I love making lists and the rest of the staff has put forward some pretty strong contenders, so I’ll throw my hat in the ring! I made my best effort to stay off the beaten path instead of choosing obvious classics like The Thing and Halloween. However, each of the following movies has managed to scare me somehow, some way (and usually quite substantially), so proceed with caution and enjoy!
A freelance cameraman records a suicide in a subway station and is driven to explore the tunnels in search of what had made the man afraid. The physical terrors of subterranean monsters and cannibalism are merely a vehicle for the deeper examination on what drives fear. Has he discovered something to fear, or has he become it?
9. At the Devil’s Door
A real estate agent tries to help a runaway teen, the daughter of her clients, who seems to be haunted by a malevolent figure. Careful background ambience and fantastic creature special effects create a modern demonic tale that will keep you looking over your shoulder.
A group of radio personalities in a small Ontario town are trapped inside the studio as a zombie outbreak goes on outside. A claustrophobic setting and clever writing leave you feeling tense and helpless as madness erupts on the other side of the door.
7. The Innkeepers
A pair of slacker inn keepers try to hunt down a ghost on the last operational weekend of a historic hotel. The old and eerie setting is perfect for good old fashioned ghost stories, but the endearing characters make you really fear for their safety.
6. The Childhood of a Leader
The young son of an American political figure grows into a frightening man in 1918 France. The truth of what this boy would grow to be is staggering to imagine from his inocuous beginnings. Features an incredible score and one of the most unnerving final sequences I’ve ever seen.
A late night reporter and cameraman follow emergency responders into an apartment complex, only to become trapped when a mysterious infection makes people turn savage. Lets not kid ourselves, it’s zombies, and the sheer terror and frenetic pace of the action will keep you on the edge of your seat.
4. Berberian Sound Studio
An English sound engineer is hired by an Italian horror studio to work on a historical film about witchcraft, but the real horror is his own slow descent into their cruel and violent world. No doubt this won’t be for everyone, but the careful pace weaves a insightful tale of the impact of our surroundings, and it features some of the most impeccable sound design in film.
A young boy falls into a coma and his family tries to rescue him from the supernatural entities that seem to be at fault. So maybe this is a little more “on the beaten path” than some of my other picks, but this represents the most successful use of jumps scare tactics for me. They get me every time and serve as a prime example of jump scares that give you a real reason to be afraid.
2. Lake Mungo
After the tragic drowning death of their teenage daughter, an Australian family documents their efforts to cope and the supposed supernatural experiences that have plagued them since. The drama and heartbreak of this film are the true selling points, but the ghostly aspects are played with such haunting simplicity that they’re impossible to forget. The ending is one that left me ill at ease for days after the fact.
1. The Poughkeepsie Tapes
A true-crime style mockumentary about a New York serial killer who leaves behind hundreds of video tapes chronicling his deeds. The acts committed to film are twisted and heinous, but every one of them something you might see on the evening news, or hear about in a real documentary. There is nothing quite so frightening as reality, and the thought of this movie makes me double check my closet at night to this day.