If you need a little extra help scaring yourself this fall, we’ve got your back. Here are 13 films that will keep you wide-awake and covered in goosebumps late into the night.
1. Go back to the colonial days for a real scare.
“The Witch” is an ultra-creepy period piece that takes place in 17th-century New England. We’re not exactly sure why this is the most terrifying setting for a horror movie, but trust us, it is.
Everything about “The Witch” is spooky and keeps you guessing. For die-hard film buffs, try watching it a second time with the captions on since the dialogue can be a little tricky to follow. Even if you miss a few comments here and there, you’ll be able to understand the mounting dread throughout the movie.
2. Here’s a film that will have you looking over your shoulder for days to come.
“It Follows” is a unique horror flick that builds tension and suspense instead of relying on jump scares. The basic premise is reminiscent of “The Ring,” but it takes many original twists and turns.
This movie is beautifully shot and has a much deeper meaning than most in its genre. Watch it multiple times and you’ll start viewing all the characters differently.
3. A storybook come to life is an unexpected place to find a chilling new movie monster.
“The Babadook” is a meditation on grief and mental illness that will not relax you after a long day. But that’s not really why we watch horror movies anyway.
This indie film was shot on a shoestring budget, and it’s one of the most original and satisfying horror movies in years. Be warned: It’s extremely intense, especially for parents. As an added bonus, the film features an unforgettable monster with a great name (particularly when pronounced in an Australian accent).
4. Sometimes the best horror films take place in unexpected places.
It’s easy to scare people when the setting is a haunted house or an abandoned insane asylum. To scare people at a dinner party takes more talent. “The Invitation” unfolds slowly over the course of a seemingly innocent gathering as we watch a man descend into paranoia.
On second thought, maybe the dinner party isn’t so innocent. You won’t know whether the protagonist is rightly suspicious or overly paranoid as you watch this psychological horror-thriller.
5. Here’s a movie perfectly timed for the current state of affairs.
Paranoia reigns supreme in “It Comes at Night.” After an unspecified apocalyptic event, two families are forced to live together to fend off the outer world.
The movies demonstrates different courses that can be taken when disasters strike. It may have you reevaluating your ideals and coming up with a post-apocalyptic plan of your own.
6. Get a little weird with Mark Duplass.
“Creep” is what happens when you mix the comedic talent of The League’s Mark Duplass with a genuinely frightening premise. This minimalist horror film is deeply unsettling, sometimes funny, and always creepy.
It packs a lot of dread into just an hour and 17 minutes and ensures that you’ll never look at a wolf mask the same way again.
7. Take a journey from a cliched horror setting to…well, no spoilers, but you’ll want to see it.
Joss Whedon’s “Cabin in the Woods” won’t keep you up at night, but it will keep you thoroughly entertained for an hour and a half. It starts out as a classic college-kids-in-the-woods type of thriller.
It doesn’t take long before you start to notice that a lot more is going on in this rollicking movie. “Cabin in the Woods” features one of the most incredible monster fight scenes of all time and it’s a must-see for any horror fan.
8. If you’re looking for another entertaining but not-too-scary movie, here’s an option.
“Slither” is a solid horror film that’s more fun than terrifying. It’s great to watch when you’re looking to be grossed out, but not utterly frightened.
An army of slithering slugs invades a small town, and some of the residents change in big ways. This film has awesome makeup and special effects that will have you alternating between grimaces and laughter.
9. Now, back to the films that keep you up at night.
“The Conjuring” is based on a true story, and that alone will amplify the scares as you watch it. It’s based on the story of the Warrens, two paranormal activity investigators.
There are plenty of jump scares and spine-tingling scenes. But when a young girl describes how she sees an old lady in a dirty nightgown standing in front of her mom’s bed at night, you’ll get serious goosebumps.
10. There’s something deeply unsettling about found-footage horror movies.
“REC” is a Spanish thriller that will keep your pulse racing as a zombie infection spreads. It begins when a TV reporter shows up to the scene of an odd occurrence at an apartment complex.
She quickly becomes part of the story as she narrates the unfolding events on film. There is such a realistic feel to the movie that you’ll quickly be enraptured, even if you wish you weren’t.
11. Here’s what happens when you combine a baby shower and a cult.
“Rosemary’s Baby” was made almost 40 years ago but has aged remarkably well. This film is full of intrigue and beautifully shot scenes starring a young Mia Farrow.
You can’t watch this movie without feeling desperate for Farrow’s character, Rosemary Woodhouse. This is one of the most unique and influential horror movies of all time. Add it to your watchlist and see what all the fuss is about.
12. Many people choose “The Exorcist” as the scariest movie of all time, but we lean a different way.
“The Shining” shows Jack Nicholson’s character slowly unravelling as he tries to write in a haunted (or possibly sentient) hotel. A number of events occur that are individually terrifying. Together, though, they make one of the most memorable and frightening horror films ever.
Stephen King famously didn’t like the film adaptation of his novel by Stanley Kubrick. Critics and wider audiences disagreed with the novelist, and the original version of “The Shining” continues to fascinate viewers.
If you love the movie as much as we do, be sure to check out the documentary about it, “Room 237.” It’s a little out-there at times—actually, it’s pretty far out-there a lot of the time—but it’s absolutely worth a watch.
13. Since we brought it up, we have to address it.
“The Exorcist” is one of those movies that many people refuse to watch a second time. They were traumatized by it, and never want to think about it again.
For those of us who love the adrenaline rush of a scary movie, we keep going back to this one. The premise is simple and well-known, but you have to see it to experience the spine-chilling fright.