Ethan Hawke thriller Sinister has been deemed the most scientifically scary film of all time in a certifiably spooky study.
The team at Broadbandchoices combed critics’ lists and Reddit recommendations to compile a list of the 50 best horror films, which they then unleashed upon 50 people willing to scare themselves for the sake of science.
Audience members, fitted with heart rate monitors, subjected themselves to over 120 hours of movies in 5.1 surround sound while experiment organisers tracked their results.
They compared viewers’ resting heart rate, at an average of 65 beats per minute (BPM), which the average heart experienced while watching the shortlisted films.
Sinister, released in 2012, stars Ethan as an egomaniacal true-crime writer whose life becomes creepier than fiction when he and his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) move into a house where a few grisly murders took place.
Audience members’ heart rates while watching the mystery unfold averaged out at 86BPM, a thudding 32% increase on the average.
But that’s not even the most thrilling fact. At one especially terrifying point, the poor test subjects’ hearts spiked at a whopping 131BPM. For context, that’s in the range scientists recommend for a running song.
The single-moment spike champion, however, was James Wan’s 2010 child-inhabiting feature Insidious (though our critic found it less than shocking).
Viewers’ heart rates jumped to 133BPM while watching Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in the story of a couple whose life turns nightmarish when their son is inhabited by a variety of sinister supernatural forces.
James Wan also proved to be the most terror-inducing director of the bunch, with two more of his films, The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, ranking at numbers three and seven respectively.
While the study mostly focused on English-language films, one Japanese film, 1999’s Audition, cracked the top 40 at number 35.
The Researchers also noted that modern films tended to terrify more than classics like Halloween, though suggested that may be because they’ve been around for a while, and don’t have the instant impact of lesser-known features.
So if Covid-19 cancelled your Halloween party, just turn off the lights and flick on one of these films to get your heart racing — if you dare.