I have always enjoyed being scared by things. The first scary memory I have was going through the haunted house at Six Flags when I was eight or nine. I was completely freaked out and terrified, afraid to go around each turn, filled with fear of what might lie ahead. But when I walked out of the exit I felt exhilarated and excited; I wanted to go back through. I couldn’t get enough.
I enjoy the butterflies in my stomach and the hair standing up the back of my neck that accompany fear. And with Halloween right around the corner, I want to experience that frightening thrill again. But with haunted houses offering more shocks than true terror and Halloween parties being more about fun than fear, how do you get that chilling sensation?
When nothing else seems frightening there are always scary movies. Sure, a lot them are terrible, but some are great films that, no matter how many times you watch them, will still leave you afraid to turn the lights out.
There are movies out there to fit any kind of frightful fantasy. There are movies ranging from terrifying creatures and supernatural forces wreaking havoc on unsuspecting victims, to deranged murderers giving us an inside view into the mind of madness as they stalk and hunt their prey. Some rely on tension, setting and isolation to send chills up and down the viewer’s spine while others use violence, realistic special effects and buckets of blood and gore.
No matter your preference, these 10 horror movies will be sure to keep you thoroughly creeped out Halloween night.
10. Alien (1979, R)
“Alien” is all about atmosphere. It is not the great special effects or disgusting creatures that make “Alien” scary, it is the atmosphere of being trapped and hunted, alone in space. The crew of a refining ship is traveling back to earth when things get strange. During a stop to investigate a transmission signal they pick up an unwanted guest. This creature makes an incredibly brutal appearance during dinner one night then proceeds to hunt down the crew one by one.
I normally don’t find supernatural horror movies all that scary, but because the crew is isolated on this vessel with no place to escape, this movie is very spooky. There is nowhere to run or hide when trapped all alone in space, and that is what makes this movie so haunting, how truly helpless the crew is to escape its hunter.
9. The Coffin Joe series and spinoffs (1963-2008, NR)
These are without a doubt the weirdest movies I have ever seen. This eight-movie series of low-budget Brazilian films will leave you confused, nauseated and definitely afraid. After watching these movies I was so lost I had to scour the internet for answers, but even after reading synopses online I cannot venture a guess as to what the intricacies of the plot are. The movies revolve around a silent, eerie undertaker in a small unnamed town and his quest to find the right woman to birth him an immortal child.
It sounds outlandish and goofy, but it’s actually a scary series, filled with creepy rituals, chants, exorcisms, resurrections and lots of violence, but the scariest part is that someone was twisted enough to think it up. I do not recommend this flick for those who are squeamish.
8. The Ring (2002, PG-13)
This remake of the Japanese film “Ringu” affirms the fact that little children can, actually, be very, very creepy. “The Ring” revolves around a video tape that, when watched, kills you. After watching the video, you receive a phone call saying you will die in seven days, and on the seventh day you do die, when a little girl named Samara crawls out of your TV screen. This may not sound that scary, but the tension, coupled with eerie special effects and unnerving sound, make this movie quite frightening.
The opening scene with the two home-alone girls receiving threatening phone calls will make you shiver the next time your phone rings, but the scariest part of the movie has to be the videotape itself. The montage of odd, disturbing imagery will stick with you for days and have you eyeing your TV nervously as you try to fall asleep.
7. Eden Lake (2008, R)
This British horror film is a little-known title, but that makes it no less scary. “Eden Lake” does not rely on fictional creatures, gross out special effects or a suffocating, otherworldly atmosphere to create terror. Instead, it simply takes two normal people on a vacation and throws them into a hellish situation. A trip to the beach turns into a nightmare for a British couple as a group of teenagers from a nearby town begin to stalk and harass them.
It starts out innocent enough with the harassers simply blaring loud music and being obnoxious, but slowly becomes more sinister when they destroy the couple’s car, leaving them trapped on the secluded beach surrounded by dense forest. From here, they seek to find a way out, falling slowly into the understanding that they may not make it out alive.
“Eden Lake” builds terror, leading to one of the most disturbing climaxes in modern film, when we are finally introduced to the teenagers’ parents.
6. 28 Days Later (2002, R)
“28 Days Later” is all about isolation and the fight for survival. Early in the movie, the protagonist, Jim, walks out of an abandoned hospital into the completely empty, plague ridden streets of London. This plague turns normal people into blood thirsty ‘infected’ (basically zombies). Missing person signs are strewn around the streets, but we see no one. Viewing an entire population hub like London abandoned is powerful imagery that has stuck with me to this day.
This sense of isolation is what makes “28 Days Later” so frightening. It is also a truly sad and emotional movie at times, as people deal with the death (sometimes at their own hands) and even suicide of loved ones. There is no hope in this movie. It seems as if they are simply running from the inevitable: brutal death at the hands of the infected.
5. Saw (2004, R)
Many will probably disagree with me, but the original Saw movie was interesting and inventive with a complex plot that kept viewers guessing until the end. If you do not let the inadequate sequels taint your opinion, you will realize it’s a very good horror movie. Unlike the sequels, “Saw” does not rely on constant over the top violence to create scares. Instead, it puts two seemingly unrelated men into a room and forces them to find a way to escape before time runs out, trapping them in the room for good.
“Saw” has many memorable scenes such as the first time we hear antagonist Jigsaw utter, “Let’s play a game,” and the game-changing plot twist that does not appear until the last few minutes of the movie. But the most disturbing sequence is the last scene of the film which will leave you sprinting to the nearest light switch, frantic to get out of the dark.
4. Audition (1999, R)
This Japanese horror film is the slowest-paced movie on this list, but also one of the most troubling. The first half of the movie may even seem like a romance to unsuspecting viewers as the recently widowed Shigeharu Aoyama sets out to find a new bride. Women ‘audition’ for his affection because of his wealth, and he ends up choosing the seemingly shy, soft-spoken Asami Yamazaki.
As they begin to get to know each other, it seems the movie is headed toward a ‘happily ever after’ ending until things take a turn for the bizarre and disturbing. I won’t spoil exactly what happens, but in the end we uncover the real Asami, one that is much darker and more evil than Shigeharu could ever imagine. This is another movie that is not for those who have weak stomachs … or a fear of needles.
3. Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, R)
The original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” was one of the first true ‘slasher’ horror films. (Very) loosely based off of a true story, this movie revolves around five friends who run out of gas while traveling through the remote heartland of Texas. They find it eerie that no traffic comes by and go out searching for help, when they stumble upon a large house in the middle of nowhere.
The search for help soon turns into a fight for their lives as the family that inhabits the house turns out to be a clan of back-woods rednecks that attempt to kill and torture the five friends. Cannibalism, chainsaws, meat hooks and a deformed savage who skins his victims and then wears their skin, comprise the rest of the movie. If this sounds over the top, it’s not. This is a really creepy movie in every aspect of the word, with the family members being the scariest part. The subtle quirks of their personalities and the enjoyment they get out of causing five innocent people to suffer is beyond scary; it’s horrifying.
2. The Strangers (2008, R)
The most terrifying aspect of “The Strangers” is that it could happen to anyone; there is nothing supernatural or unbelievable about this true story. From the first knock of the door to the closing credits, “The Strangers” had me on the edge of my seat (or jumping out of it).
Main characters James and Kriste are supposed to be spending a romantic weekend in their friend’s country home when they hear a knock at the door. It is a young woman whom they eventually persuade to leave, as she is asking for someone who is not there. When she continues knocking on the door they know something is wrong and the annoyance turns into downright terror as they face a fight for their lives.
This movie uses subtle tactics to scare. The crooning music blaring from the old fashioned record player is chilling; the misplaced objects in a room are creepy, and whenever I noticed a masked figure standing in the background my heart skipped a few beats.
Next time you hear a late night knock on your door, don’t answer it.
1. The Blair Witch Project (1999, R)
“The Blair Witch Project” is the single scariest movie of all time. The first time I watched this movie was about five years ago and I was afraid to walk into my dark bedroom afterward. I watched it with a friend, who was genuinely terrified when it was over and refused to go outside or sleep in the dark that night.
Blair Witch is about three acquaintances who venture out into the woods to make a documentary for a class on the legend of the Blair Witch, a floating ghost-like figure, rumored to kill those who wander too deep into her woods. This is one of the original found-footage/handheld-camera horror movies, a sub-genre that is currently being tarnished and overused by mainstream series such as “Paranormal Activity”. The shaky, first person perspective makes it so you see what the characters see and know what the characters know, keeping you in the dark as to what is actually following these students. There was even a controversy at the movie’s release because of its realism, as many viewers thought it was truly lost footage that had been uncovered.
As the students progress further into the forest, odd occurrences begin to happen, ranging from hearing voices at night to finding human shaped figures hanging from trees around their camp sites. Every aspect of this movie is frightening. Every eerie sound at night makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Every odd image or symbol makes your mind churn as to what could have placed it there and even thinking about the cabin the students stumble upon near the end of the movie will give you goosebumps. But what is most scary about this movie is what is left unseen.
Because of the way Blair Witch is filmed you never see what is causing all of this terror. Is it actually a ‘witch’? Is it an insane person or group of people? Is it some supernatural force or entity? We will never know, and that is what makes this movie so d— scary.
What movies scare you? Let us know in the comments.
By Sam Mitchell