15 Scary Horror Movie Moments That Were Incredibly Cheap To Produce

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Warning: spoilers for various horror movies.

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Summary

  • Low-budget horror movies often use creative techniques to achieve scary effects on a small budget.
  • Camera tricks and practical effects can create chilling moments that have a major impact on audiences.
  • Some of the scariest scenes in horror history were created by hiding body parts, clever camera angles, and perfect sound effects.

Horror movies often have to get creative in order to achieve the desired visual effects, and creativity of mostly seen in low-budget horror movies, where some of the scariest scenes were actually incredibly cheap to produce. The horror genre is home to some of the most popular franchises in the entertainment industry, as well as to some of the most shocking stories in the history of cinema. Various horror franchises started out as low-budget projects, leading their directors and special effects teams to get truly creative when bringing their scariest scenes to life.

There have also been a number of low-budget horror movies that didn’t spawn franchises and sequels but were shocking and creative enough to become some of the scariest movies in horror history. Of course, this also means that some of their scariest scenes were achieved through clever camera tricks, practical effects, and perfect use of sound effects that didn’t require spending a big part of their already small budget. Here are 15 examples of scary horror movie moments that were quite cheap to produce but had a major impact on the audience.

15 Freaks’ Human Duck

Freaks 1932 ending Cleopatra as a human duck

Freaks is a 1932 pre-Code movie directed by Tod Browning and based on Tod Robbins’ 1923 short story Spurs. It follows a conniving trapeze artist named Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) who plans to seduce and murder a dwarf performer to get his inheritance. Cleopatra’s plan is eventually exposed and she’s captured by the angered “freaks” of the carnival, and she’s last seen as a grotesque, squawking “human duck” on display at the carnival, with her tongue having been removed, one eye being gouged out, her hands deformed to look like duck feet, her legs cut off, and her torso being replaced by that of a duck. It’s a shocking image, for sure, and also one easy and cheap to achieve by hiding Baclanova’s lower body.

14 Creep’s Aaron Murder Scene

Creep 2014 movie Aaron waiting for Josef at the lake

Creep is a found footage psychological horror movie directed by Patrick Brice. It follows Aaron (Brice), a struggling videographer who takes a job to record an eccentric client named Josef (Mark Duplass), who claims to have an inoperable brain tumor. Josef wants to leave a video diary for his unborn son, but it soon becomes clear to Aaron that Josef’s plans are actually quite dangerous. After being stalked by Josef and receiving strange packages from him, Aaron agrees to meet him in Lake Gregory to make amends but sets a camera to discreetly record the encounter.

In a continuous shot, Aaron sits on a bench to wait for Josef, who arrives from behind and waits for a moment before taking out his wolf mask and an axe. Josef then slowly approaches Aaron, who still doesn’t know Josef is behind him, and kills him with a blow to the head. The scene then cuts to Josef reviewing the footage, making it even more disturbing.

13 Sleepaway Camp’s Shocking Twist Ending

Angela screaming in Sleepaway Camp.

Sleepaway Camp is a slasher movie directed by Robert Hiltzik. It’s the story of Angela Baker (Felissa Rose), a shy and traumatized young girl who grew up with her aunt and cousin after her father and brother were killed during a boating trip. Angela and her cousin are sent to a summer camp years later, where increasingly violent accidents and murders take place. Sleepaway Camp has a shocking twist ending in which Angela is not only revealed to be the killer at the camp but also revealed to be her supposedly deceased brother, who their aunt raised as a girl. The reveal is quite explicit and terrifying, as the scene shows a nude and blood-covered “Angela” letting out an animalistic growling sound while standing next to her last victim.

As Felissa Rose was only 13 years old while filming Sleepaway Camp, a male college student from the area was hired to pose as “Angela” in the movie’s ending, and a plaster mold based on Rose’s face was made for him to wear. The big reveal, along with “Angela”’s disturbing frozen expression made Sleepaway Camp’s final scene truly horrifying without spending too much of the budget on it.

12 Halloween’s Michael Myers Chases Laurie

Laurie Strode holding up a knife in Halloween (1978)

Halloween is a slasher movie directed by John Carpenter. It tells the story of Michael Myers, who after killing his sister at the age of six and being sent to a sanitarium, escapes 15 years later and returns to his hometown to go on a murder spree. Michael targets Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends, with Laurie becoming the Final Girl. The final chase between Michael Myers and Laurie takes place at the Doyles’ house, with Laurie defending herself by stabbing Michael in the neck with a knitting needle, helping Tommy and Lindsey escape, and hiding from Michael. The chase didn’t need any special effects, and it was achieved through a combination of camera and lighting work, sound edition, and the performance of Jamie Lee Curtis.

11 Friday the 13th’s Final Jumpscare

A decomposed body attacks a woman on a boat in Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is a slasher movie directed by Sean S. Cunningham. It follows a group of teenage camp counselors who are murdered one by one by a mysterious killer, who they believe is the deceased Jason Voorhees, who drowned at the lake in 1957. Jason’s mother, Pamela, is revealed to be the real killer, but Friday the 13th had one final jumpscare prepared for the audience. The movie’s final girl, Alice (Adrienne King), is asleep in a canoe that floats out on Crystal Lake when the police arrive to her rescue, and just as she seems to regain hope, Jason’s decomposing corpse jumps out of the lake and drags her before she awakens in the hospital. The ending didn’t require much in terms of production, just adding the necessary prosthetics to the actor playing Jason Voorhees.

10 The Babadook’s Ceiling Scene

The Babadook from the movie of the same name.

The Babadook is a psychological horror movie directed by Jennifer Kent and based on her short film Monster. It follows Amelia (Essie Davis), a widowed single mother who is forced to confront her son’s fear of a mysterious humanoid monster from a storybook called Mister Babadook, who seems to be hiding in their home. Amelia doesn’t believe the Babadook is real, until one night, she sees a mysterious, dark shape opening her bedroom door and crawling up the ceiling. The creature attacks her, giving the audience its closest look at the Babadook. A sped-up camera trick and stop-motion technique made way for the Babadook’s reveal and attack, in what’s, arguably, the movie’s scariest scene.

Related: The Babadook Ending Explained: What The Monster Really Means

9 Night of the Living Dead’s Matricide

Night of the Living Dead Karen

Night of the Living Dead was directed by George A. Romero, and follows seven people who are trapped in a farmhouse that is under assault by a group of undead people. Among them are Harry, his wife Helen, and their daughter Karen, who was bitten by one of the zombies. Karen eventually dies of her injuries but returns as a zombie, and after eating Harry’s remains, she goes after her mother. Karen takes a masonry trowel and stabs her mother, in a simple but scary scene achieved through camera and lighting work, as the stabbing isn’t graphic, but it’s quite disturbing to watch.

8 Black Christmas’ Jess Finds Out

Black Christmas Olivia Hussey on the phone

Black Christmas is a slasher movie directed by Bob Clark and inspired by the urban legend “the babysitter and the man upstairs”. It follows a group of sorority sisters who receive threatening phone calls and begin to be stalked and murdered by a mysterious killer during the Christmas season. The last sister standing, Jess (Olivia Hussey), is told by Sergeant Nash to leave the house immediately as the calls are coming from inside the house, but when Jess goes to alert two other sisters, she finds them dead. Jess then sees the killer’s eye staring at her through a door crack, slams the door against him, and runs away, but the killer chases her. The killer is never fully shown, which makes the scene so effective in addition to all the build-up tension up to that point.

7 The Evil Dead’s Deadites Rot In Front of Ash

The Evil Dead deadite Shelly

The Evil Dead is a supernatural horror movie directed by Sam Raimi. It follows Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend, and their friends as they travel to an isolated cabin in a remote wooded area, where they accidentally unleash a legion of demons and spirits. Ash is the last one standing by the end of The Evil Dead, and takes the Necronomicon and throws it into the fireplace. As the book burns, the Deadites freeze in place and quickly being to decompose right in front of Ash. The Evil Dead is all about practical effects, and this scene in particular is proof of it, as it’s a combination of disturbing make-up, stop-motion, and sped-up camera work.

6 The Blair Witch Project’s Cabin Ending

Heather films a message for anyone who finds her camera in The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project is a supernatural horror movie directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. It’s the “found footage” of three student filmmakers – Heather, Michael, and Joshua – who go into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland, to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. The first one to disappear is Josh, and one night, Heather and Mike hear Josh calling out to them. Heather and Mike follow Josh’s voice to the abandoned ruins of the cabin of serial killer Rustin Parr, where they find demonic symbols and bloody handprints on the walls. In the basement, an unseen force attacks Mike, making him drop his camera, and when Heather arrives, she finds Mike standing in a corner, facing a wall, before she’s also attacked by an unseen force, causing her to drop her camera.

The Blair Witch Project didn’t need visual effects nor complicated camera tricks to successfully frighten the audience, and a big part of its secret was the found-footage style. The whole movie was made in hand-held camera style, which allowed viewers to truly live the Blair Witch experience through the protagonists’ eyes. The ending of The Blair Witch Project is effective thanks to this, the performances of the actors, the disturbing setting, and the fact that the witch or whatever force took Heather, Mike, and Josh is never shown.

Related: Wait, Did The Blair Witch Project Actually Show The Witch?!

5 A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Tina’s Death Scene

A Nightmare on Elm Street Tina death scene

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a supernatural slasher movie directed by Wes Craven. It follows a group of teenagers who are haunted by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), an undead child murderer who now haunts and kills people in their dreams, as no one can protect them there. The first one to have nightmares about Krueger is Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss), and when her mother goes out of town, she asks her best friend Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) to stay with her, with Tina’s boyfriend, Rod, also joining. Tina once again dreams of Krueger, who attacks her in her dream and kills her. In the real world, Rod is awakened by Tina’s thrashing and sees her dragged through the ceiling and slashed by an unseen force.

This scene was achieved with a rotating room created by mechanical special effects designer Jim Doyle. All the items in the room were nailed down and the cameraman was strapped into an “airplane seat” attached to the wall, while Wyss had no wires holding her. However, the room wasn’t mechanical, and several crew members on each side were in charge of manually flipping the room around. That same rotating room was later used for Glen’s death scene.

4 Katie Standing Over The Bed In Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity Katie sitting outside on night 15

Paranormal Activity is a supernatural horror movie directed by Oren Peli. It follows Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat), a young couple who move to a new house in San Diego, where they are haunted by a supernatural presence. Katie and Micah set up a camera to document the haunting, so Paranormal Activity uses a found-footage style. One night, Katie seems to be in a trance and gets out of bed to stand beside it, staring at Micah, which she does for two hours before going outside. The footage is sped up to show how long Katie stands there, staring at her husband, and after everything that is happening around the house, this simple scene gives a sense of dread as the audience doesn’t know what’s happening to Katie and if she will attack Micah or not, and small details like Katie’s shadow moving before she does further add to it.

3 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Final Chase

Leatherface holding his chainsaw aloft in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was directed by Tobe Hooper, and it follows a group of friends who become the victims of a family of cannibals. In the final sequence, Sally manages to escape the house of Leatherface and his murderous family by jumping through the window, but she’s pursued by Leatherface and his brother, the hitchhiker. The latter is run over by a truck, killing him, with the driver attacking Leatherface with a large wrench and running away. Sally stops a pickup truck, giving her a chance to jump to the back of the car while Leatherface tries to catch her. Sally and the driver escape, and Leatherface flails his chainsaw in frustration. It’s a simple sequence that works as the audience had already seen what Leatherface and his family were capable of and saw Sally lose her brother and friends while she fought for her life.

2 Skinamarink’s Phone Toy

A creepy toy telephone peers out of the darkness in Skinamarink

Skinamarink is an experimental supernatural horror movie directed by Kyle Edward Ball. It follows six-year-old Kaylee and four-year-old Kevin, who one night wake up to discover they can’t find their father, and the windows, doors, and other objects in the house are gradually disappearing. Stranger and increasingly disturbing things begin to happen to Kaylee and Kyle, with the latter ending up alone. After inserting a knife into one of his eyes as commanded by a mysterious voice, Kevin calls 911, and when he’s done, the phone turns into a Chatter Telephone toy. The camera stays on the toy before going dark and only shows the toy’s glowing eyes, returning to it now a lot closer. The toy’s face is suddenly distorted, accompanied by a loud sound effect. It’s extremely simple, but also terrifying, as is the rest of the movie.

1 Psycho’s Shower Scene

Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. It follows on-the-run embezzler Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who arrives at a motel managed by a shy man named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). As Marion showers, she’s attacked by a shadowy figure that stabs her to death, in one of the most iconic scenes in film history. Psycho’s shower scene is so effective thanks to its many cuts and shots, alternating between close-ups, extreme close-ups, and medium shots showing Marion screaming, the murderer, and the knife. Further elevating the scene is the soundtrack of screeching violins, violas, and cellos, becoming one of the most iconic musical pieces in film history.