8 Modern Horror Films That Will Actually Scare You

Because not everything spooky was made in the 70s

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Sometimes it feels like the horror movie's best days are behind it. Ask most people to name their favourite and they'll cite a 1970s / 80s classic, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre or a Wicker Man or a Halloween.

Whether it's because the best ideas have been done already, or as audiences we're becoming too numb to violence to feel disturbed by it, making a geniunely scary movie now feels like one of the toughtest briefs in cinema and one directors get wrong year in, year out.

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All the more reason, then, to celebrate the modern horrors that get it right. Presenting eight classics of the genre made in the last 15 years, that may mean you don't have to dust off that old copy of The Exorcist to get your Halloween fix this year.

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1 | It Follows (2014)

In this low key, low budget indie hit, a teenage girl has sex with her increasingly odd-acting new boyfriend then finds she is being relentlessly pursued by a slow-moving but malevolent supernatural entity. The only way she can rid herself of this venereal apparition? Have sex with someone else, and pass it on. If the idea of teenagers + sex + scary things happening isn't particularly original, lots else about It Follows feels fresh, including its languid, slacker movie pacing and some sumptuous cinematography. Most importantly some great direction from David Robert Mitchell means his dogged shape shifting bad guy is genuinely unnerving.

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2 | Funny Games (2007)

A shot-for-shot remake of director Michael Haneke's original 1997 Austrian film of the same name, Funny Games sees a couple (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) terrorised by their two disturbed young neighbours (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet). As a critique of movie violence Funny Games is occasionally a little heavy-handed, but as an unsettling psychological thriller it is brilliantly effective, with Roth on fine form as the prideful, bewildered husband and the cherubic Pitt and Corbet deeply unsettling as his apparently motive-less torturers.

 

3 | Paranormal Activity (2009)

The USP of this horror – widely praised as the most soil-your-pants film of the year in 2009 – is that it was mostly told through home security footage, a simple but brilliant way of limiting what you can see and giving the whole thing an eerie texture, as newly wed couple Katie and Micah decide to fill their home with cameras after the former begins to suspect the house is haunted. Forget grand metaphors, big set pieces or gory effects – Paranormal Activity is about suspense, shocks and things that go bump in the night, and all it takes is a door opening abruptly to have you leaping out of your seat. 

4 | The Orphanage (2007)

If it’s creepy children that give you the heebie jeebies, then proceed with caution to JA Bayona’s Spanish horror The Orphange. The story follows a lady named Laura who buys and moves into the orphanage she grew up in as a child; then her son goes missing – an event that may or may not be linked to his ‘imaginary’ masked friend, Tomás. If it’s unmitigated chills you’re searching for, look no further than the scene where Laura is forced to play “Knock on the door” – a game she once played with her fellow orphans, but this time endured in the dark alongside the ominous spirits of the children who once lived there. 

 

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5 | [REC] (2007)

Throughout the Noughties, a small number of horrors (Cloverfield, Troll Hunter) used the handheld-camera formula to terrifying effect; one such film was Spanish horror [REC]. When a TV lifestyle reporter and cameraman follow firefighters into an apartment block after a reported disturbance, they find themselves locked inside at the centre of a deadly virus outbreak. A concise 78-minute assault on your nerves, the burgeoning feeling of inescapability as the dwindling survivors are forced to the building’s top floor – away from the rabid horde chasing them – is topped off with one of the most memorable climactic scares of the decade.

6 | The Babadook (2014)

“If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” So begins the mysterious pop-up storybook found on the shelf of widow Amelia’s (Essie Davis) young son. It’s when that same book – ripped up and tossed in the rubbish – appears on her front porch with extra pages added that you know what comes next won’t be nice; cue moving doors, loud noises and a small dose of demonic possession. What makes The Babadook stand out is its emotional heft: rarely do you feel as invested in horror movie characters as you do Davis' Amelia, as director Jennifer Kent explores the nature of grief whilst also scaring the pants off you.
 

7 | Kill List (2011)

On the face of it, this hard to pigeonhole debut from Ben Wheatley is more arthouse thriller than out and out horror, but horrific it most certainly proves to be. A suffocating sense of dread builds ingeniously from the opening dinner scene towards its shocking denouement. Its influences are clear but its tone is frighteningly original.


8 | Them (2006)

A dreamy young French couple buy a big old house in the Romanian woods. What could possibly go wrong? While the home invasion formula sounds familiar and predictable, the execution here is hard to fault. Just 74 minutes long, it’s a relentlessly tense dose of genre horror at its visceral best.

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SEE ALSO:

The 10 Best Horror Films You've Never Heard Of 
The Best Horror Film Of All Time Was Shot In The Sunshine
The 10 Greatest Horror Movie Deaths 
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