6. Oculus (2013)
What Stephen King said about it: “I saw a screener of OCULUS and loved it. Very scary. I may never eat an apple again.”
“Oculus” is directed by Mike Flanagan (who also adapted King’s own novel “Gerald’s Game”) and revolves around a family tragedy in the past which left deep marks on the now-adult children. Kaylie and Tim Russel are siblings both in their early twenties and haunted by their past. 11 years ago, their father killed their mother and Tim shot his father to death. Since then, he has been living in a psychiatric facility and has tried to make sense of what has happened to his family when he was ten years old.
When he meets his sister for the first time in a long while, Tim is forced to remember the horrors of his childhood as his sister insists that the crimes were caused by a supernatural entity linked to an antique mirror they had in their family home. Through an elaborate plan, the two siblings try to find out if the mirror’s powers are real or the entire haunted mirror story was just their minds’ mechanism to cope with childhood trauma.
Taking inspiration from “The Shining”, Flanagan recreated the idea of a haunted hotel which can take a toll on the inhabitants’ minds. However, this time the haunted hotel has become an evil mirror which makes those around it lose their minds.
The film perfectly reproduces the feeling of not knowing if your judgment is clear or not. However, unlike Kubrick’s “The Shining”, where the viewers always knew when what they were seeing was just a figment of the characters’ imagination, in Flanagan’s “Oculus” the characters’ point of view is unreliable, making it hard to discern what is real from what is not even for those watching.
The fear of losing one’s mind is one of the worst human fears and throughout this film Flanagan recreates it to perfection. The film’s intricate and inventive plot makes the best out of the haunted mirror trope and places “Oculus” among the most intelligent and complex horror films of this century.
7. Hush (2016)
What Stephen King said about it: “How good is HUSH? Up there with HALLOWEEN and–even more–WAIT UNTIL DARK. White knuckle time. On Netflix.”
This is yet another Mike Flanagan film King recommends and it is no wonder, for Flanagan is one of the finest horror directors working today. While King’s comparison with “Halloween” might be exaggerated, “Hush” is still a great horror film and Flanagan managed to bring something new to the table with its inventive script.
“Hush” is a home invasion film with a twist. A masked figure breaks into the house of a young woman (played by Flanagan’s wife and frequent collaborator Kate Siegel) who lives in an isolated house near the woods and she has to fight for her life. What’s the twist? The young woman is deaf and mute, so this changes completely the way the film unfolds itself and makes “Hush” a clever refresh for the slasher genre which you should definitely check out.
8. Sinister (2012)
What Stephen King said about it: “I’m going to see SINISTER 2 tomorrow. I loved the first one, found it genuinely disturbing and extremely well acted.”
The plot of “Sinister” sounds just like a Stephen King novel, so there is no wonder the master of horror himself loved this film.
“Sinister” stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, a true-crime writer who moves into a small town in order to write a new book about the murder of a local family and the disappearance of the daughter. Unbeknownst to Oswalt’s wife and two kids is that the house he just moved them in is the exact murder place. It is when Oswalt discovers a box filled with film reels in the house’s attic that things get creepy. The film reels depict various murders committed by an unseen person and feature a mysterious masked figure called “Mr. Boogie”. Soon, Oswalt and his family find themselves living inside a nightmare.
“Sinister” is one of the best-acted horror films of the decade and its simple yet ingenious and twisty plot might take you by surprise. While it isn’t as scary as it could have been, it is still a very atmospheric film and has some memorable and equally disturbing moments (the footage on those film reels is really something). If you are a fan of Stephen King-like stories, you should definitely check it out.
9. The Babadook (2014)
What Stephen King said about it: “THE BABADOOK: Deeply disturbing and highly recommended. You don’t watch it so much as experience it.”
“The Babadook” was directed by Jennifer Kent and stars Essie Davis as a woman whose husband died in a violent car accident and who has to raise her six-year-old son Sam all by herself. Sam, who was born on the same day his father died, is a difficult child to raise and his mother finds it hard to love him. When Sam starts having strange dreams featuring a terrifying monster called the Babadook, things get out of control and soon his bizarre behavior takes a toll on his mother’s psyche.
“The Babadook” works great as a horror film and will scare you nevertheless. However, this is much more than a creepy movie and if you look deeper under the surface you will find out that the film stands out as a metaphor on grief and the difficulties of self-raising a problematic child. The Babadook itself is a symbol of the real-life horrors of childhood when parents can sometimes turn out to be the true boogeyman.
10. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
What Stephen King said about it: “THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE: Visceral horror to rival ALIEN and early Cronenberg. Watch it, but not alone.”
Directed by André Øvredal (“Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark”, “Trollhunter”), “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” revolves around a father and son team of coroners who comes across a mysterious corpse which belongs to an unidentified woman found at the scene of a multiple homicide (hence the Jane Doe name). The two coroners find it strange that there are no visible signs of trauma on her body, yet what they discover inside her when they make her autopsy is disturbing. Soon, they start to suspect that Jane Doe might not be dead after all.
“The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is not the most consistent horror film on this list. It has its good parts and its bad parts, but when it does well, it does very well. Most of the time, the film is eerily atmospheric, gets under your skin and keeps you attentive due to its mysterious and intelligent plot. Unfortunately, the film fumbles a little towards its ending, but there are still a lot of moments to enjoy so we suggest you check it out.