I want to be afraid. VERY afraid...
August 6, 2014 10:01 AM   Subscribe

In early September, I'm going to temporarily be freed from tyranny and oppression have the house to myself, while my insect overlord platonic domestic life partner is out of town. For four glorious days, I will be free to watch all the things I never get to watch when she's home. Please help me scare the pants off myself. Extensive, detailed recipe for appropriate levels of terror inside.

I love my housemate, but she is burdened with two untreatable personality disorders that make joint movie-watching difficult: 1) She doesn't like horror, and 2) she has a vicious, hair-trigger second-hand embarrassment squick. We hang out a lot most evenings and weekends, and I don't have a TV in my room anyway, so watching stuff on our own is pretty rare. We generally agree on tv shows, but movies are harder. (Probably someday she will post looking for recommendations of satirical cartoons with squeaky-voiced characters or anime series' she can watch when I'm out of town.)

Things I like that make her flee the living room:

- Horror
- Romantic comedy
- Scenes that involve characters expressing human emotions in words (I think that may be taboo on her home planet)

For the purposes of this post, I'm looking for recent horror movies that are actually scary. I've been a horror fan since childhood, so my bar is set pretty high. Anything that can be referred to as a classic of the genre, I've probably already seen.

I was going to list the movies I've really enjoyed in the past, but I think it might be more useful to describe a few scenes that I've found memorably spooky or terrifying:

1) That final bit of The Blair Witch Project, with the guy just standing still in the corner. I think what got to me about that was that he was a character, one of the protagonists, who got taken over and incorporated into the horror in just the brief few moments when he was off camera. While I really wish this had been a better movie, I like the way it managed to scare me with the stuff I didn't see as much as the stuff I did.

2) In the Paranormal Activity movies, there are these occasional camera shots of something like... a pot on a pot rack that just starts swinging, independently, when either no one is in the room, or the person in the room is looking in another direction. Also the bits where someone on camera just stands, slowly swaying, next to the bed of someone who's sleeping for hours, clearly possessed or entranced or SOMETHING. There's a lot about these movies I didn't really like, but those bits scared me. Subtle, but CREEPY.

3) In Aliens, I really liked the way every piece of the puzzle revealed just a bit more wrongness, so by the time the team realized the thing that had happened was still happening, you were already at a crescendo of YIKES.

4) Pretty much every iota of the atmosphere in Pulse (the original. Actually, the original and the remake. It's the background of grey, quiet, rising dread and the increasing lack of sense in the world. "A gradual decrease in people until one day the streets are desolate and empty," according to slantmagazine.com.

5) I kind of class disaster movies in with horror movies sometimes. I really like apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic horror - World War Z (the movie) was a lot of fun. Things going catastrophically wrong really fast is a cool horror/disaster movie theme for me. I'm going to see Into the Storm this weekend, because: Killer tornadoes! What is not to love?

I could go on for a really long time. But basically, I like creepy things that wig me out. I don't mind gore, but it's not a priority. I like monster movies, but I prefer the kind that try really hard not to show you the zipper on the back of the monster costume. I prefer late 20th-early 21st century production values, even though a lot of my favorite movies are much older. I want some element of either paranormal or sci-fi in my horror; for the evil that regular human men (and women) do, I can just watch the news.

Bonus points for interesting, fun, or memorable characters who do more than just raising the body count at the end.

Some things I don't want:

1) Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, or Michael Myers type movies. I've seen them all, and they don't scare me anymore
2) Stephen King movies, which somehow seem to universally suck (with a few notable exceptions like The Shining).
3) Torture-porn/body horror like Saw (etc.)
4) The Cabin in the Woods, which I've already seen, and which was too meta to scare me.
5) Serial killers. My housemate actually watches those with me, so I'm up to date.
6) Animal attack horror like Cujo, or like Jaws (which was a perfect movie in ever way, but which I have seen forty billion times)
7) Horror/disaster movies that don't take themselves seriously. (I've seen, and loved, Shaun of the Dead and its cohort, but that's not what I'm looking for right now.)

I know I've been really specific here, but these are all guidelines - if there's something you really loved that doesn't seem to fit, I'd still be happy to hear about it, just in case. I have FOUR GLORIOUS DAYS AND NIGHTS to fill. Thanks in advance, AskMefites!
posted by kythuen to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
I was quite pleased with Oculus
posted by smashface at 10:04 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a really hard time watching Orphanage -- it's unsettling in a way that's similar to the end of Blair Witch.
posted by mochapickle at 10:06 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

V.H.S. (a horror anthology) had some bits I thought were really scary, if you like that found footage style.

I recently really enjoyed 100 Bloody Acres, an Australian horror movie which is also really funny. It does have some gore, though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:11 AM on August 6, 2014

Decent scared the daylights out of me.
posted by skittlekicks at 10:19 AM on August 6, 2014

Insidious and Insidious 2. The Conjuring. SecondingVHS and adding its sequel. If you want to throw a tv series in there go with the first season of American Horror Story.
posted by Nolechick11 at 10:19 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Triangle! It's scary in the way you describe Aliens above.

REC is like the new Blair Witch, I loved it and people say the sequel is also excellent.
posted by symphonicknot at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

May be a little on the mild side for you, but I was not quite right for days after the original Scandinavian version of Let the Right One In.
posted by dorque at 10:21 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't Look Now scared the proverbial pants off me.

It also has one of the weirdest, most awkward love-making scenes ever filmed.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:21 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Descent
Kill List
Dog Soldiers (for fun)
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2014

posted by Naberius at 10:23 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

2) Stephen King movies, which somehow seem to universally suck (with a few notable exceptions like The Shining).

Have you seen Christine? It's directed by John Carpenter, and is one of the best, and most under-rated Stephen King adaptations I've ever seen.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:24 AM on August 6, 2014

I found Contagion really scary in a panic-inducing way.
posted by gladly at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

5) I kind of class disaster movies in with horror movies sometimes. I really like apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic horror

If you haven't seen it, I'm going to throw The Road out there. It certainly has its horror moments that make you go wtf out of the blue; it's post-apocalyptic in a way that leaves a knot in your stomach; and yet it relies a lot on relational elements in which (sometimes an economy of) words are used to convey love, affection, fear, and also dissatisfaction in relationships.

This movie really is scary, I think, not always as a traditional horror movie (although it has its elements), but in the severity of the problem, how it molds the human condition into something terrifying, and how it feels like it's always on the edge of snuffing out the very last bit of good in the world, and all in such a way that it feels pretty credible.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:30 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Poltergeist still scares the living bejesus out of me.

I watched the Exorcist when I was 18 and I didn't sleep well for years - literally years. Even hearing the music nowadays sends me into a panic. I am a big baby though.
posted by JenThePro at 10:32 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Session 9 freaked me right. the absolute. fuck. OUT.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on August 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Angel Heart is the scariest, creepiest movie I've ever seen. It is from 1987, so maybe you've seen it. But, if not. . .
posted by Pineapplicious at 10:48 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Exorcist 3 - don't laugh, it's amazing. But stay the hell away from Exorcist 2, it's crap.

Let's Scare Jessica To Death - 70's insanely creepy

Devil's Pass - quite good in the faux doc horror genre

Five Million Years To Earth - tough to get your hands on, but one of my fave horror/sci-fi crossovers (AKA Quatermass And The Pit)

Pontypool - Already recommended, but I loved it.

Oculus - Already recommended, but I think it did what both the insidious movies were trying to do and the plot wasn't a twisted mess.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Don't write it off. It's still super powerful.

Carnival Of Souls - another entry in the "holy crap the 70's were creepy" genre
posted by lumpenprole at 10:51 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Event Horizon, perhaps, would be another good one, in the sci-fi genre. Other post-apocalyptic movies that might fit your bill are I Am Legend (horror elements that are a bit scary at times), and also The Book of Eli (not scary, but moments of tension).
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:52 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have similar taste to you in what I find terrifying, and one film I haven't seen mentioned but offers the same type of, "JESUS CHRIST THAT'S CREEPY" vibe is The Ring.
posted by kinetic at 10:54 AM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Devil is a really clever combination of horror and claustophobia. A group of people are trapped in an elevator and one of them is, well, Satan.

Not a "so good it's bad" movie at all. I really dug it
posted by DWRoelands at 10:55 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, Sunshine is a sci-fi thriller that I found to be better than I expected. It has its scary moments.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:55 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

For me, the religious/supernatural stuff really really creeps me out. The Exorcist was already mentioned up thread. You might also enjoy the Omen trilogy. I seriously recommend it.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2014

Grave Encounters on Netflix. It starts off as a spoof of ghost-hunting shows, and then shit gets real.

(Do not watch the sequel though, it's fucking terrible).
posted by Librarypt at 11:15 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Awakening is an excellent British horror movie with some great actors that has some genuine jumpscares and one hell of an ending.

And it's not quite the "rationalist gets her comeuppance, learns to believe in mysteries" story the blurb implies it is, either.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:21 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Descent, as others mentioned above, is one of my favorite horror movies for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because the true horror of the film has little to do with the creatures who live in the dark. Make sure to watch the one with the good ending (ie: the foreign version) and not the Americanized ending. And avoid, at all costs, any sequel to this film.

Haute Tension is an interesting little foreign horror film. It has some problems, but I think it's still worth a watch.
posted by xyzzy at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

A Field in England.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2014

I love horror films too, but of all of them it's The Haunting (the 1963 version) that still freaks me out every time I watch it. Old school haunted house movie...black and white, nothing is ever seen, just heard and implied. Great stuff. Oh, and The Innocents isn't bad either.
posted by Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific at 11:33 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The things that scare me are the things that scare you, although I can't handle it -- I gave up on Paranomal Activity because the standing-by-the-bed thing scared me SO MUCH.

Other movies that I have almost turned off but couldn't because they were too compelling:

Session 9, as above.
The Hole (no one seems to feel as strongly about this one as I do, but there's a lot of subtle-things-adding-up-to-SCARY and a lot of feelings-talk, so maybe check it out?)

Also might be worth checking out Telltale Games' video-game adaptation of The Walking Dead.
posted by AmandaA at 11:37 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Orphanage and keeping with the Spanish language orphan theme, The Devil's Backbone.
posted by ephemerista at 11:50 AM on August 6, 2014

Adding my votes for Descent and Pontypool-- both must-watch entries. Seconding Triangle as well.

You've probably already seen these, but the Ring and the Grudge are terrifying (I prefer the US version of the former and the Japan version of the latter).

Also creepy: Splinter, the Bay, Rest Stop, Silent Hill, Mama. Cloverfield sounds up your alley too. Frankenstein's Army is disturbing but may be a bit gonzo for you.
posted by ejs at 11:57 AM on August 6, 2014

I found the Korean film The Host so scary I still don't know how it ends. But I am a lightweight.

Troll Hunter seems as if it's going to be a really stupid kitsch film, and then.... *shivers* If you don't mind subtitles you might like it.
posted by glasseyes at 12:01 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to zig rather than zag, and recommend Hard Candy, with Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. It will tay with you forever.

posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 12:15 PM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Hahaha, Ghostwatch. Scared us all to death at the time. There were reports some viewers had to be treated for PTSD. Half of it is available on Vimeo, unfortunately I've no idea where you might find the rest of it. Maybe another Mefite might know.

Speaking of hard to get hold of the BBC did a number of adaptations of very creepy MMR James stories and some of them are on Youtube but they keep getting taken down. They are quiet and understated but unsettling. Tell Tale Hearts, Whistle and I'll Come to You - if you ever come across them they're worth watching. Sorry to give suggestions but no good links.
posted by glasseyes at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thirding The Orphanage. It's hard to describe why but it's a definite cut above your standard scare-fare - I was in bits for a week afterwards and had the lights on all night for ages. The original Ring got me in a similar way. Both fulfill your 1&2 criteria in spades.
posted by freya_lamb at 12:46 PM on August 6, 2014

Audition (1999). A film producer helps a widower friend meet potential new wives by setting up a sham audition. The widower makes an unlucky choice.

I don't generally like horror movies much, so I have no idea how well-known this film is, but this one was really quite good.
posted by axiom at 12:50 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your horror preferences seem pretty in line with my own. That said, nthing suggestions for Oculus (I watched this last night - it's pretty much exactly what you want), Let the Right One In (Scandinavian version) and The Road.

You may also enjoy:

Goodbye World (post-apocalyptic - lots of talking/character development and plausible horror)
Afflicted (human-infected-by-a-monster movie shot in the Blair Witch Style)

If you're open to series at all, The Leftovers has been pretty creepy so far. Hemlock Grove, if you can make it through the dull span in the middle of the first season, bounced back a bit (IMHO) with season 2. Creepy. Monsters. Some gore. It can come across as silly sometimes, but they really dived into moral dilemmas and character development.
posted by stubbehtail at 1:03 PM on August 6, 2014

They're not necessarily scary, but both 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are incredibly tense movies and were excellent. The Conjuring was a movie you've seen before, but was well done and tense without using a ton of gore. The Mist was a Stephen King movie (sorry!) but was smartly written and had an ending that you won't forget. Let the Right One in wasn't particularly scary, but was very effectively moody and really well made. (Its American version - Let Me In - was also good). Seconding The Descent. The claustrophobia in that movie was horrifying. I haven't seen the Ring in years, but thought it was really creepy when I saw it way back when. Frailty is much more of psychological horror film, or even a thriller, but I thought it was great.

Sorry, most of these aren't recent, but they're all good.
posted by cnc at 1:39 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cube is a good one too -- Sci-fi thriller that has some really good suspenseful creepiness.
posted by liquado at 2:14 PM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Dead set is an awesome zombie apocalypse short tv series that's on par with or better than any recent zombie movie. If you haven't seen it, you must watch it.
posted by _cave at 2:47 PM on August 6, 2014

Session 9 was terrifying

The Changeling (1980) - if you liked things like you described from Paranormal Activity you will like this

The Baby's Room - from a compilation called 6 Films to Keep You Awake. Very good little Spanish subtitled haunted house movie. Gave me the heebie jeebies.
posted by Hoopo at 4:28 PM on August 6, 2014

Oh, Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2 are fantastic and atmospheric.

The Eye (2002 Hong Kong version) and One Missed Call (2003 Japanese version) are super creepy.

Return of the Living Dead is a little jokey but very disturbing.

Deadgirl is horrifying, but despite the living dead aspect, the most horrifying actions come from the living, so YMMV.

[REC] and Quarantine (its US remake) are very effective and shiver-inducing examples of "found footage" horror, all happening in real time.
posted by ejs at 6:17 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, so it's not a movie, but I just spent the last week mainlining True Detective and it sounds right up your alley based on the things you describe liking (horror elements, creeping sense of dread, atmospheric scenery, production values through the roof).
posted by capricorn at 6:48 PM on August 6, 2014

The Spanish film "Sleep Tight". More on the psychological horror side of things, but dear god the creepiness levels are high. I'm wary to say much about the plot (when it was recommended to me I was told I shouldn't even read the description from the back of the DVD case). It's not monsters/paranormal, but the stuff that happens is definitely horrifying.
posted by ELind at 6:54 PM on August 6, 2014

Definitely The Ring but the Japanese original. Also this may be particular to me, but I find possession films hella scary despite intellectually mocking them. Watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose had me waking up every night around 3am for weeks. Weeks. You will see why if you watch it. When I took it back to the video store, the lady remarked that she'd thought it was rather boring. But based on your descriptions above, I think you might not.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:31 PM on August 6, 2014

Exorcist is by far the scariest thing I've ever seen. Watch it with the volume up loud on a good sound system.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:06 AM on August 7, 2014

It's about 10 years old, so you may have already seen it, but the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters really scared me, and I am rarely scared by horror movies.

Also nthing Oculus, but you should also seek out Absentia which was on US Netflix last time I checked. It's by the same filmmaker and while I liked Oculus, I think Absentia is better and scarier.
posted by tiger tiger at 1:52 AM on August 7, 2014

Not necessarily traditionally scary but incredibly, incredibly horrifying. It still creeps me out.
The Skin I Live In.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 3:41 AM on August 7, 2014

Nth-ing The Descent for sure.
posted by The Michael The at 5:33 AM on August 7, 2014

Wow, this is FANTASTIC. Thanks, everyone! Some of these I've already seen - but I believe in rewatching, so I'll probably visit some old favorites, too. And there's so much here I haven't seen, and some I haven't even heard of. I'll keep checking in, in case new stuff is added, and when the weekend of freedom is over, I'll drop a note about what I managed to fit in. :)
posted by kythuen at 9:08 AM on August 7, 2014

Just want to second Let the Right One In (my best friend says the American remake Let Me In is also good and scary, but I've never seen it), and 28 Days Later. I Am Legend also scared me good, but a lot of that was anticipation before you even know what's up. Not that that's bad.

If you have access to it, also strongly seconding the Telltale Games game of The Walking Dead. It's easy gameplay, totally story-driven, and scary as hell. Loved it.

(Thirdly, shout-out to having a platonic domestic life partner [who is also your alien overlord]. I thought it was just me. Explaining my household/relationship is very difficult sometimes.)
posted by kostia at 11:02 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

While this is a dystopian future film, I'd highly recommend Children of Men based on some of your criteria - it has moments of extreme shout-at-the-screen tension and dread, combined with an end-of-days feel, and all executed in this deeply convincing, documentary-realistic way. It felt genuine to me, which gives it all the more impact.
posted by 6am at 2:07 AM on August 10, 2014

I'd like to 2nd the above mention of The Innocents - it's a 1963 film but is A) Beautifully shot and B) Has some wonderfully spooky moments. To highlight the one that stuck with me (shouldn't spoil it either) where Deborah Kerr is walking slowly through the corridors, and we suddenly see this brief two second shot of a lady in period dress who could not be there just walking past. It's a brief moment and most importantly isn't accompanied by a loud orchestral screech, it's totally quiet. Your initial reaction is "hang on, who was that?". Really well executed.
posted by 6am at 2:27 AM on August 10, 2014

For lasting value (after your mate gets back), the Dutch version of The Vanishing will stick with you for a while. Or if you really want to squirm, why not some Mr. Bean?
posted by sneebler at 9:25 AM on August 10, 2014

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