The term screamer, also and now more commonly referred to as a jumpscare, is used to describe a game, video, website, or program, that makes the user concentrate on the screen, which may happen in many ways, and then has a sudden unexpected change that is intended to scare or startle the viewer(s).
Most of these screamers use scary images and loud sounds or screams to increase the effect (hence the name screamer). Some examples of screamers are The Maze by Jeremy Winterrowd, Anne.jpg, Ghost Caught on Tape, What's Wrong? and the K-fee commercials. Screamers often have a scary image and a loud scream, per example, Regan MacNeil from the 1973's classic horror movie The Exorcist. Horror films or games are not considered screamers since the users already know they will get scared. In some cases, they have startling or disgusting images, and these are called shock sites. They can also be considered screamers since they do surprise the user.
Screamers have been around since as far as the early 1970s and slowly started to make surface on the web in the 2000s. The first screamers to be aired on television were part of an advertising campaign named Wide Awake from K-fee, for their new coffee drink called Turbodrink. The nine ads consisted of a peaceful scene with soothing music, but at some point in the ad, the scene gets briefly interrupted by either a zombie or a gargoyle screaming at the camera, followed by the company's slogan and the product.
Because of their reputation as clever trolling tools and pranks, screamers have been featured quite recently in works of fiction and also in some well-known cartoons.
The Amazing World of Gumball
In the Cartoon Network animated series The Amazing World of Gumball, the episode named “The Internet“, parodies the K-fee advertisements. In one scene, Gumball and Darwin appear randomly browsing the web while watching videos. Among these videos, they come across what is implied to be the K-fee Car ad. Gumball watches the video, commenting on the white car driving through the hills and staring closely at the screen, when suddenly the loud scream is heard, causing him to have an intense reaction which gets recorded and posted to the web. The rest of the episode involves Gumball trying to get rid of the video about his reaction, which has given him unwanted fame.
In the episode "The Spoiler", when Anais wants Gumball to take her to a horror movie, Gumball pulls a prank on both her and the audience by having the screen suddenly cut to a picture of a real-life piranha with its mouth fully open alongside a screeching noise. The screen then cuts to Anais white with shock while Gumball sports a smug grin.
In the Disney animated series Gravity Falls, the episode "Summerween" also refers to screamers. After many failed attempts at scaring two kids who have been coming to the Mystery Shack for trick 'n' treat, Grunkle Stan asks them what they find scary. One of the children shows him a video on his smartphone which says "Watch closely". It then shows a cute kitten, which is abruptly cut by a screaming demonic face, scaring Stan and causing him to have a nervous fit.
In the Comedy Central animated series Drawn Together, the episode ''Spelling Applebee'' parodies the flash screamer Where's Waldo?. In one scene, Princess Clara disguises herself as Waldo and tells Captain Hero before she disappears into the crowd: "You know where to find me". After a while, the screen cuts to a close-up picture of three monstrous-looking aliens, accompanied by a piercing screech. Earlier, The image with the screaming aliens appeared during the Foxxy Love montage in the same episode.
The Shivering Truth
In Adult Swim's stop-motion animated series The Shivering Truth, the episode ''The Burn Earner Spits'''. The screen cuts to a woman walking with an Umbrella until she stops. She will trick users into counting numbers; then a Demonic-human face zooms in, accompanied by a piercing scream.
As screamers made surface on the web, more reaction videos were being posted and eventually became a trend on the Internet. The concept of a reaction video is to get someone to play or watch a screamer while recording their reaction.
The first reaction video to The Maze was uploaded to YouTube by the user CantWeAllJusGetAlong, on May 20th, 2006. In the video, a young kid, Justice, is playing The Maze. Then, he gets surprised by the screamer. Shocked, he starts screaming and repeatedly hitting the computer screen. He then runs to his stepdad, Chad, and starts crying. As of 2018, the video has over 27 million views.