Scott Derrickson Explains How He Directed The Scariest Movie Scene Of All Time

There's something about a scene in a horror movie that relies on both tone and a solid jumpscare. The combination of the two elements can really pack a punch, and it is in that tradition that the infamous lawnmower scene in "Sinister" becomes a successfully terrifying moment in the genre. In fact, it is scientifically — yes, you read that right, science says so — the scariest movie ever – and us folks at /Film agree. We previously ranked the scene number one in our list of the 31 scariest movie scenes.

Senior news editor Jacob Hall recently spoke with the film's director, Scott Derrickson, ahead of the release of his new horror entry "The Black Phone" and he opened up about what makes the lawnmower scene so unrelentingly horrific.

"The fascinating thing to me about that scene is that its power is purely cinematic. It's time and motion. And what you don't see ... You see the lawn mower, it's very dark, you can't see anything around it. And it goes on for a long time, and you can just feel that something really bad is going to happen. And it's like you know it's coming, you know something's coming, you really don't know what. And when it does come, it's still very, very shocking. And I think that the power of that is not only in the duration of the build-up and then the shock of the body, the lawnmower tilting up and hitting the body, but it's what it immediately makes your imagination do. Because we don't show the body getting ravaged by the lawnmower, but you sure see it in your mind's eye. You can't help it."

The perfect horror combination

Derrickson also added that his killer scene uses similar tactics to some of the other all-time great scenes in horror — and that, a lot of the time, your brain's tendency to anticipate the worst bolsters these moments and sends them to higher, more horrific heights.

"There's something about the effectiveness of that scene that is the key to a lot of effective horror, which is how it plays on as a combination of sight and sound, what's on screen, what's in the soundtrack, because it's nothing but a very soft, menacing beat, piece of music that's playing, that's it, and the audience's imagination. What scares an audience more than anything is not what you put in front of their eyes, it's what you can put in your mind."

Derrickson directed the upcoming supernatural horror "The Black Phone" (which already has plenty of positive buzz) from a script he penned with "Sinister" co-writer C. Robert Cargill, who also wrote "Doctor Strange" alongside Derrickson and John Spaihts. The movie is an adaptation of Joe Hill's short story of the same name, and Ethan Hawke will once again star, this time as the film's masked villain.

"The Black Phone" will be released in theaters on June 24, 2022.