Horror Selections for Everyone (Yes, Everyone)
BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG
Even if you aren’t a fan of the traditional slasher or ghost story — or scary movies, period — you can still enjoy the genre.
Horror movies tend to get a bad rap. Many are over-the-top in their violence, obscene in their gore and notoriously unkind to female characters. So when fellow pop culture vultures clam up at the mention of a fright flick, it’s tough to blame them.
But horror is experiencing a renaissance, thanks to recent subversive scares like Get Out, A Quiet Place and Hereditary. So a film fan who declares they “don’t like scary movies” is at risk of shutting out one of cinema’s most artful, experimental and thought-provoking genres. While fear is subjective, not all horror is created equal. Even if you aren’t familiar with the slasher ways of Leatherface or Jason Voorhees or prefer to avoid torture spectacles like Saw there’s still plenty to delve into.
Below, a list of clever, plot-driven and some, flat-out gorgeous, horror selections from least to most frightening — that are worth your while. We’ll also tell you how many lights to keep on after you watch.
Knock Knock (2014)
Directed by: Eli Roth
What it’s about: When two stranded young women show up on his doorstep, a devoted family man succumbs to temptation and puts his livelihood at risk.
Watch if: A dark comedy is more appealing than standard horror fare. Roth and Keanu Reeves lean fully into the joke and make room for up-and-comers Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas, who star as Reeves’ captors.
Number of lights to keep on: 🔦
The First Purge (2018)
Directed by: Gerard McMurray
What it’s about: See how the annual survive-or-die tradition began. A new political party rises to prominence in New York City and gives citizens of Staten Island an ultimatum: Hop on the ferry out, or get paid to try and survive the next 12 lawless hours.
Watch if: You’re a fan of the previous Purge flicks — or looking for an unorthodox thriller with creative ways of, erm, saying goodbye to its characters.
Number of lights to keep on: 🔦🔦
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Directed by: David F. Samberg
What it’s about: In the fourth installment of the acclaimed (and downright spooky) Conjuring franchise, possessed doll Annabelle, gets her own origin story.
Watch if: Even if you’re not familiar with the demonic Conjuring universe, Samberg (Lights Out) puts you in the mindset of the film’s young protagonists through their powerful, moving performances. If creepy dolls are a hard no in your book, however, this might be one to skip.
Number of lights to keep on: 🔦🔦🔦
The Grudge (2004)
Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
What it’s about: An American nurse working in Tokyo becomes the target of a sinister spirit that survives by infiltrating host after host.
Watch if: You’re feeling brave enough for something truly creepy. While the film is technically an American remake, Japanese-born Shimizu helmed the original on which it was based, along with its sequels, giving the fear factor a sense of authenticity.
Number of lights to keep on: 🔦🔦🔦🔦
The Nun (2018)
Directed by: Corin Hardy
What it’s about: In this Conjuring origin story, a priest with a haunted past and a novice awaiting her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the alleged suicide of a young nun — and the sinister convent she served.
Watch if: You either really enjoy or are completely indifferent to jump scares — there are surprises from frame to frame. This big-budget fright flick spared no expense when it came to crafting its eerie setting, and the result is sweeping.
Number of lights to keep on: 🔦🔦🔦🔦
The Descent (2005)
Directed by: Neil Marshall
What it’s about: After her husband dies in an accident, a woman embarks on a caving expedition that quickly becomes a nightmarish fight for survival against mutant-like crawlers.
Watch if: You’re looking for a realistic, top-notch scare. Director Marshall (whose TV credits include Game of Thrones and Westworld) makes his audience feel as the characters do: petrified, claustrophobic — and anxious around dark corners.
Number of lights to keep on: 🔦🔦🔦🔦🔦
Olivia Armstrong has irked many an internet surfer via Decider, Tribeca Film, HuffPo and Jezebel. The movie she first remembers watching is The Swan Princess. The second is The Shining.