I am a horror movie snob. During my childhood, my father would sit me in front of countless horror movies until I reached an age when I just simply didn’t get scared by them anymore. Kudos, dad, if that was your intention. Now, my jaded, desensitized self searches madly for horror movies that don’t, well…suck. I’m very hard to scare. Typically, slasher movies packed with slutty teenage girls, rampant sex scenes, extreme gore, and kind-of-sort-of predictable jump scares just don’t freak me out. In fact, I find them incurably dumb. Movies about demons are beginning to grate on my nerves, too. And in my indelibly jaded state, I wallow in my own self-pity as I ask myself…where are all the good horror movies?
Well, well, well. I’ve found at least a handful. In all my life of watching horror movies, only a select few have been able to not only freak me out, but make me lie awake in bed with the covers pulled up to my ears.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
This movie…damn. I can safely say that this is probably my favorite horror movie, one that I have to show all my friends who haven’t seen it. It’s a Korean film about two sisters who return from a long stay at the hospital to their country mansion home, greeted by their clearly crazy step-mother. Things start getting out of hand when weird paranormal shit starts happening around bedtime, and the step-mother’s insanity becomes clearer and clearer when she begins abusing the girls. The twists at the end are ones you’d never see coming. This movie rocks. With gorgeous cinematography, music, and overall creepy atmosphere, this movie goes beyond just scaring you…you can appreciate its aesthetic beauty and sadness as well. But for those of you who want to be scared, don’t worry; this movie is packed full of jump scares, paranormal activity, psychological messed-up shit, and a very dark, heavy emphasis on death. If you like psychological horror movies, this is definitely for you. But I will say that the ending is incredibly confusing, so you’ll need to watch it more than once or hop onto Wikipedia for some explanations. Oh, and if you remember the movie The Uninvited, that was the crappy American remake of this movie. Not nearly as good, and much more simplified.
Let the Right One In (2008)
The Swedish version. Yes, it’s a vampire movie, but damn. If there was one movie to make up for all the years of soul-destroying Twilight nonsense, it would be this movie. Basically, it’s about a young, obviously troubled boy who’s bullied at school and suddenly gets a new neighbor–a young vampire girl named Eli. This is another movie that has gorgeous cinematography and a very dark atmosphere. Not much in the way of jump scares, but it’s more dark and disturbing than anything. One of the coolest parts about this movie is how they represent Eli: unlike in Twilight and many other vampire movies, she isn’t a sexy undead goddess who looks like she’s going to orgasm every time she thinks of killing someone. Eli is a regular young girl (kind of odd-looking), and she definitely looks dead. More than that, she seems to really hate killing people. In one scene, where she attacks and kills a man, she starts sobbing. This movie makes the whole vampire thing look like a curse and a nightmare, the way the whole vampire deal is supposed to be. I don’t care how many times Edward “in a tortured voice” says things like, “I’m a monster, I’m not happy, don’t ever be like me.” Uh, no. You’re a sex god who drives a sports car and has every woman in existence falling over your feet, and you have the equivalent of superpowers and you eat freaking deer just like any other dude in the woods. The answer is no. But really, this movie is very beautiful and disturbing. A good combination, in my book.
Okay, okay, don’t hunt me down and harvest my kidneys just yet. I know there’s a huge rift between the ones who think this is the most terrifying movie of all time, and the ones who think it’s the dumbest shit to ever force itself into their eyes. Well, maybe it’s just me, but this movie friggin’ terrified me more than any movie has. Usually when I watch horror movies, I don’t jump, blink, or make any sound. I smirk a little sometimes. Maybe gasp a tiny bit. NOT WITH THIS MOVIE. I had never screamed at a horror movie before this one. I had never stayed up late beneath my covers, afraid to turn the lights off at bedtime, before this movie. And I know, I know, the acting sucked balls. The whole thing was pretty cheesy and B-movie-ish. But DAMN, you have to admit that there were things in this movie that were real game-changers. For those of you who don’t know, it’s got a dumb plot about a family that moves into a new house. Their oldest son falls into a mysterious coma. It turns out that he’s stuck in a hell-like realm of ghosts called “the Further”, and the boy’s father must astral-project himself into the Further to free his son. I know, it’s stupid-sounding. But the jump scares…holy shit, the jump scares. And you can’t deny that it’s FREAKING DISTURBING. When that red-faced demon guy appeared behind the dad in the kitchen, I screamed so much and punched anyone around me. Yeah, I thought it was scary. So don’t watch this for its quality acting, visually stunning cinematography, or gripping story. Watch it because it’s like one big disturbing nightmare full of jump-scares.
The Woman In Black (2012)
This movie had all kinds of good things happening for it. First off, it had Daniel Radcliffe, and any movie that contains Harry Potter is a good movie in my book right from the get-go. But I actually really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was a stereotypical “haunted house” movie, but I really liked it. It’s about a ghost of a woman dressed in black who, when she appears, causes children to die in horrible ways. It’s set in the Victorian era in England. Unlike most haunted house movies, this one legitimately freaked me out. The atmosphere was so dark, so many things just didn’t seem as contrived and gimmicky as other haunted house movies. And all I can think is…Why don’t they make more horror movies set in the Victorian era? I mean, it was a creepy time anyway. Back then, it was considered fashionable to hold seances and try to contact the dead. The mourning procedures were complex and death was majorly a part of society. That’s why so many scary old Victorian houses stereotypically get pegged as the “haunted” ones! But really, this movie was very dark, had tons of jump scares that really freaked me out, and was just full of that creepy Victorian era feeling. I loved it. I would love to see more movies like it.
Are you a hipsterish sort of fellow who likes old black-and-white horror movies? No? Too bad. I actually really liked this one. Yes, it’s almost a hundred years old. Yes, it’s an unauthorized adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Yes, it’s kind of a B movie. Yes, it’s a silent film. But from an artsy perspective, it’s very cool. The thing that I liked most about this movie was the director’s usage of the black-and-white. Most movies of the time treated it like a detriment to the movie’s full potential, but F.W. Murnau seemed to harness the black and white to create amazing light and shadow effects. Not much in the jump scare, blood fest, creepy department, but as far as classic horror movies go, it’s artsy and cool. And no, I didn’t know this movie existed until I watched Spongebob.
That’s all I can think of for now. It’s not a huge list, but there you go. Personally, I like movies with more to offer than just raw fear. To create the whole mood of eeriness, you really need good cinematography, music, and a plot that goes deeper than just a rampant killer who, for some unknown reason, wants to kill the slutty teenagers at summer camp. I tend to go for more psychological movies that mess with your head, too, and jump scares that aren’t horribly predictable. Anyway, if I can make you watch ONE movie from this list, I’d make you watch A Tale of Two Sisters. Really, it’s good. Especially if you’re into the whole Asian ghost with long black hair thing.