It's October and that means it's time for scary movies! All your friends are talking about their favorites, and inviting you to viewing parties. The problem is, you're a fraidy-cat. Jump scares have you leaping from your seat and you spend more time hiding your eyes than actually watching the screen.
How are you supposed to join in the conversation about zombies and witches if you've only watched horror films through your fingers? Fear not, friends. We've got you covered!
Here is a list of some great horror films in scary genres (ranging from run-of-the-mill killers to ghosts and ghouls) that you can totally handle.
Blood suckers can be scary, but there are a surprising number of films out there that aren’t going to mess up your calm with jump scares.
The classics in particular like Nosferatu (1922) are scary without being terrifying, and you’ll definitely get points for having seen that one. Of course, there are also more modern classics such as The Lost Boys (1987), which is a total blast (and doesn’t really qualify as horror), or Near Dark (1987), which is a neo-western horror film and has the additional benefit of being directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Interview with the Vampire (1994) is another great one to consider, and it has a very young Kirsten Dunst as a child vamp.
However, the one we’re going to recommend you definitely watch is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). It’s got Keanu Reeves, and terrible accent aside, he’s a delight. Winona Ryder stars as Mina Harker/Elisabeta, and the great Gary Oldman as Dracula. Even Cary Elwes is in this one. Remember how lovely he was as Wesley in The Princess Bride, which they should definitely not remake? You got this!
The rotting undead can be a major gross-out, and if you’ve been unable to watch The Walking Dead, we totally understand. Flesh peeling off a decaying body is pretty disgusting.
Before you watch the main film we’re recommending, though, maybe start off with an appetizer of Shaun of the Dead (2004). Yes, it’s a comedy, but it will get you prepared for what's coming. Plus, it stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and they're not scary at all.
Once you’re ready, check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016). Let Lily James and Matt Smith soothe you as you watch them battle it out against zombies in a Regency romance and war tale that parodies that book you did a term paper on. Come on, how can you resist lines like, "A woman must have a thorough knowledge of singing, dancing, and the art of war?" There are a few jump scares in here, but nothing that is going to keep you up at night.
Possession can scare even those with serious intestinal fortitude, so how can you watch something about that particular bit of horror?
Try to think of it this way: Freaky Friday can be considered a possession film.
Maybe skip The Thing (1982) (though if you can manage it, it's a fantastic film) and The Exorcist (1973), and give Evil Dead II (1987) a try. It's Sam Raimi, and it's a fun film. Sure, it's still horror, but with Ash Williams' (Bruce Campbell) great response to scares, it’s bound to make you laugh while shaking on your couch.
You don't have to watch the first film since this one opens with a recap. Deadites are more fun than scary, and hey, Ash has a chainsaw attached to his arm. The ending might even make you want to watch the third film, and it's totally worth it if you do.
This is a rough category for a lot of people, since psychological horror often seeps into your subconscious. We’ve got a favorite here, though you could technically add our pick to the 'ghost genre' on this list.
Dead Again (1991) is a noir film starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and the late, great Robin Williams. This film has reincarnation, murder, and some great twists and turns. It’s a bit scary, but the amazing acting and Branagh’s direction is going to distract you from it.
Bring this one up at parties and you’re going to sound like a horror cinephile. Fair warning: There are scissors involved, and if you’ve seen Us, that might put you off. Don't let it. This one is worth it.
There are some great ghost films that aren’t going to keep you up at night. You can even prep with a little Casper (1995) and Beetlejuice (1988) to get yourself ready.
Getting into the real list though, there's the always-classic The Sixth Sense( 1999) with Bruce Willis if you want a film that’s going to get you into the spirit (sorry, not sorry), but the one we recommend if you want to challenge yourself a bit is The Others (2001).
The Others could also definitely go in the 'psychological horror' category, but it's more of a ghost film. As with Dead Again, the performances are going to help you along here. Concentrate on the work of star Nicole Kidman and the beautiful direction of Alejandro Amenábar. This one was nominated for and won a slew of awards, including BAFTAs and Golden Globes. We don't want to spoil anything so just trust us here. It's worth a watch.
Stalkers and killers
Even the category is freaky here. There are a lot of movies about killers and stalkers that don't qualify as horror, and the ones that do are often really awful. If you don't want to find yourself up all night at your window with a baseball bat, maybe stick with our pick.
Happy Death Day (2017) is one of the most fun movies on this list. While it definitely qualifies as a horror film, it's also one of the funniest ones out there. It's also pretty empowering. If you’re still freaked out by the genre, consider this: It’s inspired by Groundhog Day (1993), so much so that it references the film. It also feels like what we'd have seen if John Hughes directed a horror film. We guarantee you're going to have fun with this one. Plus, star Jessica Rothe is just delightful.
While we're not going to recommend Practical Magic (1998) here (though we really, really want to), there is definitely a film in the witch genre that you can watch that isn't for kids.
The Craft (1996) stars Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True. It tells the story of four teen girls who take up witchcraft. Empowering, sure, until you realize that the "Rule of Three" means that whatever you do comes back to you threefold.
It's fun, and just a little bit scary, which means you can definitely manage this one. Plus, it's a fun '90s throwback. Maybe concentrate on that part.
There are plenty of alien films that are lots of fun (1996's Mars Attacks!), ones that are awful (2011's Mars Needs Moms), and ones that will scare the bejeezus out of you (1986's Aliens, though you should try to get through that one), but there is one we can recommend that is right on the edge of scary and fun.
Attack the Block (2011) is listed on Wikipedia as a "science fiction comedy horror," so you have at least two genres there to fall back on. It was the film that got John Boyega noticed for Star Wars, and also stars our current Doctor of Doctor Who fame, Jodie Whittaker, and the amazing Nick Frost. In the film, a gang has to hold off alien invaders in London on Guy Fawkes Night. It's fun, the aliens are mid-level scary and we think you're going to love it.
For our final genre, we're checking out curses, and this one is scarier than the others we’ve recommended, so we suggest you do this one last.
Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell (2009) is all about what happens to a cursed young woman, and while there are a bunch of jump scares in here, it's actually a total blast to watch.
The film stars Alison Lohman and Justin Long and tells the story of a loan officer who is cursed after doing something not-so-nice to an old woman. Maybe watch this one with a buddy. While we're not giving you spoilers, let’s just say you should maybe prepare yourself once a stapler shows up onscreen. You got this!