'Here's Johnny!': The Shining scene is scariest in movie history, claims study

The Shining - still

The "Here's Johnny" scene from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is officially the scariest movie moment of all time, according to a new study.

Website Play.com polled 10,000 users to find the 10 films that most frightened customers, then used heart rate monitors to find out which scenes delivered the greatest chills. The Shining scored the scariest scene, with scenes from Wes Craven's original 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Exorcist in second and third place respectively.

The most frightening scenes were calculated by identifying the percentage increases in film-goers' heart rates from spikes occurring at the same moments. The "Here's Johnny" scene, in which Jack Nicholson's deranged writer peers through a hole in a door he has just created with an axe, made pulses jump by 28.2%. A Nightmare on Elm Street's most frightening moment, in which Nancy Thompson brings killer Freddy Krueger from her dream into the real world, caused a 26.7% increase in the average heart rate. The Exorcist's scariest bit, when Christine MacNeil investigates a strange noise in her attic, raised pulses by 24.8%.

The three movies changed positions, however, when viewer reaction to the films in their entirety was taken into account. The Exorcist came top over the long haul, sending pulses racing by an average of 25.9%. A Nightmare on Elm Street was second with 25.9%, with The Shining bringing up the rear on 23.3%.

When these figures were combined with the scariest moment scores, however, The Shining reclaimed first place, with The Exorcist second and A Nightmare on Elm Street third.

"It's interesting to see just how close the top three films' scare ratings were," said Shingo Murakami, managing director of Play.com's Japanese owner, Rakuten. "It seems The Shining's extended periods of tension and soundtrack kept viewers' hearts racing throughout, but simply couldn't match the massive terror induced by Freddy Krueger's multiple gruesome murders or The Exorcist's explicit exorcism."

The study also found that watching the three scariest films affected viewers' heart rates in a similar manner to light exercise.

Top 10 scariest films voted by Play.com users (scariest moment and scariest film scores combined)

The Shining (1980)
The Exorcist (1973)
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Ring (aka Ringu) (1998)
Alien (1979)
The Silence of the Lambs (1990)
Poltergeist (1982)
Insidious (2010)
Halloween (1978)
Saw (2004)

Three scariest moments from the top three

The Shining

• "Here's Johnny" scene (28.2% increase in average heart rate)

• Twin girls scene ("Come and play"; 23.1%)

• "Red rum" scene (21.0%)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

• "Fight fire with fire" (where Nancy Thompson brings Freddy Krueger into the real world from her dream; 26.7%)

• "No way out" (where Johnny Depp's character, Glen Lantz, is murdered by Freddy and his bedroom fills with blood; 26.2%)

• "A bloody mess" (where Tina Gray is murdered by Freddy in front of her boyfriend Rod Lane; 26.2%)

The Exorcist

• "Attic noises" (where Christine MacNeil investigates a strange noise in her attic; 24.80%)

• "Take me!" (Father Karras is possessed and sacrifices himself; 23.66%)

• "I cast you out" (the initial exorcism attempt by Father Karras and Father Merrin; 18.33%)

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Thursday 31st October 2013 13.37 Europe/London

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