13 Classic Horror Films: Are They Worth The Watch?

It’s coming up to Halloween. Night has fallen outside, there’s a chill in the air, and you’re huddled up on the sofa with your flatmates trying to pick a spooky film to watch. Except, there are so many options to choose from; with a lecture at 9AM the next morning, you’re running out of time…

Scary stuff, but this should help to make your decision a little easier. While these are not all of the horror films out there (otherwise this list would never end), here’s an (un)lucky list of thirteen of the more popular ones, and debating whether they’re worth a terrifying watch or are an absolute nightmare to get through.

1. The Saw Franchise (2004-2017)

Who knew that one film about two men chained in a bathroom could spawn seven sequels? While this series isn’t for the faint-hearted – to quote John Kramer AKA Jigsaw, the self-righteous serial killer at the heart of the franchise: oh yes, there will be blood – it’s surprisingly clever for what it is. Twisted morality, brutal traps, and shock endings all combine to make this one of my personal favourites and recommendations (just forget that Saw 3D and all its watery pink gore exists).

2. The Halloween Franchise (1978-2009)

This one is a bit of a mixed bag. Obviously, the original slasher about the knife-wielding Michael Myers is brilliant, but when you get to sequels like Halloween: Twenty Years Later, you start to feel like they should have quit while they were ahead. However, what I will say is that the remakes deserve a lot more credit than what they get. It’s an unpopular opinion, but the development of Michael’s character and why he became a killer means that they’re films that are worth a watch.

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise (1974-2017)

There isn’t a single film in this series that I wouldn’t recommend watching. Granted, the 2013 3D sequel is a bit predictable at times, but it’s still decent even if it doesn’t come close to topping the original. A cannibalistic family, a terrified group of friends, and a guy hunting them down with a chainsaw in a mask of human skin all combine to make this a classic. And, of course, it’s all ‘based on real events’.

4. The Paranormal Activity Franchise (2007-2015)

Don’t bother. Just don’t. While the first ‘found-footage’ film might have been scary in the cinema, the jump-scares don’t really translate over to the small screen – when they eventually appear, that is. And after an hour of a white man doing the equivalent of poking the demonic being haunting them with a stick – despite being told by literally everyone around him not to – the last half-hour that’s actually decent isn’t worth it. How it has so many sequels – which, as far as I can tell, are exactly the same as the original in terms of the plot – I have no idea.*

*Money. It’s the money.

5. It (1990)

If anyone loved the recent adaptation of one Stephen King’s best novels as much as I did (despite the nightmares), then the 1990 version is for you. The CGI isn’t half as good as the 2017 retelling of the Losers Club and their fight to defeat the evil being that eats the town of Derry’s children, but Tim Curry is just as scary in his role of Pennywise, if not more so. But be warned: the film portrays events that are going to take place in It: Chapter Two, so unless you’ve read the book, you’re going to get some big spoilers about the fate of the Losers. If you thought they were lucky in Chapter One, you were right.

6. The Conjuring Franchise (2013-2016)

Both of these films are gold. A demonologist couple investigating hauntings has the potential to become very repetitive, but in this case the stories feel fresh each time. While the original has a good plot and many hair-raising scares, it’s the sequel which is really terrifying – mainly due to the demon nun that pops up every now and then. Good luck trying to sleep after that.

7. Blair Witch Project (1999)

Like Paranormal Activity, this had a lot of hype, but was ultimately very disappointing. If you’re going to do a slow-burning, found-footage film, you need to make the build-up as tense as it is terrifying, and the plot did not deliver on either of those things. Instead, what you are left with is a couple stumbling through a wood and finding a load of creepy stick figures, before meeting their fate off-camera at the hands of whatever the hell the film was supposed to be about: a cult? A supernatural being? An actual witch? Whatever it was, it wasn’t worth nearly two hours of my life.

8. The Insidious Franchise (2010-2017)

To be fair on this series, the first film about a boy possessed by a demon was fairly good. Ignoring the Darth Maul jump-scare (don’t ask, just watch it), the plot manages to hold its suspense right up until the final twist ending, which left the way clear for a similarly chilling sequel. Unfortunately, it fell far short of the heights that the original achieved, which has put me off watching the other two that have been made. Judging by the trailers, I’m not missing anything worthwhile.

9. Lights Out (2016)

Given the premise – and the short YouTube film that it’s based on – this should have been a really good horror movie. Everyone is scared of the dark to a certain extent, so when there’s a murderous supernatural being that can only be held at bay with a light source, it would make sense for it to be terrifying. Instead, characters were stereotypical and unlikeable, and there was an over-reliance on cheap scares that could be seen coming from miles off. And yet there’s going to be a sequel. Money, money, money.

10. The Strangers (2008)

Yes, you find out the ending at the beginning. But that doesn’t mean that the relentless build-up to the mutilation of a young couple by three masked murderers is all for nothing. Once you’re introduced to – and feel for – the victims, you root for their survival whilst knowing in your heart of hearts that this house siege isn’t going to end well for them. That one iconic line, ‘because you were home’, gives evil a whole new meaning. Let’s hope the upcoming sequel is just as good.

11. Sinister (2012)

Evil pagan god? Check. Creepy, murderous children? Check. Gruesome family videos? Check, check and check. There are some weird sequences and the ending is very predictable, but on the whole this is a good movie to get the skin crawling and gain a healthy fear of kids in general. Which reminds me…

12. The Children (2008)

This is a bit of a weird recommendation, given that we’re still two months from Christmas and, unless you’re one of those weird people that start celebrating it now rather than waiting for the 1st November like all the rest of us, it doesn’t really fit the Halloween theme. However, the seasonal holiday isn’t the focus; instead, it's a virus that infects all the children and turns them into little psychopaths intent on wiping out their parents. It’s British, it’s little-known, and it terrifies me whenever I watch it. It’s great.

13. The Babadook (2014)

Who said that the Aussies can’t be scary? When a mother reads her easily scared son this creepy children’s book, its main character seems to slip into real life to hunt down the child – but is the Babadook real, or is it the mum that you should be scared of? It’s a psychological rollercoaster that never lets up right until the credits start rolling, and – for once – there are no cheap jump-scares in sight. If that’s not a good horror film, I don’t know what is.