The opening scene is meant to set the stage for the rest of the film. The horror genre has always created some of the most effective introductions that immediately get viewers onboard for the wild ride ahead.
Other times, they completely fall flat from the minute they start. Keep in mind, this list will only focus on the opening scenes themselves, not the overall quality of the film. Some fantastic films may end up having dull openings. Conversely, some awful horror films have amazing intros. Here are some of the best and worst horror movie opening scenes.
10 Best: Scream
A perfect way to create a sense of danger is to show the audience that absolutely no one is safe. Such is the case with Scream’s masterfully executed introduction that shows Casey Becker being tormented and eventually murdered by a movie-crazed masked killer.
What made it so impactful was the fact that Casey was played by Drew Barrymore, who was (and still is) a popular actress at that time. She was used in the promotional material, even being shown in the film’s posters. Shock value aside, it’s just an intense and emotionally draining experience that set it apart from the cheesy slashers the film was satirizing.
9 Worst: Alien 3
Alien 3 is a divisive entry among the franchise. No matter how one feels about the film as a whole, there’s no denying that the opening moments are a complete slap to the face to the fans.
It was definitely a challenge to follow up on James Cameron’s near-perfect Aliens. However, unceremoniously killing off Newt and Hicks in the first six minutes was definitely not the way to go. The opening, along with the rest of the film, showcases how much of a production nightmare Alien 3 was. It’s quite a shame considering this was David Fincher’s first film, which he has since disowned.
8 Best: Ghost Ship
Ghost Ship is by no means a classic. It’s boring, confusing, and overall forgettable. The reason it still lives on in the horror genre is that it starts with one of the most creative and over-the-top movie deaths of all time.
Aboard an ocean liner, a young girl named Katie walks atop the deck with hundreds of party guests. After a series of random occurrences, the wire from a spool comes in full-speed through the guests. Due to her height, Katie is the only one left unscathed. Of course, she’s scarred forever as she sees every single person around her fall into two pieces. It’s too bad the rest of the film isn’t nearly as exciting as these opening minutes.
7 Worst: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2
Imagine if the first half of Avengers: Endgame was just footage from Infinity War being recapped by Iron Man. That’s essentially how lazy the sequel to the Christmas horror cult-classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night, plays out.
The opening part of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, along with the whole first forty minutes, is literally just scenes from the first film being narrated by the new protagonist Ricky. To be fair, the filmmakers were given a shoestring budget and short schedule. The only redeeming quality of this film is the infamous “Garbage Day!” quote. Other than that, it’s perhaps the laziest sequel ever made.
6 Best: When A Stranger Calls
The opening twenty minutes of When A Stranger Calls are a slow-burn build of tension that doesn’t let up until its bombshell of a revelation. A young babysitter starts to receive eerie phone calls from a man asking if she’s checked on the children. After she calls the police, they attempt to trace the call.
Upon tracing the call, the police inform her of the situation with one chilling line: “The call is coming from inside the house.” Even today with modern technology, this quote is still haunting and actress Carol Kane’s petrified look sells the entire thing.
5 Worst: The Final Destination
The Final Destination series made a name for itself with its thrilling opening sequences. The first three films each start off with accidents that are rooted in everyday fears; planes, highways, and roller-coasters.
What is the giant deadly sequence in The Final Destination? It’s a race track of all places! It’s clear that the film was embracing the silliness of the franchise, except it strayed a little too far into parody. The opening scene perfectly sums up everything wrong with this sequel. The awful 3D CGI is perhaps the worst part considering the franchise had been known for its impressive practical effects.
4 Best: Halloween (1978)
Halloween immediately catches the audience off guard with its disturbing opening scene. The camera follows an unknown masked person from their own point of view, shot similarly to Peeping Tom.
The entire sequence is unsettling from start to finish thanks to John Carpenter’s unprecedented score. After the character slowly stalks and eventually kills a young woman, they make their way outside. They are then unmasked and it’s revealed that this was a child all along. This was the first introduction to the horror icon that is Michael Myers.
3 Worst: Halloween: Resurrection
Laurie Strode decapitating Michael Myers at the end of H20 was a powerful way to show how far she’d come by confronting her murderous brother. Halloween: Resurrection comes in and immediately negates all of that.
It turns out the man Laurie killed was a medic that Michael swapped places with. All of this is shown through an exposition dump. Even after Laurie outsmarts Michael, she hesitates and somehow thinks that it’s not Michael again, which makes no sense considering Michael got up to the rooftop. Michael then kills Laurie to kick-off the film. This sequel killed the franchise but was luckily retconned in 2018’s Halloween reboot.
2 Best: Jaws
The opening of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a masterclass of suspense. What makes it so terrifying is the inevitability. Going into the film, viewers are well aware of what’s about to happen the second Chrissie jumps into the water.
Filming with the mechanical shark in Jaws was a nightmare, so they had to take a minimalist approach in showing the shark. Yet, this works in the film’s favor. The fact that audiences don’t see the shark in this opening makes it all the more frightening. Viewers watch in horror as a helpless Chrissie is dragged across the water. It’s also complemented perfectly by John Williams’s genius score.
1 Worst: Thankskilling
There’s only so much one can expect from a movie about a killer turkey. This schlocky B-movie was made by a group of college students and audiences really just have to turn their brains off the entire time.
The opening shot of Thankskilling is literally just a woman’s chest, so audiences know exactly what kind of film they are about to see. She happens to be a pilgrim during the very first Thanksgiving. The film’s “titular” villain shows up and it’s a foul-mouthed turkey who makes remarks about her anatomy before killing her off-screen.