10 Horror Movies that are Actually Scary
Rest assured, from time to time, I do post about matters unrelated to Heideggerian critiques of Post-Humanism. As a gargantuan fan of horror movies, I’ve often marveled that so few are actually scary. Many are enjoyable for their campiness, goriness, or cleverness, but only a handful would cause the most hardened horror fan to second guess watching them alone in a dark secluded cabin on a stormy evening. I want to stress that for full effect, you must watch these movies in pitch darkness. I could have waited till Halloween to post this, but I say that any time is a good time to be scared. I won’t include The Exorcist in my list, because it still remains in a league of its own. Plus, almost everyone and their mummified mother, has seen it.
10. Jacobs Ladder (1990)
One of the most unsettling psychological thrillers, which also happens to feature some of the most diabolical demonic imagery ever raised from cinematic abyss. In many ways, Jacobs Ladder is an more mature, and scarier, version of more recent films like Silent Hill, which obviously borrowed heavily from it.
9. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
There’s a real feeling of timeless doom that pervades Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, that manages to wallpaper over its late 60s datedness. It’s a film that sticks with you, well past its eerie ending. Note: Your best bet is the Criterion Blu-Ray, released around Halloween, 2012.
8. The Haunting (1963)
Perhaps the most important element to ensuring a horror film is actually scary is its use of sound effects. Clever sound effects can be responsible for transforming a good haunted house film into a classic. The Wikipedia entry for The Haunting, claims that some of the sounds featured in the move are very low in the bass range, which can cause physical sensations at high volume. I wonder whether this use of the low bass range is now standard horror practice?
7. Event Horizon (1997)
I hope I’m not going to turn you away by including this black gem, which features Sam Neil clawing his own eyes out. It’s really a shame that big budget, ultra-violent, sci-fi horror has become an endangered species. While not a perfect film, Event Horizon, fortunately, features enough jump scenes, whispering demons, and claustrophobic space tunnels to keep us scared in a time when horror migrated away from sci-fi to ‘torture porn’. Plus, you will get to see Sam Neil claw his own eyes out. “Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.”
6. Martyrs (2008)
If Martyrs doesn’t rattle you, please send me an email because I’d like to meet you. This nihilistic film – part of the s0-called “New French Extremity Movement” is the definition of horror. Plus, if you’re a reader of Georges Bataille (or keep a tattered Marquis de Sade book under your pillow) you’ll be “ecstatic” about the second half.
5. Session 9 (2001)
There’s something off-putting about dark, spooky mental hospitals… It’s not just me right? While this film seems to have fallen by the wayside, it is a very effective – if slow moving by today’s standards – thriller. I might give this a watch again before I visit the Wavery Hills Sanatorium this summer.
4. The Descent (2005)
It’s been a while since I saw this one in theaters but I remember The Descent as a claustrophobic ‘trapped in the cave’ film that plays on our fear of dark, enclosed spaces…and flesh eating eyeless monsters. It’s a clever, and nerve racking, film that becomes increasingly scary as it goes on. It looks like a 3D re-release is in the works as well.
3. The Shining (1980)
If you’re here, you’ve probably seen this Stanley Kubrick classic. Unfortunately, with each passing year (as a result of an accumulating number of pop culture references) the film loses a little bit of its bloody bite.
2. Pet Semitary (1989)
This Stephen King adaptation really has it all: the creepy possessed kid, the ghoulish demented old crone, the secluded country house, etc… A film that many skip over because they assume it’s just another lousy King adaptation, about pets! It’s actually one of the darker and more serious King adaptations out there. If Aunt Zelda doesn’t make you at least think about crawling under the bed, you’re probably an emotionless sociopath. Avoid, Pet Semitary 2, which is a total mess.
1. [Rec] (2007)
Like The Haunting (#8 on this list), my hunch is that a major reason [REC] is so terrifying is due to its use of sound effects. This Spanish film has no musical score, and relies solely on ingeniously placed, and often jarring, sound effects. Consider the sound of the body that is thrown from the top floor of the apartment building early in the film. If you have surround sound, and that doesn’t jar you, nothing will. Contrary to the film’s first 20 minutes, this is not your usual shaky cam nonsense. Plus, the sequel [Rec] 2 – which picks up right where [Rec] leaves off is not half bad either…in fact it’s one of the better horror sequels out there. Avoid, however [Rec] 3, which is an abysmal mess.