Top 20 Scariest Horror Movies You Probably Haven't Seen

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Top 20 Scariest Horror Movies You Probably Haven't Seen

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
What's really scary is that you haven't seen these fantastic films! For this list, we'll be looking at amazing horror films that have flown under the mainstream radar. Our countdown includes “Creep”, “Bone Tomahawk”, “The Ritual”, “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, “The Invitation”, and more!
Transcript
Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 20 Scariest Horror Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen


What’s really scary is that you haven’t seen these fantastic films! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 scariest horror movies you probably haven’t seen.

For this list, we’ll be looking at amazing horror films that have flown under the mainstream radar.

#20: “Piercing” (2018)

If you’ve seen Nicolas Pesce’s “The Eyes of My Mother,” you know his movies don’t exactly make for easy viewing. “Piercing” is no different. Based on a book by Japanese novelist Ryū Murakami, it stars Christopher Abbott as Reed, a businessman who plans on checking into a motel and murdering a sex worker. The movie opens with Reed standing over his infant child with an ice pick and only gets worse from there. It will certainly divide opinion, as it’s definitely not for everyone. But it’s impressively stylish, reminiscent of the slick Italian giallo horror movies of the ‘70s. So if you want a retro-style horror-thriller, you could do a lot worse than “Piercing.”

#19: “Resolution” (2012)

Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead are two of the most talented indie horror filmmakers working today, and their work remains criminally underappreciated. Their 2012 film “Resolution” is particularly great. It follows a graphic designer named Michael who receives a disturbing video from his best friend, Chris. Worried about Chris’s mental state, Michael travels to a remote cabin to rescue his delusional friend. It serves as a brilliant meta-commentary on the horror genre, and many critics have compared it favorably to “The Cabin in the Woods” (with some arguing that it’s even better). Both this film and its sorta-sequel “The Endless” (which stars Benson and Moorhead) are required viewing for horror fans.

#18: “The Ritual” (2017)

Those looking for “Blair Witch Project”-type scares could do a lot worse than “The Ritual.” This movie was released on Netflix back in 2018, although it failed to generate interest outside the die-hard horror community. It follows a group of friends, led by the always incredible and underrated Rafe Spall, who are hunted through the woods by an unseen entity. Like “The Blair Witch Project,” “The Ritual” strikes a delicate balance between psychological horror and physical scares, and the terror comes just as much from the men’s diminishing trust and conflicts as it does from the visceral spooks. Add in the unrelentingly bleak atmosphere, and you have yourself another reason to never enter the woods.

#17: “Eden Lake” (2007)

Tell us if you’ve heard this premise before – a young couple in a dangerously secluded area are stalked by a group of menacing psychos. Of course you have, it’s the basis to many a slasher movie. But “Eden Lake” takes the tired concept and manages to make it fresh again thanks to its sheer and unrelenting brutality. This is not an easy film to watch – it is violent, it is bloody, and worst of all, it is realistic. Unlike most slashers that vie for shocks and gore, this one remains rooted in realism, and the results are just as emotional as they are disorienting. It requires a strong stomach, but those who can get through it will find a lot to like here.

#16: “Creep” (2015)

Don’t be put off by the found footage style – “Creep” is legitimately, well, creepy. “Creep” follows Aaron, a videographer who’s hired by the dying Josef to film a day-in-the-life for his unborn son. While Josef is eccentric and a little “off,” he is relatively harmless. Until he isn’t. “Creep” is definitely a slow burn, but the ebb and flow of tension keeps viewers on their toes and questioning Josef’s motives and personality. Mark Duplass somehow manages to imbue Josef with humanity while also creeping us the heck out, and it’s amazing to see him effortlessly switch between moments of poignant tenderness and sinister depravity.

#15: “Eyes Without a Face” (1962)

“Eyes Without a Face” is rarely discussed, which is a shame, seeing as how it’s one of the most beautiful horror movies of all time. Yes, we said beautiful. The film was initially met with hostile reviews, as critics thought that a genre film was beneath esteemed documentary filmmaker Georges Franju. However, it underwent a critical reevaluation upon re-release and is now considered a poetic, surreal, and fairy tale-esque masterpiece. It influenced a generation of filmmakers, from John Woo to John Carpenter, who used this movie as inspiration to create the iconic Michael Myers mask. It’s not your standard horror film by any means, but it IS haunting and emotionally stirring.

#14: “Deathdream” (1974)

Also known as “Dead of Night”, “Deathdream” was directed by Bob Clark, the same man behind the wildly influential slasher movie “Black Christmas.” Also, the comedy “A Christmas Story.” (He seems to have very mixed feelings about Christmas). “Deathdream” was inspired by the famous short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” which also involves a mother’s wish that her dead son return to her. Although the wish is granted, it’s not exactly what the family had in mind. The movie is a slow-burning chiller that wonderfully utilizes the zombie genre as an allegory for war and the problems that shell-shocked veterans have with reintegration. It’s an unusually smart horror movie that deserves more recognition within the canon.

#13: “Bone Tomahawk” (2015)

For a movie so jam-packed with incredible actors, “Bone Tomahawk” is painfully ignored. Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox, the movie is a deft blend of Western and horror. The cast deliver fantastic performances, and the film balances slow-paced, character-driven work with raw, visceral thrills. And how visceral they are! The gore and makeup work in this movie are unbelievable, and there’s one scene in particular that will remain burned into your memory for years to come. Whether you want to watch a unique Western with great dialogue, or witness an unsettling, gore-filled horror, Bone Tomahawk” is your movie.

#12: “Carnival of Souls” (1962)

“Carnival of Souls” is certainly an acquired taste, but those feeling daring and experimental will be rewarded with one of the most gloriously atmospheric horror movies of all time. It was shot on a meager budget of $33,000, but what director Herk Harvey does with that money is frankly amazing. The movie is perhaps most well-known for its striking cinematography and ghastly visuals, as it makes even the most ordinary of areas and situations seem ripped from a nightmare. There are no cheap jump scares, no horrifying acts of violence, and no scary monsters. It’s just a creepy art house movie interested in bewildering its viewers, and it succeeds in spectacular fashion.

#11: “Pontypool” (2008)

“Pontypool” is a very different sort of zombie film. It follows the crew of a radio station in real-life Pontypool, Ontario, Canada, who learn of an apocalyptic virus from their helicopter reporter and eerie audio transmissions. The entire movie takes place within the radio station, so we never actually see the chaos outside. But in some ways, that’s even scarier. Many great horror movies get by on terrifying viewers with their own imaginations, and “Pontypool” is no different. It’s also highly unique within the genre, as the virus is transmitted through specific words rather than bites. It’s a little out there, but it all plays into the movie’s theme about the meaning and power of words.

#10: “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” (2016)

The premise is relatively simple: a father-son coroner team are tasked with performing an autopsy on a mysterious Jane Doe, found at the scene of a multiple homicide. But as they begin to unravel the mysteries surrounding the body, the duo are plagued with horrific instances of supernatural phenomena. The movie is wonderfully written and directed, offering tantalizing mysteries, surprising answers, and some wickedly unpredictable scares. It is also proficiently acted by Emile Hirsch and esteemed character actor Brian Cox. Don’t let the somewhat banal title fool you - “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is anything but boring.

#9: “Kill List” (2011)

“Kill List” is an extravagant blending of genres, pulled off expertly by director Ben Wheatley. It begins as a crime thriller, as an ex-British soldier turned professional hitman is given a kill list by a mysterious shadow client. But as the story progresses, it veers deeper and deeper into disturbing and visceral horror akin to a fever dream. Critics have compared the movie to “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Wicker Man”. Despite its obvious influences, “Kill List” is unlike any horror movie you’ve ever seen, and it will leave you genuinely disturbed and emotional. That much we can guarantee.

#8: “Alice, Sweet Alice” (1976)

“Alice, Sweet Alice” is not an easy movie to watch. It tells the story of young Alice, a troubled child who’s suspected of murdering her younger sister on the day of her first communion. So, right off the bat you have the murder of a child during an important religious ceremony. Needless to say, the movie was met with some controversy. With its gut-wrenching premise, “Alice, Sweet Alice” is a solid horror-mystery-thriller concoction that helped usher in the slasher genre. Unlike many slashers, this movie showed surprising filmmaking craft, with an eerie score, flashy cinematography, and a solid lead performance from Paula Sheppard.

#7: “Inside” (2007)

This French horror thriller is NOT for the faint of heart. It’s violent, disturbing, and gory, but also darkly gripping. Alysson Paradis stars as Sarah, an expectant mother who’s grieving the recent death of her husband. She becomes the victim of a brutal home invasion, by an attacker who wants to abduct her unborn fetus. Yeah, you can imagine now why this movie is so upsetting. “Inside” is filled with horrific violence, all shown in unimaginably graphic detail. While traumatic and unrelenting, it’s also far above the usual grindhouse fare - stylish, impeccably acted, and superbly paced and edited. “Inside” is a grindhouse movie made with artistry.

#6: “The Haunting” (1963)

Please do not judge “The Haunting” on that horrendous 1999 remake with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Forget that exists and watch the 1963 original instead. This movie was adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” which is often regarded as the greatest haunted house novel ever written. And while the Netflix series was certainly great, it wasn’t a faithful adaptation of the story. This movie is, and it is brilliant. Like the novel, it serves as both a chilling haunted house yarn and a frightening character study, which is aided by Julie Harris’s tremendous performance as the unhinged Eleanor. “The Haunting” may be the scariest, most psychological, and most stylish ghost movie ever made.

#5: “The Invitation” (2015)

“The Invitation” is a dinner party thriller first and foremost. You know how it goes – someone is invited to dinner, the hosts are a little wacky, and tension slowly builds before boiling over into violence and mayhem. And while “The Invitation” follows this formula to a T, it is a very well-crafted piece of work, with a stellar performance by Logan Marshall-Green. However, it’s also a movie about the contrast between inner turmoil and outer appearances, and deals with some heavy themes such as loss, depression, and acceptance. By mixing in complex character work with the more conventional thrills of the dinner party thriller, “The Invitation” becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

#4: “Audition” (1999)

The second Ryu Murakami adaptation on our list, “Audition” is just as depraved, if not more so. This Japanese horror film is now considered a cult classic, but its success came slowly. It first premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival and gradually earned attention as it toured the festival circuit and was released on DVD. The film generated a strong response, with many critics lauding the movie’s acting, wild shifts in tone, and climactic torture sequence. The latter is what most people seem to remember about the film, and for good reason. It’s singularly shocking and gruesome, and the inspiration behind Eli Roth’s splatter film “Hostel”.

#3: “Session 9” (2001)

If you love the inherent creepiness of abandoned mental asylums, then “Session 9” is your movie. It follows an asbestos cleaning crew who are tasked with cleansing an abandoned mental hospital. The movie was shot at the real Danvers State Hospital, lending it a creepy sense of authenticity. You can practically feel the hospital’s history through the screen. The movie has been praised for its foreboding atmosphere, and its style and tone have been favorably compared to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “The Shining.” By relying on psychological tension over jump scares or gore, “Session 9” truly gets under your skin and into your head.

#2: “Possession” (1981)

On the surface, “Possession” is about a young couple going through a divorce. The Berlin Wall is used as a metaphor for a crumbling marriage. And that’s where the movie leaves conventional plots, characters, and symbolism behind. Director by Polish filmmaker Andrzej Żuławski, “Possession” is like Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” on acid. The acting is gleefully over-the-top, and the camera swoops and zags and zooms, refusing to remain static. And yes, there are monsters. It’s an unapologetic filmmaking extravaganza, and it is glorious to behold. It’s more of an emotional and sensory experience than a straightforward thriller, so your mileage may vary, but what an experience it is.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Cam” (2018)
This Stylish, Topical Chiller Will Make You Want to Cover Up Your Webcam

“Martin” (1978)
This Non-Zombie Romero Flick Also Happened to Be His Personal Favorite

“Verónica” (2017)
This Chilling Spanish Horror Drama Was Inspired by a True Story

“God Told Me To” (1976)
A Cult Classic About a Detective Tracking Down a Deadly Cult

#1: “Terrifier” (2018)

You may see the poster of “Terrifier” and laugh. But you know what they say about judging a book, or in this case a movie, by its cover. “Terrifier” follows a clown named Art who stalks and butchers people, and yes, that plot is ridiculously simple. But like all great slasher movies, the craft elevates the elementary story. “Terrifier” is surprisingly well shot, considering its miniscule budget; Art the Clown is a fantastic villain; and the kills are as bloody as a horror fan could want. It’s a delirious throwback to campy 80s slashers, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more. At a time when slashers have given way to ghosts and ghouls and demons, “Terrifier” is a breath of old school fresh air.
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