Over the past year, I have sought solace from our current political climate and the day to day terrors of the world in a most surprising source: Violent, scary horror movies.
Comedies are too often determined to have a political hook, even where it doesn’t make sense and dramas just make me more aware of the tragic human condition. Shocking me more than anyone else is that I now find myself rarely satisfied by a movie unless it involves a blender going through someone’s head or a remote location with a group of sexy teens who all end up murdered.
This, I think, is because fun fear—the kind many of us get watching horror movies—is one of the only things that manages to keep me precisely in the moment, as opposed to my mind wandering to other, more real things. Horror, when good, can be a full body experience where all your senses are engaged and your adrenalin is high. But, as we all know, not all horror films are created equal and the more you watch, the less scary they become on the whole.
Inspired by Megan Reynold’s list of scary movies for people who hate scary movies (and this comment thread in particular), I’ve decided to document the horror movies I’ve watched in the past year and rank how badly they scared me as an increasingly unimpressed viewer.
The Descent (2005)
A group of women adventurers are cave-diving when a tunnel collapses and blocks their exit. As old secrets between friends begin to reveal themselves, so do some cave dwellers who, surprisingly, are not great hosts to their new guests.
Did it scare me: Yes, though in all honesty, I was more traumatized by the claustrophobia of the cave exploration scenes than I was the monsters. Bonus: There is only one man in this movie and he doesn’t last long.
You’re Next (2011)
A pleasant weekend at a family’s country house takes a turn for the worse when masked killers terrorize the home, picking them off one by one, for reasons unknown.
Did it scare me? Not particularly, but I did love it. While gory and hitting all the right notes of proper horror, habitual scary movie director Adam Wingard also manages to make it kind of funny? Avoid if you can’t handle over-the-top comic book violence, but if you’re game for a splatter flick, I highly recommend this one.
Friday the 13th (1980)
A group of camp counselors are terrorized at Camp Crystal Lake, a summer camp where a young boy, Jason Vorhees, drowned in 1957.
Did it scare me? Somehow I made it to 2017 having never seen Friday the 13th. While the special effects are rudimentary, the low budget-ness of the film actually adds to its fright factor. (Plus young Kevin Bacon is in it!) Also nice to see a meaty role for older female murderer for once.
The Invitation (2015)
A man brings his girlfriend to a dinner party at his ex-wife’s house. He senses something sinister, though it’s hard to tell if he’s right or simply paranoid.
Did it scare me? Yes. This movie is dark, weird, and has a very satisfying ending that I’ve yet to shake.
The Belko Experiment (2016)
Employees are put to the test when a voice over the loud speaker of their office building informs them that they must murder 3 of their coworkers if they want to get out alive. Shockingly, the carnage doesn’t stop with three.
Did it scare me? No. (But fair warning, it is very graphic.)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A group of young filmmakers take their recording equipment into the woods to explore the legend of the Blair Witch and quickly become lost. One of the first horror movies to play on found footage.
Did it scare me? Kind of! This is another classic film that I’ve managed to avoid all these years and while I was actually rooting for the Blair Witch throughout, the final shot (which I knew was coming) still gave me the creeps.
Blair Witch (2016)
Another Wingard flick, this film basically copies the first Blair Witch Project, but includes modern technology. Spoiler: At one point, the witch comes out of a drone.
Did it scare me? No, but it was fun to watch while stoned.
The Babadook (2014)
A bunch of Australians say “Babadook” over and over again.
Did it scare me? I know people really loved this movie, but I found myself very distracted and bored throughout. To be fair, I also watched it very drunk, so maybe it’s good? I’ll rewatch and let you know.
Rating: Withholding judgment
10 minutes of Saw (2004)
Two guys wake up chained in a basement with a dead body between them. That’s as far as I’ve gotten.
Did it scare me? Honestly, I did not turn this movie off out of fear, but because a man has to dig around in a shit-filled toilet and, to quote Valerie Cherish, “I don’t want to see that!”
American Werewolf in London (1981)
Two young American men are attacked by an animal while traveling through rural England. One is killed and the other...
Did it scare me? My dad made the poor decision to show me this movie when I was in fourth grade. It scared me then and it scared me now.
The Guest (2014)
The third Wingard horror movie to be featured on this list, The Guest stars Cousin Matthew as a discharged soldier who goes to visit the family of a fellow soldier who was killed in battle. Some are more pleased with his presence than others.
Did it scare me? No. Do I regret watching it? Also no.
A deaf author is terrorized by two things at her remote home: a murderer and writer’s block.
Did it scare me? Not particularly, but I can see why other people would like it. If this kind of movie is your jam, I’d choose You’re Next first.
It Follows (2015)
A girl is infected with a sexually transmitted haunting after bonin’ in the backseat of a car. She will continue to be haunted until she has sex with someone else, thereby passing it along.
Did it scare me? This is another one of those critically lauded horror films that I could just not get into for the life of me. Maybe it’s because I can’t appreciate a monster that you can power walk away from.
Don’t Breathe (2016)
A group of Detroit teens attempt to rob a blind man of his court settlement, only to discover that he fights back.
Did it scare me? Fuck yes, it did. Watch with a buddy.
Idyllic Amity Island is shaken up by the presence of a shark with a taste for human blood.
Did it scare me? A little bit! Jaws holds up, buuuut I’m definitely Team Shark.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
A hospice nurse is sent to live with an elderly horror novelist and, shocker, the ghost who inspired her stories.
Did it scare me? No, but it did bore me to death, so mission sort of accomplished.
Rating: Nary a skull.
The Conjuring (2013)
In 1970, ghost-hunting couple Ed and Lorraine Warren attempt to help a family whose home is haunted by a witch who was hanged on the property centuries ago.
Did it scare me? As someone who cannot fathom how we’re still demonizing 17th century accused witches in 2017, I found certain parts of The Conjuring very annoying and stupid. That said, there’s one jump-scare in particular that got me so good, I accidentally kneed my poor boyfriend in the nuts. So I guess it did?
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
A group of friends think they’re being tortured on a camping trip by two stereotypical hillbillies. Meanwhile, the hillbillies are just as confused by what’s going on as they are.
Did it scare me? This is one of those movies that we thought we’d turn off in minutes, but ended up loving—though, despite the bloodshed, it’s more of a comedy than a horror film.
A group of kids try to solve the mystery of why so many of their town’s children have gone missing and end up facing off with Pennywise, a murderous clown with a taste for kids.
Did it scare me? Not particularly! While Pennywise is terrifying in his own unique way, I found the kids the movie centers on so irritating that I felt good about whatever was coming their way. I’d also classify it as more of a thriller of the Stranger Things variety than a tried-and-true horror movie.
The Visit (2015)
Two kids go to visit their estranged grandparents, only to find them behaving less than what most would consider normal.
Did it scare me? I jumped occasionally, but mostly I was thrilled that M. Night Shyamalan was finally doing what he should have been doing for years: Making funny horror films that fully embrace his penchant for camp.
Green Room (2016)
A touring punk band are held hostage at a remote DIY venue operated by Neo-Nazis after they witness the immediate aftermath of a murder in the green room. Their attempt to escape is not without victims.
Did it scare me? Of all the scary movies I watched this year (though many have argued that Green Room is a thriller), this is the only one that caused me to literally scream out loud while watching it. It’s violent, gritty, and holds nothing off-limits for this poor young group of punk rockers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin (in one of his final roles) are superb, as is the rest of the cast.