The 5 Most Horrifyingly Otherworldly Horror Movies
Movies to Scare Me to Uncertainty
While I love all kinds of horror movies, I've never been a big fan of slasher flicks. Copious amounts of blood do not make a scary scene. My favorite films involve a psychological element, a suspenseful struggle, and an "other-worldly" quality. I don't mean I want to see aliens; that would be another genre altogether. No, I like movies that involve characters who develop a sense that there is another side to the reality they have taken for granted. I like movies that make me feel, if only for a little while, like it's possible I've been wrong in my evaluation of the world. When I watch a movie that does this well, I second-guess my security for a couple of hours; I rethink whether my daily existence is what it seems. To me, these are the most horrifying horror movies.
Disclaimer: Before anyone feels the need to tell me that I left off The Exorcist , or any number of zombie movies from this list, I know. I find The Exorcist to be more grueling than scary, and I'll save zombies for another time. I also left off a few ghost stories that are fringe horror at best. There were several other films that almost made my top 5 (including the 1982 version of The Thing ), but just missed the cut.
There's no getting around the fact that The Shining , directed by Stanley Kubrick, may be the most psychologically distressing film ever made. I liked Jack Nicholson back before he was a caricature of himself. These days, he seems so self-consciously in actor mode all the time. It's hard to fairly judge The Shining by present-day standards; so much of what the movie great has been reused time and again. When this movie came out, "Here's Johnny!" sounded original, but the passing years have produced countless rip-offs.
Similarly, countless reviews have been written about The Shining . Suffice it to say, the slow, agonizing mental decline of Nicholson's character, along with the vast and isolated setting of the Overlook hotel combine to make the movie one of the most tense watching experiences imaginable. Throw in Danny's penchant for psychic-induced fits and Scatman Crothers earnest and futile efforts, and you've got yourself a heck of a scary film.
The Wicker Man
Going back some years earlier, The Wicker Man is an utterly upsetting experience. Like The Shining , this a slow ride, but the build-up and payoff are worth it. The winding psychological trail followed by a British police officer on a remote island is unnerving: it involves singing, dancing, sex, costumes, and a sense that nothing was ever as it seemed. The disappearance of a young girl may prompt the officer's investigation, but this movie is anything but a simple detective story.
I'm aware that a remake was made of The Wicker Man . If you haven't seen the newer version yet, don't. Save your money and time. Instead, make sure the kids are in bed, and watch one of the weirdest horror movies on this list. The film quality is a little dated, the acting is a little inconsistent, but one thing is for sure: this film will likely burn itself upon your mind for months to come.
To me, the 1979 horror classic is enough to cause acid-reflux. The acting isn't top-notch, by any means, and there are scenes that haven't stood the test of time, but the overall story is upsetting on a deep level. My understanding is the claim that the film is based on real-life has been roundly dismissed at this point, but nevertheless, the premise of purchasing a beautiful new home for a growing family, only to discover that it is a focal point for evil, never gets old. Some have called this an Exorcist rip-off, but if it is, then only slightly. It is the story of a man who succumbs to the darkness, and of a family who is along for the ride.
As a side note, I've very aware that most of my favorite horror movies come from a distinct ten-year span. Either the late 1970s were the height of fine psychological horror, or films associated with my youth just scare me 'cause. I suspect it's a little bit of both.
See, I can move away from the 1970s. I first watched this 2007 horror film with the bar set low. I was very surprised by how effective the narrative was. Don't get me wrong: no one in this film deserves an Oscar. If you have the ability to suspend disbelief, however, this Stephen King adaptation seamlessly weaves its way through an apocalypse, leaving characters stuck inside a supermarket, trying to make sense out of the growing, deadly mist outside. The main character must protect his child while also getting his brain around events that simply can not be happening. At some point, the characters and the viewers know that they must venture outside.
I thought this movie was suspenseful and edgy. Like many movies based on King's work, stereotypes abound, but in this film, I didn't care. The lead actor and the premise produced a nail-biter of a horror movie, and the wrenching ending is well-worth the investment.
This 2002 film garnered a lot of teenage attention, unfortunately, which made it seem less than what it is to some viewers. It does have an adolescent quality at times, but overall, I think this film is horrifying. It's horrifying in a strange mix of nightmare and fact; in truth, this film may be the king of modern-day psychological mind-play. Odd and upsetting imagery populates this story of Naomi Watts trying to make sense of a curse involving a little girl in a well, who sees without seeing and knows without reason. The protagonist must make a journey to find the source of the curse, and discovers a terrible alternate reality in the process.
This film is highly stylized, but consistent. It's dark and moody throughout, and as long as you don't make the mistake of trying to watch its sequel, its ambience will hold up. My wife still won't go anywhere near this movie; that's how much it worms its way into your head.