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10 Terrifying Horror Movies That Will Keep You Up at Night

Despite how straightforward the horror genre may seem, there’s a variety of things it can accomplish. It can be funny, either through giving terrible people their just deserts or being so over-the-top it can’t possibly be taken seriously. It can be evocative, bordering on some of the most tasteless pieces of filmmaking ever conceived. It can also be terribly, terribly boring. But there’s something to be said for a horror movie that embodies what the genre is all about — scaring the absolute bejesus out of you.

What’s “scary” to one person may just be background noise to another. For instance, those who don’t believe in ghosts may feel nothing but absolute apathy if they sit through Paranormal Activity. Those who have been consequently numbed by the over-saturation of the zombie genre may look at Day of the Dead with nothing but an occasional puff of air. Despite this, a handful of films seem to unsettle even the most hardened of horror fans more often than not. With titles from around the world, these are just some of the most terrifying horror movies that’ll keep you up at night.

The Thing (1982)

Universal Pictures

Everyone and their mother knows about John Carpenter’s The Thing by now. Critically loathed during its original release, it’s reappraised as a modern classic with amazing effects, Kurt Russell, good pacing, a fantastic cast, infinitely quotable dialogue, Kurt Russell (again), and so on. Still, it remains a great movie that makes us afraid of not just the monstrous, shapeshifting “thing” itself but just about anyone who doesn’t get eviscerated on-screen as well.

Set in an antarctic research base, a group of researchers finds themselves at the end of a gun barrel when a stray dog escapes from a separate facility. After taking in the dog — and taking out a pair of researchers chasing it — what follows is a horrifically-grotesque hunt for a creature that defies all logic and reason. It knows no true shape, only ever taking the form of those it consumes. As the crew is picked off one by one, how can you truly know if someone is who they say they are or if they’re just the thing from another world?

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Loved by all and frequently considered one of the greatest John Carpenter films, The Thing remains a downright terrifying experience in the modern day. If you’re one of the increasing few who haven’t given it a shot yet, you should. Few films can compare to just how unnerving — and grotesque — The Thing can be when it wants to.

The Descent (2005)

The Descent 2005
Pathé Distribution

What if I told you that there’s a horror movie that combines horrifically claustrophobic tunnel networks, survival elements, and pale goblin-like monsters? Without much else to go on, you might think there would be too many cooks in the kitchen. But Neil Marshall’s The Descent combines these elements in a way that not only crafts a genuinely terrifying horror film but one that does so with compelling characters and an all-female cast.

A group of thrill seekers reunite after a fatal car crash takes away the family of our lead, Sarah. In an attempt to rekindle their lost friendship, they explore a cave system that, unfortunately, traps the group inside after they explore a particularly narrow passage. A tense argument ensues, and it’s revealed that the system they’ve entered is completely unknown to rescue services. As injuries pile up, tensions mount, and grave discoveries are made, the group realizes that they weren’t the first to venture into these caves — and that there’s something else down there with them.

It’s a film that respects the audience, one that slowly lulls them in with its dangerous setting and slowly escalates throughout, culminating in a somber ending that feels appropriate for the film’s dire story. Just be sure to watch the original ending. The film’s United States release snipped an important portion from the ending due to being “too depressing,” simultaneously opening the door for a terrible, unnecessary sequel.

Eraserhead (1977)

David Lynch's Eraserhead 1977
Libra Films

What is likely David Lynch’s solely horror-focused film is his 1977 debut, Eraserhead. Arguably the most visually and aurally interesting offering in this list, Eraserhead follows the story of Henry Spencer, the visually striking “eraser head” man on the film’s poster. Stuck in a horrible industrial city, we follow Spencer’s day-to-day life as he tries to cope with his newborn child and his relationship with a lady named Mary X.

Eraserhead is difficult to put into words. As in, it’s a story that relies so much on its surreal visuals and its alien soundscapes. It defies being translated into a direct sequence of events. It’s one of those movies that you could imagine stereotypical film snobs and art-house students fawning over as if it was some sort of masterpiece. Underneath the interesting production history and striking imagery, however, a genuine horror story is offered here. Targeting fatherhood and sexual intercourse in equal measure, it invokes an unsettling fear as it examines how Henry takes an utterly passive role in just about everything in his life, allowing the world to dictate his actions for him rather than directly challenging it.

If you recognize David Lynch more from Twin Peaks than Mulholland Drive or Blue Velvet, Eraserhead may be a bit too much to swallow all at once. Thankfully, its short runtime and emphasis on atmosphere may be an experimental feast for the senses if you have the stomach for it. Just be forewarned — Eraserhead goes places, and some of its visuals are the stuff of nightmares if you aren’t prepared for them.

The Untold Story (1993)

The Untold Story (1993) - Anthony Wong - Terrifying Horror Movies
Newport Entertainment

China, specifically Hong Kong, is home to some of the most viscerally thrilling horror movies you may have never seen. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is a notable highlight, being a splatter film that could stand toe-to-toe with Peter Jackson’s Braindead in terms of humor and gallons of fake blood.

But, 1993’s The Untold Story is a film that trends in the complete opposite direction, telling a horrifying story based on a real crime. Directed by Herman Yau and starring Anthony Wong, it follows the story of Wong Chi-hang, a deadbeat gambler who starts a new life in Macau after a refused loan turns into a violent confrontation. Taking up a position at a restaurant named Eight Immortals, Wong Chi-hang quickly finds himself in the middle of a police investigation as some question who he really is — and where the previous owners of the restaurant are.

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Given the equivalent of an NC-17 rating in Hong Kong, The Untold Story is a terrifying horror movie that spares no set of eyeballs from its devilish story. Whereas The Sadness undercuts its deliberate sadism under the notion that it’s not all purposeful, no such thing exists here. And while our villain does get his just deserts in the form of violent retribution, it reflects how the real-life case ultimately ended — nothing but violence and suffering until there was nothing left at all. Without giving anything away, you may look at pork buns a little differently for a while once it’s over.

Audition (1999)

Takashi Miike's Audition (1999) Starring Ryu Murakami - terrifying horror movies
Arrow Video

Statistically, one of Takashi Miike’s movies had to show up here eventually. But, while the likes of Gozu and Visitor Q maintain a bizarre and ominous atmosphere throughout, Audition stands out as one of Miike’s best in terms of scares. When a widower stages an “audition” to find a new partner, he becomes infatuated with a mysterious woman named Asami. As the two spend some time together, however, it becomes apparent that Asami wasn’t entirely truthful about her past.

It’s a film that purposefully toys with your expectations, should you go in expecting a typical horror film. The first half is oddly calm and lucid, though the few times we get a glimpse of what Asami’s life is like outside of her relationship, a palpable sense of dread can be felt. When she suddenly disappears, the search for Asami’s whereabouts slowly unveils a terrifying backstory involving scalding-hot incense sticks, torture, and what can only be described as a sentient burlap bag. That is until you find out what’s inside.

Then, of course, there’s the finale. Audition’s infamy largely stems from the jump in intensity that the finale offers. Grotesque hallucinations and a particularly nightmarish sequence of drug-induced dreams precede a certain scene that still makes people squirm more than 23 years after it originally premiered.

Beloved by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and the Soska sisters, Audition‘s infamy is wholly deserved. But underneath the shocking ending is a film that still spurs intriguing discussions today, dividing opinions across just about everyone who’s seen it. Kiri-kiri-kiri…

The Sadness (2021)

The Sadness (2021) -- terrifying horror movies
Raven Banner Entertainment

Remember the pandemic? Of course, you do. While we’ll have to linger with the after-effects of forced isolation and whatever this disease does to the human body over years and years, most have found a way to cope with the psychological and physiological stress it has inflicted in the meantime. Some turned to distractions, others to cooperative hobbies, and some even put their feelings toward the situation into something creative.

The Sadness, released in 2021, is creative in many ways. A lot of utterly horrifying ways. Set in modern-day Taiwan, the sudden onset of an infectious “Alvin” virus has politicians butting heads, scientists pleading for intervention, and everyday people wondering if it even exists. The comparisons to reality are pretty blatant, but unfortunately, the Alvin virus has a much more potent effect on its hosts.

Jim and Kat, an everyday couple, leave for their respective jobs on a typical working day. Unfortunately, the two will find themselves desperate to reconnect as the world quickly goes to hell in a handbasket. The Alvin virus’ effect takes hold on the populace, turning them into what appear to be zombies at a glance. However, underneath blackened eyes and snarling teeth is a completely uninhibited need to inflict as much pain and suffering on others as possible. Practically every sin in the book is ripe for committing, and the unrelenting hordes show no signs of slowing down as Jim and Kat try to find each other in the ensuing chaos.

The Sadness is absolutely not for the squeamish. In what can only be described as 28 Days Later meets Garth Ennis’ Crossed, this Taiwanese horror-fest holds a mirror to the monstrous behaviors of humanity during what should’ve been one the greatest moments of global solidarity. While there’s something to be said for those who managed to get through reality relatively unscathed, you won’t be able to do the same for The Sadness.

Funny Games (1997)

Funny Games (1997) - Terrifying Horror Movies
Castle Rock

Funny Games isn’t particularly funny. Well, it’s kinda funny. Not “ha ha” funny, but the kind of “funny” in that it’s a purposefully self-aware take on a typical home invasion movie. Only instead of playing this self-awareness for laughs, it does so in a way to critique the audience.

Funny Games follows a typical nuclear family and their pet dog on vacation in a lake house. They quickly find themselves in the company of two young men, Peter and Paul, who initially make a negative first impression. However, what can be chalked up to aloof clumsiness quickly escalates to purposeful maliciousness as they take the family hostage. The eponymous “funny games” eventually take place, forcing the family to partake under the threat of death.

On the surface level, Funny Games is yet another home invasion film that revels in placing everyday people in a horrific scenario for our sadistic enjoyment. But it’s the way that Funny Games presents this story to the audience, that the viewer themselves are somehow as involved in the violence on screen as our villains, that makes it so unsettling. This, combined with the agonizing pacing, the genuinely upsetting moments, and the layers of interpretation under every seemingly-innocuous bit of dialogue, leads to a film that’ll stick with you long after it’s over.

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It’s worth noting that Funny Games exists in two forms: the 1997 original Austrian film and the 2007 American remake. Both films are essentially the same. Scenes are staged and play out exactly the same, the plot progression is identical, and aside from casting differences and some lighting changes, they’re practically the same film. Thus, you can chalk up the 2007 version’s low review scores to it being a scene-for-scene remake. No one version is definitively better than the other.

Irreversible (2002)

Irreversible (2002) - Terrifying Horror Movies

Okay — these are movies that will “keep you up at night.” Irreversible, by definition, will absolutely do that. Reviled by some as one of the single most upsetting movies ever made, beloved by others as a deliberate subversion of the “rape and revenge” subgenre, where you fall depends on your personal tolerance for such a topic.

Directed by Gaspar Noé, Irreversible is unique in that it’s a movie that plays in reverse. The film starts with its lengthy credit sequence, and its logical order of events is played backward from the film’s end to its beginning. Therefore, we start with what is one of the most nightmarish, stomach-churning introductions to a horror film, followed by a ten-minute single-take sexual assault scene, before gradually calming down into a peaceful, almost dreamlike conclusion that claws out one last upsetting reveal.

There’s certainly a discussion to be had over whether or not something like Irreversible falls into excessive tastelessness or whether it’s a horrific encapsulation of how traumatic sexual assault can truly be. Roger Ebert originally gave the film three stars and noted that the film’s purposeful reversal of events had several significant impacts. The biggest of which is that, instead of building to violence and sexuality as some kind of reward, it’s placed at the forefront for us to dwell on for the rest of the film, and that the banality of the events preceding it is actually something to be desired and treasured. Either way, Irreversible is a movie that’ll stick with you long after you see it — whether you want it to or not.

Fun fact: the composer for Irreversible, Thomas Bangalter, also produced music under another name. He and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were the duo behind what is likely one of the most beloved electronic duos in recent history. What were they called, you may ask? Daft Punk.

Possession (1981)

Possession (1981) - Terrifying Horror Movies

Possession is a movie that defies genre boundaries. It’s a movie that shows Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani at their absolute best. It’s a movie that only recently got a chance to be shown in its entirety to audiences in the United States. It has an uncanny way of forcing its way through your memories, even months after you’ve seen it.

What starts as a tense divorce between returning government agent Mark and his wife, Anna, turns into a circus of misery as Anna’s increasingly distant and erratic behavior precede horrifying discoveries, strange doppelgangers, and some of the most powerful performances put to film.

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Critics and audiences alike still can’t put a finger on what Possession is entirely about, nor can they really nail down what’s real and what’s purely imaginary in the context of the film. But it’s the not-knowing that makes Possession stick with you. Well, that and our two leads. Isabelle Adjani’s performance is something to behold. Words cannot describe the sheer amount of passion she and Sam Neill put into their respective characters. Both actors come off as completely unhinged at points, so wrought with emotion that they’re at the point of mentally snapping — Adjani, in particular, has a stunning breakdown in the middle of a subway station. Sam Neill would state in an interview with BBC’s Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review podcast that he “escaped” Possession with his “sanity barely intact.”

Putting Possession into words wouldn’t do it any justice. The film finally came to streaming via its release on Shudder earlier in the year, meaning there’s no better time to see it in all its glory. Just be ready for what’s to come.

Threads (1984)

Threads (1984) - Terrifying Horror Movies

Threads is one of those horror movies that relies less on scaring you in the moment and more on lingering in the back of your mind once the credits roll. It’s a movie that takes the prospect of nuclear war, the complete and total mutually-assured destruction of the world, and not only gives us the immediate aftermath but the resulting future that the ensuing nuclear fallout would cause. It’s a big ask, coming from a made-for-TV movie. Yet, despite its limited budget, it’s arguably one of the single most upsetting and terrifying horror movies ever conceived.

Threads takes place in the city of Sheffield, England. In a documentary-type format, we follow the lives of the town’s inhabitants as they go about their daily business. However, laden throughout these ordinary people’s lives are radio broadcasts, each one describing an escalating series of confrontations in Iran. Things start to hit the fan as direct engagements between the United States and Soviet Russia occur, prompting the British population to panic. The government directly intervenes, but little can be done before a nuclear warhead is detonated above the coastal North Sea.

What follows is nothing short of a simulation depicting how humanity copes with nuclear winter. The characters we’ve come to briefly know and love are undercut by a cold narrator who breaks down every detail as time passes on. The screams of the dying are drowned out by reports of dwindling medical supplies, order is maintained through strict capital punishment, and though humanity ultimately survives the madness, what remains ought to have never made it to begin with.

Threads is amazing not only because of its unique setup and presentation but that its horrific scenarios are all completely backed by real science. There’s no science fiction going on here, nor is there any way to salvage what remains. In fact, based on the era Threads was released in, there was a genuine chance that the events in the film could’ve been a reality for humanity. In a way, that makes Threads one of, if not the, scariest thing ever put to film. All it takes is one little button press, and everything you once knew is gone forever.

The post 10 Terrifying Horror Movies That Will Keep You Up at Night appeared first on HorrorGeekLife.

Fuente: https://www.horrorgeeklife.com/2023/05/17/10-terrifying-horror-movies/

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