Thought Catalog

5 Horror Films That Will Scare The Crap Out Of You

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I’m a horror film junkie. It makes no sense, considering I scream whenever someone taps me on the shoulder and am petrified of sleeping in a house alone, but whatever. I’m obsessed with them. In college, I took two classes that pertained directly to horror films and wrote 8,000 Liberal Arts Girl papers about how scary movies are usually a direct reflection of societal fears. In fact if you take a closer look at your favorite scary movies, you’ll probably be horrified to discover how classist, racist, and sexist it is. But let’s take off our Liberal Arts Girl glasses for a sec and just talk about the movies that truly gave us thrills and chills.

1. The House of the Devil

I’m not usually a big fan of horror movies today (too much gore, not enough genuine fright) but Ti West’s 2009 horror film, House of the Devil, is a definite exception. Besides being a throwback in tone, the film’s style is dripping in nostalgia from the ’80s—a time in which there was nothing scarier than being a babysitter. The cast are all unknowns (besides Greta Gerwig who’s making a successful transition to mainstream movies) and the plot is simple. A down-on-her-luck college student takes a babysitting job under vague pretenses. Once she gets to a scary house in the middle of nowhere, she meets her creepy hosts and strange things begin to happen. The movie’s main skill is building suspense. There’s hardly any gore and there doesn’t need to be. West’s masterful storytelling provides scares on its own.

2. The Shining

The Shining is a movie that can still scare the living daylights out of me, despite having seen it a million times. It’s a true testament to the film’s ick factor that it can still resonate with viewers after all these years. The last time I saw it was at a midnight showing at IFC Center. I was going on a date with someone I didn’t really know and we both decided to get super high beforehand. Big mistake. My paranoia was amplified during the movie, which made for a miserable moviegoing experience. At least we got to make out for five hours afterwards though. The Shining as an aphrodisiac: WHO KNEW?

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Nothing compares to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It marked the true end of the carefree ’60s. Hippies were not only over, they were dead as a damn doornail. This film plays on people’s fears of the impoverished backwoods, which is something that has been exploited for years in horror films. In case you weren’t aware, POOR PEOPLE ARE SCARY. They’re inbred and stupid, and, by golly, they might kill ya! Ignoring the classist overtones though, this movie is genuinely terrifying as we watch the heroine, Sally, fight for her life in near isolation.

4. Session 9

Session 9 is a psychological horror film, released in 2001, that went under the radar. Its plot is frightening—a group of asbestos cleaners get assigned to an abandoned insane asylum where, shocker, things start going awry. It’s similar to The Shining in the sense that it shows a growing level of paranoia and mental unraveling amongst the crew of men. Over the week they spend in the asylum, they begin to go, quite frankly, insane. Again, the power lies in the suspense that’s carefully built throughout the film. The ending is bananas!

5. The Sixth Sense

Isn’t it weird how M. Night Shyamalan made one superb movie and then just, like, forgot how to do it ever since? What’s up with that? How could The Sixth Sense come out of the same brain as The Happening? Is that even possible? (I still stand by my assertion that The Happening was actually a giant joke and M. Night Shyamalan was just like “LOL, suckers. Gotta pay my bills!”) At least we’ll always have The Sixth Sense, which was actually a great movie. Mischa Barton was even in it, playing a role that was INTENTIONALLY scary for once. Haley Joel Osment went to NYU and I saw him on the street a few times. I wonder how many house parties he had to go to where drunk people were like, “I SEEE DEAD PEOPLE” before he was all, “Screw you guys. I’m going home with a bag of coke. FOREVER.” TC mark

image – The Sixth Sense

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    • Erin Rowley

      I’ve seen the Shining probably a dozen times but it still keeps me up all night every time I see it.

    • http://twitter.com/kaimcn Kai

      I’ve never seen The Shining all the way through because I get freaked out and go home/turn it off/run away/seduce whoever I’m watching it with so we can turn it off.

      I would add Rosemary’s Baby to this list. Reading the book made my ladybits twinge and while I despise Roman Polanski and haven’t watch RB in years and years, it got me suitably freaked out.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

      • All Work and No Play

        Seducing someone with the Shining? Doesn’t sound like a very successful plan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1495549613 Casey Morris

      Oh Ryan, this list is so perfect.
      BTW, I watched a movie on Netflix the other night called Megan Is Missing, out of sheer drunken boredom. The first hour is like, Degrassi-levels of stupid bad, and then it goes totally off the rails and scared the hell out of me at the end. It’s definitely worth a watch.

      • Jessie

        I just did some research into Megan Is Missing and that sounds like the most disturbing, terrifying film ever. I kind of want to see it but the screen capture of the girl in the blue barrel have already made me afraid to be alone in the room. 

    • http://twitter.com/pixelheresy Keith Gibbs

      I agree with Kai… Rosemary’s Baby is a good one.

      My nomination is Jacob’s Ladder. I am not going to go into any detail, and I would suggest you not do a lot of reading up on it or anything, but it is not particularly gross/gory/etc. However, it seriously shakes you to the core and disturbs you for days, even if you have seen it before. It has that really unsettling vibe as the Shining, so if you like that, Jacob’s Ladder should be your next rental/Netflix/etc.

    • http://twitter.com/pixelheresy Keith Gibbs

      I agree with Kai… Rosemary’s Baby is a good one.

      My nomination is Jacob’s Ladder. I am not going to go into any detail, and I would suggest you not do a lot of reading up on it or anything, but it is not particularly gross/gory/etc. However, it seriously shakes you to the core and disturbs you for days, even if you have seen it before. It has that really unsettling vibe as the Shining, so if you like that, Jacob’s Ladder should be your next rental/Netflix/etc.

    • http://twitter.com/pixelheresy Keith Gibbs

      I agree with Kai… Rosemary’s Baby is a good one.

      My nomination is Jacob’s Ladder. I am not going to go into any detail, and I would suggest you not do a lot of reading up on it or anything, but it is not particularly gross/gory/etc. However, it seriously shakes you to the core and disturbs you for days, even if you have seen it before. It has that really unsettling vibe as the Shining, so if you like that, Jacob’s Ladder should be your next rental/Netflix/etc.

    • Katie

      The last paragraph of this article made my day.

    • Katie

      The last paragraph of this article made my day.

      • Dideeyay

        same

    • Katie

      The last paragraph of this article made my day.

    • Prvin6790

      It’s not really a horror movie, but Cloverfield really did a number on me. Too realistic, not necessarily the thought of a monster attacking America but it’s the same as if we were invaded by a foreign nation.

    • Mashka

      Thanks for this my roommate and I were just talking about how we’ve never seen any truly terrifying movies…. this conversation was sparked by the trailer for the new Paranormal Activity movie which by the way I’m surprised they’re still making those godawful movies. I went to the original one in theaters, super stoked thinking it was going to scare me beyond belief and I was left laughing instead of shivering in fear. BUMMER. I shall check these films out though, thanks. 

    • AJ

      Ryan, you and I get scared by the same things apparently, totally agree with this list.

    • Miranda

      The Shining is my all -time favorite, but another flick that has stuck with me is The Decent. While it is gory, that is not what ultimately left me freaked for days. It was the psychological paranoia and questions it embedded within me. What would I do in that situation?

      • http://twitter.com/kaimcn Kai

        That movie terrified me! It’s dark and you can’t trust your friends and you’re probably going to die. Perfect combo for lasting psychological worries.

    • NYTYRANT

      WOLF CREEK

    • kim

      you put a spoof the shining trailer up. its actually not a peter gabriel type of movie lol 

    • Dideeyay

      what about the ring!  /the descent (lesbians trapped in caves being a structure joke practically unto itself)

      • http://twitter.com/hellllnawww annisah

        this!!

      • Siouxsie

        Ring 0 is the scariest among the three.

      • Siouxsie

        ..the three Ring installments, I mean.

    • http://kelianaya.com Keli Anaya

      The original, Spanish, version of REC, is the scariest movie ever.  I’ve never screamed in a movie before this one. 

      • Siouxsie

        Rec 2 is even scarier!

    • Ryan

       Inland Empire. Three hours long and I don’t know what it’s about but… jesus.

      • Myemail

        YES. Mulholland Drive is pretty damn frightening, too. 

    • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

      Ghost Mischa Barton!  Yes!  

    • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

      Ghost Mischa Barton!  Yes!  

    • Rachel

      I’ve never seen a full horror movie. I got scared when I was watching the Secret Window.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68101821 Dana Leader

      Ryan, “According to M. Night Shyamalan, the movie was inspired by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? called The Tale of the Dream Girl directed by David Winning in which leading characters are ignored by somebody and don’t realize that they are dead until the final moment. In The Tale of the Dream Girl, a brother discovers that only his sister can see him and she ultimately shows him his own obituary.” from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/trivia

      The reason he couldn’t do it twice is because he never did it the first time.

    • http://twitter.com/jennie_02 Jennie Ross

      have you ever watched Mother’s Day? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day_(1980_film) this movie scared the shit out of me. kinda disturbing. 

    • nicknack

      i’m just gonna go ahead and throw it out there: gothika. I SAID IT.

    • derp

      Unbreakable > The Sixth Sense. Fact.

      So M. Night really only did make one good movie (if you accept the premise that The Sixth Sense was basically a rip-off of that Are You Afraid of the Dark episode).

      • Guest

        The Village was awesome too..

        • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

          The Village was a total ripoff of YA novel Running Out of Time, I called the ending in ten minutes of the movie starting because they were so similar

        • Falco

          Good job. You win all the internets.

        • guest

          STOP. THIS IS SO TRUE. I read that book when I was 9 or 10 and they’re incredibly similar.

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