10: “The Witch” (2015)
Sometimes the scariest things aren’t actually scary so much as they are just deeply unsettling. The film centers around a New English family in the 1600’s who become torn about by their fear of witchcraft. While it lacks any truly terrifying monsters and has a severe shortage of jump scares, the film is packed with so much vivid and disturbing imagery, sound, and dialogue that is guaranteed to leave you feeling all sorts of discomfort. The cringe worthy nail biter also shows that, at often times, there is nothing to fear but our own thoughts. Sometimes, the darkest events can result from an overactive imagination.
9: “The Babadook” (2014)
In this Australian thriller, the life of single mother Amelia, already at her wits end with her unruly child, takes a turn for the worse with the arrival a gruesome pop-up book entitled “Mr. Babadook” that foretells the coming of a malevolent creature. The film is an eerie look into the darkness of the human psyche. It is up to the viewer to decide if Amelia is truly plagued by a terrifying supernatural entity, or just the malicious capabilities of her fragile mind. If the notion that everyone possesses an inner darkness isn’t frightening enough to think about, there is a scene that will leave you lying awake at night, too afraid to close your eyes. The first appearance of Mr. Babadook and his bone chilling greeting of “Babadook! Dook! DOOK!” will echo inside your head long after the film has ended.
8: “The Grudge” (2004)
The Japanese culture has given us many things; anime, sushi, and some of the creepiest and most unsettling ghosts ever to haunt the screen. “The Grudge”, a U.S. adaptation of a Japanese film entitled “Ju-On,” tells the story of a young American woman who inadvertently becomes tangled up in the curse of a vengeful spirit. The malevolent specter herself is the most horrific part of the film. The ghost’s jerky, bone snapping movements partnered with her wide-eyed stare and throaty, gurgling sound are positively spine tingling. The fact that this enraged spirit can be lurking anywhere at any time will have its viewers too afraid to shower, sleep, or even walk down a flight of stairs.
7: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Better break out the coffee after watching this one. The film focuses on a group of high school teens who are stalked and murdered in succession by a revenge driven killer inside of their own dreams. While the idea of sleep being a potentially fatal endeavor is frightening, the best part of the film is the iconic villain that comes with it: Freddy Krueger. Unlike his silent and lumbering serial killer counterparts, Freddy is talkative, showy, and downright raunchy. The knife wearing boogeyman gave us some of the best one-liners in cinematic history. Additionally, Johnny Depp, in his first major role, delivers one of the most gruesomely memorable deaths in the history of horror. Fair warning, it takes a strong stomach to watch Depp’s character kick the bucket in this 80’s classic.
6: Jeepers Creepers (2001)
After meddling in the affairs of a cannibalistic killer, a brother and sister are chased across the rural countryside by the villain who is deadset on making them his next meal. Everything about the film is terrifying. Those who choose to watch it will never feel at ease driving down a long, lonely stretch of road again, especially when being followed by a speeding Chevy truck. The unsuspected twist that comes near the ending will make the previous half of the film seem even more frightening than it initially felt.
5: Psycho (1960)
Before films like “The Sixth Sense” and “The Mist,” it was Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” whose twist ending was most revered by horror fans. The psychological thriller tells the story of an embezzling secretary and her encounter with a lonely, yet charming, motel manager under the sway of his elderly mother. After a grisly murder takes place at the secluded motel, a twisted and puzzling mystery follows. The infamous “shower scene” has, and will continue to strike fear into the hearts of hotel guests for decades. The film broke many cinematic barriers in its time and inspired future films in the horror genre, such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The cinematic masterpiece both chills and thrills audiences of every generation with its look into a warped psyche. Sometimes, the most damaged and fearsome monsters wear the friendliest smile.
4: The Mist (2007)
The adaptation of a work by horror master Stephen King manages to do something that few films are ever able to accomplish, it improves upon the original story. The film focuses on a small group of New Englanders who become trapped in their local grocery store by a mysterious, monster filled fog. Aside from the giant wasps, acidic web weaving spiders, and flesh eating tentacles attached to God knows what, watching the members a tight knit community crumble and turn against one another so easily is what initially makes the film so jarring. The real shocker is the heartbreaking ending, which hits the viewer like a punch in the face. Director Frank Darabont deviated from Stephen King’s originally intended literary outcome and even earned King’s praise as the better of the two.
3: The Exorcist (1973)
This particular classic strays from the typical horror storyline and context. Instead of terrorizing its viewers with a masked serial killer or an angry poltergeist, “The Exorcist” introduces a concept that most people tend to fear above all else: demonic possession. When an innocent young girl becomes possessed by the Devil, her terrified mother hires a pair of priests to vanquish the demon. The fact that countless cases of demonic possession have been recorded over time makes the movie and its characters seem frighteningly more real. The film relies heavily on shock value rather than on jump scares, and builds the suspense over time instead of throwing all of the best scares into one scene. Sure, watching a girl’s head do a complete 360 degree turn before projectile vomiting pea soup is pretty disturbing, but nothing is more daunting than the concept of losing control of one’s self to the forces of evil.
2: Halloween (1978)
Though it seems so simple, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is one of the most well-crafted of the classic horror films. 15 years after he brutally murdered his older sister, Michael Myers escapes a mental hospital, dons a mask, and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield to strike fear into the hearts of some unsuspecting teens on Halloween night. Myers is slow, silent, and emotionless; he artfully kills and doesn’t say or feel a thing in the process. Even though he is a mere man beneath that blank and expressionless white mask, Michael is in no way human; the killer has the perfect balance of realness and otherworldliness. Much like his counterpart Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers is about as easy to kill as a cockroach. To quote little Tommy Doyle: “you can’t kill the boogeyman.”
1: The Evil Dead (1981)
We’ve finally made it to the number one pick, the film that launched both actor Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi’s careers, “The Evil Dead.” Five college friends plan to spend a weekend of fun at an abandoned cabin in the words, where they accidentally unleash a horde of ancient demons who intend to possess them one by one. The plot, acting, and special effects were all incredibly hokey and some scenes were considered downright controversial at the time. By all accounts “The Evil Dead” failed as a serious horror film, but succeeded as a comedy, which is what makes it unique. It became a cult classic and falls into that well known category of being so bad, it’s actually good. So good in fact that it spawned two zany and beloved sequels and made its hero, Ash J. Williams, a pop culture icon.