A few supernatural horror movies I found to be genuinely frightening
Updated Mar 2013
Different 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 given 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:
- Supernatural horror we’ve all seen
- Horror films known mostly by horror fans
- 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
The content in this section was removed from the main text for various reasons.
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.
Movie trailer: Dark Remains, 2005 horror film (YouTube)
NOTE: This post was originally written on Tuesday, February 22, 2011