Follow TV Tropes

Door Handle Scare

Go To

Close-up on a turning door handle to build up suspense

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
eroock on Oct 10th 2014 at 2:36:35 PM
Last Edited By:
eroock on Apr 6th 2018 at 12:04:07 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dorr_handle_scare.jpg

A typical element in horror/thriller movies to build up suspense. A character is in a room, we hear somebody (or something) approach on the outside. The music swells. The camera pans in on the door knob/handle, which slowly starts to move. In a Reaction Shot we see the character's face filled with terror.

The scene can take several directions from here, for example in the form of a Cat Scare, where the person entering turns out to be a harmless visitor.


Examples:

Films — Animated

  • Monsters, Inc.: Sulley has accidentally let a little girl (whom he later calls Boo) into the monster world, which is forbidden. After managing to capture her, he goes back to her door to send her back, and as he reaches for the knob it suddenly starts to turn. The next shot is of Sulley's rival, Randall, coming out of the door. He deactivates the door, and as it is lifted up to be stored away, it leaves Sulley, who had been hiding behind the door, exposed. Thankfully, Randall never looks back.
  • When Fidget in The Great Mouse Detective breaks into Flavisham's Toy Shop with the intention of abducting the owner, he spends several seconds rattling the door handle (which turns out to be futile) before breaking the window and entering with a Jump Scare.

Films — Live-Action

  • An early example can be found in the horror movie Vampyr (1932). The hero is woken from his sleep by a loud and slow knocking on the door. He turns and sees how the key in the keyhole slowly twists around. The door opens and an old and confused man stands in his room.
  • In the 1968 horror movie Night of the Living Dead, the female lead is sitting in the living room almost halfway into the movie while another character boards up the windows without her. She listens to the radio about the flesh eaters roaming outside in the night. The radio almost increases in volume with no other sound in the scene. She then hears a couple bangs behind the unchecked door beside her. The camera goes back and fourth onto the door and then on her face. The knob doesn't turn, and then the music soars as the other survivors of the house stumble out at her as she screams and tries to run away.
  • Subverted during the climax of Night of the Creeps, zombies surround the outside of the sorority house of girls. Detective Ray Cameron yells for one of the girls to lock those double back doors. She then looks at the doors and the camera goes back into a long view shot as she focuses at it already frightened. Already having two scary incidents earlier in the movie with the same doors. The music goes quiet and she slowly approaches the door. The knob doesn't turn from the outside, as she reaches down to lock it with the key already inside. And then the music soars out as a zombie's hand crashes in through the glass of the door grabbing her wrist.
  • In The Lost Boys, we see Sam taking a bubble bath when his brother Michael slowly comes walking up the stairs. Sam sings to himself completely clueless, but his dog Nanook next to the bathtub hears his brothers footsteps coming up on the other side of the bathroom door. The music doesn't go silent but in fact increases with the tension. Finally Michael stands outside the bathroom door, banging it, turning the knob with the camera focusing in. His brother Sam is now submerged under the water as Michael's confronted by a growling and snarling Nanook. Who then attacks Michael out the door, down the stairs, with the door slamming shut.
  • In Coherence, the heroine supposedly kills her other self and placed her in the shower. Next morning, she walks by the bathroom when suddenly the door knob is tried a few times from the inside. Oh, Crap!. Then the door opens and another visitor of the house is exiting the bathroom.
  • In Blood Simple., the camera zooms in on the door handle when the Psycho for Hire villain approaches Abby's apartment door.
  • In Uncle Buck, the title character finds out his niece has snuck out to a party and goes after her. We see her boyfriend making out with someone in a room when the door handle jiggles. But the door is locked and the two continue. Then a power drill comes through the handle and the door opens to reveal Buck. But the girl is not the niece.
  • In Zathura, the kids are hiding in a cupboard. They hear heavy footsteps outside. The camera closeups on the door handle, which starts to turn... and then the somewhat goofy astronaut comes back in.
  • In Bound, Micky uses a Hairpin Lockpick to open the apartment door from the outside while Caesar and Violet are distracted inside. There are several close-ups on the door handle and how Micky finally succeeds to unbolt it.
  • This was done with a side of Tempting Fate in Jurassic Park. After being chased through the facility by a group of raptors, the main characters run inside a room and close the door. Grant claims they are safe as long as the raptors don't learn how to open doors. Cue the doorknob turning.
  • Played with in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, When the aliens arrive at the house, a Scare Chord is playing and the camera focused on the key hole of the front door showing a bright light on the other side. Then the little boy opens the door from the inside but no aliens are showing outside.
  • In the horror movie The Skeleton Key, in the scene where the heroine is roaming around the attic, there is a close-up on a door handle and the doors starts rattling.
  • Plays out both ways in the suspense thriller The Window. The kid hero tries to unlock the apartment door from the inside but fails but the rattling of the door knob alerts his father who approaches the door from the outside. Then the father opens the door which in turn gives the boy a good scare because he was expecting his evil neighbors to show up. Watch it here.
  • In A Tale of Two Sisters, Su-yeon is terrified in her bed when the door to her sleeping room starts slowly opening with a hand appearing around the door handle. As it turns out this was just a Nightmare Sequence. Watch the scene here.

Live-Action TV

  • In the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, Rick is at the house with Morgan and his boy, hearing the car alarm go off outside on the street. He looks out the peep hole on the front door to see another zombie on the other side. The zombie then looks down towards the door knob, and then Rick, and the camera focuses on the door know turning to the left and right.
  • In Stranger Things episode "The Mind Flayer", this trope is used suspensefully when the heroes are under attack from the demo-dogs and suddenly the door starts opening. Turns out it's Eleven entering. Watch the scene here.

Videogames

WesternAnimation

  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode Two Dozen And One Greyhounds, where Bart and Lisa sneak into Mr. Burns' mansion to safe their little dog puppies. When Mr. Burns tries to enter the room they are hiding in, we first see the door handle as it starts moving downward. Bart and Lisa look terrified. Then there is another shot of the handle as it slowly turns ... and turns ... and turns ... until it has completed a full 360° turn. The door opening takes so long, that it gives Bart, Lisa, and the dogs time to escape through the laundry shaft.

Feedback: 14 replies

Oct 10th 2014 at 6:09:22 PM

Monsters Inc: Sulley has accidentally let a little girl (whom he later calls Boo) into the monster world, which is forbidden. After managing to capture her, he goes back to her door to send her back, and as he reaches for the knob it suddenly starts to turn. The next shot is of Sulley's rival, Randall, coming out of the door. He deactivates the door, and as it is lifted up to be stored away, it leaves Sulley, who had been hiding behind the door, exposed. Thankfully, Randall never looks back.

Oct 10th 2014 at 7:51:49 PM

Film

  • In Uncle Buck, the title character finds out his niece has snuck out to a party and goes after her. We see her boyfriend making out with someone in a room when the door handle jiggles. But the door is locked and the two continue. Then a power drill comes through the handle and the door opens to reveal Buck. But the girl is not the niece.

Oct 10th 2014 at 8:19:00 PM

  • Zathura. The kids are hiding in a cupboard. They hear heavy footsteps outside. The camera closeups on the door handle, which starts to turn... and then the somewhat goofy astronaut comes back in.

Oct 13th 2014 at 4:16:20 PM

  • In Bound, Micky uses a Hairpin Lockpick to open the apartment door from the outside while Caesar and Violet are distracted inside. There are several close-ups on the door handle and how Micky finally succeeds to unbolt it.

Oct 13th 2014 at 4:26:56 PM

  • When Fidget in The Great Mouse Detective breaks into Flavisham's Toy Shop with the intention of abducting the owner, he spends several seconds rattling the door handle (which turns out to be futile) before breaking the window and entering with a Jump Scare.

AP
Oct 21st 2014 at 5:59:02 AM

  • This was done with a side of Tempting Fate in Jurassic Park. After being chased through the facility by a group of raptors, the main characters run inside a room and close the door. Grant claims they are safe as long as the raptors don't learn how to open doors. Cue the doorknob turning.

Nov 19th 2014 at 12:03:44 PM

  • In the horror movie The Skeleton Key, in the scene where the heroine is roaming around the attic, there is a close-up on a door handle and the doors starts rattling.

Nov 19th 2014 at 12:23:15 PM

Doesn't this happen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the aliens come to take the little boy away?

Nov 20th 2014 at 6:40:23 AM

^ I've just watched the entire sequence here and I didn't see it.

Sep 29th 2016 at 7:43:26 PM

  • Jurassic Park: As Grant and the others are discussing where the raptors are, it's noted they should be contained, unless they figure out how to open doors. Cut to the door to the kitchen where Lex and Tim are hiding from said raptors as the door handle moves experimentally, then the door opens and the raptors come in.

Apr 5th 2018 at 6:54:27 PM

Any last comments/submission?

Top