films, also features one of my favourite jump scares.
The Descent has lots of great scares, but the most effective is when after almost an hour of steadily increasing claustrophobia and dread, we finally get our first glimpse of what the F is actually down there with them.
By this point, I’ve almost forgotten this is a creature feature. I’m invested in the characters struggle to survive and escape the cave system, their deteriorating relationships, the claustrophobia of scrambling through narrow, dripping tunnels, then sudden vertigo of crossing over sheer drops.
The Descent plays close attention to lighting throughout. With the filmmakers limiting it to the sources the characters bring with them into the cave. The menacing darkness lit only by the constantly-moving beams of the cavers helmet lights, or flares which cast everything in a red glow.
With the torches dimming and the flares lost, they resort to using the night vision function on a camcorder, bathing everything in a disorientating green glow. And this device is used to create a shocking jump scare that after almost an hour of slowly building suspense frankly scared the living shit out of me.