A "cat scare" is a cheap and lazy way of scaring people in horror films. In an eponymous example, our movie's hero wakes up and thinks the demonic werevampire has broken into his basement. Oh dear, the basement light has burned out. Odd that! He grabs a candle (and not the cordless nail gun he'll use in Act III to kill the demonic werevampire) and slowly creeps down the stairs to investigate. The music and tension build and then, boom, a cat jumps out of no where and screams. Everyone in the audience jumps and then breathes a sigh of relief.

"Whew! It was only a cat the hero owned but was never revealed in act one coming out of nowhere and screaming at his owner in a manner cats never, ever behave in real life!"

More often then not, the hero turns around and then comes face-to-face with the demonic werevampire and gets a flaming fist through his stomach. Of course then the hero wakes up to discover it was only a dream. The nested cat scare! Punk!

In general, the cat scare involves building up some tension, leading the audience to think some horrifying outcome is looming and then having some benign person or creature jump out of no where. It's usually a cat but sometimes it's Carl the estate handyman who was rummaging around the basement looking for some black candles and a pentagram stencil he thought the previous owner stored here before he mysterious vanished, leaving only a pool of blood and a severed hand that was transplanted onto the arm of a serial killer. Oh no one told you about the mysterious death of the previous owner? And the one before that? And the six before that? I guess the Indian burial ground under the tennis court wasn't in the listing either huh? Century 21 Realty I curse you!

The cat scare is much like a friend suddenly chucking a basketball at your head. Yeah, scary but fuck off.

You might hear the term used as such:

Man 1: Is that new horror movie scary?
Man 2: Not really. A couple cat scares but nothing more.

Slasher films like the Jason/Friday the 13th series make use of the cat scare frequently. Like cold pasta salad, the cat scare has its place next to the horror buffet's delectable steam table, but when a movie's only scary moment(s) relies on the cat scare, most serious horror aficionados walk away with a sense of disgust.

One wonders why some directors think a cat scare followed by tension relief followed by the "unexpected" encounter with the werevampire is good horror or clever film making. Why can't the expected encounter with the werevampire actually play out? It's far better to be predictable than irritating.

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