Sure, different horror movies impact viewers in different ways. For some, supernatural tales haunt moviegoers long after the credits roll; for others, it’s zombies, monsters, and demons that make them say “oh, my!” But make no mistake: These freaky flicks will leave you sleeping with one eye open and the lights on. Here are 11 really scary movies that you really shouldn’t watch alone. Sweet dreams…
1. A Tale of Two Sisters
Korean horror and its respective filmmakers are in a brilliantly horrific class of their own, and 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters is no exception. Often imitated, Ji-woon Kim’s creepy tale about a pair of siblings who leave a mental hospital and enter the house of the devil is one helluva head trip.
2. The Devil’s Backbone
Storytelling mastermind Guillermo del Torro continuously proves he’s a true reinventor of genre, horror and beyond. This Spanish Civil War-set fantasy horror centers on a 12-year-old boy sent to a haunted orphanage, who soon encounters a supremely eerie specter. Santi, the spirit in question, was actually inspired from del Toro’s memories of a ghost who frequently paid him visits as a child.
A near perfect addition to the Giallo-genre, Dario Argento’s grim fairy tale about a bunch of witches will make your head spin—and not just because its gory mayhem takes place at a German ballet academy. The blood that spills across the screen is enough to keep your noggin flooded with grisly images for weeks.
4. High Tension
Originally rated NC-17 and considered part of the New French Extremity movement, this horror film from director Alexandre Aja follows Marie and Alex, two young women seeking revenge on the man who gruesomely murdered Alex’s loved ones. Plenty of bludgeoning and disemboweling turn the screen crimson, but it’s the high wire tension in between these fits of rage that keeps our palms sweating.
5. The Descent
English director Neil Marshall plays on the horrors of bloodthirsty creatures and stifling claustrophobia in his 2005 film The Descent. Not long after the film kicks off, protagonist Sarah gets stuck between a literal rock and hard place when pile of boulders threatens to crush her petite frame. It’s enough to make any genre fan breathless—and the movie hasn’t even met the monsters that dwell below.
6. The Exorcist
William Friedkin’s 1970s story of demonic-possession is one of the most recognizable horror movies ever made. It's so terrifyingly iconic, in fact, that its absence from "scariest ever" horror lists is more shocking than its presence. Unless you’re completely desensitized to a little girl hissing sacrilegious obscenities from the black hole in her rotting head, then you know it belongs on this list.
7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
It’s hard to find a horror fan in the world that can’t appreciate Tobe Hooper’s Texas-pig-farm-meets-human-skin-farm 1974 cult classic. Centering on a group of twentysomethings who are tormented by a family of backwoods cannibals, this high-octane horror remains one of the hardest films to get through. And we pretty much have the sadistic dinner scene to thank for that.
8. The Babadook
While this horror film debut from writer and director Jennifer Kent premiered to mild commercial success in Australia following a small art-house release, the psychological horror film about trauma and a mother’s love found success with American audiences after premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Amelia’s having a rough go at the whole single-parent thing, and when her son becomes convinced there’s a monster hiding in his closet, things really take a turn for the terrifying—his monster just might be real.
9. Starry Eyes
Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s occult horror film is a strong addition to the genre's ever-growing catalogue of cautionary tales. In this story about the desperation that often accompanies Hollywood aspirations, we find a young actress willing to do anything to get her name in lights—including sell her soul to the devil. It’s a horror film that leaves you needing a shower once the credits roll. For those who haven’t seen Martyrs, do that next, though we recommend at least 24 hours between viewings to let the psychological wounds heal.
Upon watching, it's not hard to see why critics loved this unyielding home invasion torture porn, heralded as part of a new wave of French horror. Her first Christmas after her husband’s death, a pregnant Sarah decides to stay home alone—she’s about to give birth after all. Little does she know there’s a baby-napper at her door with a pair of scissors ready to make the first cut. The what, why, who, and how are revealed over the course of the bloodiest 82 minutes in recent memory.
11. Paranormal Activity
Since its wide-release, studio executives have arguably over-capitalized on the franchise’s near instant and far-reaching popularity. But Oren Peli’s original script-less creation about a couple and their ghost is no cheap thrill. Think back to that first viewing and imagine Katie, possessed by a demon, slowly climbing that dark staircase, each step a resounding boom … boom … boom. Freaked out? Yeah, we thought so.
Featured still from "Suspira" via International Classics