These films offer more than franchise jump scares or those films with one giant twist that are pointless on second viewing. They offer redeeming qualities like great characters, great stories, and great plot. There are probably films that scared you more, or grossed you out more, but these ones give you the scares and a whole lot more.
10. Cabin in the Woods (2011, Drew Goddard)
This film has everything. Maybe too much of everything, but it’s so damn entertaining. If you like the Evil Dead, you get some Evil Dead. You like Hellraiser, you get some Hellraiser. You like Cube, you get Cube. You like any Whedon, you get lots of Whedon. You like monster movies, you get all of the monster movies. Gore, scares, laughs and a final girl. Everything!
From the minds of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), we get a part homage, part satire, masterpiece. Five college kids (including a young Chris Hemsworth) head towards our title, and the most cliché of premisses.
Once there we find that they are being manipulated by scientists (led by the great Richard Jenkins) in a secret lab facility below the cabin. One by one they are targeted by classic horror movie ghouls and merman, as the film descends into absolute madness and a battle for humankind.
9. Don’t Breathe (2016, Fede Alvarez)
This film played with our senses long before A Quiet Place made billions playing on the same thing – Hush did a pretty good job of it too – But this is the pick of the bunch. It’s a simple yet wonderful premise, with producer/director team, Sam Raimi and Fede Alvarez (best known for his admirable Evil Dead remake), delivering in spades.
Three young thieves – Money (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (fellow Evil Dead alumni, Jane Levy), and Alex (Daniel Zovatto) plan to rob a Blind Man (a chilling performance from acclaimed stage actor, Stephen Lang, ultimately best known for Avatar), who is stashing money which he won in a settlement over his daughter’s death.
It’s an easy score on paper, but the Blind Man has other plans. This house is rigged to keep people in as much as out and the Vietnam Vet and his beloved (and terrifying) dog are no pushovers.
The tide turns quickly, and the film becomes the most flipped-on-its-head home invasion film you could ever imagine – Not to mention as re-watchable as Home Alone! The film is a master-class in building tension, with incredible scare sequences, right up until the brutal twist and ending.
8. You’re Next (2011, Adam Wingard)
Like its catchy and re-played song, ‘Looking for the Magic’ by Dwight Twilley, this film and it’s bad-ass female lead can be re-visited as much as Christmas Vacation on the holidays, or 50 Days of Summer after a break-up.
Directed by Adam Wingard, and stacked with a bunch of indie horror greats in the cast, including Barbara Crampton, the film follows an estranged family, gathering for their parent’s anniversary. The family is full of deplorable characters, which just makes the carnage more enjoyable, as they are attacked by masked intruders.
The only likeable character is Erin (Sharni Vinson), the new Australian girlfriend of a family member, who happens to be some Sarah Connor-like, survivalist. Obviously what ensues is greatly satisfying, much like Kevin dishing it out to the wet bandits in Home Alone. This film will have you cheering like it’s the Super Bowl.
Seems like there is an on-going Home Alone theme running through this list, possibly because that film does everything right. This film takes a lot of the same winning ingredients and drags us back much the same. It’s not perfect, but sometimes you don’t want perfect, you just want to see a girl give out an ass-whooping on some masked intruders.
7. High Tension (2003, Alexandre Aja)
There have been some truly great French horror films this century. Not a lot that you really want to re-visit though… Inside. Martyrs. Raw. Trouble Every Day. Sheitan. All brilliant, and all unpleasant. Good luck pressing play again once you have seen them! Which brings us to the most controversial and divisive pick of the list, High Tension.
Here we have the only slasher film on the list, and one of the best from this century. An early work from director, Alexandre Aja (Mirrors), this is one of the most simple and scary films of recent times. You will be digging deep to find kind reviews for it, but on scares alone, this rates as intense and brutal as they come.
Two young women, Alex (Maiwenn) and Marie (Cecile De France), travel to Alex’s family home in the French countryside for the weekend, and are hunted by a hulking madman who bludgeons her family to death. Very simple!
This would be one of the greatest slasher films, if it weren’t for it’s divisive ending. There is a twist. It’s a big one. Does it work? That’s for you to decide, but you will have a nasty, thrilling time getting there. It’s light on dialogue but make sure you find the original, non-dubbed version.
6. Thirst (2009, Park Chan-Wook)
The most visually stunning film on the list. Thirst is just so overwhelming on first viewing that it needs a revisit. You find yourself missing things while recovering from one WTF moment to the next, plus vampires are just so fascinating and timeless, much like this film.
Directed by Park Chan-Wook after his incredible vengeance trilogy, comes an epic vampire film. The film follows a priest (Song Kang-ho) who is resurrected as a vampire after an unfortunate blood transfusion. Fighting his new instincts, he manages to get by for most part by stealing blood from a hospital, prior to meeting the younger wife of an old friend, in a more unfortunate situation than himself.
The film quickly descends into sometimes hilarious, but mostly bloody madness, as the priest attempts to keep the newly infected woman in check – Something that appears beyond his capabilities – She has no such trouble adapting to her new bloody lifestyle.