In high school, I hated horror films. I did my best to avoid movies that had any semblance of gore, suspense, monsters, etc. I had very specific criteria for watching horror movies with my friends: I would never, ever see a horror film in theaters and I would only watch movies at home with them if one, they saw the movie already and assured me that it wasn’t that bloody or that scary, or two, I had a giant blanket I could hide my face under for most of the movie.
Overtime, however, I’ve grown to really love the genre. I get why some people don’t like horror movies: they don’t like gore, don’t like getting scared, or don’t like the typical formula many horror movies follow. Even now, there are types of horror movies I steer clear from (mainly slasher, torture films or anything related to insects), and there are still definitely days where the last thing I want to do is watch a horror movie. On the outside, all horror movies can seem the same, but in reality, the genre is actually pretty diverse. I think the horror genre is a lot more dynamic than many people give it credit for and there are horror movies out there that can appeal to everyone’s interests: some are also funny, some have interesting characters, some are very well-written, some provide really interesting commentary about our culture, etc. Here is a list of horror films that I think are a great introduction for people who don’t like the genre. To see which movies are right for you, I’ve briefly written a (spoiler free!) summary and ranked them in four categories:
- Amount of Gore: 1-10 (1=I’ve seen more gore in Spongebob episodes, 10=Absolute bloodbath)
- Suspense Level: 1-10 (1=I almost fell asleep watching, 10=I’m going to cry and or puke because I’m so scared)
- Likelihood of Inducing Nightmares: 1-10 (1=completely unlikely, 10=I’m sleeping with the light on for the rest of my life)
- Overall enjoyment: 1-10 (1=going to the dentist is more fun, 10=one of my all time favorites)
1. Scream (1996) and 2. Scream 2 (1997)
How many times I’ve seen them: 3
Overall Enjoyment: 8
Overall Enjoyment: 8
Scream (1996) and Scream 2 (1997) are about a mysterious killer in a ghost mask who’s seen far too many scary movies and has his/her target set on killing high schooler Sidney Prescott. Scream and it’s sequel were two of the first horror movies I could say that I actually completely enjoyed. The entire franchise is pretty good, but the first two movies are by far the most creative, most suspenseful, and most entertaining (at least in my opinion). They very cleverly poke fun at horror movie tropes while still paying homage to the genre. (Plus, the 90’s aesthetic is top-notch.) You probably won’t get any nightmares after watching, though you may shiver anytime you hear someone ask, What’s your favorite scary movie?
3. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
How many times I’ve seen it: At least 4, but probably more than that.
Gore: 5 for most of the movie, 8 in certain scenes
Overall Enjoyment: 10
This is the best summary of the movie that I can give without spoiling anything: A group of college kids go to a cabin in the woods. Things get creepy. Another movie that plays with horror movie expectations, Cabin in the Woods is hilarious and terrifying at the same time. From a critical standpoint, it’s an interesting commentary on the horror genre as a whole, and from an entertainment standpoint, everything about it is spectacular: the characters, the twists, the monsters. And even though some parts of the movie do get bloodier and more violent than other movies on this list, I think that balance of horror and humor will leave you relatively nightmare-free. This is one of my favorite movies of all time (not just a favorite horror movie) and absolutely worth a watch. Or in my case, several.
4. The Babadook (2014)
How many times I’ve seen it: 1
Overall Enjoyment: 8
The Babadook profiles a single mother as she tries to control her unruly, nightmare-plagued, and monster-obsessed son. If you aren’t good with gore, this movie is perfect for you, because there isn’t much of it. However, if you aren’t good with suspense, stay far, far away from this one. I’ve had multiple nightmares after watching this movie. However, I still absolutely recommend it because of how well done it is, particularly its writing and the performance of the lead actress. Horror movies can sometimes feel like there’s no real connection between the villain and the characters, so the villain’s torment feels a bit random. This definitely isn’t the case with The Babadook; the villain here blends so well into the overall plot structure and characterization of the protagonists. Trust me, this one is definitely worth the occasional nightmare.
5. It Follows (2015)
How many times I’ve seen it: 1.5
Overall Enjoyment: 7
It Follows is about a girl, Jay, whose new boyfriend passes on a curse to her (through sex) in which some kind of creature, disguised as a human, follows her with the intent to kill her. It sounds really, really weird, and it kind of is, but it’s also fantastic. Incredibly suspenseful and well-written, this movie is a refreshing blend of classic horror tropes and original material. It Follows also leaves just the right amount of interpretation up to the audience. Since the villain of this movie usually looks like a regular person, you probably won’t get any nightmares from this, but you will feel a little more paranoid than usual when walking to and from class.
Seeing these movies may not instantly turn you into a horror fanatic, but I think they definitely could show you a new side of the genre you haven’t seen before. Or, at the very least, they could be an entertaining addition to your friend group’s movie nights. Happy watching!
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