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Spooks, Suspense and Satanic Cults: Must-Watch Films for Horror Fans

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northwestern chapter.

If you’re a huge horror fan like me, you’re probably always looking for movie recommendations to determine the quality horror movies from the sad money grabs that can often seem to dominate the horror scene. Here’s a list of horror films that I think you need to add to your horror movie bucket list.

“The Descent” (2005)

“The Descent” is my favorite horror movie of all time. No matter how many times I see this movie, I am still terrified of it every time. The movie is about a group of friends who go exploring in a cave after their friend suffers the tragic loss of her husband and daughter. The friends eventually get trapped in the cave, and it all goes downhill from there. On the surface, “The Descent” looks like a regular monster movie, but the added aspect of claustrophobia combined with the subtle tension and secrecy between the main characters separates this film from the rest. Not to mention the fact that the monsters in this film look realistic and provide a constant eerie, threatening presence that outdoes any other monster movie. That said, the movie is scary enough before any monster is even seen on screen. I also love that this movie deviates from the overused, standard horror movie tropes often seen in movies. The film features a badass all-female cast (save for one man who is seen for no longer than a minute) and doesn’t stoop to reducing them to stereotypes. There are so many disturbing, unexpected moments in this movie which ultimately culminate in a huge reveal and twist that I love every time. Keep in mind that there are two endings to this film, a U.K. and U.S. version, but neither are particularly satisfying. The U.K. ending takes the cake for me though.

“Hereditary” (2018)

Probably the most mainstream horror movie on this list, “Hereditary” is an absolute masterpiece. Ari Aster is a creative genius, and I personally prefer this film over his newer film “Midsommar.” I don’t even know how to begin explaining the plot, and I think it’s best to go into this film blind like I did at first watch. Don’t even watch the trailer. There aren’t many jumpscares in this film, but the atmosphere it creates and the small details are what will really get under your skin. The way every aspect of this film intertwines and works together is amazing. I had such a great time watching this for the first time, trying (and failing) to figure out the ending as I went. I found this film more disturbing than scary, which I think worked really well. On top of everything else great about this film, it boasts an amazing cast, with great performances from every character. The real star of the film, however, is Annie Graham, played by Toni Collette, in what has to be one of the best performances in horror movie history.

“Creep” (2014) and “Creep II” (2017)

I stumbled upon “Creep” on Netflix by chance one day in high school and decided to watch it with just about zero expectations. I genuinely thought it didn’t look that interesting, and I was really just wasting time with any old lame found footage film. It ended up being one of my favorite horror movies. Mark Duplass produced and wrote the screenplay for the film, as well as being the lead actor in both films. His character is unlike any other horror villain I have encountered, mostly because he managed to be pathetic and terrifying at the same time. He was the perfect fit for this franchise. Both movies follow filmmakers who end up recording the life of Aaron (played by Duplass), before realizing they’re in for more than they bargained for. “Creep” is an excellent name for these films, because they are so disturbing that it genuinely feels violating to watch them (especially the second film). These films are not overly scary, although they do have some moments that will jolt your heart rate up. The slow burn, the gut feeling that something bad is happening and the inability to decipher what is real and what isn’t, however, is pretty terrifying. Both movies have the same first-person point of view that make the films feel so much more real and disturbing than traditionally-filmed movies. In both films, you get the feeling that you’re just waiting for something bad to happen, that everything you’re watching is just stalling until the real horror comes, keeping you at the edge of your seat throughout the duration of the film. I personally enjoyed the first film more, mostly because I found “Creep II” to be rather hard to watch at times. Both films are a must watch, however, and both endings are stellar in very different ways.

“The Platform” (2019)

“The Platform” is a Spanish thriller movie about a dystopian future where prisoners are kept in a tower in vertical cells and feed from a moving platform that descends from the first level to the last. Since the platform contains a limited amount of food for an initially unknown amount of levels and prisoners, those on the upper levels eat all the platform food before it reaches lower levels, leaving prisoners to starve or find other ways to survive. Many have interpreted this film as a critique of capitalism; one of the film characters explains that there would be enough food for everyone if all prisoners only ate what they needed to survive, but those at the top overindulge at the expense of those at the bottom. “The Platform” is the most recent horror movie that I’ve fallen in love with. Although it’s technically a thriller, I’m giving it a pass for this list. It’s disturbing and gory, but it really makes you think about ethics and how far humans will go both to survive and maintain the status quo. This is a phenomenal film and a must-watch for all horror/thriller fans.

“Crawl” (2019)

“Crawl “had to fight an uphill battle from the get-go. I mean, who really expects the alligator movie to be good? Well, I’ve seen it a few times now, and I can confidently say it’s good, especially for what it is. The 84% on Rotten Tomatoes can vouch for that too. “Crawl” is, aforementioned, a horror film about vicious alligators. Lead actress Kaya Scodelario (you may know her as Effy Stonem from Skins) gives a great performance during this film, as does Barry Pepper who plays her father. While I’m not always the biggest fan of too much CGI, the alligators in this film were genuinely terrifying, and the atmosphere of the film was consistently creepy and kept me on edge. While this film may not be the creative masterpiece that other movies in this list are, it’s definitely a great break from reality. It’s a horror movie that knows exactly what it is: a classic, 90-minute film with plenty of drama and thrills.
“Crawl” doesn’t get tangled up trying to be something that it’s not. It’s not trying to make you laugh or cry, and it doesn’t make any unnecessary, big statement (unless it’s “don’t move to Florida”). Instead, it makes every minute of its runtime count to be a great, compact horror film that I have yet to be tired of.

Grab your popcorn and a friend to enjoy these films; you will not be disappointed. No promises that you’ll sleep easy after watching these, though.

Morgan is a first year student at Northwestern studying Psychology and Economics. She loves horror movies and she could talk to you about Taylor Swift for hours. When she's not studying, she enjoys going on adventures with friends, watching TikToks and discovering new music. She also saw Nicki Minaj in an airport once.