There’s nothing quite like a good scare. You know the kind. And if you don’t, then these five films are guaranteed to introduce you to that unique, call-out-for-help-sleep-with-the-lights-on-did-I-just-wet-myself…experience.
5. Halloween (1978)
Spoiler video alert! (As if you haven’t seen it already!)
The plot of John Carpenter’s teen slasher film might sound a little familiar because, well, it’s a teen slasher film. What separates Halloween from all of the other films where a seemingly invincible killer picks off pretty boys and girls one-by-one (in order of least to most virtuous)? Simple. It perfected the formula. The mood was perfect, even though the body count remained relatively low!
Jamie Lee Curtis as the “final girl” who is both tough and naïve? Check. A killer escaped from a mental institution with just enough back-story to make some sort of sense? Check. And a sparse but moody score paired with careful directing that give you the sense that something is always off even when then lights are on? Check, check, and check.
4. The Ring (2002)
That’s how long you have to live after watching the cursed video that offs the characters in The Ring, a pronouncement that fills every moment after with a palpable sense of dread.
Based on the Japanese film Ringu, the American adaptation introduced audiences in the early 2000’s to the phenomenon of Asian horror. A world with different rules where the spirits don’t look or move like any ghost you knew before, and as a result you never know quite what to expect.
3. Jaws (1975)
Jaws didn’t just change the horror film. It changed all of cinema.
In the midst of America’s independent film heyday, Steven Spielberg’s story of a vicious Great White pitted against a small New England town came along and presented an experience so singularly terrifying that it became one of the top-grossing films of all time and helped create the modern notion of the blockbuster.
The scares of Jaws are so straightforward that it’s hard to believe they’re so effective. But then again, what’s more frightening than something that you get the sense could actually happen?
2. Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock’s tale of an oddly antisocial motel owner and his even stranger relationship with mum was a revelation. With a killer that could be psychoanalyzed instead of written-off as pure evil and a marketing campaign that insisted on a no-spoilers attendance policy, audiences were shocked by the strange combination of explicit violence and the harsh realism of the plot.
No wonder it sent so many of them running to the lobby.
1. The Shining (1980)
If the lead actress on a film is so unsettled that she starts losing her hair during filming, then you must be on to something.
Stanley Kubrick’s obsessive, meticulous production of a Stephen King novel is a visual masterpiece that allows the viewer to alternate between moments of sheer terror (“Here’s Johnny!”) and bewilderment (the twins!). So, you know, not much time to relax.
Jack Nicholson has never been creepier (no, really!) than in this turn as the slowly unraveling caretaker of a supposedly empty hotel. The Shining is a film that reveals new horrors with every viewing, and it succeeds because even when its terrors are explained, they can never really be understood. This article even postulates that it is about Stephen King himself!
There you have it. Five films guaranteed to send shivers down even the toughest of spines. Disagree? Let everyone know how brave you are in the comments.