Ten More Shiver-Inducing Films
Last year, around Halloween, I wrote an article entitled “Coolest Films to Watch on Halloween.” Though the films on that list are still regarded as classics, here’s an entirely new Top 10 collection for Fright Night.
Like the original list, these aren’t necessarily in order from “least scary” to “scariest.” Rather, think of them as first to last in coming to mind, and go for whichever strikes your fancy on Halloween night.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)– Directed by Wes Craven
This is the film that really made “Wes Craven” a household name in horror, and introduced a killer so deadly he could catch you anywhere…even in your sleep!
Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) became one of the top horror villains after this first appearance, giving new meaning to the word “nightmare” and forever associating fear with black-and-red sweaters. The film was also responsible for turning singsong rhymes (“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you/Three, four, better lock your door”) into portents of doom.
Unfortunately, like most horror films since the ’80s, it’s been followed by countless awful sequels. The original, however, still stands.
- The People Under the Stairs (1991)– Directed by Wes Craven
They don’t call him a “Master of Horror” for nothing! The People Under the Stairs is one of Craven’s lesser-known masterpieces.
Like many horror films, it has a very simple plot; in spite of this, it’s no less terrifying. Three burglars (two adults, one child) break into a neighborhood house rumored to hold great treasure inside, and all become trapped. They then must fight for their lives.
What makes this film scarier than many of its contemporaries is the fact that the action is very unpredictable, even for those who are horror buffs. Plus, the usual plot devices (ghosts, zombies, serial killers, vampires) don’t show up in the traditional sense.
Watch this one on Halloween night!
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)– Directed by Jonathan Demme
The Silence of the Lambs proved that you could take horror-genre conventions and make Oscar-winning material out of them.
Even those who haven’t seen the entire film have likely watched a clip of the famous “A census taker once tried to test me; I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti…fpt-fpt-fpt.” That scene alone was enough to put Hannibal Lecter up with The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dracula as one of the most memorable movie villains.
The film’s other, less-notorious villain, Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb (Ted Levine) is no less terrifying. In fact, he’s debatably scarier, because we, the audience, know much less about him. He’s also loosely based on real-life killers Ted Bundy and Ed Gein, adding an eerie sense of realism.
- Poltergeist (1982)– Directed by Tobe Hooper
The director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre scored again with Poltergeist, in which the Freeling family is haunted by a malicious horde of ghosts. These particular spooks start off with seemingly innocent tricks and end with the stuff of nightmares.
Interestingly, the story of Poltergeist was co-written by Steven Spielberg, best known at that time for his adventure films like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg, apparently, contributed a lot to the direction of the film as well. When watching Poltergeist, you can definitely see some of his trademarks in the types of characters portrayed, as well as how the action plays out.
As for the scariest scene, many agree that the clown doll coming to life takes the prize.
- Penny Dreadful (2016)– Directed by Richard Brandes
Part of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series, Penny Dreadful stands out among horror films because it’s relatively low on the gore scale, and high on the suspense. Those who actually want to be scared when they watch horror films would hopefully call this a good thing!
In this film, a young woman named Penny Deerborn (Rachel Miner) takes a retreat with her psychologist, Orianna Volkes (Mimi Rogers), to overcome her powerful phobia of riding in cars. As you might expect, things don’t go according to plan, and soon both women find themselves in a worst-case-scenario come true.
This little gem can definitely be found online, and possibly at your local video store.
- The Birds (1963)– Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Along with Psycho, of course, The Birds is considered one of the scariest and most suspenseful films of all time. And it’s certainly earned its reputation. Though some of its effects and such look dated today, the eerie atmosphere and repulsive images still hold up.
Again, for those who are fans of explicit gore, this film will probably seem tame. Other than that, however, all your classic horror elements are there: death, fear, suspense, and perhaps most powerful of all…the unknown. It is never explained exactly why the birds in the film turn into murderous monsters; however, no explanation is necessary!
- The Sixth Sense (2016)– Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
While many consider this a “thriller” rather than a horror film, it is certainly still appropriate to Halloween. After all, can a film with a tagline like “I see dead people” be considered a romantic comedy?
There are a number of chilling moments in the movie, particularly if you’re seeing it for the first time. Take, for example, the scene in which Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) comes home to find a surprise visitor there to greet him.
For those who haven’t seen it, forget what you’ve heard, and watch it yourself. Bonus points for doing so in the dark.
- Se7en (1995)– Directed by David Fincher
Like The Silence of the Lambs, this big-budget film was widely seen, and hopefully, widely appreciated. Of course, as with some of the films on this list, its gore was too much for certain viewers. Others were simply drawn to it.
As with The Sixth Sense, it’s not a true horror film, but it certainly is dark and gloomy enough to sit among them. Its villain, serial killer John Doe, is nearly as psychologically complex as Hannibal Lecter and others of his ilk. The gruesome murders he commits are not simply out of wrath or for pure enjoyment; he believes himself to be on a holy quest.
If you haven’t yet seen it, and happen to have a strong stomach, check it out through whatever medium strikes you. You won’t be disappointed.
- The Blair Witch Project (2016)– Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
Equally loved and hated (partly due to the fact that it was advertised as real) by filmgoers, there are aspects of The Blair Witch Project that amateur directors should take down:
1) Its lack of a script, debatably, added some sense of realism to the action.
2) The woods, in general, are a universally creepy setting.
3) It’s never revealed exactly what becomes of the characters.
Perhaps there was just too much hype about this film for it to have met everyone’s expectations. Still, it stands as an experiment in horror that, for me, succeeds.
- Blue Velvet (1986)– Directed by David Lynch
Anyone who’s a fan of David Lynch surely counts Blue Velvet among their collection. It is the quintessential Lynch film, having all the surreal, creepy, and sexually unnerving elements that have made him famous.
As with several of the above films, giving away the plot would simply be a travesty. Suffice it to say that the small-town setting, along with the dark characters and psychosexual elements, make it the perfect “head trip” to round out your Halloween night.
Got the Creeps Yet?
Though this list is far from complete, and would probably provoke debate among scary-movie aficionados, these 10 are definitely worth watching.
So grab a group of friends, pop one of these into your DVD player, turn down the lights, and prepare to scream.