With Halloween approaching, we figured it was the perfect time to find out what films terrified you the most. After soliciting your picks and consulting Flicks contributors and some other knowledgeable types, we now present the first part of our comprehensive countdown, the Top 100 Horrors That Scare You Shitless.
Read on to see the ranked list of the films that crawled into your fellow citizens’ heads, made them get up to check the doors and windows are locked, caused cold sweats, and kept them creeped out all night and into the next day.
Zack Snyder’s feature debut, with a script by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), revisited George A. Romero’s shopping mall-set classic and added fast zombies, travesty to some but an energetic addition to one of the decade’s more enjoyable remakes.
The franchise canon got even more convoluted with this instalment, ducking back to 1988 for reasons of backstory and seeing the format of footage found switch to VHS and include the nerve-wracking oscillating fan-cam.
About as simple and effective as found footage gets, Creep follows a videographer hired to shoot a dying man’s last wishes, a chap played by Mark Duplass who turns out to be a bit of a creep, to say the least.
Wes Craven takes extensive liberties with the non-fiction book of the same name by ethobotanist Wade Davis, whose exploration of tetrodotoxin and hallucinogens used in Haitian Vodou is turned into full-blown black magic horror starring Bill Pullman.
96. The Fourth Kind
Milla Jovovich is a psychoanalyst investigating alien abductions in smalltown Alaska—including the disappearance of her own daughter—that explores alien contact one louder than the third kind, in pseudo-documentary fashion.
95. Kill List
Ben Wheatley’s unsettling hitman tale made a mark in NZ International Film Festival screenings a few years back, especially when its occult undertones become more overt and making for a neat, if not nice, genre-splice.
What is it with secret cults, anyway? Here in [REC] director Jaume Balagueró’s Spanish-language adaptation of UK horror author Ramsey Campbell’s novel they put a mother through hell—first her young daughter goes missing, then a tortured body is found, then years later she gets a phone call from a girl saying she’s her daughter and pleading for help.
Like some bastard offspring of The Pit and the Pendulum and a Rube Goldberg machine, everyday objects take on potentially fatal qualities in this tale of plane crash survivors stalked by fate and coincidence, a nifty idea that’s still got legs all these years (and sequels) later.
92. Under the Shadow
1980s wartime Iran is the setting for this paranoid urban horror, in which an apartment in Tehran—target of frequent aerial bombardment—takes on the additional terror of being plagued by a mysterious evil.
91. The Brood
David Cronenberg hits his filmmaking straps with this 1979 feature that sees his signature psychological and body horror themes out in full force, “psychoplasmic” therapies dovetailing with bizarre anatomical anomalies—and the odd head getting smashed in.
90. The Mist
The Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont returns to the writings of Stephen King, this time with unworldy monsters joining the more human kind, as Lovecraftian horrors emerge from a mist surrounding a group of people seeking shelter in a supermarket.
89. You’re Next
The Final Girl trope gets a modern reworking when a family’s attacked by animal-mask-wearing assailants in their remote, sprawling, country home—as the attackers slash their way through their victims, a guest of the family shows off a surprising skill-set.
Rob Zombie can’t get enough of the Firefly Family he introduced in House of 1000 Corpses, this time showcasing them as villainous protagonists in a less cartoonish, grimier road movie that doesn’t skimp on the torture and violence as the fam go on an unhinged crime spree.
An elderly woman battling Alzheimer’s agrees to let a film crew document her condition, but soon they discover something far more sinister going on.
86. The Entity
Oscar nominee Barbara Hershey stars in this tale, based on a real-life alleged haunting, of a woman who is raped and tormented by an invisible supernatural force.
David Lynch has a knack for getting unsettling imagery stuck inside your head, and that’s as true of this Twin Peaks series prequel as his other efforts, filling in the backstory of Laura Palmer before her murder that provided the show’s initial narrative impetus.
Daniel Radcliffe stars in this tale of a vengeful ghost tormenting a small village in early 20th century England, adapted by frequent Matthew Vaughn collaborator Jane Goldman from the novel of the same name.
Rob Zombie’s directorial debut is an over-the-top homage to 1970s slasher pics and haunted houses, following two couples’ descent into terror when their cross-country trip sight-seeing grim urban legends lands them in the clutches of a sadistic family.
This Stephen King adaptation (in shades of Who Can Kill a Child) follows an adult couple who come across a small town populated only by children, kids who want to sacrifice adults to their demonic deity.
A bumbling South Korean cop finds himself and his family in the middle of bizarre and brutal murders, the perpetrators of which seem to be connected by a pattern of sickness and personality changes that have no logical, only supernatural, explanation.
A big blob of goo devours and absorbs everything it encounters, in this case the residents of a small Californian town, in this remake of the 1958 sci-fi horror that was probably originally about Communism (as it featured an organism consuming Americans and growing larger, redder, and more aggressive).
79. The Collector
Writers of later entries in the Saw franchise unveil their own fiendish torture porn villain, a chap who—surprise—collects people, dismembering and murdering their loved ones with a series of traps and killing devices.
A mum returns home from hospital with her whole face obscured in this creepy German fave from the NZ International Film Festival, causing her children to fear she’s actually an imposter.
David Fincher’s classic serial killer tale, inspiration for oh-so-many terrible imitators over decades, follows Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as detectives put through their paces by a mastermind re-enacting the seven deadly sins.
Takashi Miike has made over one hundred films—this is the one that terrified audiences all over the world most of any of them, the twisted tale of a sham audition process claiming to ask for women to lead their fake movie.
Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard-scripted meta-horror-comedy skewers as many genre tropes as it possibly can, while still delivering plenty of thrills and chills among the laughs, as a stereotypically-misbehaving group of youngsters’ time in a remote cabin, the stuff of so many other horrors, is revealed to be a much more insanely elaborate enterprise.
74. Don’t Look Now
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star in this classic occult thriller, as grief, premonitions and a serial killer collide in the usually picturesque, here deeply creepy, surroundings of Venice.
Pushing the boat out at the time with its visceral depiction of human-to-werewolf transformation—an Oscar-winning effort from the great Rick Baker—John Landis’ lycanthropic tale is both humorous and haunting, following the titular Yank as he’s plagued by visions of a friend killed by a wolf, and warnings about an impending full moon.
72. Event Horizon
Sam Neill gets to go wonderfully over-the-top in this sci-fi horror, part of a team investigating why a missing experimental starship has reappeared in orbit, with a brutally massacred crew.
Based on the book of the same name, reportedly based on true events (a claim that’s been the subject of much scorn), a family experience supernatural terror in their new home, the previous site of brutal murders.
One of the original cabin in the woods tales gets a bloody reinvention, complete with blood rain and Necronomicon, courtesy of original producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, who enlisted Uruguayan director Federico Álvarez to helm, in his debut ahead of the excellent Don’t Breathe (also starring Evil Dead‘s Jane Levy).
68. Session 9
Brad Anderson preceded Christian Bale-loses-mind-and-heaps-of-weight tale The Machinist with this unnerving film following a crew of asbestos removers, working in a disused mental hospital, closed for 15 years, but still home to scary secrets.
Jeff Goldblum plus Geena Davis plus David Cronenberg plus a humble fly equals hubristic science-fiction, acid-puking, bits-(and we do mean bits)-falling-off goodness in this unbeatable story of an experiment gone wrong.
66. Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson cruises the streets and highways of Scotland, picking up men and then luring them to a mysterious demise in this mysterious arthouse sci-fi that captivates and perplexes as events unfold from her point of view, an alien trying to make sense of humans even as she ensnares them.
No, not the Nicolas Cage one. Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee are pitted against each other in this all-time classic, unfolding the mystery of a young girl’s disappearance—Woodward a stuffy, uptight, mainland cop, Lee the spiritual leader of the small pagan island of Summerisle.
Even when expanding location from a commerical space freighter to most of a planet, James Cameron doesn’t lose sight of the terrifying claustrophobia at the heart of Ridley Scott’s original, and with more xenomorphs and more potential victims on offer, embraces the exponentially-higher scare factor in this unsurpassed blueprint of sequel-making.
Psychological horror from iconic director George A. Romero follows a troubled young man who thinks he is a vampire, and behaves accordingly—well, the 1970s smalltown USA version as opposed to horse-and-carriage Transylvania.
62. Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi returns to his OTT horror roots with this scare-heavy thrill ride that delights in startling and grossing out the viewer, following a young woman driven to desparate measures when she ends up on the wrong side of a supernatural curse.
“The call’s coming from inside the house” came from inside this film, with a teenage babysitter repeatedly threatened by a psycho over the phone… and closer to home.
Not enough to freak you out above? That’s only the start of it…