The best way to study and appreciate horror films is, of course, to watch them. However, it is also important to have some sense of a film’s context, both the wider socio-historical background against which it was made and also its artistic framework.
Today, I have decided to recommend you some of the best horror movies without any established timelines, ranging from gruesome to suspense, perhaps you may find some titles you have yet to watch.
‘Drag Me to Hell’ (2009)
Sam Raimi returns to the horror genre with another brilliant entry. ‘Drag Me To Hell’ is classic, to say the least, a strong lead character, grossness, silliness, and a strong sense of dread.
This is what a great horror movie should be, scary with tension, but sprinkled in with a few lighter and slapstick moments. This is more of a popcorn horror movie than pure terror, but that does not make it any less spectacular. But between all the laughter, there is still a strong sense of “something” sinister getting closer and closer to the lead actress.
This is the type of movie you watch with a group of friends and enjoy the laughs and scares together. Hopefully, Sam Raimi will return to the horror genre once again, it surely needs his fantastic sense of style and storytelling.
‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2011)
This is probably at the top of most people’s favorite horror movies of the past five years. ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ starts off on a familiar note and then completely turns the tables with its mystery of “the man behind the curtain.”
It is not until the third act that things get truly bizarre and the movie transitions from being pure horror to science fiction with horror elements sprinkled in. But what truly stands out are the scenes behind the camera and the motives of those involved because of the heinous, sinister acts they put the main characters through.
The film totally turns the horror genre on its head in its third act and its amazing to see the events unfold.
This is a movie that has to be seen in order to believe, let alone comprehend. ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is sure to gain a solid cult following as the years pass by, another certain crowd pleaser.
One of the few mainstream, Hollywood horror movies to actually be worthy of being mentioned.
A true hidden gem within the horror genre. This movie takes the classic conception of “God made me do it” to a different level.
What makes it particularly effective is that the story is told from a child’s point of view, which makes the movie have a bigger impact. This is not a movie that relies on gore or jump scares, but rather it is psychologically rich.
The whole time the movie questions the viewer’s beliefs and forces them to choose a side (son versus father).
This is a darker tale telling the story of a righteous fighter supposedly doing God’s work.
In the end, it really gets you thinking about right and wrong and the morals that come with it.
This movie does everything right, builds a strong and effective story, throws in interesting characters going through a struggle, and has a fantastic ending that brings the story full circle.
‘It Follows’ (2014)
Easily one of the most polarizing movies of recent memory, some people swear by it (me for instance) and some others find it to be extremely mundane. To those who think the movie is too slow or one dimensional, I say to you, you are crazy.
‘It Follows’ is one of the most original horror movies in years and easily one of the best the past few decades have to offer. The beauty resides not only in the story itself (a fantastic allegory for sexually transmitted diseases and much more) but the technical aspects are flat out brilliant. The wide angled lens used creates tons of tension in the frame for the viewer to constantly scan the screen for the monster. Throw in one of the greatest soundtracks of all time and you have something special.
This is not your typical twenty-first century horror movie, the kill count is in the low single digits and the gore is minimal, but that is part of what makes the movie stand out.
‘It Follows’ proves you do not need a large body count with over the top gore to create tension, you just need the constant threat of danger that can attack you at any given moment, day or night.
‘Let the Right One In’ (2008)
I can quite confidently say ‘Let the Right One In’ is the best vampire movie of all time. It takes the best qualities of the vampire genre (blood sucking, the thirst, scariness, weakness) and adds its own ideas of adolescence, love, and childhood.
The story takes a bullied outcast, who seeks friendship from a vampire trapped inside a young girls body. Together they form a first-love (at least for the boy) romance as they each deal with the struggles of being children.
The movie mostly focuses on the challenges of being a young boy and then throws in the vampire elements that both help and destroy lives around the boy for better or worse. The movie builds to a wonderful climax, worthy of the horror genre.
There also is an English remake, ‘Let Me In,’ which is slightly inferior, but still a very high-quality horror movie worthy of mention.
One of the most intense horror movies of recent memory, this is an extreme movie for those looking for such thrills. It is hard to talk about the movie without giving too much away.
The movie starts off as a dark tale of revenge and then turns into something much more sinister. The movie has a strong task to accomplish and it certainly gets its point across.
Just like in the movie, the audience gets broken down alongside the main character and challenged in hopes of coming out cleansed. This certainly is not everyone’s cup of blood, but those who do take the chance to watch this will most likely be blown away.
It is amazing how engrossing the movie is given its extreme violence, yet through all the sadism and brutality, it is very difficult to take your eyes off the screen.
‘The Ruins’ (2008)
A chilling red-band trailer may have been too intense for audiences, scaring them away before the film even came out. But if you missed it in the theatres, get it on DVD.
Written by Scott Smith, the author of the novel, ‘The Ruins’ is not an easy watch. While not overly terrifying (although it does have one scene to make you leap out of your seat), it is an intense, suspenseful, sad and deeply unsettling look at four friends who gradually come unravelled in an impossibly horrific situation.
Some changes were made from the book — some for the better, some less so. And the book ultimately packs a slightly harder punch. But this is one creepy, unforgettable movie based on a creepy, unforgettable novel.
Read the book. Then watch the movie. Then have nightmares.
The movie that paved way for the whole “torture porn” genre when in fact it is not until its sequels that the gore levels go to the extreme.
‘Saw’ reinvigorated the horror genre with its unique and fresh narrative.
The movie offered a horror movie with a very engrossing mystery element thrown in to keep the viewer interested. The movie is not without faults, the editing where the camera is shaking (trying to create nauseating and chaotic effect) is terrible and spastic. But if you can get past some technical issues, the movie has a solid mystery build around it.
The movie has been out for a decade now and surprisingly the movie seems to have lost some appeal. That may be because the movie was franchised (It is a shame but not surprising) or because movies made today make ‘Saw’ look tame in comparison to the amount of violence shown on screen.
And of course, its ending is one of the more memorable, if not polarizing of recent memory, you either buy into it or refuse to believe.
‘The Babadook’ (2014)
Probably the most polarizing movie on the list, people tend to either love this movie (like myself) or hate it with a passion for being mislabeled as a horror movie.
It has unfortunately been over-hyped so much that the vast major of viewers seem to have been let down quite a bit. That comes as no surprise, however, seeing as how the movie draws its scares from a more psychological standpoint, versus copious amounts of gore or jump scares.
‘The Babadook’ basically can be seen as a character study of how the protagonists must deal with the guilt of losing a loved one and how that affects the ones around them.
This movie was a high point in the horror genre, certainly going down as one of the best foreign horror movies ever made.
‘The Orphanage’ (2007)
If you are looking for something scary and suspenseful, without any gore or shock value, ‘The Orphanage’ is the perfect choice.
The movie features a story about a boy that disappears and the mother who tries to figure out where he is, as well as the history of the house they just purchased.
The movie is shot beautifully, acted wonderfully, and the mystery is strong and never gets boring and it maintains its tension with ease.
‘The Orphanage’ is a slow burn, but it is so creepy and eerie that it is never not engrossing or intriguing.
‘The Orphanage’ slowly unravels its story with simple revelations and clues that tie together the present and the muddled history of the building and its inhabitants. The only downfall to this movie is that compared to most other movies on this list, ‘The Orphanage’ does not have a high rewatchability rate. But do not let that put you off from the film, the movie is captivating and easily deserves a spot among the top rated horror films.