It takes a lot of people to make a horror movie…producers, screenwriters, designers, editors, actors…but the one job that takes on the greatest importance is director. It’s the director who is credited with being the visionary of a film crew, the one most responsible for the overall artistry and creativity of a movie. That’s why horror fans are always interested to discover new and talented young directors…ones who can take a sometimes tired genre and create something surprising and exciting. Here are a few fan and critic favorites.
Fittingly for a horror director, Flanagan was born in Salem Massachusetts. He has directed (not to mention edited and written or co-written) several recent critically acclaimed horror films, including Oculus, Hush, Absentia, Before I Wake, and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Next up is an adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game.
Kusama directed 2009’s horror comedy Jennifer’s Body. While that film’s reception was mixed, the reviews and fan reactions to 2015’s chilling The Invitation have been overwhelmingly positive. Next up…the highly anticipated horror anthology movie XX (featuring work by Kusama and other female directors) due out in February 2017.
The writer-director of The Witch got his start as a theatrical production and costume designer before making the switch to film, which definitely explains the memorable visuals of the movie. Horror fans will be excited to hear that his next project will be a remake of the classic 1922 horror movie Nosferatu.
Horror fans have been keeping an eye on Lucky McKee for a while now. Previous films include The Woman, The Woods, All Cheerleaders Die, and the unique cult favorite May. Up next…Misfortune.
This horror director has been prolific since he directed his first horror short at age 19. He has gone on to direct several notable recent horror films, including You’re Next and Blair Witch. More horror projects in the works include Death Note, to be released in 2017, and the recently announced I Saw the Devil.
An Australian actress who turned to directing after being inspired by the controversial director Lars von Trier, Kent’s first full-length horror film, The Babadook, generated a huge amount of attention and praise. Film fans are looking forward to the release of 2017’s The Nightingale, a dark drama set in remote Tasmania in the early 1800s.
The start of a new year is always a time to look back on last year’s best books, movies, and TV shows. The critics and fans have weighed in on what they think are the best horror movies of 2016. There are bound to be some arguments and disagreements, of course, and we all have our own personal list of favorites. Here are some of the horror films singled out by many people as among the best of the year. What were your favorites?
With a classic horror plot—a young deaf-mute female writer who lives in an isolated house bravely battles a creepy masked man out to get her—Hush is a stylish thriller that has made many critic and fan 10 best lists.
A surreal and shocking Turkish horror movie called Baskin got a lot of attention in 2016. A group of police officers find themselves in a gruesome, nightmarish world that just might be Hell.
The Eyes of My Mother
A disturbing and graphic horror film with lots of hard to watch gore (good thing it’s in arty black & white), this movie follows a girl named Francesca whose past traumas turn her into quite a torturer and killer.
The tables are turned on a group of thieves who think robbing a wealthy blind man will be easy. They get way more than they bargained for as the blind man (not to mention his dog) turns out to be more of a dangerous adversary than a helpless victim.
No 10 best list seems to be without this notable film, singled out by many critics as not just a great horror movie, but a great movie period. A creepy supernatural thriller set in Puritan times, The Witch features some genuinely powerful witches and one very evil goat.
10 Cloverfield Lane
John Goodman stars in this sci-fi thriller about a woman who finds herself in an underground bunker, told by its residents that they are survivors of an alien attack that has contaminated the earth. Is she the victim of an abduction or was the planet really taken over by aliens?
They Look Like People
Not as well-known as some of the mainstream horror movies, this independent psychological thriller has made several best lists. A troubled man prepares for the apocalypse when he becomes convinced that demons will arrive and possess the people around him.
Horror movies rely on something called “tropes” more than any other film genre, even romantic comedies. What’s a trope? Simply defined, it’s a plot device or character type that is commonly known and familiar to the audience watching the movie. Are horror tropes always stale and overused? Many times they are, but in good hands, tropes can be effective and even surprise you if they are presented in a new way. Here are some classic examples:
The Scary Cat
Sure cats are cute, but every horror fan knows they have a sinister side, too…what with the way they sneak up on you, can see in the dark, and associate with witches…to name just a few creepy cat qualities that have been used over the years. Movies with “cat scare” tropes include The Uncanny, Pet Sematary, Strays, Cat’s Eye, Uninvited, and of course Cat People.
There was a creepy Twilight Zone episode called "Night Call" that scared the crap out of your parents when they were little. It involved a telephone line that fell on a grave. Guess who started called his old fiancé? Unknown callers on the other end of the phone can be really scary, just check out Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, Scream, and The Ring.
What’s in the Mirror?
Mirrors are great horror tropes because there’s nothing scarier than seeing someone (or something) creepy over your shoulder while you’re looking in the mirror. When you turn around it may or may not be gone! There are tons of horror movies with the “mirror scare.” Check out Candyman, Oculus, The Shining, Paranormal Activity 3, and even the music box in The Conjuring.
The Indian Burial Ground
The Indian burial ground is such a classic horror trope that it’s been appropriated by comedy shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. Many people think Poltergeist is the classic Indian burial ground movie, but it’s actually just a regular cemetery. What horror films DO feature the dreaded Indian burial ground? Try The Amityville Horror, The Shining, and Pet Sematary.
Abandoned Hospitals and Mental Institutions
The creepy ruins of abandoned hospitals, and especially abandoned mental hospitals, are the perfect setting for a horror movie. The souls of people who have been tortured, suffered, and died in these places can’t ever be at rest until some intrepid investigators discover buried horrors from the past. Check out Grave Encounters, Session 9, The Hospital, and Boo.
Sex = Death
…Especially teenage sex! What’s more tempting to a serial killer than a couple of teenagers making out in the woods or in a car parked in a remote spot? A lot has been written about this particular trope, from theories that it’s some kind of moralistic warning to the audience, or commentary on the sexual fantasies of murderers. Whatever the reason, the “sex = death” trope is a very common one. See: Don’t Look Now, Friday the 13th II, American Psycho, Cabin Fever, and It Follows.
Science Gone Wrong
A brilliant scientist has a great idea about how to improve the human race. Sometimes he’s just evil but usually he has the best intentions….and then the scientific experiment goes very wrong and monsters are unleashed on the earth. The lab experiment gone wrong trope has been around for decades, just ask Dr. Frankenstein. Besides Frankenstein, check out The Fly, The Human Centipede, 28 Days Later, Splice, and Re-Animator.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead premiered back in 1968, shocking audiences and pretty much becoming an instant cult classic horror film. Zombie movies and television shows are more popular than ever, but the zombie horror movie genre goes back decades before Night of the Living Dead. The concept of the undead in folklore, as well as in literature, existed way before movies came on the scene. What are some of the early zombie movies before Night of the Living Dead? Here’s a short history:
White Zombie (1932)
Generally thought to be the earliest zombie film, White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi, is the story of a man who enslaves people by turning them into zombies, including a pretty young woman lured to Haiti for just this purpose.
King of the Zombies (1941)
A plane crashes on a Caribbean island during World War II and the survivors end up at the spooky mansion of a mysterious doctor. They soon discover that the doctor is turning people into zombies…for the German war effort, of course.
Voodoo Island (1957)
Boris Karloff stars in this movie about a rich guy who wants to develop an island rumored to be cursed by zombies. He hires a myth-buster to prove the rumors false. Zombies turn out to be the least of their problems on this weird island.
The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)
The Drake family has been cursed for 200 years because of evil deeds done by their ancestors. A Swiss doctor and a tribal witch doctor—both undead victims of the Drakes—seek revenge on the family over the generations.
The Curse of the Doll People (Munecos Infernales) (1961)
A Mexican entry in the zombie genre, this movie is about a group of men who steal an idol from the temple of a voodoo priest. Bad idea, as he sends zombies called “doll people” after them as punishment.
The Last Man on Earth (L’Ultimo Uomo della Terra) (1964)
This joint Italian-American movie starring Vincent Price is notable for being an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, the last man on earth after a plague has turned everyone else into vampire-like zombies—or almost everyone else, as he discovers when he meets a mysterious woman.
Horror fans all have their favorite genres of horror movies, and we can vividly remember our first experiences of being truly scared by movies as little kids. What’s your scare of choice? Horror movies have explored all our deepest fears over the years…and some themes keep getting repeated over and over. Why are certain types of horror films so disturbing? Film and psychology experts have weighed in on this topic before. Here are some interesting theories.
Thinking back to the movies that gave us nightmares when we were little, almost all of them had some sort of disturbing visual image that haunted us long after we saw the actual movie. There are all sorts of disturbing images: monsters, ghosts, demons and serial killers, as well as deformed or disfigured humans and animals. Experts say that the morbid, can’t-look-away curiosity we used to get from carnival side shows is still with us…now we get that satisfaction from horror movies.
The Unseen and Unknown
Fear of things we can’t see (What’s down the stairs in that dark basement?)—or don’t know (Do ghosts really exist?)—have been used by horror filmmakers for years. It’s no accident that so many scary scenes are filmed in the dark. Psychologists point out that humans have been scared of the unseen and unknown for thousands of years. Our ancestors were afraid of animals lurking in the dark outside the light of their fires. And we still have even deeper fears, like what happens after you die.
The feeling of anticipation that something bad is about to happen is one of the most commonly used (or overused) plot devices in horror movies. A victim is walking down a dark hallway and we know the monster, killer, etc. is just behind the closed door that she’s about to open. The tension builds until it becomes almost too intense. Creating a feeling of anticipation and dread is one of the most effective ways to make the audience tense and uneasy.
The Thrill of the Scare
The “jump scare” is one of the classic elements used to make a horror movie genuinely terrifying…if it’s done correctly. Nothing produces a stronger physical effect on our brains and bodies than a sudden, unexpected visual shock…often accompanied by a loud noise. A well-executed jump scare can work in any horror genre…slasher, paranormal, etc. Horror fans know the drill: your tension is built up, then released, and then comes the scare. The trick these days is to make it truly shocking.
History books are full of infamous real-life serial killers. We all know that a Transylvanian Prince from the 1400s known as “Vlad the Impaler” was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Vlad was a harsh ruler who subdued unrest by impaling his enemies on giant spikes. But one of the most notorious historical serial killers was another royal—who also happened to be a woman—the so-called “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory.
Born in—yes—Transylvania in 1560, Bathory was a noblewoman who married a Hungarian Count and moved to a castle called Csejthe in Hungary. Bathory was supposedly taught the finer points of sadism by an aunt, and pretty much turned the castle into a giant torture chamber.
Historians believe that her exploits started with the sadistic torture of servant girls. She would put needles under their fingernails, pour cold water on them outside in winter, sew their mouths shut, and cover them in honey so insects would attack them. After the Count’s death (it’s thought that while he may have participated in the sadism, he also kept her under control), she really got going and the torture turned to murder.
As the torture evolved into murder, her victims continued to be young girls from the peasant class. She had village girls abducted so she could torture and kill them at the castle. It’s said she enjoyed biting chunks of flesh off the girls’ bodies and faces. Before the girls were killed (often by burning), she also supposedly had them cook their own flesh and make them eat it.
Where did the name “Blood Countess” come from? One theory says that when blood was drawn during the course of torture, she would drink it, fueling rumors of vampirism. Another theory says that she began to notice the positive effects of victims’ blood on her skin, and then began bathing in their blood as a beauty ritual.
Her killing spree went on for years, mostly ignored by local officials because she was a powerful woman. She finally was brought to justice because she began kidnapping and killing the daughters of wealthy and prominent families. In classic serial killer fashion, the castle was full of captive tortured girls and the mutilated bodies of dead victims. She and her assistants were tried for 80 counts of murder in 1611. She was sentenced to confinement in a cell-like room of the castle, and died in 1614.
Looking for a good scary movie? Not the kind of scare you get when some guy with a knife jumps out from behind you, but the kind of genuinely unsettling film about unseen supernatural horrors that makes you want to sleep with the lights on for a week after you’ve seen it. A good ghost story fits the bill perfectly. How many of these scary and disturbing movies about ghosts have you seen?
Check out the original Thai version of Shutter, not the American remake. A photographer begins to notice shadowy images of faces on the pictures he takes. Who is the girl whose ghostly image appears in the photos and what is she trying to tell people?
The Innocents (1961)
Based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents tells the story of a governess who begins to believe that the house she works in is haunted and the children she cares for are possessed. Is she right…or just losing her mind?
Based on a Stephen King story, this movie is about a writer who checks into a hotel’s supposedly haunted Room 1408 to debunk the stories about it. He’s about to discover if the room is like the infamous roach motel…guests check in but they don’t check out!
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star as a husband and wife who live in a Vermont lake house. The wife begins to hear voices and see strange things and becomes convinced that the house is haunted. She tries to do a little paranormal investigation with a Ouija board. Will she discover the truth about what’s going on?
Ghost Story (1981)
Fred Astaire in a scary movie? It’s true…fans of this classic ghost story swear it’s the real deal. A group of elderly men form a club called the Chowder Society. They are haunted by the memories of the death of a young woman back in the 1930s…are they being haunted by her ghost as well?
Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
Many horror fans say that this movie is a rare instance where the remake is better than the original (1960’s 13 Ghosts). After a famous ghost hunter dies, it’s discovered that the spirits he has captured are still imprisoned in the man’s house. Spoiler alert…they are not in a good mood!
Stir of Echoes (1999)
A blue collar guy named Tom who doesn’t believe in the supernatural gets hypnotized at a party. Afterwards, he becomes haunted by the ghost of a local girl who disappeared and is presumed to be dead. He’s determined to discover the truth about what happened and find her body.
Don’t Go to Sleep (1982)
This classic TV movie from the early 80s is a favorite of ghost story fans. A family moves to a new house after the death of one of their children, Jennifer. Their surviving daughter hears the voice of her dead sister coming from under the bed, and then begins to see her. What happened to Jennifer that makes her want to take revenge on the rest of the family?
Lake Mungo (2008)
This creepy documentary-style Australian film tells the story of a young girl who drowned at a lake. The dead girl’s fuzzy image begins to appear in the background in videos taken around her house. Her brother admits to doctoring the videos as a hoax, but…surprise! The real ghost was there all along.
Grave Encounters (2011)
A haunted Canadian psychiatric hospital is the setting for this found footage ghost story. A film crew investigates paranormal activity at the closed hospital. Sure enough, they encounter the scary spirits of former patients. What terrible things were done to them when they were alive?
If you are a fan of horror films in general, and paranormal and ghost stories in particular, then you already know how many great ghost and paranormal movies there are on Netflix. From films about exorcisms to movies about paranormal activity and haunted houses, if you’re looking for something truly scary, there are dozens of popular and lesser-known movies to choose from. How do you find the best paranormal movies on Netflix? Choosing a favorite from all of the ghost movies on Netflix is hard, but here’s a list of some recent entries in the genre to get you started. Be sure to also check out our blog article on 10 must-see ghost stories for even more scary titles.
A Haunting at Silver Falls
Loosely based on a true story about real-life murdered twins, the ghosts in this movie are the spirits of a pair of murdered twin girls. Years ago, their father was found guilty for a murder he didn’t commit, leading the young heroine of our story to uncover the ugly truth behind what really happened in the town of Silver Falls years ago.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
A dreamy and atmospheric haunted house tale that centers on a young hospice nurse who is brought in to care for a mysterious old woman in her creepy house. The twist in this thoughtful and clever film is that the old house is perhaps even more haunted by upcoming deaths than the ones that have already happened.
Based on the real-life story of a young American priest who trained as an exorcist in Rome, The Rite stars Anthony Hopkins as a famous exorcist who works with the young priest on a case involving a possessed pregnant girl who was raped by her father. One of the big problems with being an exorcist? The demon might end up inside of you.
Set in 1920s England, a young writer who exposes paranormal hoaxes investigates stories of a child’s ghost haunting a boarding school in this British film. She uncovers a lot more supernatural activity going on than just the ghost of one boy…including how her own troubled past is intertwined with the school’s ghosts.
The Devil Inside
This documentary-style movie is about a girl who, with the assistance of a documentary filmmaker, investigates the strange behavior of her mother, who underwent an exorcism some years earlier. Is the mom mentally ill or possessed? Perhaps a hint is that there’s a contortionist in the film’s credits by the name of Pixie Le Knot, so you know what that means.
Definitely the most famous movie on our list, most people are already familiar with the plot of Insidious, which revolves around a young boy who acts as a kind of portal to another world populated by demons and evil spirits. Even if you’ve seen it before, Insidious still has some of the best jump scares in recent horror movies.
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Any list of the ten best horror movies you should see before you die is bound to provoke lots of conversations, disagreements, and even flat out fights among horror film fans. The bottom line…no one can claim to have created the definitive list, but it sure is fun trying. Here are ten of the all-time great scary movies you should see before you die. Want even more “best of” lists curated by your friends at Serial Killer Shop? Check out our blog posts on must-see ghost movies, classic British horror, and great horror films that not everyone has seen.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This is the horror film that kicked off the “found footage” genre that continues to be so popular today. The premise involves a group of three kids who take their video camera into the woods to see what they can see. They want to record evidence of the Blair Witch Incidents, which have become something of a local legend in the community. A whole lot of running and screaming and shaky video footage later, they find more than they bargained for. The makers of The Blair Witch Project created a novel approach to horror moviemaking that made a big impact with audiences.
The Shining (1980)
Stephen King may not have been totally thrilled with Stanley’s Kubrick’s take on his classic horror novel The Shining, but most film critics and fans agree that this movie stands among the very best horror films of all time. Is there another horror move that has more memorable scenes, images, and quotes than The Shining? We can’t think of any that even come close…thanks in large part to Kubrick and the amazing performances by Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and the other cast members.
Evil Dead (1981)
Shot in the Tennessee backwoods by up-and-coming horror filmmaker Sam Raimi for a mere $350,000, Evil Dead introduced the world to actor Bruce Campbell, the Necronomicon, and a non-stop carousel of gory violence inflicted by (and on) a succession of young people-turned-demons. If you love outrageous gore and classic overacting, this is the movie for you. The plot centers on five college kids who unleash a world of trouble from the basement of their cabin in the woods. When incantations summon forth demons, it’s Ash to the rescue!
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The presence of Zombieland later on this list makes it mandatory that we include the man and movie that revolutionized the zombie genre--George A. Romero and his Night of the Living Dead. The plot involves a group of people trying to survive the night in a farmhouse while being attacked by zombies. While the gore factor might seem tame these days, at the time it was revolutionary. Romero’s masterpiece (and it certainly is that) incorporates tight editing and the kind of clever social commentary rarely found in today’s movies. Don’t watch another zombie flick until you pay homage to the master.
The Fly (1986)
Normally, we don’t suggest you see a remake over the original but, in this case, we’ll make an exception. With The Fly, David Cronenberg created a fascinating tale (sometimes disgusting, often funny, and also surprisingly moving) of a scientist (a great Jeff Goldblum) who experiments with teleportation technology. But when a fly gets into the chamber, their DNA gets mixed, and things go terribly wrong. Where this movie succeeds is in creating characters we genuinely care about, which is unusual, but a welcome change, for the horror genre.
This surreal exploration of a man’s fear of pending parenthood put director David Lynch (creator of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks) on the map. If you like your movies with linear plots, well-defined motives, and nice little scenes that make perfect sense, you can skip the cult classic Eraserhead. Except you should watch it, just to see what one director’s unique vision can do. Shot in atmospheric black-and-white during Lynch’s tenure at the American Film Institute, this movie has unsettled, puzzled, and downright disturbed moviegoers for decades.
Along with the television series The Walking Dead, Zombieland helped give new life to the zombie genre. This horror comedy has a great cast--Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and a hilarious cameo by Bill Murray pretending to be a zombie. This funny, gory road trip is always entertaining. When the zombie apocalypse breaks out, Columbus (Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Harrelson) join forces for survival, but everything goes awry when they meet a pair of untrustworthy sisters. Grab your Twinkies and watch it now!
Event Horizon (1997)
Unlike most of the movies on our list, Event Horizon has a pretty low 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many of the movie’s fans would beg to differ on that one. The plot involves a spaceship, the Event Horizon, which has mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Seven years later, members of a rescue mission track the Event Horizon’s distress call, find the lost ship, and discover that some very strange things have been going on. Not all critics loved it, but it’s a must-see for sci-fi horror fans.
Though subsequent franchise entries were of varying quality levels, the original Hellraiser, written and directed by Clive Barker (his directorial debut), presents an unforgettable world of horrifying supernatural creatures and events…all unleashed when unwitting humans start tinkering with an antique puzzle box. Even people who have never seen the movie are no doubt familiar with Pinhead, the leader of the demons called Cenobites.
Last but not least on our list: Insidious, a favorite of many fans of supernatural horror…and the jump scare! A young boy falls into a mysterious coma after a trip to the attic of his new home, and his desperate parents seek out the help of a paranormal expert when other strange things begin happening in the house. Turns out the boy has the powers of astral projection and horrifying demons and tormented lost souls are able to enter our world through the boy.
There you have it…our list of 10 must-watch horror movies. Ask us on a different day and you might get a different answer, but for now, we’ll stand by our picks! Hope you’ll be inspired to watch something new to you…or revisit an old favorite. Don’t forget to check out our collection of horror shirts featuring hand-drawn images of classic horror movie images, including three movies on the list--The Shining, The Fly, and Hellraisier.
Writers and filmmakers have long been fascinated by the idea of what the future might look like. It rarely looks good. The future is more commonly imagined as a grim dystopia rather than an idyllic utopia. And no wonder…sci fi horror is the perfect vehicle to explore humanity’s darker nature, and to show how, if we continue on the path we’re currently on, we can ruin the world for future generations. Here are some of our favorite films about a not so rosy future world. Warning…some spoilers ahead.
The film Cloud Atlas by the Wachowskis is based on David Mitchell’s brilliant novel of the same name. While the story spans hundreds of years from the past to the distant future, there are two subplots about the future that stand out as particularly grim. In “An Orison of Sonmi” we see how advances in technology lead us to view humans as very disposable commodities. In “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” we see the results of the collapse of civilization in the far distant future.
Never Let Me Go
The shocking and heartbreaking Never Let Me Go, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, has a similar theme to the Sonmi story in Cloud Atlas. In the near future, we meet a group of young people living a strange, isolated existence in a boarding school-type institution. We learn that they are in fact raised solely for the purpose of harvesting their organs and body parts for other people, and then they are disposed of when near death.
Bruce Willis plays a man named Cole who lives in a very bleak, grim future and is sent back to the past (our present day) to try to prevent a group of animal activists from releasing a virus into the world that will nearly destroy the human population and plunge the world into darkness. But do the leaders of the dystopian future society really want the virus stopped? Director Terry Gilliam’s unique vision helps make this an unforgettable cautionary tale.
This movie takes place in the year 2054, in a world where crime is eliminated by the use of “Pre-Cogs”—people who can see into the future and predict crime. When the Pre-Cogs predict that a leader of the “Pre-Crime” squad will commit a murder, he goes on a desperate quest to figure out what could be going on. Things get pretty crazy, especially when one of the Pre-Cogs issues a “minority report” of the crime that differs from the others.
Children of Men
In the year 2027, women have become infertile and a child has not been born for nearly 20 years, leaving society in a state of unrest and decay. Theo, the protagonist, meets a woman named Kee who has somehow gotten pregnant. They try to keep her pregnancy, and then the girl she gives birth to, a secret, fearing the authorities will take her away. Will the baby survive, and could she be the key to a new, better world?