For the month of October I pondered over which frightening films I go to again and again, particularly near Halloween. Of course, there are the classic ones that most people have seen: The Exorcist, Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Psycho, etc. Some of my favorites are not as well known, and I would like to share my 13 personal favorites, in no particular order.
What Lies Beneath: I saw this movie as a teenager and it was the first scary movie I watched in a movie theater. I haven’t seen it in quite some time, but I remember being on the edge of my seat the entire movie and that my best friend, who could no longer stand the anxiety the film was causing her, walked out during the denouement, about ten minutes before the movie ended.
The Skeleton Key: A young caretaker (Kate Hudson) takes on a new job looking after an elderly man at his and his wife’s old plantation home in the deep south. Bizarre behavior from the old man and his wife and the discovery of dark magic paraphernalia found in a secret room leads the hospice worker to believe something sinister is at work within the home. There doesn’t seem to be many movies in the horror/thriller genre that take place in this region of the country, even though it has such a long and rich history to draw on, and this movie does it very well.
The Ring: If you haven’t seen this one, you may have been living under a rock (or maybe you just don’t like to have the bejesus scared out of you). In 2013, Entertainment Weekly listed this film as one of the top 20 scariest movies of all time. The film was also awarded with two Saturn Awards in 2003 for Best Horror Film and Best Actress for Naomi Watts.
The Others: Not exactly a thriller, but extremely creepy. You will want to watch it again after seeing the ending.
Orphan: You know there is something off about the girl this family has newly adopted. Her antics begin to prove she has some serious problems. When you discover her big secret you will be in for a surprise (at least I was- and very creeped out)!
The Mist: Based on the Stephen King novella, the craziness that takes place in the grocery store by the people locked inside is almost as terrifying as the unknown monsters outside its doors. Beware: the ending is shocking and heartbreaking.
Sinister: This movie is dark and mysterious. Old film reels found in a newly bought house showcasing a series of murders sucks in the new owner who is looking for inspiration on which to write a new true crime novel. Obsession with the murders takes hold and begins to threaten his relationships and sanity.
Jeepers Creepers: How do you outrun/drive something that flys? You don’t. I still get the heebie jeebies when I hear that “Jeepers Creepers” song. The monster in this movie is terrifying.
Drag Me To Hell: Directed and co-written by Sam Raimi, most famously known for writing and directing The Evil Dead, his over-the-top freak-out moments are made to be seen with humor, which not everyone can appreciate. This movie had enough anxiety-ridden moments that I was glad to get a laugh in once in a while. However, be warned: the ending is not so light-hearted.
[Rec]: This Spanish film was made to look like it was recorded entirely on a hand-held video camera, with a lot of it shot in night-mode. You will have to read the English subtitles if you don’t speak Spanish, but after a few minutes you hardly even notice that. Strange things begin to happen inside a city apartment building, and what the young news reporter finds inside one of the apartments is truly terrifying.
Insidious: A well-timed and perfectly fitting soundtrack made this movie for me. It had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I watched it the first time. The sinister visuals paired with the music puts this film in the top five scariest movies of all time for me, personally. I dare you to watch it alone with the lights off.
Thirteen Ghosts: One of my favorite horror films in college, this movie highlights thirteen hideous ghosts/monsters that are trapped in the basement of the house the unsuspecting family has just moved into.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Before you knew her as Deb from Showtime’s hit drama Dexter, Jennifer Carpenter was Emily Rose. In the film, Emily Rose’s death is at the center of controversy after she died, supposedly from an unsuccessful exorcism. The present story takes place in a courtroom, where the priest is being charged with negligent homicide for Emily’s death. In flashback scenes the audience is taken into the life of Emily Rose up until her death. Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide- did Emily need help from medical and psychological professionals or someone equipped to deal with evil entities?