Halloween is just around the corner, which means it’s time to dust off our favorite horror movies and tune in for a good scare. But with so many to choose from, which film in the genre is actually the scariest movie ever?
Fans of the ever-popular horror genre may remember a 2020 project that set out to find the scariest movie ever. The setup was pretty simple. After combing through critic’s lists, Reddit recommendations, and IMDB ratings, the team compiled a list of the 50 best horror films ever made. Next, they got a bunch of willing participants (50 in total) to watch said movies in 5.1 surround sound while fitted with heart rate monitors. Every person’s average resting heart rate for each film was then compared to their usual resting heart rate. The difference between the two tells you how scared they were by the content on screen. That’s how Sinister was crowned king of fright night in 2020.
Now, thanks to Broadband Choices’ Science of Scare 2021 update, the title of scariest movie ever goes to Host. Last year’s winner, Sinister follows in second place with Insidious, The Conjuring, and Hereditary rounding out the top five.
Released in 2020 and directed by Rob Savage, Host tells the story of six friends who hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom. But they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong. When an evil spirit starts invading their homes, they begin to realize they might not survive the night. The film debuted exclusively through Shudder and was well received by critics, who praised its themes of social anxiety and the chemistry of its acting ensemble.
The new data was gathered similarly to the 2020 study. 250 people were asked to watch 40 of the scariest movies ever. Participants were fitted with heart rate monitors and invited into specially designed screaming rooms to watch the movies over several weeks, under medical and researcher supervision.
While most viewers had a resting heart rate of 64bpm, this average spiked to 88bpm while watching Host. Interestingly, while Host was the scariest movie ever overall, the biggest scene-by-scene scare went to James Wan’s Insidious. The unspecified scene caused the biggest spike in heart rates at 133 beats per minute.
Last year, the study’s creator Daniel Clifford explained the point of finding the scariest movie ever via Forbes. “With more people than ever facing a Halloween at home, our Science of the Scare study was designed to help people find the most scientifically scary films ever made,” he told the publication. “This will save them the time of searching through thousands of titles across streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, and Shudder.”
The movies chosen as contenders for the scariest movie ever were both older and newer titles. Experienced audiences looking for something they’ve never seen before can check out something like A Quiet Place Part 2, which released in theaters in 2021. Interestingly, much of the top ten list for most frightening films includes movies released over the past decade. This may indicate that what we find scary changes over time.
So if you’re planning to binge-watch a bunch of scary movies on Halloween night, this top-ten list is a great place to start. Because science.
- The Conjuring
- It Follows
- A Quiet Place Part 2
- Paranormal Activity
- The Conjuring 2