I’m so bored of “scary movie” lists that consist of Scream, Saw and The Ring – so this year I’ve racked my brains (and the Internet) for some of the most unsettling movies you can indulge in this October 31. I’ve purposefully omitted many of the usual cliché horror films that pop up year after year, while including some that sit proudly under the “disturbing” banner.
So feast your eyes on some scary, if a little different and downright unsettling, films this Halloween! Don’t forget to check out our other collections of free horror movies online, horror shorts from FEWDIO and classic Hammer films, as well.
Eraserhead isn’t a horror film. It isn’t even really a scary film, but it’s a film that will have a profound effect on you long after you have seen it. David Lynch does unsettling very well, and Eraserhead is quite possibly his finest piece of work.
Tackling the paranoia of fatherhood, responsibility, children and… oh I don’t know. It’s an intense 85-minute look at the mind of a man who has been driven insane by his environment. You won’t scream and shriek, nor will you hide behind your sofa, but you will be left somewhat aghast by what you’ve just seen.
Sometimes the best horror films are “based on a true story” – as is the case with this film about notorious serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Disturbing and ghastly as the facts may be, it’s the film’s use of documentary-style filmmaking that make this a heart-stopper.
The film manages to plant the idea of “it could be anyone” firmly in the viewer’s mind, and Michael Rooker’s portrayal of the disturbed killer is still up there with the best of them. The scariest horror films and based in reality, as this chiller proves.
Eden Lake (2008)
Following on from Henry, Eden Lake is another harrowing film based in reality (but this time it’s not based on a true story). The film follows a young couple on a romantic retreat in the picturesque British countryside, determined not to let a group of unruly teenagers get in the way of their enjoyment.
To this day I don’t recall feeling quite as drained after watching a film as I was when I’d finished watching Eden Lake. It could have been the believable situation, the hopelessness throughout or the fact that the perpetrators are minors – either way, it’s a cracking yet thoroughly depressing hour and a half.
The Haunting (1963)
Ah, the good old days of terror over horror. No blood, no gore but plenty of frightening moments brought on through clever filmmaking techniques and the power of suggestion. The Haunting is a classic haunted house movie, shot in black and white and featuring a small cast of rather stereotypical characters.
A researcher looking into the existence of ghosts, the skeptic who stands to inherit the eerie mansion, a mysterious clairvoyant and an insecure psychic investigate a house with a long history of murder and insanity. What could possibly go wrong?
As is not at all evident from the trailer above, Suspiria is a late-70s Italian horror flick set in a famous ballet school. A new recruit arrives and soon discovers that the school is hiding some rather gory secrets.
To this day it’s a must-see film for fans of the horror genre, thanks in part to a gripping original score by prog rock band Goblin that manages to build tension marvellously.
Session 9 (2001)
A refreshing low-budget horror film that doesn’t rely on the tired trick of jumps and shock for its scares. Instead, Session 9 builds on an underlying sense of foreboding surrounding a group of asbestos removal specialists working to a tight deadline in an abandoned insane asylum.
Session 9 was filmed in a genuinely scary condemned mental hospital (Danvers State Hospital, Massachusetts), and its setting in the film no doubt inspires much of the atmosphere on-screen. Psychological, independent and – above all – something a bit different.
The Descent (2005)
The newest film on this list, The Descent is a claustrophobic tale of a caving adventure gone wrong. When 6 friends meet for an annual excursion, they soon find themselves trapped underground and pursued by mysterious predators. If you’re scared of the dark, The Descent will terrify you.
Apparently there are two versions of this, with the UK version having the lion’s share of the praise online. The short (UK) trailer above is decidedly vague, and that’s because the theatrical trailer tends to give away a bit too much for my liking. A stellar cast, believable scenario and some very jumpy moments make this a brilliant horror film.
The Dead Zone (1983)
The Dead Zone is what happens when you take a solid Stephen King best-seller, cast Christopher Walken in a paranoid starring role and get David Cronenberg to direct it. Considered by many to be the best King novel film adaptation, The Dead Zone tells the tale of a man (Walken) who wakes from a coma five years after a car accident.
Not only has he spend half a decade with the lights out, he now possesses psychic powers. At first this seems like a gift, but it’s not long before his new found sense begins to cause trouble.
Bonus: Alien (1979)
Included on this list as a bonus because it’s arguably Ridley Scott’s most cherished film, Alien is a sci-fi horror flick that does some amazing things – among them scaring the pants off anyone who watches it. If you’ve made it this far through life without watching it – don’t hesitate. Watch. Enjoy. Be scared!
What are your favourite scary films? Any lesser known ones we should look out for? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: Premade BG 96 (Brenda Clarke)