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Embarrassingly, I spend more time reading about horror films than I do watching them. This is because I’ve always been a fan of the monsters and killers portrayed in horror films, but have never been a fan of feeling fear. Some people like the rush of being scared but I’ve always thought it was strange to use free time to feel uncomfortable. For a long time this made me avoid horror films while reading about their interesting characters and mythologies. Obviously, I couldn’t avoid horror films forever as I began watching them with my friends.
Usually I’d check the run time beforehand, be uncomfortable for a while and be bitter about the film once it ended. However, eventually I came across films I actually enjoyed. I still don’t like the feeling of being frightened but I realized that some of these films have much more going for them than scares. Therefore I’ve assembled a list of films that are “worth it”, meaning that despite the horror elements that I find unsettling there are elements that I enjoy enough to recommend and re-watch these films. Admittedly, some of these films are not purely in the horror genre and some of older entries are not considered scary by today’s standards. Nevertheless, they at least have some horror aspects and are where I first started embracing horror films. My film descriptions are vague in order to not ruin the twists and surprises within each film.
The Babadook follows a widow and her young son, who’s behaviour is worsening due to fear of a monster. This monster is personified by Mr. Babadook who first becomes known through a pop-up book that mysteriously appears. Of course, Mr. Babadook torments the family for the remainder of the film. The Babadook is “worth it” because the family is actually interesting, Mr. Babadook has a unique visual style and the film is built on a strong central metaphor.
Ridley Scott’s Alien is about a crew aboard the Nostromo spaceship. After awaking from induced sleep they aim to investigate a distress signal from a nearby moon. This results in conflict with an alien likely to kill every last crew member. Alien is “worth it” because it is the birth of one of the most iconic movie monsters ever, the sets are incredible and there are many surprising character choices.
The Devil’s Candy
The Devil’s Candy features a family who moves into a new home who’s former owner was psychologically disturbed. Shortly after, the father of the family also begins hearing voices and disturbing imagery starts to emerge in his paintings. The Devils Candy is “worth it” because it leans into the connection between metal music and satanic imagery. As a metal fan it is great to see the genre permeate the characters, soundtrack and wardrobe without compromising the film.
This film shouldn’t need an introduction. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, The Shining focuses on the Torrence family taking care of a secluded hotel during its down season. Of course this hotel is far from normal and starts to have an emotional toll on the family. This film is “worth it” because of the mystery it creates. As a viewer we never really know if the threat of the Overlook Hotel is supernatural or psychological.
Directed by Frank Darabont and also based on King’s work, The Mist is centered around a father and son trying to survive the mist that the title implies. In reality the mist itself is no threat but the monsters that lurk in it definitely are. The Mist is worth it because it provides a variety of monsters with interesting origins, compelling human threats and more emotional weight than similar films could wish to generate.
Ex Machina focuses on an unremarkable man who wins a contest to hangout with a tech billionaire in his isolated estate. However, it is then revealed that the protagonist is given the option to help test the capability of a cutting edge robots artificial intelligence. Needless to see things are much more complex than they seem and things go horribly wrong. Ex Machina is “worth it” because like most great sci-fi it exaggerates flaws in our own world to a frightening extent.