Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Paused Horror Movie Moments

Ever been tempted to hit the pause button when watching a horror movie? Sure, it might interrupt the flow of the film, but sometimes, you've just got to slow down and press stop. Maybe something especially scary is happening onscreen, and you need a bit of a breather to collect your wits and steel your courage before facing those gruesome ghouls again. Or maybe you spotted some hidden image or spooky Easter egg hiding in the background, just begging for some extra attention. Or perhaps you just want to pause for a few seconds and admire the incredible filmmaking craft on display, from the impressively eerie shot composition to the fantastically frightful creature design. Whatever the reason, sometimes you just need a few extra seconds before all the screaming and stabbing starts up again. From nightmarish jump scares to unbelievably weird-looking beasts, these are the most paused horror movie moments.

We did Nazi that coming in An American Werewolf in London

David Kessler (David Naughton) is having a rough vacation. He just wanted to go backpacking across the Yorkshire moors, but the moment he steps off the beaten path, he's attacked by a werewolf. When he wakes up in a London hospital, he's a little unsure of what happened, but as he's recuperating, he keeps having ghastly nightmares, and these freaky dreams are the scariest parts of An American Werewolf in London.

At one point in this horror-comedy, we cut to David's home. He's working on his college homework, his family is watching TV, and everything seems peaceful. But wait a minute... wasn't David just in the hospital? Before we can get our bearings, an army of mutant Nazi monsters bursts into the house and guns down David's family. They burn his home, shoot everything to pieces, and end their one-house holocaust by slitting David's throat.

And that's when our Jewish hero wakes up in his hospital bed. It was all just a nasty Nazi dream, and his sympathetic nurse (Jenny Agutter) is only too happy to open up the curtains and let some sunlight in. But as she pulls back the shades, there's a Nazi-Beast standing there, knife in hand, and he stabs the nurse to death. Yeah, David's still dreaming, and this might be the jump scare to end all jump scares. The "American Werewolf" hasn't even shown up yet, and we're already pressing pause so we can collect our nerves.

A whiteboard full of monsters in The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is loaded with pause-worthy moments, especially in that breathtakingly bloody ending. But before all that crazy carnage goes down, we get a quick glimpse of a whiteboard covered in ominous Easter eggs. 

The whiteboard is located in the underground facility where members of a secret organization are trying to appease ancient gods with elaborate blood sacrifices. These guys get pretty bored with the same old murder rituals year after year, so to spice things up, they've got a betting pool going on which monsters will murder the hapless victims. All the possible picks are listed on the whiteboard, and they include everything from wraiths and clowns to scarecrow folks and the sugarplum fairy. There are even two references to The Evil Dead, the granddaddy of the "cabin in the woods" genre, with "deadites" and "angry molesting tree."

In fact, most of the creatures on the board show up for that wild final scene, like the hell lord, the dragonbat, and the giant snake. Even the merman gets a mention (and we see that poor Hadley is betting on him to win). The list also lets us know to look for some of the more elusive monsters, like the Jack O'Lantern, the Huron, and the dismemberment goblins. However, there's one name on the board we never see in action: the mysterious Kevin. Whatever he does, we're assuming he's not as friendly as Kevin from The Office.

The lying witch on the wardrobe in The Conjuring

A psycho witch turned evil spirit, Bathsheba is having a grand old time in The Conjuring, terrorizing the poor Perron family. Of course, if those kids think they're scared whenever Bathsheba shows up, then they've got no idea what we're going through. Whether she's playing "hide and clap" in the cellar or getting all possessive, every time this hag shows up onscreen, we're hiding behind the sofa.

Of course, there's one Bathsheba scene so scary that it nearly killed moviegoers and turned them into ghosts themselves. It's the scene when a young Andrea Perron (Shanley Caswell) just wants to get some sleep, but she hears something banging around inside her wardrobe. Nervous, she goes to check it out, flings open the doors, and finds nothing inside. Of course, that's because Bathsheba is up on top, just waiting to pounce.

Horror fans will want to press the pause button here for multiple reasons. One, it's our first good look at the demon haunting the Perron family, and boy, is she a terrifying sight to behold. Secondly, this is one of the scariest scenes in movie history, and when your heart rate spikes to new and dangerous levels, you'll need to take a break and remind yourself it's just a movie.

A creepy Easter egg in Evil Dead II

Wes Craven and Sam Raimi are masters of the horror genre, and their films have a combined body count higher than any serial killer's. In addition to giving us some of the scariest (and funniest) movies ever made, Craven and Raimi also had a friendly feud going on, where they'd reference each other's movies in their own films. For example, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nancy Thompson falls asleep watching The Evil Dead, and in Scream, Jamie Kennedy's character considers watching the undead action flick before picking Halloween.

As for Raimi, he absolutely loves putting Freddy Krueger's glove into his deadite franchise. Not only did it show up in an episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, but the deadly fashion accessory also appears in Raimi's horror masterpiece, Evil Dead II. Eagle-eyed horror fans should press pause when Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) heads down into the fruit cellar or walks into the woodshed. The glove shows up in both scenes, hanging on the wall in all its razor-bladed glory. According to Bloody Disgusting, it's possible that's the actual glove worn by Robert Englund and not just a replica. Either way, now we can't stop thinking about that Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie that we're never going to get

Carla Gugino needs a hand in Gerald's Game

The Stephen King bestseller Gerald's Game seems like an unfilmable book. The plot follows a woman named Jessie who retreats to a secluded country house with her husband Gerald, where they hope to rekindle their marriage with a little bit of bondage. Unfortunately, after cuffing his wife to the bed, Gerald keels over from a heart attack, leaving his wife stuck in a spread-eagle position. From there, the novel pretty much takes place inside Jessie's head, but somehow, director Mike Flanagan and actress Carla Gugino turned this crazy book into one of the very best King adaptations.

Of course, that also means they had to shoot the infamous degloving scene. Now, there are horror moments that make you scream, and ones that make you vomit. The degloving scene from Gerald's Game will make you scream while vomiting. Desperate to get free, especially since a hungry dog and the creepy Moonlight Man might return any time, Jessie (Gugino) takes some serious steps to escape her bonds. She slits her wrist with a piece of glass and then she just starts yanking until the skin on her hand starts peeling off. Jessie hopes all the blood and gore will help her slip out of the cuff, and while it works, she basically turns her hand inside out to make her great escape. This gnarly scene sent people into hysterics, and once it's all over, the pause button will come in handy as you proceed to lose your lunch.

The cult arrives in Hereditary

Hereditary is the kind of movie where you'll break the pause button from pressing it so many times. The movie is both terrifying and traumatizing, and chances are good that first-time viewers will need a couple of breaks to make it through to the end. Without spoiling anything, we'll just say the words "nuts," "ceiling," and "piano wire," and fans of the film will know exactly what we're talking about.

However, there is one moment when something happens so quickly that you might not notice on the first viewing. But it's also one of the most upsetting shots in the movie, an image that spells certain doom for poor Peter Graham (Alex Wolff). It's the scene right before Toni Collette starts doing her Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon impression. It's a wide shot of the Graham family home at evening, with the house bathed in golden light. Suddenly, the scene cuts to night, with the house shrouded in darkness... and surrounded by naked cult members.

Press pause right as the scene cuts, and you'll see the cultists everywhere. They're in the woods, they're in the yard, they're in the driveway — all naked and waiting for Peter to get possessed by Paimon. And even if the kid were to make it out of the house alive, there's no way he'd get through the legion of cult members waiting outside. The shot only lasts about seven seconds, but it's a thoroughly upsetting image, reminding us of Hereditary's main theme: sometimes, no matter how hard you fight, you're just doomed. 

Librarians are evil in It

It is full of blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments that require a pause button to fully appreciate, like the scene when Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) spends a day studying at the library. The kid has just moved into the uber-creepy town of Derry, and he doesn't have any friends yet. So Ben decides to research Derry's history, but things take an unsettling turn when a librarian shows up.

At first, she seems like your stereotypical librarian — a little harsh, a little cruel. When she hands Ben a book on local history, she shames him for staying indoors during the summer, but Ben just ignores her. He's obviously dealt with adults like this before. However, reading about Derry isn't a relaxing way to spend your day. The town has a haunted history, and Ben is horrified to learn about a devastating explosion that decapitated some poor kid and sent his head hurling into a tree.  

Sure, the images are upsetting, but the really scary stuff is happening behind Ben, where another librarian is standing a little behind Ben, slightly out of focus... and she's just staring at him. Press pause, and you'll see she's grinning this evil grin and just watching, waiting, like a predator about to devour its prey. Obviously, this means that Pennywise is prowling about, and the longer you look, the more goosebumps you get. It's a good reminder to always whisper when inside a library or else you might encounter the librarian from hell.

Summoning the Black Skulls in Mandy

Mandy is an LSD-infused nightmare, complete with tigers, Cheddar Goblins, and chainsaw battles. It's also got a posse of demon bikers who look like they just rode out of Hellraiser. They're known as the Black Skulls, and they only love two things in this world: drugs and pain. There are legends of these guys riding up and down the interstate, murdering truckers and hitchhikers, and these creatures share a weird connection with a psycho cult called the Children of Dawn. If these wimpy hippies ever need some muscle — like, say, to beat up Nicolas Cage and kidnap his wife — they just blow a magical horn and the demons appear, ready to ride.  

The first time the Black Skulls roll onto the screen, shrouded by smoke and blood red light, well, it's a moment to behold. Much like the Cenobites, the Black Skulls each have their own grotesque look. There's one like a medieval knight, only rammed full of spikes. There's another who resembles an evil Drax the Destroyer, with nails sticking out of his arms. (Just wait until you see his lower half, yikes.) And yet another has a mask-like face that resembles dripping, peeled, albino-white flesh. The design for each biker is so unique that we've got to press pause and marvel at each one for just a moment... before they're unleashed on our poor heroes, and things get gory

We can't stop puking in The Perfection

The Perfection is a wild movie about #MeToo, institutional abuse, and why you should never go on a road trip with Allison Williams. The plot involves two cellists who both attended the same prestigious conservatory, and after meeting for the first time, the prodigies go on a roadtrip across China. However, icky stuff starts happening the moment they get on the road. Superstar Lizzie (Logan Browning) comes down with a mysterious flu, and her new friend and lover Charlotte (Williams) is doing her best to help Lizzie survive their nightmarish bus trip.

But as they wind deeper and deeper into the Chinese mountains, Lizzie starts throwing up all over the place. Puking is bad enough by itself, but when Charlotte takes a closer look, she sees that Lizzie's vomit is full of maggots. Even worse, Lizzie's arm starts wriggling, like insects are literally crawling under her skin.

Yeah, it looks like she's become some sort of bug incubator, and the insects are going to devour her arm... until Charlotte pulls a meat cleaver out of her backpack and tells Lizzie to chop off a limb. By this point, we've probably hit the pause button a million times. The sight of worms writhing around in somebody's puke is too much for us to handle. And when Lizzie pulls out that meat cleaver, we've got to hit pause so we can figure out what the heck is going on. But hey, don't worry, things are going to get way freakier before this film is over. 

The Jötunn revealed in The Ritual

Based on the novel by Adam Nevill, The Ritual follows four friends who head into the Swedish woods and encounter a pagan cult that worships an ancient entity. And as it turns out, that entity really loves skewering dudes on tree branches. The monster is called the Jötunn, a beast out of Norse mythology, and for most of the film, the giant creature keeps out of sight. It hides in the forest, plaguing our four heroes with horrible nightmares before turning them into shish kebabs.

Eventually, the two surviving backpackers are captured by that aforementioned cult, and unlucky Dom (Sam Troughton) is offered to the Jötunn as a sacrifice. Up until this point, we still haven't seen the mysterious beast, but when Dom finally finds himself face-to-face with the oversized creature, it's like no monster we've ever seen before. The Jötunn has the body of a goat on steroids. The top half of its head looks like a decapitated human torso with deer antlers. Its glowing eyes are buried in a cavern where its face should be, and there are long human-like arms hanging off the sides of its head. It's a truly bizarre creature, and anytime we get a good look at the Jötunn, we have to press pause and admire its wild design.

The world's worst birthday party in Signs

Rotten ending aside, Signs is an entertaining and terrifying sci-fi flick, and there are more than a few scenes in this M. Night Shyamalan film that scared us (sixth) senseless. But if we're talking about pause-worthy moments, we all know exactly what scene is going to make this list: the Brazilian birthday party.

By this point in the film, it's pretty clear that aliens are invading Earth. We've got crop circles, lights in the sky, and chattering voices on baby monitors. But other than a quick glimpse of a leg, we haven't actually seen an alien yet. That all changes when Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) turns on the news. The dude's obsessed with watching the invasion unfold on TV, but not wanting to freak out his family, he moves the television into a coat closet. And when he sees a home video of a close encounter, Merrill loses his mind.

The footage is shot on a camcorder, so it's shaky and blurry, lending a disturbing realism to the scene. A Brazilian dad is filming his kid's birthday party, but the children are screaming and crying because there's something awful outside. The dad points his camera into an alleyway, and suddenly, the alien lurches into view. The long-limbed creature is only onscreen for a second, but it's enough to send shivers down our spines and Joaquin Phoenix into the coat rack. We're pressing pause as fast we can because we need to collect ourselves — plus, we want to get a better look at this ugly extraterrestrial.

The tension is unbearable in The Strangers

Home invasion movies might be the scariest sort of horror movie. After all, while Freddy Krueger won't kill you in your dreams, there's a possibility that a trio of mask-wearing psychos might drop by one night and slash everyone you love to ribbons, just because you were home. 

And that's the premise of The Strangers, a chilling horror flick where Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play Kristen and James, a couple having one tough night. When James runs to the store, Kristen finds herself home alone and feeling a little unsettled. The house is eerily quiet and strangely empty, and something feels a little off, almost like Kristen is being watched. And that's because there's a masked killer (Kip Weeks) standing in the hallway, just a few feet behind her. 

The villain stands in the door, perfectly happy to watch Kristen walk around the house, tracking her as she moves from one side of the room to the other. The whole thing is done in one wide shot, which creates this unbearable sense of anxiety. We're all so desperately afraid of what's about to happen, part of us hoping Kristen will turn around and part of us dreading what will happen if she does. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife (probably an inappropriate metaphor for this particular film), and things get so quietly intense that we can't help but press pause.