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Unconventional Horror Movies for Those Who Want a Scare

There are some who believe that blood + guts = horror, but I’m here to prove that wrong.

One of my favorite kinds of horror is psychological thrillers, the ones that get into your brain and don’t leave for a while.

Without further ado, here are some of my absolute favorite psychological horror movies.

Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky

To me, Black Swan is a masterpiece. It’s harrowing, captivating and raw.

Think ballet is innocent? Think again.

Black Swan follows a young ballet prodigy who wants the lead of her ballet’s production of “the Black Swan.” As the ballerinas get farther into the auditions and practices, their true natures are revealed.

This movie is beautiful. Absolutely messed up, but beautiful. The score, the outfits and the makeup are so gorgeous. This is a definite must-watch for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers

Folks, this is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was nominated for the Oscar for Cinematography in 2020.

This movie follows two lighthouse keepers whose monotonous job starts to pick them apart piece by piece. Loosely based on the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy of 1801, The Lighthouse has an incredible aesthetic, insane characters, unbelievable dialogue and just an overall feeling of dread.

This is an A24 movie, so prepare to be confused. It’s so worth the watch if you’re into artsy and crazy movies that are so far-fetched they just make sense. (Except they don’t.)

The Orphan by Jaume Collet-Serra

Oh god, this movie is a trip.

I watched it recently by myself, at night, and I was terrified. I am an avid horror movie consumer, and not much bothers me, but for some reason this movie got under my skin. (It also didn’t help that my lights wouldn’t stop flickering on and off at literally 3 in the morning.)

After a tragedy, a family tries to overcome their grief by adopting a little girl. At first, she’s a kind and gifted child, but then she starts becoming more and more sinister the longer she’s at home.

Whiplash by Damien Chazelle

While this movie may not technically be classified as horror, it freaked me out.

Another movie about a prodigy’s path to success, a young drummer is taken under the wing of an instructor who’s known for his harshness as well as his ability to forge his pupils into world-class instrumentalists. He wants everything, but there is a thin line between greatness and insanity.

Midsommar by Ali Aster

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard of this A24 hit.

After the death of her family, a young girl takes a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends. What is meant to be a peaceful vacation turns sinister as the truth of the characters relationships and feelings are revealed.

Creep by Patrick Brice

YIKES this one is a ride.

A man is hired to film a day of a man who is terminally ill and wants to give his unborn child a glimpse of who he is. As the day goes on, the man’s requests become more and more unsettling.

This movie will have you thinking “what just happened?” along with “why do so many movies use peaches as a means to terrify me?”

Donnie Darko by Richard Kelly

Donnie’s just a regular teenager trying to figure out the world of high school, a crazy family and girls. One night he sleepwalks to a park by his house where he is confronted by a bunny-man. Right then, an airplane engine crashes into his house. Things just get worse and worse from there, really.

This movie is fascinating. It’s brilliant and funny, while managing to still be scary (thank you, strange bunny-man.)

Jacob’s Ladder by Adrian Lyne

A classic!

A veteran returns home to find he is being chased by mysterious men. He tries to find solace in his chiropractor and new girlfriend, but his visions and hallucinations make him question his sanity.

Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford

That’s right, Tom Ford does more than simply making amazing luxury products and being an icon. He has directed a few movies too. But Nocturnal Animals isn’t for the faint of heart.

An owner of an art gallery is sent a manuscript from her ex husband and it’s far from his regular writing. As we explore her failed marriage as well as the harrowing story she’s reading, a lot of pushed down guilt resurfaces.

Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski

Another classic for you!

When Rosemary’s Baby hit the screen, it was met with endless controversy due to its focus on the dark side of religion. This movie has been called “The Most Cursed Hit Movie Ever Made” by Vanity Fair, and lives up to that title. Not only is the movie itself scary, but what it did to those involved is terrifying.

A young couple trying for a baby move into a New York apartment and find themselves surrounded by peculiar neighbors.

In real life, director Polanski relocated with his girlfriend Sharon Tate to California. Tate had tried to get the lead in the movie, but Mia Farrow was cast instead. Tate instead lingered on set and became obsessed with the occult. She then became pregnant and was brutally murdered by the Manson family.

Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese

Who doesn’t love Leonardo DiCaprio!? He stars in this tale of mystery and terror.

Investigating the escape of a murderer who seemingly escaped from a locked room, Teddy, a detective, and his new partner find themselves at an asylum on a remote island. The investigation brings Teddy’s own past and fears into light.

Requiem for a Dream by Darren Aronofsky

GOSH this one messed with me. I could only stomach watching this once even though I like to rewatch movies consistently.

Focusing on parallel storylines, this movie shows longing and loss in a brilliantly brutal light. Exploring the universal needs to be loved and feel connected, Requiem for a Dream follows a mother, Sara, and her aimless son, Harry. Obsessed with the idea of going on a gameshow, Sara starts a diet to beautify herself for television, while Harry and his girlfriend search for any way to get high.

Of all the movies on this list, I’d say this is the most intense. I would only recommend this movie for people who can handle sorrow and devastation. While some people can watch a horrific movie and not be affected, there are a lot of people like me who are super empathetic and I wouldn’t suggest this movie for the latter.

Joker by Todd Philips

Another recent Oscar nominee, Best Picture winner, Joker is a dark look into the iconic super-villain.

Failed comedian Arthur finds himself constantly alone. He works as a clown, but never finds himself actually smiling or laughing. This journey through mental illness and society shows us ourselves through the infamous Gotham City.

The Devil all the Time by Antonio Campos

As an avid Robert Pattinson fan, I could only watch this movie once.

Featuring everyone’s favorite stars Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skårsgard, Mia Wasikowska and (obviously) Robert Pattinson, this Netflix-original scared the living daylights out of me.

A young man’s fierce need to protect those he loves finds himself in the middle of corruption, lies and sinister motives.

As it is spooky time, I hope some of these put some real fear into your bones. A lot of these movies made it to this list because they refused to get out of my mind since I watched them and this is what I believe makes a truly scary movie.

While a lot of these movies have some violence, it’s not the star of the film, but rather our own minds.

Emilee Keaggy

Kent State '25

I'm a lover of reading, music, movies, astrology, and food! I'm a freshman at Kent who's interested in psychology, english, and fashion. I'm an avid magazine reader and I live for Vogue's September issue (and free tote!) every year.
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