Science reveals the scariest scene in horror movie history…can you guess it?

By Stacey Liberatore for

21:38 18 October 2023, updated 14:32 20 October 2023

  • Participants watch horror movies while wearing heart rate monitors
  • The researchers collected measurements to see which movies increased the percentages
  • READ MORE: Scientists find horror movies stimulate certain areas of the brain

Spooky season is here, and thrill-seekers are watching countless hours of horror movies to celebrate — but a new study finds that not all scary movies are created equal.

A new project fitted participants with heart rate monitors while they watched special screenings, allowing researchers to see which movements increased fear and excitement.

The team found that the scariest scene was in Insidious and the scariest movie of all time was Creepy.

While the survey doesn’t note what part of Insidious got people’s hearts racing, it’s likely the “Demon in the Corner” scene.

While the survey doesn’t note what part of Insidious broke people’s hearts, it’s likely the “Demon in the Corner” scene

The findings are part of the Science of Scare project, which collected the scariest films of the past four years.

The test group included 250 participants equipped with heart rate monitors that monitored their vital signs during each film.

This year’s experiment assessed heart rate and heart rate variability.

The former measures beats per minute while the latter calculates beats in milliseconds.

“With heart rate (BPM), the higher the number, the faster the movie gets our audience’s blood pumping, an indicator of excitement and fear as part of your fight-or-flight instinct,” the Science of Scare Project shared.

“On the other hand, heart rate variance (HRV) measures the time between each beat of your heart.

A new project fitted participants with heart rate monitors while they watched special screenings, allowing researchers to see which movements increased fear and excitement. Pictured are the top 10 and the collected heart rate measurements

“The lower the heart rate variance, the more stressed our audience members become, a good indicator of slow-burn fear and dread.”

The team then combined the two scores to create a Science of Scare score out of 100.

“By comparison, Shrek has a ‘fear score’ of three out of 100,” they shared.

Using these measurements, project managers determined that Scott Derrickson’s 2012 supernatural horror film Sinister was the scariest movie ever made.

The film follows true crime writer Ellison Oswald, played by Ethan Hawke, who is in crisis after not producing a bestseller in over a decade.

He decides to write about the unsolved murder of a seemingly ordinary family.

The youngest child was abducted and never seen again, and the other four, including mum and dad, were hanged from a tree in the back garden.

Scott Derrickson’s 2012 supernatural horror film Sinister is the scariest movie ever made, project execs have found

Unwisely, Ellison does more than research his new project. He moves his own family into the house where the murders took place.

He finds a box there containing home movies and a Super 8 projector.

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When he plays the innocuously named films, he discovers they are snuff films about the murders of five families over the past 50 years.

On a mission to solve the case, Ellison believes the horrific acts are the work of a serial killer.

But he and his family soon discover something sinister behind the murders.

“Our audience experienced a 34 percent increase in heart rate when watching the film, from 64 beats per minute to 86 beats per minute throughout the film, with the film’s scariest moment sending hearts up to 131 beats per minute,” according to researchers at the project.

“HRV dropped 21 percent among viewers, the second-lowest of any film on the list, showing a perfect balance of startling moments and slow-burn scares.”

Both combined to give Sinister a frightening score of 96 out of 100.

While Insidious was ranked fourth for scariest, the researchers found that the 2010 film had the highest jump overall.

This means that the film includes the scariest scene in the history of horror films.

The story of Insidious centers on a married couple whose son inexplicably falls into a comatose state and becomes a vessel for various demonic entities in the astral plane.

The red demon with hooves and claws is the evil creature trying to Dalton, played by Ty Simpkins, who is in a coma.

During the scariest scene, the boy’s grandmother tells his parents how she heard a terrible voice from his room that told her he wanted Dalton.

Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey) tells the story to her son Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) and moments later the red demon appears over Josh’s shoulder.

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