17. The Descent
This 2005 British horror film, released in the United States in 2006, mashed together large helpings of some of our most primal fears: the dark, small spaces and the unknown.
Filmed on a modest $3.5 million budget and raking in over $57.1 million, The Descent was a runaway success and for good reason. Carried by an all-female cast, the film took audiences into deep dank caves with thin, frail tunnels that hid something horrific. While the ending left much to be desired, The Descent is an effectively terrifying nail-biter throughout most of its runtime.
16. The Orphanage
J.A. Bayona’s The Orphanage is a brilliantly arranged haunted house film out of Spain. Methodically unnerving and earning its scares, the film also is surprisingly emotional. The well-rounded cast each put in excellent performances, realistically portraying human relationships amidst sweeping gothic horror. The Orphanage takes its time and cares more about creating mood and atmosphere than is does scaring the audience with loud noises.
15. I Saw the Devil
I Saw the Devil is a 2010 South Korean action-horror film directed by the legendary Kim Jee-woon. Ditching the supernatural element present in most horror at the time, I Saw the Devil tells a story focused on the depraved and violent actions humans can be capable of.
Featuring elegant cinematography, brilliantly choreographed action and anchored by a complex and moving performance from Lee Byung-hun, the film is a beautiful ride straight into hell. Featuring no true “good guys”, this film can be tough to sit through and is surely not for everyone. But for those who can stomach its brutality, I Saw the Devil is one of the most compelling horror-thrillers to date.
Ari Aster’s feature film debut is an uncompromisingly dark look at familial relationships and how our past controls us. The story is dark, tragic, and full of familiar occult-horror themes. But, on a technical level, what makes the film so horrifying is Aster’s intense dedication to letting the camera linger on scenes most films would shy away from.
This dedication increases the impact of these scenes, horrifically ingraining them in the audience’s psyche until long after the credits roll. Hereditary is a deeply unsettling film with a bombastic ending. It is also one of the more artful and brutally honest horror films to come out in recent years.
13. The Others
The Others focuses on creating and maintaining a creepy atmosphere rather than relying on typical horror clichés. Nicole Kidman gives an absolute powerhouse of a performance as Grace Stewart, displaying a patience and subtly with her character not often seen in the genre. Alejandro Amenábar directs with a deft hand; finding and utilizing his unique style to great effect. The film is an introspective take on supernatural hauntings that is well worth a watch.
12. A Tale of Two Sisters
The second film on this list from director Kim Jee-woon, A Tale of Two Sisters was the first South Korean horror film to be screened in US theaters. The film follows Su-Mi as she returns from a mental institution and quickly coalesces into a daunt psychological horror film that tackles themes of straining familial relationships and mental health. It is full of elegant camera work and enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most cynical of horror fans.
11. Kill List
Kill List is a dark, twisting tale of a retired hitman’s return to the fray and while that may sound like the plot of an action or thriller, this film is decidedly horror. Low-budget and slow burning, Kill list buries itself in your senses. The film is an unnerving and dark meditation on violence and features one of the more horrifying endings of any films on this list.
10. It Follows
Director David Robert Mitchell made an initial splash with his quiet, low-budget indie film “The Myth of the American Sleepover”. But, with the release of It Follows in 2014, he has since become a talent to watch in the horror genre. Although the plot is a thinly veiled STD metaphor, It Follows is still a unique and fun ride.
The camera work has intention and the cast of young actors (and subsequent lack of parents) makes the film feel like a throwback to the glory days of slasher cinema. Great to look at and effective all around, It Follows is an artful and entertaining addition to the genre.
Cannibalism and carnage in a secluded veterinary school, Raw is one of the best French horror films of the modern era. Director Julia Ducournau artfully crafts these themes with the assured touch of a master filmmaker and the fact that this is her feature film debut is an exciting one.
Delicate and confident, Raw is beautifully savage on all fronts. Although the squeamish may have to occasionally watch through their fingers, this is a film every horror buff should give a chance.