Did we scare you?
Hmm. Guess we'll have to do better than that.
Just be careful what you wish for.
Because here comes 12 Scary Films Guaranteed to Haunt Your Dreams, lumbering through your basement in a clown mask. With a chainsaw. Right in time for Halloween weekend.
There's nothing worse than wasting 90 minutes on a horror movie that doesn't leave you fundamentally scarred in one way or another. So we’ve combed our grisliest nightmares for the films that really managed to scare the living @%#! out of us. The ones that staked a permanent place in our darkest dreams, shattered our innocence, and made us come back every October for another look. Some of them aren’t even traditional horror, but will still mess you up.
To make sure these fine films sufficiently disturb you this weekend, make sure to do your horror night right. That means: turn off all the lights, turn up the volume, and feel free to have a friend or two close by to take the edge off of that first jump scare.
Here we go…
The Basic Deal: A Sudanese couple become refugees of war in the badlands of London, haunted by the ghosts in their crumbling government housing and memories alike.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Night witches, peering eyes, and a creeping sense of insanity. None of which compare to the horrors of racism, genocide, forced flight, bureaucracy, paranoia, and persecution depicted in the film’s real world.
Pet Sematary, 1989
The Basic Deal: A couple moves to Maine and loses their toddler in a tragic accident. And that ancient Native burial ground known for reviving the dead just beyond the house looks a little too tempting to pass up...
The Horrors. The Horrors: Out of control Mack trucks, zombie cats, bad kids, and worse dreams. Watching Herman Munster die. And one of the most traumatizing figures known to the history of horror and the entire reason this film probably made the list: Zelda. Oh god. She's behind us right now, isn't she?
The Basic Deal: An epic case of writer’s block and persistent paranormal persuasion transform a man into a really bad dad while he serves as caretaker of a haunted hotel with his annoying wife and psychic kid. It's a good thing Scatman Crothers is on his way.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Redrum. Spectral bartenders, axes, and kinky bunny costumes. Abusive parents. Decaying shower companions. Creepy twins and imaginary finger friends. Blood floods, deadly snow, and murder. Shelly Duvall.
The Conjuring 1 and 2
The Basic Deal: The first two films of James Wan’s Conjuring series are beloved by horror fans for raising the bar on familial despair and supernatural terror in the haunted house and possession genres. Inspired by, and doubtlessly exaggerating, the exploits of real life ghost-hunting couple Lorraine and Ed Warren, the films are driven by fresh ways of thrilling, amazing, and freaking audiences the F out with their special effects, sympathetic characters, and insanely adroit jump scares.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Demonic possession, witch hangings, and general panic. Paranormal investigations and dark energy. Annabelle (a doll) and Valak (a nun). Dead pets, creepily autonomous toys, and Catholic priests. 1970’s haircuts and British teeth.
The Basic Deal: The latest cinematic interpretation of Stephen King’s epic of childhood trauma and terror at the hands of a subterranean evil, now appearing in-clown-form, isn’t necessarily the scariest film on this list (and Part 2 was a bit of a let-down). But it’s rare to see horror films with a budget like this, packing the movie with sufficiently strong jump scares and shocking imagery that will surely affect your dreams after a midnight viewing.
The Horrors. The Horrors: The, ew, sewer. A shapeshifting killer Bozo. Lurching lepers and severed arms. Wayward adults and parents burned alive. Psychotic bullies and blood-spewing sinks.Deadlights. And some seriously fucked up fortune cookies.
The Basic Deal: Famously weird director David Lynch’s first feature film. A black-and-white, surrealist nightmare about the plight of a man abandoned to raise his monstrous, wailing infant amid the trippy, dark shell of an industrial wasteland. It basically makes Twin Peaks look like Paw Patrol.
The Horrors. The Horrors: A skinless, spitting baby and a chicken dinner that won’t stay still. Decapitation. The Lady in The Radiator singing a creepy version of a future Pixies classic. Climactic apocalypse.
The Basic Deal: A vegetarian veterinary student throws off the shackles of her home life to join a seriously fucked-up college. Before long, she’s experimenting with sex, drugs, and the many pleasures of eating human flesh.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Rabbit kidneys, snackalicious fingers, and one seriously bad case of eczema. Cannibalistic orgasms, hazing, grave-robbing, and overindulging in protein. Also, it’s French.
The Basic Deal: Young girl finds herself possessed by a demon, gets really gross-looking and says a lot of nasty things. These two things eventually turn out to be related.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Pea soup and pee pee. Universally envied head flexibility and bad skin. Captain Howdy and Pazuzu. People being cast out of windows. The power of Christ compelling you.
The Basic Deal: A widow attempts to raise her 6-year-old son, who’s hyperactive as shit, sorta weird, and totally terrorized by a literary fiction that becomes real enough to scare the holy hell out of everyone.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Creepy nursery rhymes, old-timey top hats, slamming doors, and encroaching madness. Broken noses, severed phone lines, screeching youth, and infanticidal tendencies. Ground glass for dinner. With earthworms for dessert.
Requiem For a Dream
The Basic Deal: Hubert Selby Jr.’s hardcore tale of a family's spiraling drug addiction as told through the dizzying master’s lens of Darren Aronofsky. It’s not traditional horror by any means. It’s scarier.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Gaping abscesses, aggressive refrigerators, and double-ended marital aids. Crash diets, hallucinating mothers, pimps, and psychiatric wards. Withdrawal symptoms, amputations, Mafia shootouts, and fetal positions. Being left with an urgent need to call our moms.
The Basic Deal: A documentary detailing the tortured lives of people who suffer from sleep paralysis and night terrors, and the shadowy figures and scary beings shared in common by so many of those afflicted.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Immobility. Shadow Men. The sounds of Hell. Disembodied screams and growled threats, desperation, and eerie coincidences. Always feeling like someone's waaaatching you.
The Basic Deal: Tim Robbins plays a Vietnam War veteran tripping his balls off in some sorta Dante-esque death spasm of repressed wartime trauma, extreme paranoia, and psychological manipulation. War is hell.
The Horrors. The Horrors: Infantry combat. Psychosis and hallucination. Faceless figures, flashbacks, and homeless men with tentacles. A monster coveting one’s significant other. Government experiments and a dude banging his face on the window of a haunted psychiatric ward. Scariest of all? The New York City subway.