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20 Best Horror Movies

Updated on July 20, 2018
Kenna McHugh profile image

I've written, contributed to several books on film, and worked in the film industry. I like to share the insights of the movie business.

Horror - painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay

— Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Horror Movies

When I think of horror film, I think of a movie that stimulates both a physical and emotional response like drawing my knees into my chest and placing my fingers in my mouth as my eyes go wide with horror.

The producers and directors of horror movies seek to use fear and shock, so the audience responds in kind. They use themes like supernatural, macabre, fantasy, and thriller. When people watch these movies, they experience revulsion, terror, fear, and nightmares.

Popular components of a horror movie are evil witches, ghosts, demons, extraterrestrials, monsters, zombies, fierce animals, vampires, evil clowns, werewolves, torture, psychopaths, serial killers, and cannibals.

Personally, I like circumstantial themes like The Shining, Pit and the Pendulum, The Haunting, Winchester, A Quiet Place, and It. In these movies, there is a strong plot and the character's arch and change with the circumstances.

Sometimes, I find it hard to find a really good horror movie that I have not seen yet because all the best horror movies are sitting on my shelf, and it seems like I have seen all the good ones. With that, I am happy to share them with you.

I am also noticing that horror movies are becoming fanciful with major movie stars.

"...astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me."

— H. G. Wells - War of the Worlds

Hell Fest

Gregory Plotkin directed Hell Fest focusing on three teenagers who attend a local Hell Fest. The teenagers are played by Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, and Taylor-Klaus. Because it is an amusement attraction, everyone believes all the scary scenes and death threatening antics are fake.

Once they get through the gauntlet of horror it will be just a horrific memory of fun. That is not the case because of an urban legend where a teenage girl was killed last year during Fest.

Plotkin is known best as an editor for both Get Out and Happy Death Day. He cut his directing teeth helming one of the Paranormal Activity movies.

Suspiria

From the director of Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino guides three strong female actresses, played by Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton in a rather horrific but fantasy and mystery called Suspiria. The story is set at a distinguished dance company. The mysterious movie focuses on the artistic director, a determined young dancer, and a wretched psychotherapist.

The movie is about those who surrender to the nightmare while others will decisively wake up.

A Quiet Place

The movie stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds. A Quiet Place is a scary movie in the supernatural sense of horror phenomenon. Directed by Emily Blunt’s husband and co-star, John Krasinski, the movie’s synopsis is very short. It says, “If they can’t hear you, they can’t hurt you.”

That line sends chills up my spine. I am a huge fan of Blunt but not scary movies. I just might have to see this movie and hope for the best.

The clips I have seen of the movie promote American Sign Language (ASL) through death actress Millicent Simmonds, whose character in the movie places the family in danger because she doesn't know when she is making noise. Noise will kill the family. Noise is what causes the creatures, aliens, to attack.

Emily Blunt has said in an interview that the script was so good that she asked her husband if she could play the mother in the film. She was delighted that he said yes. Her husband, John Krasinski, is co-writer, director, and plays the husband in the movie.

Hereditary

Ari Aster wrote and directed Hereditary, and it stars Toni Collette. She plays a daughter whose mother passed away and left frightening secrets about the family. The whole family becomes immersed as the mystery unravels. As they discover more about their ancestors, they realize the ominous fate they must inherit.

This movie is Aster’s feature debut as both the writer and director. Watch the movie trailer because the movie is a complete nightmare that is severely disquieting. The story pushes horror into a nerve-wracking depiction of heritage departed to hell.

The movie also stars Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, and Milly Shapiro. Shapiro is genuinely creepy as the daughter. In the trailer, she is horrifyingly entertaining.

Sometimes its hard to find the best scary movie or the best horror movie that you haven't seen yet because you have seen them all.

The Forest of Lost Souls

Foreign horror movies are unique in style and composition. I recommend viewing some of the ones I’ve listed in this article. Being a horror movie aficionado, you can appreciate the differences and similarities between each culture and the director creates in their movie. Each culture and director’s vision is different, and thus it is a real treat to see.

The Lost Forest of Souls is a Portugal psychological horror film, written and directed by José Pedro Lopes. The movie follows Ricardo and Carolina. They are total strangers and meet apparently by chance in a forest called the “Forest of the Lost Souls.”

The forest is where many people go to commit suicide. Carolina is a young woman and Richardo is an old man. They have come to the forest to kill themselves.

They quickly become acquainted and postpone their suicides by exploring the forest and continue talking to each other. While they go further into the forest, the story gets more interesting, and a psychopath is revealed.

The movie is receiving favorable reviews, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys watching horror movies.

Best Black Drama Movies in Horror

Ganja & Hess is considered a horror movie. But, it is complex with metaphor and allegory. Produced with a budget of $350,000, Ganja & Hess arrived in 1973 with accolades from the critics – Critics’ Week choice during the Cannes Film Festival the year it was released.

Because the producers felt the horror movie didn’t draw the box office it should, they sold the movie to Heritage Enterprises. The new owner severely recuts the original and re-released it with a new title - Blood Couple. There are reports of the movie being listed under other titles as well. The recut and retitling was done without any involvement from Gunn.

Kino Lorber, film and video distribution company, took the movie, transformed it to its original release, and restored it with the help of The Museum of Modern Art in HD from one of the movie’s 35mm negative copies.

The movie is formulated with the standards of blaxploitation and horror filmmaking and a dissertation on sex, religion and African-American identity. Ganja & Hess follows Duane Jones who plays an anthropologist Hess Green. He is stabbed with an ancient ritualistic dagger. His unbalanced assistant, portrayed by Bill Gunn stabs him. The result is immortality, including a curse of an insatiable thirst for blood. The assistant becomes a victim. The wife of the assistant Ganja, played by Marlene Clark, arrives searching for her missing husband. She and Hess develop an unforeseen companionship. They uncover how much potency is in the blood, giving them power.

Sam Waymon, Mabel King, and Leonard Jackson also star in the horror movie.

"The last thing I want to do is make a black vampire film... If I had to write about blood, I was going to do that, but I could not just make a movie about blood."

— Bill Gunn told a friend explaining why he didn’t make another black vampire movie like Blacula.

Don't Breathe

Directed by Fede Alvarez, Don't Breathe is an award-winning horror movie. The story is not your particular horror story because it is about three young people, played by Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto, looking for an easy heist from a wealthy blind man.

The blind man, played by Stephen Lang, is not what they expected and they are in for a torturous and horrific undertaking. Lang is so believable and horrific. Lang has developed a terrific from stage to movie screen. He celebrated the most for his role in James Cameron's Avatar. He also has earned a Tony nomination for his Broadway performance in The Speed of Darkness.

Unsane

The most injustice and scary situation anyone could experience is being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.

It is so unfair to the individual because they are stripped of their humanity. That is what happens to Sawyer Valentini, played by Claire Foy. Foy is fantastic in Netflix's The Crown. In Steven Soderbergh's horror movie, which he filmed totally on an iPhone, is creepy and scary. Foy is dynamic and unrelenting of fear and wickedness as her character tries to come to grips with what is actually happening to her.

It was very hard for me to watch this movie because I felt vulnerable and trapped. It's how Soderbergh used the iPhone shooting each scene tight and sometimes with a wide-angle lens.

No Solicitors

Eric Roberts seems as if he is leaning toward horror movies of late. I am not sure why but here he is again in No Solicitors. John Callas writes and directs this eerie but campy terror of a movie. Political satire is woven through the storyline, yet horror fans only want the scary stuff and it is pretty cheesy. Still, it is a festival winner at both Scare-A-Con and Fright Night festivals.

The horror movie focuses on Lewis Cutterman (Eric Roberts) who is a recognized brain surgeon. Joyfully married with two lovely children who manage the family business. If you met them as neighbors, you would think they are the perfect family. But, don’t come soliciting at their door. That is a big no-no.

Nobody told the real estate agent about no soliciting at the Cutterman’s home. They seem friendly and helpful but an invite to dinner means under the table wicked dealings. Drugging the invites starts the macabre story of what the family business is doing.

They soon undergo the horrific experience of slowly being eaten piece by piece. The family business is nothing but farm for selling their internal organs.

The movie can only be seen by true horror fans looking for a fix. The movie is somewhat silly but the visuals are hard to consume. Being a solicitor is a tough job and having someone knock on your door is annoying. It doesn’t justify such horrific treatment in No Solicitors.

Slender Man

The premise behind this movie is a tale of Urban Legends. Slender Man arrives from the imagination of Eric Knudsen, who created a pen name Victor Surge to keep Slender Man alive. A fabled creature formed through Surge’s visualization and introduced through an Internet platform known as Something Awful.

That is far as Knudsen goes with the storyline, which is nothing compared to American Horror Story. The movie is penned by David Birke, who is known for scripting Elle and 13 Sins.

Directed by Sylvain White, Slender Man introduces four girls in high school who live in a Massachusetts small town. The girls get together and carry out a ceremony in an attempt to uncover the lore of Slender Man.

One of the girls strangely vanishes while her three friends are suspicious and believe she is indeed Slender Man’s newest victim.

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare gives me the creeps. Jeff Wadlow directed the movie that focuses on Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars) and Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf) as young women playing a deadly game of truth or dare.

The undercurrents drive the movie at the beginning because it seems like an innocent diversion of “Truth or Dare” surrounded by friends, but it clearly becomes a scary, horror movie. The game spins fatal when something unknown punishes the characters who fail to tell the truth or decline to do the dare.

If you are a super fan of horror, you will enjoy this one because it is unrelenting in its campy material.

Winchester

I am not sure you’d call this a horror movie, but it is most certainly scary and has a touch of horror. The Spierig brothers directed Winchester with Helen Mirren starring as Sarah Winchester.

The elaborate story is genuine as it focuses on Sarah Winchester (Mirren.) Sarah Winchester was a real person, who was quirky.

In the movie, she resides on a stretch of land that is remote, 50 miles beyond San Francisco. Today, it is in the heart of San Jose on a busy street in Silicon Valley. Reportedly, Winchester lived in one of the most haunted houses in the world. The heiress to the Winchester fortune of the Winchester rifles never stops building her house. An abbreviated venture that lasts for years and years.

Ms. Winchester continues to construct the house for her niece (Sarah Snook) but it is not quite clear in the story because she might be constructing it for her Doctor - Eric Price (Jason Clarke.) It would have been nice if the directors clarified this better.

The story focuses on how she is constructing the house in order to imprison hundreds of revengeful ghosts. The worse of the ghosts want to get even with Ms. Winchesters’ family because of the firearms they make, which harmed thousands and thousands of people through wars and such.

The Winchester house is a notorious tourist attraction not far from where I live, but I have never thought to visit the place. Not because I heard it was haunted because I never had. I don’t like tourist traps.

The Strangers: Prey at Night

The Strangers: Prey at Night is about a family road trip that turns horrific. Johannes Roberts directs the scary movie from a script by both Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai. The family arrives at a mobile park that reminds me of Bate’s Hotel in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, too bad the movie isn’t as good as Psycho.

Prey at Night focuses on the family, who plan to stay with relatives at the mobile park but discover the place abandoned, which is amateurishly scary as the movie plays out to the finish.

In the darkness with the spine-chilling music, three masked psychopaths jump out from the shadows and lash out at the family. The family fights back on the edge of madness as they thrash out to stay alive.

The horror movie follows the same theme as the 2008 horror movie The Strangers with a similar story concerning young couple being tormented by three masked murderers. Interestingly, the movie was helmed by Bryan Bertino who co-scripted Prey at Night.

IT

I hope you don't freak when you see this trailer. IT is based on Stephen King's book of the same title, though the book is actually two books in one.

King is a master at writing scary stories. This movie appears to be just as scary. While watching the trailer, I was compelled to look over my shoulder about five times to see if I was alone and no one was sneaking up on me. Even the sounds of my house unsettling were playing with my mind.

At this point, you are witnessing a quintessential horror movie from King’s classic book of horror.

The Little Girl in the Red Dress

Twainian horror movie, The Tag-Along 2 is a sequel based on an urban legend movie called The Tag-Along is about a situation In 1998 when a home video called "The Little Girl Red" caused quite a frenzy of viral interest. The first movie, The Tag-Along, received positive reviews and was a box-office triumph.

The sequel resumes the horrific and daunting mystery about the little girl in the red dress helmed by Wei-Hao Cheng.

The movie follows a social worker, played by Rainie Yang. Her teenage daughter is pregnant and is nowhere to be found. Everything that happens in the story winds up being related to the little girl in the red dress.

The movie is creepy and wicked, and that is why it did so well and is the top money-making horror movie in Taiwan.

Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day is similar to the Bill Murray's Groundhog Day and Zoey Deutch's Before I Fall. Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies where a weatherman keeps living the same day, which is Groundhog Day, over and over again. Before I Fall is about a high school girl who relives her day over and over again after dying in a car crash.

Though, Happy Death Day is different than Murray's or Deutch's movies. It still has the same premise as a horror movie about a college student who relives the day she was murdered with the intent of finding her murderer.

The movie is not original since it copies Groundhog Day and Before I Fall.

Still, watch the trailer and get your fix on scary and horror with a touch of funny.

Source

The Bye Bye Man

The Bye Bye Man is a horror-thriller exposing the evil relating to some unspeakable acts performed by man.

The horror movie follows three college buddies, and they encounter the evil tidings of the Bye Bye Man. They learn the only way to safely stay clear of his curse is not think it, and not say it. Of course, what happens when you are told not to think about something. You think about it.

In all, when the Bye Bye Man maneuvers inside their heads, he takes over and they lose control. The story is about them doing everything in their power to overcome his control and live.

Beyond the Gates

Beyond the Gates is not a great movie but it’s not bad. The movie begins at the time a father’s mysterious disappearance. We meet two divided brothers. One is Gordon, played by Graham Skipper, who is responsible, and John, played by Chase Williamson, who is reckless. They come together to inspect the contents of their father’s antiquated VHS rental storefront.

The brothers unearth an interactive VCR gameboard. They discover that their father viewed it right before he disappeared. Captivated by the situation, they take a chance and play the tape from the game board.

They hit play and soon realize it is not an ordinary VHS game. They unearthed a portal to a terrifying alternative existence masterminded by a menacing hostess, who is played by horror queen Barbara Crampton.

The brothers must rescue their father’s soul, but if they don’t play by her rules they all will perish.

You may recognize Crampton because she was featured in Days of Our Lives and her film debut was in Body Double.

Short Horror Movies About Mothers

XX

You ever ask yourself, “Why horror movies are so popular?” Here is a collection of short horror movies about mothers. They answer that question for you. XX comes as a DVD helmed by four talented female directors. The shorts will give you a chance to evaluate the popularity of horror movies because these are not your usual horror movies. They are awkward and confusing at times.

The collection will catch your interest because overall, they are worth the time and cash. Each short is produced and acted intelligently well. The fourth one I like the best. The Box makes the whole collection a scary, fun time to share with your friends. The movie is deep and kind of meaningful. The kids grow up and become who they are and you can’t do anything but be their mom. What they do to their mom is horrific.

Only Living Son is my next choice out of the four shorts. The story is about a mother being left on her own at a stressful party and the rest of her life. It’s a mother’s nightmare for real. The movie is produced well and the acting is believable.

Being a horror fan, you will want to see these four shorts. The overall theme threads through the movies – motherhood nightmares – fears of what could happen to your children or to you. Each director has a distinctive and modern-day expression.

Island Zero

Directed by Josh Gerritsen, who is making his directorial debut, Island Zero was filmed in Maine. The story follows the people of a fishing island off the coast of Maine. They are strangely cut off from the outside world and don’t know why or how it happened. The mystery starts after the island’s ferry abruptly stops coming.

Add to the mystery of it all, every phone on the island has gone dead. To top that off, each boat launched to the mainland never returns.

At the water’s edge, dead bodies float up and the resilient group of remaining islanders investigate who, or what is killing them off.

The promotional line for the movie is “Every thing needs to eat.”

The horror movie cast includes Laila Robins, Adam Wade McLaughlin, Teri Reeves, and Matthew Wilkas. The screenplay is by Tess Gerritsen.

Best Scary Movies

I hope you get a chance to see these scary movies, and being a horror fan, I hope you get a chance to view them.

© 2018 Kenna McHugh

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    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      5 months ago from Northern California

      Sherry, Thank you for visiting my article. Some of these movies are foreign movies while some haven't been released yet or went directly to DVD and streaming. I love your idea of writing an article on comedy movies. I will do that.

    • Sherry H profile image

      Sherry Haynes 

      5 months ago

      I watch horror movies with my little sister every weekend. This has almost become a routine now. Its strange that I did not know about some of the movies listed.

      I would also love to read your pick of comedy movies!:)

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      5 months ago from Northern California

      Noel,

      I was wondering if it would be a little cheesy. Mirren is so gifted. At first, I was amazed the film got produced. Then, I heard Spielberg was attached to it for about 11 years before the Spierig brothers picked it up.

    • Noel Penaflor7 profile image

      Noel Penaflor 

      5 months ago from Gold Run

      Excellent Article-- Just saw WINCHESTER and I thought it was a lot better than the previous Spierig movie JIGSAW. Helen Mirren makes Winchester bearable when it gets too cheesy

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      6 months ago from Northern California

      Thank you for reading my article. Yes. I am interested in Winchester as well. Helen Mirren is an awesome actress and she will make the movie great.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      6 months ago from Ohio

      I've heard of the Winchester House. The story is interesting. Supposedly there are doors leading no where and I think some that just open onto air. I may want to watch this. :)

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