There's undeniably been a surge in horror. Although the genre has been around since the dawn of cinema itself, it feels as though the genre that was once reserved for those few brave souls with niche interests has gone so mainstream you wouldn't think twice before hitting play on a chill evening on whichever streaming platform floats your boat.
I wasn't always a horror fan. There was a time when the idea of watching scary movies would have been a laughable activity for me to embark on, but I seem to have found myself in a place of actually enjoying the genre. I was always a fan of the classic psychological thriller, but scary movies weren't my first choice of visual entertainment. There are a few films that helped me to understand what it is about the genre that so many people appreciate and relish.
Look, I'm not saying they're not going to be scary, but these horror movies will give you something else to focus on rather than just the pure and unadulterated dread that plays on your deepest anxieties and keeps you up at night. Here are the best horror movies that helped me appreciate and understand the genre.
1. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
This romance horror is an extremely sexy and sensitive auditory masterpiece. Director Jim Jarmusch gives us a flick about a depressed musician who is reunited with his lover— and has already endured several centuries of drama— and is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister. With Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as the central lovers and vampires, you can't really go wrong with this one.
2. Raw (2017)
This french film by director Julia Ducournau is bloody – we're not going to lie – and as far as scary movies go, it's right up there. But it's also a sensitive coming of age drama that explores relationships between family and one's self. Set in a boarding school, two sisters realise their interests (eating people) are more similar than they realise.
3. Midsommar (2019)
A24's Midsommar directed by Ari Aster is a breakout hit and one of Florence Pugh's best roles to date. In it, she embarks on a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends despite their relationship drama after suffering a monumental loss. In Sweden, she realises the family she has visited is actually a cult. She is faced with the choice of joining fate or her friends from home or living in an entirely new way.
4. The Vanishing (1988)
This film destroys you quietly. No blood, or gore, just mind games. Technically described as a thriller, this film might give you trust issues. Based on the novel The Golden Egg, the plot opens with a seemingly picturesque road trip with a sexy young couple, before things go wrong. Very wrong. Supposedly Stanley Kubrick deemed it, 'the most terrifying film he'd ever seen.' Dutch director George Sluizer's sickeningly poetic script will keep you watching, unable to look away.
5. Train to Busan (2016)
Train to Busan a Korean Zombie is, in my opinion, one of the best zombie horror movies of its genre (Night of the Living Dead fans don't come for me). There's something about this emotionally driven Zombie film that —despite its gory premise— hits different. Yeon Sang-ho sets his Zombie film in cramped quarters, on a train with people from all walks of life making his commentary on social and political awareness a fascinating infusion to this well-explored subgenre.
6. Climax (2018)
This french psychological dance horror flick has a lot going on. Directed by Gasper Noé, it's a sexy dance afterparty that is torn apart from the inside out by one of the dance troupes.
7. Confessions (2010)
This film is about revenge. A psychological mystery set in a schoolyard as a teacher tries to figure out which of her pupils murdered her four year old daughter. In an absolute rollercoaster of a plot, you're taken deep through the twists and turns of a mother's grief and the mistake made by a student's misunderstanding of a situation.
8. The Lure (2015)
The Lure is a bizarre Polish horror musical directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska. The film features two siren sisters who emerge from the ocean to perform in a nightclub. One sister searches for love while the other seeks to feast on human flesh. It's an eccentric film that takes your mind to strange places indeed.
9. Susperia (2015)
Susperia is a stunning visual cornucopia from director Luca Guadagnino that is set Berlin dance convent where dance is life. Packed with all-star cast Tilda Swinton, as well as Dakota Johnson, and A24's scream queen Mia Goth, you'll love this darker adaptation of the 1977 original.
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