Written by Ng Li Wei
If you’re someone like me, you absolutely cannot watch horror movies because they haunt you continuously after you leave the cinema – but on the rare occasion I feel adventurous enough to do so, I expect the horror movie to be good.
I’m talking about the quality of the film as a whole: its ability to build up both plot and tension while maintaining that eerie feeling you’d expect from a horror movie. For me, plot is key – if you have a good story, you can’t really go wrong. I feel that most horror movies these days are all just clichés, with all of them using the same jump scares over and over.
This list I’ve compiled are all the horror movies that have managed to get me thinking about the deeper meaning behind the films, as well as have kept me feeling unsettled and cautiously looking down empty hallways and corridors for weeks on end after. These movies are incredibly memorable and have made even me – someone who can’t stand horror movies – love and cherish them.
Let’s get into it! (but not without a tiny spoiler alert warning)
5. Get Out (2017)
Get Out really subverted my expectations as to what the film would be about. The plot is centered around an interracial couple, with a white girl wanting to bring her African-American boyfriend back to meet her parents. Knowing it was a horror film, I expected the typical horror story plot to ensue: strange things start happening, her parents’ house ends up being haunted, and they have to find ways to “get out” of the situation.
I could not have been more wrong.
Race and discrimination are strong themes in Get Out. The film itself is a huge metaphor about how African-Americans are marginalized in America and how they’re trying to combat a rigid and disadvantageous societal system.
I know, heavy right? Especially for a supposed horror movie.
I had to place this film at number five. All I have to say is: it was well deserved that Get Out won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. It had some of the best dialogue I’ve ever seen – what’s more, it was a debut film by writer and director Jordan Peele. I was completely unaware of how the film was going to progress throughout and because of that, the ending was a real surprise to me.
All in all, Get Out was amazing at maintaining a creepy, something’s-slightly-off tone you can’t quite put your finger on that makes you want to keep watching to find out more. With its completely unique and original concept, Get Out really pushes the boundaries and redefines what it takes to make an excellent modern horror film.
4. A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place is yet another film that blew me away. It crosses the boundaries of horror with the addition of another genre – science fiction. This is a post-apocalyptic horror film about a family of four trying to survive against aliens that only hunt by sense of sound. If you make a sound, you die. It’s a very interesting concept that is shot beautifully by director John Krasinski, who also stars as the father of the struggling family.
Watching this film in the cinema was definitely an experience that cannot be replicated. While A Quiet Place uses a lot of that long-silence-and-sudden-loud-noise cliché found in every horror movie, the premise of the movie justifies its use. Living up to its title, A Quiet Place skillfully plays with silence: while I was watching the movie, the entire cinema went quiet and the only thing that could be heard was the whirring of the air-conditioner – a scenario that never happens during viewings of any other movie. Definitely can’t eat popcorn in that theatre.
Despite being a horror film, A Quiet Place is also very much a film about family and the limits parents will go to to protect their children from danger. You can truly feel the warmth of the family’s relationship reach out through the screen and tug at your heartstrings. This film also reminds you of how important sound is to our lives, as well as how fortunate some of us are to be able to hear. It brings to light how difficult it would be for us to live without sound, as some people in the world do.
A Quiet Place is a film to go to when you’re looking for a good old-fashioned scare, minus the use of ghost, dolls, or spirits, like other horror movies. You’ll go in shaking and terrified and come out feeling quite calm and warm inside, with a new perspective on hearing and family. On a separate note, I’ve never seen a horror film that made sound the antagonist before, so that’s a new concept that I’m glad I got to experience.
Now, we get into the top three films of this list. They’re all older films released before the 2000s, and because of that they have such original themes and concepts that the new horror films just can’t top. (They’re also centered around the typical ghost-spirit-doll concept, so get ready).
3. The Shining (1980)
A true classic. When you’re talking about horror movies, you can’t possibly leave The Shining out of the loop. The plot, the cinematography, the tone; I adore all these little details that make this movie such an iconic horror film. If you say you love the horror genre and you haven’t watched The Shining, you literally don’t know what you’re doing.
A summary for the uninitiated: a father has just taken up a job as a winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel and his wife and son move in with him. They are trapped in the hotel by the snowstorm when strange things start happening (well, strange things always start happening) and the father’s sanity begins to unravel.
Gives you the chills, doesn’t it?
Even though Stephen King, the author of the book from which this movie was adapted, disliked Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, I think it’s a fantastic movie on its own. It takes the already excellent plot and adds to that, with great actors bringing the characters to life and amazing camerawork that makes you wary at the turn of every single corner. The hotel itself is such a mystery and seems to be alive as it plays with the family’s minds.
I put The Shining on my top three because it really is one of those films that stay with you, with such iconic scenes that you will literally never be able to forget (exhibit A: the photo above). Everything progresses slowly so you can see, bit by bit, how the hotel torments and psychologically damages each character; then it reaches a climax where everything spirals into chaos all at once.
The Shining was made 38 years ago and yet, to this day, it still remains nightmare fuel for so many.
2. The Others (2001)
The Others is a film that I’d seen many years ago, and no kidding – this movie has really scarred me to this day. I would not watch it again unless . . . no, I just would not watch it again.
It’s a gothic horror film set during the World War II era, and that already is the main spook factor because old things are always scary. The story revolves around a single mother caring for her two photosensitive children (they get hurt when they are exposed to direct sunlight) while waiting for her husband to return from the war. As time passes, strange and unexplainable events start happening (AGAIN) and things take a different turn.
The film starts off slow but the tension builds gradually until it reaches an insane twist, which I won’t ruin for you. Writer and director Alejandro Amenábar’s brilliant touch on The Others really added a pinch of magic to the film. The breadcrumb trail is of course there for audience to follow, but it is almost imperceptible and will definitely not prepare you for the big reveal.
It’s a revolutionary concept that I haven’t seen in any other horror movie (except the one in first place) and it is executed so perfectly to give the story the right amount of emotion and fright. It has all the elements that make up a traditional horror movie and yet it also has bits and pieces of what other films cannot replicate. It’s a film you have to experience to know what I’m talking about.
AND NOW. FOR NUMBER ONE.
1.The Sixth Sense (1999)
My. Ultimate. Favourite. Horror. Movie. I love this so much I can watch it over and over again. It’s heartwarming, it’s terrifying, it’s mysterious – It’s a completely timeless film that still keeps me in awe every time I see it. The film is about a psychologist that decides to help a struggling child who “can see dead people”, while trying to keep his own marriage from falling apart.
I think one reason why I love this film so much is because it takes place in a modern setting, which makes it more relatable. It’s not about being haunted in a Paranormal Activity way where the spirits pull blankets off you while you sleep or like in The Conjuring where they fling you across the room. In this film, it’s more eerie and subtle, much closer to what we experience in real life when someone says that they’ve felt or seen a presence before.
The plot hits close to home, and I think that was the intention of writer and director M. Night Shyamalan. You get to know and love the characters and you can’t help but worry for their well-being as the film progresses. The actors’ performances boost the emotional gravity up to a million.
Also, how can I not mention the ultimate twist?
M. Night Shyamalan is the king of plot-twists and this one is by far his best yet. You’re completely mind-blown by it and it just knocks all the air right out of your chest. Literally nothing in your life will prepare you for this twist. As I was saying before, this probably even inspired the huge twist in The Others.
Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, please watch the movies I’ve listed down here, and if you have seen them then please watch it again. They take the horror genre to the next level and raise the bar higher for others that try (but fail) to meet the standard. These films all have different themes and characteristics that set them apart from the usual stereotypical horror films, and have successfully brought a whole new light and perspective into the horror genre.
For someone who doesn’t watch horror films but knows a lot about them, these five films I’ve listed down here are the among the best I have seen. So if you want something to watch this Halloween, try taking these for a spin. Good luck and don’t die! (Protip: turn down the volume – that always works.)