From monsters and slashers to haunted hotels, here are the best horror movies to watch right now

The best horror movies of all time know one thing; that scaring is caring. The best horror movies love nothing more than giving you plethoras of brand new phobias and fears because directors know that’s exactly why you watch. Some of them might use the odd jump scare but most of the best horror films are far smarter than that. They prey on our weaknesses and twist our normal world into something terrifying and often grotesque.  The sea used to look so inviting before you watched Jaws, didn’t it? Well the movies waiting here are ones that are ready to ruin all kinds of normal daily activities. Trips to the woods.. merely lying in bed at night.. and even Zoom calls aren’t going to be the same after this lot are through with you

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

(Image credit: United Film)

The movie: Choosing only one undead Romero offering for a list of the best horror movies of all time is a bit like taking on the shuffling horde with a letter opener: gory and challenging, but not altogether impossible. After much deliberation then, it’s time to go shopping. Romero’s gory attack on the consumerist American dream follows four survivors of the zombie apocalypse as they arrive at a sprawling mall. While they manage to get inside without anything munching on their brains, it doesn’t take long before the beacon of the mall attracts other guests and the defenses start to gorily break down.

Why it’s scary: We’ve had more hungry shuffling hordes than we can count since Romero’s initial offering but that doesn’t make the source material any less horrifying to watch. The gentle idea that the zombies are still heading to the mall after death is an insidious one, and the relentless violence of Night’s sequel is an experience that demands your attention. Tom Savini’s delicious practical effects too mean there’s still plenty of squirm for your buck as skin and muscle are ripped from their sticking places. Plus, if you feel like you just can’t watch anything in less than HD, Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake is a surprisingly effective, not to mention creepy, replacement.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

(Image credit: Universal)

The movie: If Scream reignited the joys of the teen slasher movie, the return of good zombies to our screens is all Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s fault. The first in Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy,’ Shaun of the Dead follows the titular Shaun as he plods his way through his dreary London existence, only to discover (beautifully late) that the majority of the population has been transformed into shambling cannibals while he was asleep. Suddenly realizing he needs to be the hero everyone deserves, it’s time to rescue his mum, get his girlfriend back, and make sure everyone is fine in time for tea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite go to perfectly edited plan.

Why it’s scary: While it slickly plays for laughs, Shaun of the Dead is very much a horror at its gory heart. It plays by Romero’s rules with a slow zombie horde which means that their staggering relentlessness is a constant fear, if one tempered by a brilliant comic script. And these aren’t just disposable characters made to be pulled to pieces in an explosion of O-negative. Everyone matters here, meaning that every zombie encounter does too. Throw in a brilliant soundtrack, excellent performances, and more red than you can throw a cricket bat at, and Shaun of the Dead is a comedy horror masterpiece.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

An image from A Nightmare on Elm Street

(Image credit: New Line Cinem)

The movie: Just like a certain dungaree-clad possessed doll, Freddy Krueger fell firmly into killer clown territory as the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise evolved over the years. Sure, he’ll spray your organs all over the walls but you’ll die laughing, right? Look back at Wes Craven’s original movie, though, and Freddy isn’t to be trifled with. Our selective memories mean we often forget that this serial child killer’s burns come from him being incinerated by an angry mob of parents. Living eternally through their fear and guilt, Freddy becomes the ultimate boogeyman when he dons his favorite murder glove and goes after a whole new generation of Springwood spawn while they slumber.

Why it’s scary: Bed is meant to be safe. Secure. Free of razor-sharp blades ready to plunge through your chest at any given moment… Robert Englund’s Freddy might be horrible to look at but it’s the very idea of falling asleep and never waking up again that’s the true terrifying kicker here. The desperation of Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy and her friends as they strive to stay awake to stay alive. No amount of caffeine or loud music can save you now, dreams are waiting and that’s where a maniac lurks menacingly in the dark to end your life. Yes, the whole movie is worth it alone for Johnny Depp’s spectacularly splattery death scene alone, but A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t one to press the snooze button on.

Evil Dead 2

(Image credit: renaissance)

The movie: So many Evil Dead 2 questions, so little time. Is it a remake? Is it a sequel? Would it actually be physically possible to switch out your missing (presumed possessed) hand for a chainsaw with relative ease? Well, thankfully, Bruce Campbell himself has answered the first two and explained that Sam Raimi’s cabin-based comedy horror is, in fact, a ‘requel.’ Whereas the original Evil Dead followed a group of twenty-somethings to a holiday house from hell, the sequel revolves exclusively around Campbell’s Ash and his girlfriend Linda as they attempt to survive after playing a reading of the Necronomicon aloud. I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you about someone being beheaded with a garden tool post-reading.

Why it’s scary: Evil Dead 2 is perfect comedy horror. While it might not send you shrieking away from your screen, there’s a delightfully depraved viscerality to proceedings. Eyes in mouths, wall to wall gore, chainsaws feeling like the only option. It’s worth noting here, too, that if you do want something a little less punctuated with the word ‘groovy,’ then the Evil Dead remake from Fede Alvarez is truly something that can get under your skin. Where Evil Dead 2’s grim is played for much-appreciated laughs and you’ll embrace the physical effects, Alvarez’s reboot errs distinctly on the unnerving side, making them a perfect double bill.

 The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014)

The movie: On release, Jennifer Kent’s haunted pop-up book became a whole generation’s boogeyman seemingly overnight. “Have you seen The Babadook? I didn’t sleep all night,” was hissed gleefully across offices and pubs. And for good reason. The Babadook is scary. The tale of a young grieving widow trying to look after her young son, this is a movie that sneaks under your skin and stays there. It also makes you ask yourself a lot of questions. What would you do with a pop-up book about a creepy black-clad figure in a top hat? Would you read it to your already traumatized young son? What if he begged? And how would you deal with the ‘haunting’ that follows…?

Why it’s scary: Like the best horror movies on this list, the Babadook isn’t just about scaring its audience. The parallels between grief and depression are no accident and it’s interesting to note that one of the most disturbing sequences in the movie has nothing to do with a monster, but everything to do with a young mother losing control of her son while she tries to drive. On the surface, you might mistake The Babadook for something from The Conjuring universe but delve in and this is an intelligent, grueling fright-fest with a knowledge of exactly what you’re afraid of. Even if you didn’t know it when you sat down to watch.

To read about more such movies, click here. 

 

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