Horror movies are made to scare and frighten us. They give us shocks and bring out our worst fears. And know what? We still love them. What explains this phenomenon? Well, we like to be scared as long as we know we are not in actual danger and safe on our couch or chair in a movie theatre. But scare us they do.
Horror movies only getting popular year by year. There are more horror movies releasing every year now than they were any time before. But sadly, only a few are actually worth watching and among those that are worth watching there are a few which no fan can afford to miss. This list is of latter kind of movies. It is not in order – you must really watch them all. Either these movies are downright scary, or have frighteningly shocking, moments or have good plotting and characterisation, or every one of these things.
(1) Train to Busan
Train to Busan is a film for you if you are bored of zombie films set in the United States. It is also for you if you are looking for a refreshingly new take on the zombie genre. Bottomline is if you like zombie films, this is a must watch. Get this: zombies are wreaking havoc in South Korea. A few passengers of a train travelling to – you guessed it – the city of Busan get infected, turn into mindless cannibals and begin eating their fellow passengers. Nothing unusual in this, but Train to Busan gets its thrill factor dead right. The zombies may be mindless, but they are physically as strong and fast in a superhuman way and the train setting create lots of heart stopping moments. Make sure to see this in Korean with English subtitles.
(2) The Others
Nicole Kidman is an amazing artiste. And her performance in The Others is massively underrated. She plays the possessive mother of two children who live in a remote house. Her children are extremely sensitive to light and must be kept out of natural light all the time and are able to see only by the light of candles. Three servants arrive at their house and strange things begin to happen. The ending of The Others is absolutely mind-boggling, but what comes in between is creepy too. You do not see what is haunting the house, but you feel the presence. It is tantalising. There is a hint, a suggestion. Rarely anything concrete. Some may find the pace slow, but whatever happens stay till the end. That’s when everything becomes upside down.
(3) The Descent
A rare horror flick with an all female cast. A group of women go spelunking in an undocumented cave in a remote region of North Carolina, and began to be hunted by blind subterranean monsters who have a highly developed hearing sense. The girls begin to die one by one and once it starts, it’s harrowing and intense. Most of the film is shot in cramp and dark caves, and this makes the experience unsettling even when there are no monsters in sight. The Descent is an absolutely immersive experience.
(4) Let the Right One In
A vampire film which reinvigorated the genre. Let the Right One In is set in a Swedish suburb and is a story of a meek and bullied boy. He meets a female vampire of his age and forms a bond with her for he sees himself in her – a lonely person. The film is bloody and gory and well-made. The performances by the two child actors is superb. Another of the film’s strengths is its art design. While it makes it beautiful to look at, it also makes it a little disturbing at times. There is a an American remake too, which is quite good in its own right. But can’t hold a candle to the Swedish original.
(5) Stir of Echoes
Stir of Echoes is a run of the mill film, which relies on old school scares. Indeed, there is little this film does that has not been done before. But with its strong performances, a story of pathos and psychological horror elements makes it engaging enough. Its narrative is deftly built up to the end and there is a disquieting atmosphere that pervades the entire film. Kevin Bacon as the lead delivers an amazing performance as a rattled, vulnerable man.
(6) Don’t Breathe
Don’t Breathe is the only film on this list that does not have anything supernatural in it. But that very fact makes it even scarier, for this can actually happen in your neighbourhood. This film serves as a stern warning to robbers. Three young thieves plan to rob a blind veteran obviously assuming that it would be a piece of cake. Well, they are dead wrong (pun intended). The army personnel don’t spend their life fighting across the world only to be robbed back home. The tension is prevalent, thick enough to be cut with a knife. This may just be the scariest film that does not have the usual horror tropes like ghosts, vampire, zombies, and so forth.
The Asians do know how to scare people. Shutter is a Thai horror (yes, it is a genre in itself) film that is been remade twice – one in English and one in Hindi (Click starring Shreyas Talpade) and both have been dismisses as cheap imitations. Widely considered by many as the scariest film ever, Shutter is an all-out horror. A photographer and his girlfriend hit a girl and run away. The photographer begins to feel strange occurrences and a scary face of a woman keeps popping up in the photos he clicks. Around the same time, he also complains of neck pain which the doctor dismisses as nothing. Watch out for the scary twist in the end.
Even good horror films are considered bad films for they employ cliches and worn out tropes to scare people. Sinister is not revolutionary in this regard. But it is a well-acted, directed and terrifying film that is more than worth its 110 minutes. Ellison Oswalt writes stories on true crimes and thinks he’s doing the world a service. He moves into a house where a horrible crime has occurred and finds a disturbing footage and things take a terrible turn.
(9) The Witch
One of the rare horror films to be almost universally appreciated by critics, The Witch fuses two genres: horror and period. A family is asked to move away from a plantation over a difference in interpretation of the New Testament in 17th century New England. They construct a farm by a forest in a secluded region. It is gorgeous and repulsive at the same time with its cinematography and gore. And medieval setting is always compelling and not just in horror. Do not miss.
(10) The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The son and father coroner duo get the dead body of an unidentified woman to examine. Apparently she was found at the scene of a homicide, buried in the basement of a home with no signs of physical trauma. The body of this mysterious woman also looks well-preserved. The eyes are cloudy – which implies the woman has been dead for days, but she otherwise looks fresh. They start the examination and this is only the start for their nightmares. The thing with The Autopsy of Jane Doe is it is scary right from the beginning. It does not waste time with fleshing out characters and plot which is good enough for there are only two characters (apart from Jane Doe) and the plot is wafer-thin. A true scarefest.