There are scary movies that are truly made as money cows. They are filled with blood and guts and a very thin story line. They are not meant to penetrate the surface and really are not expecting anything past the first week box office, which will most likely make them back double the amount they spent on the budget.
Maybe once or if we are lucky twice a year we get a rare beauty that is lumped into the horror genre. This is the slow burn horror movie. I’ve found myself telling someone how “it is one of the scariest movies I have seen this year” and I have come to terms that this phrase is what kills the slow burn horror movie. It gets the gore seeking horror fan or the teenager with nothing to do on a Friday night out to see the movie everyone is talking about. This bad word of mouth most likely keeps the people who would truly appreciate it away for at least a while.
The slow burn horror movie makes you relive it over and over again. Think about the what ifs. It grows on you like a deadly plague. It makes you triple check that you are awake and your imagination is making you believe that the shadow in the corner is not just a shadow in the corner. Here are my personal favorite slow burn horror movies. I also must admit that some of these required multiple watches before I found the true beauty behind them.
13. Paranormal Activity
I might get flack for putting this on my list but honestly the first of this cash cow was truly chilling. Paranormal Activity brought back the found footage that was once reinvented by The Blair Witch Project. It kept the idea that we need not to see the monster creeping around but the reactions and the terror felt by the main cast. Katie and Micah move into in a seemingly innocent suburban house but things quickly change at night. Katie and Micah are being terrorized by a demon that has followed Katie into her new home. That is all that happens but yet the idea that some creature from another place has put their eye on you and what you though of as a normal life will no longer be is terrifying. These movies got bad and less dreadful as they were pumped out year after year but the first one hit so many buttons.
12. The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project follows three film students set out to document the haunting of the legendary “Blair Witch.” The three vanish and all that is to be found is the footage they left behind. I can probably say this movie did not age well because I do not think it was meant to be timeless. It was very of the 90s and sprouted almost an entire genre that is still having its moment. Like Paranormal Activity this movie leaves most to the imagination. What is truly creepy is that this could have just been a non supernatural event. This could be a couple of kids that get lost in the woods, get exhausted and confused and taunted by a local killer. That to me is even scarier because its something that can happen. This movie made me terrified of the woods and camping.
11. The Others
A reclusive women and her kids, who are allergic to the sun, soon start suspecting that their house is haunted. I hated this movie upon first watch. This could have been because I was a lot younger and possibly did not understand it completely or maybe expected something different. Well I watched it again in its fullness around the age of eighteen and I fell in love with it. This movie has almost no jump scares and is filled with whispers but boy does it make you question everything. It as casted perfectly and the cinematography is impeccable.
10. Somos Lo Que Hay
When the patriarch of a cannibalistic family dies they are forced to pick up their unusual routines on their own. Rarely do I find gory movies to be great but Somos Lo Que Hay mixes the tension of a family struggling to keep it together after suffering such a great loss and well cannibalism. This movie was remade a couple years after by the name We Are What We Are, I recommend that one too.
9. Under The Skin
The title of this movie describes it perfectly because it will get under your skin. It is set in Scotland and the dreary background adds so much more to the dreadful atmosphere. You never really see “The Female” kill or hurt anyone but every time she causes harm to someone it is so slow and visually stunning. There is a scene were a baby is left on the beach and although no actual harm happens to the baby the music and the cold atmosphere make it feel almost certain that they are doomed.
8. Black Swan
Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, gets the role of her dreams in the production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” but as the movie progress she struggles to maintain her sanity. Black Swan can be compared to Rosemary’s Baby in the case of not knowing if you are losing your sanity or something even more sinister is going on behind the scenes. Directed by Darren Aronofsky the man who brought you Pi and The Fountain.
7. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
There is a vampire walking around the Iranian ghost town Bad City acting as some kind of vigilante. Some movies can almost by silent movies and this is one of them, the scenery and the city itself speak so loud and say so many things. Again this movie does have little gore but for the most part that plays little to no effect.
6. Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary and Guy move into a new apartment when Rosemary starts noticing something peculiar about their new neighbors. Rosemary becomes mysteriously pregnant and makes her become paranoid about the safety of her child. Rosemary’s Baby has influenced so many films from The House of the Devil down to Black Swan and its because its damn good at building this world where Satan can impregnate you.
5. The House of the Devil
A young college girl takes up a babysitting gig when she arrives there is something strange going on. If you liked Rosemary’s Baby you will love The House of the Devil directed by Ti West who brought you The Sacrament and The Innkeepers which you can add to your slow burn list. West is great at building suspense from almost nothing and did an amazing job at making this feel like a movie from a different era. It felt as though you were watching something you should not be watching.
4. El Orfanato
The Orphanage is one of my favorite ghost stories. Laura brings her family to live at the orphanage she grew up in that housed handicapped kids. Soon her son goes missing after speaking to his new imaginary friend. Filmed in the countryside of Spain for the most perfect erie backdrop and entirely in Spanish. Everything from the score to the acting makes brings you into the world of the undead who are either here to help you or hurt you.
3. The Babadook
After the death of her husband a mother and her son are plagued by a monster called “The Babadook.” Trauma as a monster is one of the biggest things to take from this movie and many people can relate to that. From the uncanny feeling of having an outer body experience after a great loss or maybe even postpartum depression. There are points in our life when we can start to lose it and make our own manifestations.
2. It Follows
It Follows has been known as the STD horror movie. I do not see it that way at all. I see this as another trauma movie and the fact that sometimes when you have gone through something so difficult you bring it onto someone you are intimate with. This movie is a pure nightmare. In a nightmare you never know what year or time it is, you see new technology or old technology that might not exist, and sometimes you dream up someone an you know its them but they look like someone else. Never have I seen a movie that made me question what I was watching as my as It Follows.
*1. The Witch
This is not a review of The Witch but that is coming soon.
This movie just came out so I do not want to give away anything and I also do not want to hype it. Think about it this way, this movie is trying to do more than just be a horror movie. If possible do not lump it in to just a horror movie. This movie is the main reason I made this list to better prepare you to what you can compare it with because if your last favorite horror movie was The Purge this will not be your cup of tea so do not ruin it by watching it and telling all your friends how dumb it is and how you did not get it.
Lets focus on the techniques this movie uses instead of the story itself. Its based in the 1600s so the language is much more different than we are used to. Robert Eggers deserves his Sundance award of best director because this movie would not be what it is without him. He paid attention to every detail including wardrobe and even housing.