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Halloween watch guide: 10 not-too-scary movies for horror newbies
You don't have to jump into the deep end of horror right away.
Horror movies are not for everyone, but even those of us who love the genre come to it in different ways and at different levels. Some horror fans can watch the most extreme, stomach-churning fare night after night, while others take a less intense path. Then there are always those of us who watch through our fingers, not quite sure we want to see everything on the screen just yet.
But no matter your level of interest or extremity, another great thing about horror is that there's always room for newcomers. If you're horror-curious, and you're not quite sure you want to dive into the deep end with the scariest movies imaginable, there are plenty of films -- including recognized classics of the genre -- that are out there just for you, ready to scare you just enough. If you're one of those newcomers, and you're trying to dig deeper into horror this Halloween season, we're here to help. Here are 10 films perfect for horror newbies of every kind.
Dripping with incredible design choices and wonderful ghost effects, Guillermo del Toro's ode to Gothic horror is packed with vibe, but not necessarily packed with all-out terror. Yes, this story of a young woman who falls in love and moves to her new husband's crumbling mansion has ghosts aplenty, and even some very chilling moments, but it's more focused on maintaining a spooky Gothic tone than it is on outright scaring you. If you want a movie that looks gorgeous and delivers the creep factor, try it out.
Fear Street Part One: 1994
The great R.L. Stine was the gateway to horror for countless young readers who devoured his Goosebumps and Fear Street novels, and Leigh Janiak's film trilogy is built as an homage both to Stine's storytelling and to numerous horror subgenres. The trilogy kicks off with a '90s slasher romp led by a great ensemble cast and full of plenty of laughs, so all the horror is tempered by humor. Be warned, though: The death scenes are not messing around. If you survive, you've got two more great films to look forward to.
One of the great turn of the millennium horror franchises launched with this wild classic, the story of a group of kids who survive a plane crash, and then slowly realize they weren't meant to make it out alive. As Death comes for each of them, Final Destination unspools a fascinating mythology and some of the most elaborate death scenes ever committed to film without ever overdoing things, making it a great chiller for newbies. Plus, it's always nice to start things with a franchise, because then you get all those sequels to check out.
Director Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy decided to switch up the slasher genre a little bit, gave it a dose of the body-swap comedy, and created a modern classic. Freaky is one of the best slasher movies of the 21st century not just because it gives you everything you want as a horror fan, but because it balances genuine scares with tons of heart and a great sense of humor. If you're new to slasher movies, it could be a great place to start.
Jordan Peele's feature directorial debut really is as good as all the hype would lead you to believe. It's also more about dread and existential fear than it is about a non-stop jump scares. Plus, it's a thinker, a horror film laced with meaning and commentary that keeps hitting you in waves long after you've watched it. There's a reason it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, after all.
Even if you haven't seen Malignant, you've probably seen some of the memes, and yes, the film really is as fun as those memes make it out to be. The film tells the story of a woman whose own dark past comes back to haunt her in bizarre and brutal ways. Director James Wan and writer Akela Cooper pour so much creative energy into the film's wild premise that Malignant is at the very least unforgettable. And if you get it, you'll want to watch it again and again.
Driven by Amber Midthunder's phenomenal central performance, Dan Trachtenberg's Prey offers a refreshing twist on the Predator franchise, but you don't have to know anything about the other films in the series to love it. Like the original Predator, it's not so much an all-out horror film as it is an action film with plenty of horror vibes, which makes it a great gateway movie. Plus, it's so stripped down and character-focused that you won't have to follow any complex lore along the way.
A Quiet Place
Yes, A Quiet Place is intense and has some truly unforgettable scares, but you don't have to worry all that much about gore and disgusting monsters, at least not until the very end. At its heart, John Krasinki's film is a tightly structured survival thriller that slowly morphs into creature horror, giving you plenty of time to grasp the rules and pacing of the environment. It's also a great introduction to the importance of good sound design in horror cinema.
Ready or Not
Comedy and horror often go hand-in-hand, and that's always good news for horror newbies who want to ease into the scary side of things. In terms of recent comedy-horror gems, Ready or Not ranks among the best. The story -- of a new bride who finds herself pushed into the center of a deadly game concocted by her husband's rich family -- is both wonderfully dark and bitingly hilarious, and Samara Weaving's performances ensures you won't ever look away.
Yes, there are some really brutal moments in Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's genre-shifting slasher classic, but they're cut with loads of humor, great characters moments, and the sheer cleverness of Scream's design. Plus, the original Scream is so embedded in pop culture at this point that even if you haven't seen it, you know it on some level. For new fans, it's great introduction to the slasher genre, in part because it points the way to several other great films in the same vein, and if you like it, you of course have a still-growing list of sequels to try.