Just Because

20 Horror Movies That Are Actually Worth Watching

October 22, 2016
Horror Movies

We tend to associate feelings of nostalgia with Christmas and Easter, but every year when Halloween rolls around I get nostalgic as all hell. Halloween in my house growing up was a full-on commitment. We’d fully immerse ourselves in the costumes we’d create, the pumpkins we’d carve, and the decorations we put around the house. Oh, and the horror movies – there were always lots of horror movies.

I’ve read a lot of “must-watch horror movies” lists and they seem to bang out the same movies year after year – many of which are not actually that great. When I watch horror movies, I want to be transported away from the safe haven of my couch. I want to be shown things that I hadn’t expected – and I’m not talking about gore and violence for the sake of gore and violence, I’m talking about taking a look at the things that scare me from a creative perspective, as an exploration of what makes me tick. Our innermost fears define us, after all.

Having been unsatisfied by must-watch horror movies lists, and horror movies in general lately, I decided to make a list of my own – and I recruited some help from the very first guest writer on my blog: my one and only little sister Jess, a true fan of horror movies. Having grown up watching horror movies together, we have been influenced by each other’s ideas and tastes, which makes this curated list an extra special trademark of the Haunted House of Dineen.

20 Horror Movies That Are Actually Worth Watching

[Click any of the movie titles to be linked to a trailer.]

1. Jess Pick: We Are What We Are 


Jess: “Not only does this movie have Kelly McGillis in it, it has some seriously scary shit. We Are What We Are was unsettling to me because this could, and probably is, something that people do. This movie has the best ingredients for a creepy horror flick, with a palette of candle-lit, darkly stained wood, pale complexions, and a lot of blood. Oh, and cannibalism. And it ends happy … with an ominous kicker.”

2. Mike Pick: Devil’s Pass


Mike: “I’m not a huge fan of found footage horror movies as they all seem to rely too heavily on overdone jump-scares, but I enjoyed Devil’s Pass, mostly because the movie is a creative take on a real-life mystery (if you’ve never heard of the still unexplained Dyatlov Pass incident, read up on it – it’s fascinating). I’m certainly not suggesting the film is by any means accurate – more that I appreciate the creative take on the story.”

3. Jess Pick: The Descent

Jess: “Okay, so there’s a bunch of girls on an epic getaway – seems innocent and playful – there’s a bit of a back story – cool that these girls are thrill-seekers and aren’t just at the cottage to drink wine and have pillow fights…”

Jess: “…And then holy shit. If small, dark spaces and the uncertainty of who, or what, you are in close proximity to makes you uncomfortable, then The Descent will freak you out.”

Mike: “The Descent made my palms sweat.”

4. Mike Pick: The Thing

Mike: “The Thing is a well-known among horror movies, but one that needs to be on the list because of how cool the special effects are. So much of modern horror – even the prequel of the same name, The Thing, that came out a few years ago – relies so heavily on CGI, which – no matter how well it’s done – never feels as real as the tangible special effects they used pre-CGI.”

Jess: “Favourite scene in The Thing is definitely the stomach with teeth.”

5. Jess Pick: Lights Out (Short Film)

Jess: “Short films have an ability to invite the audience to come to their own conclusions, which makes it WAY more scary. In the apartment that I share with my brother there is long hallway similar to the one in this short. Not gonna lie, but when I turn the light out when I go to bed, and my brother isn’t here, I flick it on and off just to make sure.”

Mike: “Hiding under your blanket is still a thing, right?”

6. Mike Pick: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Mike: “This film has been done and redone so many times – but there’s something about doppelgängers that fascinates me. It’s like that moment when you feel you know someone so well, and then they do something out of character – and you suddenly feel like you don’t know them at all. This film is that feeling, but amplified into a horror movie narrative.”

Jess: “Plus it has Leornard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright, and Jeff Goldblum in it – what more could a movie nerd want?”

7. Jess Pick: Session 9

Jess: “‘Hello Gordon…’ – this line is haunting!”

Jess: “Anything involving an abandoned/condemned asylum is inevitably creepy, but Session 9 makes it creepier. The cast, which includes David Caruso (I have a love/hate relationship with him – love because of this movie) teamed with the setting, made this movie awesome. You know in horror movies when someone wants to go somewhere alone and you think, ‘NO THAT IS THE WORST IDEA! – well yeah, don’t go anywhere alone in this movie, just sayin’.”

Mike: “The asylum alone makes Session 9 worth watching.”

8. Mike Pick: The Blob (1988)

Mike: “The Blob is a remake, before remakes were all that we watched. I like this movie because it has Shawnee Smith (one of those bad actors you just love watching) and it’s quintessential 80s horror. It also has one of the best scenes from horror movies ever, which involves a sink, a plunger, and an unsuspecting dishwasher.”

9. Jess Pick: Pontypool

Jess: “I love low-budget horror movies, especially when they take place in Ontario (we need to pay homage to this baron, winter-land that we live in!). This little gem of scary, which takes place in Pontypool, Ontario, takes advantage of how terrifying it can be when you are isolated in the scary winter months in this province … with zombies. It is reminiscent of 30 Days of Night, but it has a level of unknown that makes it less ‘Hollywood’ and all the more creepy.”

10. Mike Pick: The Ruins

Mike: “I casually flipped The Ruins on one Saturday night with low expectations, assuming it’d be another generic CGI monster flick, only to be put on the edge of my seat by something much more creative and psychologically interesting. This movie has one of my favourite monsters of all time, partly because I didn’t even understand what the ‘monster’ (for lack of a better word) was until well into the film. (I’d recommend the Theatrical Release, rather than the Director’s Cut, because certain scenes that were cut made for a much slower building tension.)”

Jess: “The Ruins really stuck in my head.”

11. Jess Pick: The Omen (1976)

Jess: “The Omen is a classic horror flick that contains all the usual criteria of the era. It isn’t necessarily one that will keep you up at night, but there are some elements here that resonate with me. If you don’t want to invest in the entirety of the movie, here are my two favourite scenes:

  • The Nanny’s Death Scene: If this doesn’t give you chills then let me know what horror flicks you are watching because this is awesome.
  • Damien Cycling: The 1976 version of this scene is epic, and I’m usually disappointed with remakes, however the 2006 remake of The Omen did this scene justice. I like being pleasantly surprised when a classic is remade and isn’t mucked up.”

Mike “You can’t really go wrong with an evil toddler, amirite?!”

12. Mike Pick: It Follows

Mike: “It Follows has that B-horror-movie quality done right, where the low-budget feel is used to make the movie more effective. Alongside an awesome 80s-inspired soundtrack, it turns out to be a very creative take on the horror movie genre. I’m also a big fan of modern horror movies that give nods to the classics.”

[Comparison between scenes in Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and It Follows.]

13. Jess Pick: Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Jess: “In lieu of the clown sitings I thought I would list one of the movies that freaked me out as a kid and gave me a complex about funhouses at carnivals. Stephen King’s IT was a big one for me, but Killer Klowns From Outer Space is another one that really sticks in my mind. The masks that they used in this movie were so gross! But, now that I’m a grownup, I have deep admiration for the raw and unhindered 80s-esque horror that this movie brings.”

14. Mike Pick: The X-Files

Mike: “Not a movie, I know, but some X-Files episodes were just as good as the horror movies out there. The mood, the tension, the shadows – all done so impeccably.”

Mike: “A few that gave me the creeps were:

Jess: “The ‘fluke’ parasite thing in The Host – so gross!”

15. Jess Pick: Drag Me To Hell

Jess: “Any fan of Sam Raimi horror movies will know this is one of his, and not just because he features his iconic Oldsmobile Delta. This movie showcases some of Raimi’s greatest motifs, like the protagonist constantly having things spewed into her mouth in super uncomfortable ways. The Evil Dead paved a wonderfully funny horror genre that Raimi stays true to, and it makes me so happy. :)”

16. Mike Pick: The Crazies (2010)

Mike: “A recent, well-known horror movie remake that I really enjoyed. It’s a more or less CGI-free take on the zombie-virus narrative – but with a twist that makes the zombies more complex and sadistic than the one-noted monsters that want to eat brains.”

17. Jess Pick: 2AM: The Smiling Man

Jess: “I was looking for short horror movies and I stumbled upon this one. Some of the reviews said that it starts out a little cheeky but I didn’t think so. This is terrifying from beginning to end! If I saw this dude on the street I would be running until my legs gave out. I love the element of mystery with these little nuggets of scary.”

18. Mike Pick: Alien

Mike: “I know, I know – science-fiction, right? Yes, of course Alien is sci-fi, but at the same time belongs in a list of must-watch horror movies because it has a monster hiding in the walls picking off cast members one by one. Alien, and other monster movies from the pre-CGI era, is an example of how a limitation (How do we make a monster come to life realistically?) can be used as a strength in film-making: You never really get to see the alien fully until the very end, because what can’t be seen will always be scarier than what can be seen (a reality many modern horror films don’t understand).”

Jess: “Plus, Alien has Sigourney in it, ’nuff said.”

19. Jess Pick: The Pact

Jess: “One of the things I don’t do when watching horror movies is try to figure out what is going to happen. I think this is because I want to be scared and being scared is fun. In The Pact it may be easy to come to a conclusion, and it is riddled with paranormal activity which has been done to death, but I find the reveal is more substantial and surprising than the usual ‘Oh no! There’s a ghost in my house!’ kind of horror movie.”

Jess: “Oh, and if I found a hidden room in my house … Yeah I don’t want to think about that.”

20. Mike Pick: The House of the Devil

Mike: “Another modern horror movie made in the vein of 80s horror flicks. This one was so fun to watch because it took me back to my childhood. And while it’s a B movie and not terribly original in plot, it somehow works.”

Jess: “Love the music in this movie!”

So there you have it, folks, the 20 must-watch horror movies courtesy of the Haunted House of Dineen. As always, remember to dim the lights, grab a blanket, and let your mind wander. Sometimes enjoying horror movies is about suspending your judgment and being open to what the movie has to offer. We hope you enjoy the list – and feel free to make contributions of your own in the comments section.

Happy Halloween.

 

 

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