Sexy nurse costumes and funny politician masks aside, Halloween is a time to revel in all that is drop-dead scary. Some of us may shy away from gore and screaming scary antics throughout the year, but come October 31st, we’re first in line at the grown-up haunted house just for the seasonal thrill of jumping out of our boots. Or snuggled up at home, door locks double- and triple-checked, watching movies that promise to inspire a few heart-jarring nightmares in the nights ahead.
With that in mind, here is a selection of ten films that are really, super scary. It’s hard to say what qualifies as the scariest–some find the supernatural more frightening than realism, for others an escaped psycho trumps a vampire any day. Whatever keeps you up at night, we are sure you’ll find something here. And when you’ve viewed our selection, leave a comment about what movie scares the living daylights out of you.
The Others (2001) Director: Alejandro Amenábar. Otherworldly Nicole Kidman thinks her creepy, creepy house is haunted. Hmmm, what’s going on here? Subtle, surprising, and sooooo eerie. Boo.
The Thing (1982) Director: John Carpenter. Although John Carpenter’s Halloween may be the obvious choice here, this remake of the 1950s classic of Kurt Russel dealing with this, well, thing, is scary with a capital S. All far, far away in a cold, chilly, remote Antarctic research station. With that….thing. Brrr. Scary. Chilling to the bone.
Silence of the Lambs (1991) Director: Jonathon Demme. If the psycho cool-as-a-cucumber cannibal killer isn’t enough, you get the freaky seamstress bonus psycho killer too. Two creeps for the price of one. Just ridiculously heart-in-your-mouth scary. Serve with fava beans…
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) Director: Werner Herzog. This stylish, West German remake of the 1922 Nosferatu is amazingly cool, with Klaus Kinski giving up the creepiest vampire performance this side of Transylvania. Bonus bone-tingler points for the use of real mummified bodies from an 1833 cholera epidemic, in the opening sequence.
The Shining (1980) Director: Stanley Kubrick. Mix one part Stephen King with one part Jack Nicholson, mix in an isolated haunted hotel, add some cabin fever gone awry, and let Stanley Kubrik stir it all up for the spookiest psychological horror film to ever find its way out of a hedge maze.
Let the Right One In (2004) Director: Tomas Alfredson. Although there is now an American version of this film (Let Me In), the original Swedish version is so exquisitely stark and beautiful, it is beyond compare. At its core it is a horror film through and through, yet it is austere, artful, and aching–and touches on the darker side of humanity in such an illuminating way.
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)Director: Wes Craven. Can you say totally terrifying slasher film? Cause that’s what we’ve got here, replete with a demented child murderer, rubber reality, horror, gore, shock and awesomeness.
Ju-on: The Grudge (2003) Director: Takashi Shimizu. There is a reason why this Japanese horror flick is on so many scariest movie lists…it’s shaking-in-your-sandals spooky. It’s got the haunted-house, vengeful-spirits and descent-into-madness thing all wrapped up in one super freaky fright film.
Alien (1979) Director: Ridley Scott.This science-fiction horror extravaganza pretty much offers you everything that is scary about scary movies. It takes you there slowly, then keeps you in its sharp grasp until you’re begging for mercy. If it doesn’t have you jumping out of your skin, you deserve some sort of prize. Or a defibrillator.
Young Frankenstein (1974) Director: Mel Brooks. Oops, this one isn’t scary. But it is one of the funniest movies ever made, and its black and white riffing on the 1930′s Frankenstein genre is so spot on that if you’d prefer to be thrown into a fit of laughter rather than panic, this is the one for you. All the monster-y spirit, without the heart-stopping terror. Hilarity ensues.
We couldn’t include every hair-curling movie here, so please add to our list in the comments…
Also see: 8 Creepiest Halloween Candies