As of late, horror movies seem to be mass produced, relying on the same old formula regardless of the genre. And with classic horrors getting remade every year, audiences are starving for original content.
The first thing that will attract audiences to the theaters will be the premise given that horror films very rarely rely on big name actors or directors. A good premise will mean the difference between passing up on a movie or actually paying for the cost of a movie ticket.
Now, a great premise doesn’t guarantee great execution, meaning that the films listed below have a pretty solid premise, whether the final product is also solid is a whole different story. So with that in mind, here are some of the most creative horror movie premises – modern horror movies. Nothing on this list is older than 20 years.
1. It Follows (2014)
It Follows has actually been considered one of the best horror movies of 2014, or even one of the best horror movies of all time. Although the movie combines elements that are staples of the horror genre – sexuality, promiscuity, evil entities with the ability to assimilate the appearance of others – the content feels fresh. The film builds suspense relying on the paranoia of the characters, which is shared with the audience.
It Follow’s premise is simple but well crafted. Have sex with an ‘infected’ person, and this thing (which can resemble anyone you know) will follow you until it kills you. The stakes are high; the antagonist is not the average serial killer with some sharp tool and a poorly written backstory.
It Follows doesn’t concern itself with explaining any of the details regarding the origin of its villain, but really there is no need for that.
2. I Saw the Devil (2010)
A man slowly spirals into madness while stalking and devising sadistic games to punish his fiancée’s killer.
I Saw the Devil lures us in with the promise of an anti-hero story and a tale of revenge where the line between good and evil fades every step of the way. The premise also implies that there will be no happy endings and a surplus of scenes whose purpose is to make audiences look away.
The fantastic thing about I Saw the Devil is that it sets the stage for a game between two characters, one, which is relatable at first, the victim’s fiancé, but who soon becomes just as twisted as his nemesis, and doesn’t flinch or compromise in going darker and darker. In the end, the audience is left empty, disgusted and horrified at what they just witnessed, a great accomplishment for a horror movies.
3. We Are What We Are (2013)
A family in rural America keeps a gruesome tradition in order to put food on the table. They kidnap and eat their victims as part of a religious ritual that’s intended to keep them pure. After her mother passes away unexpectedly, it’s up to the eldest daughter, Iris, to handle the new responsibility. She’s, however, incredibly conflicted between wanting to escape this madness and loyalty to her father.
We Are What We Are is a cannibal film, but not the typical one, where the cannibals are the antagonist who terrorize an unsuspecting group of people, who will all perish except for one. Similar stories are all through the victims’ eyes. They must fight and escape the nightmare they have walked into. In this case, the opposite scenario ensues.
This is not your typical blood-drenched horror, except maybe for one or two scenes. Slowly but surely, the film develops into a deeply unsettling story.
4. The Cabin in The Woods (2011)
The Cabin in the Woods delivers a self aware, witty criticism of the horror genre and those cliché, assembly line type of films. A group of college students pack up and head to an isolated cabin where based on popular culture they would just get picked off one by one by a deranged serial killer whose motive is highly questionable.
Well that is exactly the kind of film The Cabin in the Woods is poking fun at. Not only does the film play with regular horror stereotypes, but it’s fully self aware of the limitation of the genre and uses that to its advantage. The predictability of each action performed by the characters is explained and fully justified. The film literally takes the audience to the factory of horrors where every average film we have seen before gets made.
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project grossed over $200,000,000.00 worldwide against a $60,000.00 budget. Many will attribute the film’s success to the amazing marketing campaigns the production house ran to make the audience believe the actors were dead or missing. However, none of that would have been possible without such a creative foundation.
Three film students go into the woods to film a documentary on a known urban legend. The students go missing, and the footage they filmed is the only trace left behind. Not only does this premise open a world of possibilities in terms of story and marketing, but it also allows for so much lenience regarding technical aspects, which in a traditional film would have been frowned upon.