Rules: Horror movie recommendations

Making horror movie recommendations to people one does not know well is often risky. Obviously, the inverse holds equally true: In accepting horror movie suggestions from folks one does not personally know, the viewer is taking a chance on the accuracy of those recommendations.

Why is this, exactly? There are several important factors to consider.

  1. Personal taste in horror themes: As we have mentioned repeatedly, different horror fans find various horror themes to be scary or frightening. For example, the suggesting party may be a big fan of Asian horror; however, if the suggestee finds long-haired ghosts to be silly but not scary, then the recommendation will fail on its sword. Likewise, a fan of psycho killer films may find supernatural themes to be lacking in the terror department.
  2. Date/timeliness of material: If one does not take into account the release date of a horror title, the cumulative aging effects of the production values may weigh in unfavorably. Suffice to say that a 1975 horror film cannot be held to the same standards as a 2010 horror film even when the content is virtually identical. For instance, compare the 1981 version of Friday the 13th with its 2010 remake: it’s unfair to compare the two using identical standards.
  3. Unrealistic expectations: Ironically, when one receives a very strong recommendation that a given horror film is, let’s say, “Scary as shit,” the ante is upped and expectations can be significantly raised.

The scariest movies I’ve ever seen

A few supernatural horror movies I found to be genuinely frightening

Updated Mar 2013
horror movie - The Exorcist, 1973, Regan possessedDifferent things scare different people. Readers of this supernatural horror blog might wonder what kinds of horror movies really and truly give this writer the creeps.

I’m not talking about black cat scares; you know, those sudden onscreen movements or events that are designed to make you jump out of your seat… I’m talking about real fright: horror themes that literally caused a wave of chills to flow over you, made your hair stand on end, gave you goosebumps – or maybe even caused your eyes to get watery, sending a tear of fright rolling down your cheek. (That happens to me when my fright level PEAKS.) I am talking about those terrifying horror scenes that have supernatural horror: ghosts from Grudge filmsgiven you a lingering case of the creeps – the scenes from horror movies you’ll never forget as long as you live. I am talking about the horror movies you refuse to think about when you are by yourself – that select group of scary movies you wouldn’t DARE watch at night when you are all alone.

For the sake of comparing what we consider to be scary, here is a short list of horror movies that succeeded in truly creeping me out. (Of course, this list of the scariest horror films is not comprehensive.)

Top 20 supernatural horror movies

This is divided into three sections:

  1. Supernatural horror we’ve all seen
  2. Horror films known mostly by horror fans
  3. Horror movies you’ve never heard of

Supernatural horror we’ve all seen

  • The Exorcist, 1973 – IMDb (Rating: 81), Wikipedia
  • The Amityville Horror, 1979 – IMDb (Rating: 60) — Based on a true story that was claimed by writer Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror is about a large house on the coast of Long Island where newly weds George and Kathy Lutz and their three children move into the house that they hope will be their dream house but it ends up in terror. Despite full disclosure by the real estate agent of the home’s history, George and Kathy buy the house. George says, “Houses don’t have memories,” but they turn to their family priest Father Delaney who believes the house is haunted and performs an exorcism on the house. But the evil spirit in the house causes him to become blind and makes him very ill. George and Kathy with the help of another priest Father Bolen and a police detective they face the fears of the house, but not knowing the spirit is planning to possess George and then the children…
  • The Shining, 1980 – IMDb (Rating: 85) — A man, his son and wife become the winter caretakers of an isolated hotel where Danny, the son, sees disturbing visions of the hotel’s past using a telepathic gift known as “The Shining”. The father, Jack Torrance, is underway in a writing project when he slowly slips into insanity as a result of cabin fever and former guests of the hotel’s ghosts. After being convinced by a waiter’s ghost to “correct” the family, Jack goes completely insane. The only thing that can save Danny and his mother is “The Shining”.
  • The Evil Dead, 1981 – IMDb (Rating: 76) — Five friends go up to a cabin in the woods, where they find unspeakable evil lurking in the forest. They find a tome called the “Naturan Demanto”, Book of the Dead, and the taped translation of the text. Once the tape is played, the evil is released. One by one, the teens are possessed. With only one remaining, it is up to him to survive the night and battle the evil dead.
  • The Others, 2001 – IMDb (Rating: 76) — A woman named Grace retires with her two children to a mansion on Jersey, towards the end of the Second World War, where she’s waiting for her husband to come back from battle. The children have a disease which means they cannot be touched by direct sunlight without being hurt in some way. They will live alone there with oppressive, strange and almost religious rules, until she needs to hire a group of servants for them. Their arrival will accidentally begin to break the rules with unexpected consequences.
  • The Grudge, 2004 – IMDb (Rating: 58) — Karen Davis is an American Nurse moves to Tokyo and encounter a supernatural spirit who is vengeful and often possesses its victims. A series of horrifying and mysterious deaths start to occur, with the spirit passing its curse onto each victim. Karen must now find away to break this spell, before she becomes its next victim.
  • The Ring, 2002 – IMDb (Rating: 71) — Rachel Keller is a journalist investigating a videotape that may have killed four teenagers (including her niece). There is an urban legend about this tape: the viewer will die seven days after watching it. If the legend is correct, Rachel will have to run against time to save her son’s and her own life.
  • Paranormal Activity, 2007 – IMDb (Rating: 65) — After a young, middle class couple moves into a suburban ‘starter’ tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to.

Horror films known mostly by horror fans

  • The Changeling, 1980 – IMDb (Rating: 73) — It was the perfect family vacation for composer John Russell and his family when a freak automobile accident claims the lives of his wife and daughter. Consumed by grief, John, at the request of friends, rents an old turn of the century house. Mammoth in size, the house seems all the room that John needs to write music and reflect. He does not realize that he is not alone in the house. He shares it with the spirit of a murdered child who has homed in on John’s despair and uses him to uncover decades of silence and deceit. With the help of Claire Norman, the one who aided John in procuring the house, they race to find the answers and soon learn that a devious and very powerful man guards them.
  • City of the Living Dead, a.k.a. The Gates of Hell, 1980 (Lucio Fulci) – IMDb (Rating: 61) — In the small New England town of Dunwich, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in the church cemetery which somehow opens the gates of hell allowing the dead to rise. Peter, a New York City reporter, teams up with a young psychic, named Mary, to travel to the town where they team up with another couple, psychiatrist Jerry and patient Sandra, to find a way to close the gates before All Saints Day or the dead all over the world will rise up and kill the living.
  • The Entity (1982)IMDb (Rating: 64) — Carla Moran awakens one night to find herself being beaten and raped by an unseen presence. Terrified of what’s happening to her, and shunned by friends and family who think she’s lost her mind, she seeks help from parapsychologists. The researchers soon discover that evil spiritual force has been drawn to Carla and is responsible for the violent attacks. The question now, however, is how do they stop it? Based on a supposedly true story.
  • Ju-on: The Grudge, 2002 – IMDb (Rating: 66)
  • The House by the Cemetery , 1981 (a.k.a. Zombie Hell House, Freudstein; Lucio Fulci) – IMDb (Rating: 61)
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 2005 – IMDb (Rating: 67)
  • The Mothman Prophecies, 2002 – IMDb (Rating: 65)
  • The Eye (Gin gwai), 2002 (2003 U.S.) – IMDb (Rating: 68)
  • Pulse, 2001 (2005 U.S.) – IMDb (Rating: 67), Wikipedia; Pulse (the original version from Japan, NOT the weak American remake) contains some of the creepiest imagery I had ever seen up to that point, and the scene from Pulse that comes to mind the most is when the guy hid behind a couch as a ghost slowly approached him… then peered at him over the couch as he screamed. There is no way I will watch this alone at night.
  • The Orphanage (El Orfanato), 2007 – IMDb (Rating: 76), Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes (Rating: TMeter-85, Audience-85)
  • Insidious, (2010)IMDb (Rating: 67)
  • The Woman in Black (2012)IMDb (Rating: 65)
  • Sinister (2012)IMDb (Rating: 67)

Horror movies you’ve never heard of

  • Session 9, 2001 – IMDb (Rating: 67), Wikipedia – A minimalist creepfest; do not watch alone. Per About.com Horror, you can watch Session 9 free online legally at Hulu.com; however, I did not see it there in my quick browsing.
  • Nightmare Detective, 2007 Japanese horror – Amazon, IMDb (Rating: 63), Wikipedia – This is one of the most unique and original horror ideas I’ve seen in a while; frightening, creepy, and disturbing.
  • Grave Encounters, 2011 ghost hunter movie – Amazon, IMDb (Rating: 61), Wikipedia

Session 9 makes it onto many creepy movie lists; it’s a different animal, though. I noticed at least one poor review/comment on the YouTube Session 9 movie trailer page. The horror in Session 9 is primarily psychological and atmospheric. Session 9 appears to be one of those flicks that’s quite open to varying interpretations. I’ve enjoyed it in multiple viewings, and the horror fan friends to whom I’ve shown Session 9 liked it as well.

Movie trailer: Session 9, 2001 horror film (YouTube)

The bottom line: If you found these movies to be among the scariest, then you really should check out my other recommendations; we probably have similar ideas about what’s really scary.

One rule of thumb when it comes to truly scary horror films is that almost all of the horror content I find to be the most frightening falls into one of these categories:

  • supernatural horror
  • psychological horror

Spiderwalk scene from The Exorcist

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If you, the reader, find the same kinds of horror themes to be frightening, then you’ll be more likely to agree with this writer’s horror movie opinions and recommendations. Thus it’s more likely I will be able to achieve my goal of introducing a few readers to some genuine scares that otherwise may have passed you by; after all, my primary goal here is to help other fans of supernatural horror locate frightening movies they’ve never seen before.

It is interesting how certain horror themes are truly frightening to some people, yet the exact same themes are just plain silly – or even laughable – to other viewers. In other words, different things scare different people. So, what scares this blogging horror junkie? This post includes a few of the horror films that have scared me the very most over the years.

  • Dark Water (the American remake starring Jennifer Connelly; IMHO, Dark Water, The Grudge, The Ring – and to some extent, Shutter, are among the best remakes of original horror movies from Japan and elsewhere in the Orient)
  • Dark Remains, 2005 – Amazon, IMDb (Rating: 51) I find this ghost movie to be uber-frghtening.
  • Movie trailer: Dark Remains, 2005 horror film (YouTube)

    NOTE: This post was originally written on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    The standard big-screen ghost

    Grave Encounters (2011) has it.
    Respire (2011) has it.
    Primal (2010) has part of the look (even though they aren’t ghosts).
    Forget Me Not (2009) has it in frightening droves, and effectively, I thought.
    30 Days of Night was one of the early films in which the antagonists (in this case, vampires) sported some of the features in appearance, most notably the black eyes and pointy teeth.

    It is the current, standard big screen appearance for a hopefully scary ghost:

    1. The teeth are pointy and sharp – not big fangs, but smallish
    2. The mouth opens unnaturally wide, such that the lower jaw seems unattached
    3. The eyes can be all or mostly black – or just large holes

    Other horror standards & trends

    Standing in the corner. I believe this trend began with The Blair Witch Project – at the end, when one of the missing kids was found standing silently in the corner, facing the wall. It’s eerie.

    All apologies for neglect of supernatural horror blog

    (written in late May 2011)
    I should probably apologize for not keeping this Supernatural Horror blog updated lately; it has been quite some time since I last posted anything of note here. I noticed that a few people have somehow managed to find this poor, neglected supernatural horror blog recently; that’s fantastic – I’m very grateful for every visitor. Unfortunately, a few other web projects have eaten up my time and I sorta forgot about this endeavor. I finally scrounged up the login creds and added this blog to my list of sites to update regularly, along with a few other places I post.

    I may have sucked at keeping this blog updated, but I sure as hell haven’t forgotten about supernatural horror…

    I can scare myself shitless just by thinking of the creepy Grudge ghost (or other supernatural things that frighten me) at just the wrong times. When I get creeped out, I really don’t want to leave my comfortable basement room; it’s usually well-lit with a TV turned on to keep me company. The other parts of the house are often dark and much too quiet. Some rooms have rocking chairs, and that occasionally bothers me when my mind races; it’s too easy to imagine a rocking chair moving to and fro by itself. (Thank God there aren’t any of those awful dress-making dummies in the house…)

    I guess it’s OK for me to admit – but only here, on this blog, where like-minded folks might understand – that sometimes I don’t even want to leave my computer to go to the bathroom. Yeah, it’s true, if I’ve been watching something really scary. Like a little kid, I know! (blush)

    NOTE: If you recently subscribed to Supernatural Horror – hell, if you’re reading this at all – please drop me a line or leave a comment to let me know exactly how you found this obscure site. For example, did you arrive via Google, and if so what search terms did you use, and how did we rank? I’d really appreciate it!

    Supernatural horror more popular than ever

    supernatural h orror - dolls can be creepy

    I’ve been thinking… isn’t it just KILLER that supernatural horror has been gaining so much ground throughout the last few years? I guess we should be thanking Ghost Hunters and all of those similar knock-offs and imitations spawned by Ghost Hunters.

    Sadly, those paranormal investigation shows don’t really do it for me. I’m not saying the ghost hunting shows don’t occasionally have some potentially scary moments; sometimes they do. But those shows don’t give me the special feelings I crave (but also dread), like how I felt as I walked my dog alone in the dark an hour after seeing The Ring for the first time… or like how I feel when I watch certain parts of certain Asian horror movies… or how I still feel when I watch The Exorcist alone at night.

    (Thankfully, nothing has caused me to literally run screaming lately – like that one time my bedroom window shade rolled up all by itself around midnight… shit! More on that later, maybe.)

    It’s not that I hate or even strongly dislike the paranormal investigation shows, but I am certainly not going to praise them just because I have a Supernatural Horror blog.

    I don’t consider human murderers to be fodder for proper horror.

    Somewhere along the way movies about psycho killers came to be referred to as horror movies. Come on! The wonderful entertainment buzzword horror should be reserved for supernatural horror. I do not consider movies about crazy killers to be true horror movies, generally speaking. There are some exceptions, though, but I still have a strong preference for my horror to possess (pun intended) a strong supernatural component!

    For a long time, the horror genre – at least on the big screen – seemed to be dominated by those non-supernatural, serial killer movies. Are those days gone? Is supernatural supremacy here to stay? Maybe, maybe not; but I’ll sure be enjoying this era of supernatural dominance of the horror genre while it lasts.

    I did not see Paranormal Activity or its sequel on the big screen, but I saw them back-to-back recently, and let me tell ya, these films definitely did the trick! It is with great unease that I would watch them again at night, especially while home alone.

    FYI: The movie Rest Stop 2 just started playing.

    (I just now saw something out of the corner of my eye, but I think it was just lightning. Whew.)

    Horror movies are just as hit-or-miss as ever. Why do so many horror movies suck? It has been this way for a long time: horror movies have largely sucked.

    There are two major filters through which a horror movie must pass: basic quality (which applies to movies in all genres, of course) and also the subjective relationship of the viewer to the theme of the horror movie; in other words, is the protagonist of the horror movie something that actually scares you, or could potentially scare you? If not, perhaps you should forgo that particular horror movie, as it almost certainly won’t give you what you probably seek from a horror movie experience.

    I’ll write more about this later; I think it is worth considering.

    Please let me know via comment what horror movies you have seen lately and what you thought about the horror flick — or even better, what scared you the most.

    Resources

    Ghost Hunters (Sci-Fi Channel)
    Ghost Hunters (wiki)
    Rest Stop 2: Dead Ahead (wiki)
    Rest Stop 2: Dead Ahead (IMDb)
    Rest Stop 2: Dead Ahead review (Bloody Disgusting)