There are classic horror movies that should appear on every list - The Shining, The Birds, Misery, The Exorcist - you just can't go wrong with any of them. Not only are they so scary that you'll have trouble sleeping at night, they're also just brilliant movies. Aside from the classics though, here's a list of my personal favourite horror films.
Hide and Seek (2005)
Starring a very young Dakota Fanning and the eternally magnetic Robert De Niro, the duo play a daughter and father who move out to a beautiful but remote new home from New York City. David Callaway (De Niro) is grief-stricken after the suicide of his wife and being a psychologist, he feels the best way for him and his young daughter Emily (Fanning) to cope with the tragedy is to get away form where the trauma occurred.
Soon after they move in, Emily makes a new imaginary friend named Charlie, who makes her do things like write "you let her die" on the bathroom wall, and doesn't like it when her dad says he's not real. Okay, so the premise isn't fresh, but the performances from De Niro and Fanning are chillingly creepy and you'll want to watch till the end.
The social media updated version of I Know What You Did Last Summer (if you don't mind overdramatic 90s acting, that's also a good one) sees six friends hanging out on Skype when a mysterious user suddenly joins their group chat. This user says her name is Laura Barns. Problem is, Laura Barns killed herself exactly one year ago following the vicious online bullying that came her way after a humiliating video of her partying one weekend went viral.
On the anniversary of Laura's death, these six friends are draw into a sadistic game that ends in bloody and violent death if they don't play along with Laura's demands. From this, truths that were meant to stay buried come back to haunt them and they're made to realise how their lives on social media can impact them IRL. The entire film is also shown from the point of view of those webcams that seem so innocent most of the time. It's a technique that's been done, but is still incredibly effective in this movie.
The Others (2001)
It is the second world war and fervently devout Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives a quiet life with her daughter Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), who both have a mysterious but severe reaction to sunlight. (No, they're not vampires.) Surrounded by nothing but their faith and a heavy fog that never goes away, the trio rattles about their modest mansion while they pray for the return of their father and husband who's gone off to war.
One day, three servants appear at the front door to answer an ad Grace sent out after her previous staff all "disappeared into thin air", and soon after, the children start hearing voices and seeing people around the house. Anne also thinks her mother has gone a little mad. Fleeting shadows, snatches of sound, the design of this film is so beautiful and eerie it will keep you tucked as far into the corner of your sofa as possible with a cushion clutched to your chest.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
A truly unique film that combines a coming-of-age tale with the gory horrors of a werewolf film, this indie darling sees two sisters who are complete outcasts at school find their relationship dramatically changed when elder singer Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is attacked one night by a wild unidentified creature.
The changes in her, both psychological and physical, are obvious to her baby sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and every boy in school. The classic themes of the werewolf genre is twisted in this movie to symbolise teenagers' struggle through puberty, finding out who they are versus who they want to be, their need to fit in, and their need to stand out. You may start this movie thinking, "ugh, what the heck?" Stick it out. Trust me, it's worth it.
Tale of Tales (2016)
This is one of those films that's so weird but so beautifully made you really don't quite know what to make of it. This adaptation of the work by 17th century Italian poet Giambattista Basile sees a queen sacrifice her king for her dream to have a child, a king become obsessed with his pet flea that grows to fill an entire room, an ogre who marries an innocent princess and forces her to live with him in a cave, and a king whose queen is not what she seems.
This collection of stories are classic fairy tales given the darkest of twists, and it's equal parts brilliant and bizarre. There isn't a single jump scare in this, and you won't get goosebumps from a ghostly apparition swiftly drifting by, but you will feel a chill down your spine from being completely unsettled by this masterpiece. (Warning: nudity and violence involved)
The title character had always been an odd child. Excluded and bullied for her lazy eye, her unhappy childhood results in her being a deeply ill-adjusted adult. No matter how hard she tries to make friends, they all end up leaving her because she's just a little too weird for them. Betrayed and heartbroken, May decides to make her own BFF ... from parts of her other friends she liked. A girly giggle has never sounded this creepy.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Cheating a little here because I've talked about this film before, but it really is great. Not only is it terrifying - partly because you know it's based on real events - the presentation of the story through a court case is a fresh take on a supernatural story. Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) starts seeing things and feeling things she can't explain, and soon becomes tortured by demonic forces.
As her family struggles to find a way to help her out of the demonic possession, they find Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who agrees to perform an exorcism on her. The movie jumps back and forth between the events surrounding Emily's death and Father Moore being tried for negligent manslaughter. It's an incredible cast and a fantastic film. Don't watch this alone.
People tend to be surprised to learn I really like this film, but I think it's a great psychological thriller. The jigsaw killer - thus called because he cuts out a section of his victims' skin in the shape of a jigsaw piece - is sick of people who aren't appreciative of their life's blessings, and is hell-bent on a mission to make them find gratitude. If they don't ... they die.
Thus, two strangers find themselves in a locked room with a dead body and they don't know why they're there. A voice over speakers then says six words that never sounded creepy until this franchise began: "I want to play a game" and they're off on a race of time to find a way out to save themselves, and those they love. Unlike franchises like Final Destination, there is purpose behind the gore and violence in this one (at least the first three films, it sort of deteriorates from there) and it's still one of my favourite films in general regardless of genre.
Crimson Peak (2015)
It's classic. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl's father is violently murdered, boy marries girl and takes her home to his crumbling family mansion in the middle of nowhere on a hill that bleeds red clay from the ground and makes snow in winter look like a sea of blood. Oh, and there are ghosts.
In this tribute to the genre of classic gothic romance, legendary Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Pan's Labyrinth, 2004's Hellboy) creates a stunning world that's so full of detail you really need to watch the special features of the film's production to appreciate it all. In the style of gothic romance, the relationship between the pure-hearted heroine, Edith played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), and her tall dark stranger, Sir Thomas Sharpe played by Tom Hiddleston, symbolises a young woman coming of age while the ghosts symbolise one's past and emotions trapped but never addressed. There's nothing groundbreaking about this film or the story, and I find del Toro's style to be a touch disjointed at times, but the visuals of Crimson Peak are gorgeous, and I honestly haven't seen such a unique interpretation of ghostly apparitions quite like this in any other film. Besides being haunting and beautiful, you will want to watch through your fingers at times.