I’m going to give you an “out”. This article is about horror movies and TV shows. If that’s not your thing, this won’t be for you. And that’s completely okay with me. It won’t hurt my feelings if you jump ship right now. I can promise you my wife won’t care for this either, and she’s contractually obligated to love and cherish me. As for me, I love horror movies. Or, maybe it would be better to say, “I love certain types of horror movies.”
I dislike blood and gore. I think most slasher movies are lazy and only effective at producing cheap scares and disgusting visuals. That is not my thing. At all. I prefer mood, tone, and atmosphere. I love when a film gets under your skin as much by what it implies as what it puts on the screen. If you want to get an idea of the type of films I’m talking about, read my first installment of horror movie recommendations I wrote a few years ago.
With all that said, a few of my recommendations will definitely be too much for many of our readers. While I dislike graphic images and violence, at times those things can be used to devastating effect. If they serve a higher purpose other than cheap thrills, I can accept their usage. I will give ample content warnings for any of the films or shows that I believe push the limits beyond what our typical audience would enjoy. Let’s get this thing started!
I realize that starting off with an M. Night Shyamalan film is a bold move on my part, but stick with me for a bit. I think the twist at the end works for the film. In reality, I don’t think it’s something a community could pull off, but I think the film explains and supports it well. I love the film almost in spite of the twist. I love the mood, the setting, the language, and the characters. Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Elizabeth Walker is fantastic in the film and the moment you realize it’s her film, everything snaps into place. Perhaps the real MVP of the film is James Newton Howard’s music. Find me a better marriage of music, tension, and cinematography than the scene when Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) takes Ivy’s hand and leads her to safety.
The Village is rated PG-13
The Last Exorcism
In some ways, The Last Exorcism is cheesy. It uses the “found footage” style that was popularized by films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. By the time The Last Exorcism appeared on the scene, the style was pretty close to worn out. Luckily, the film adequately explains why it’s filmed the way it is so the audience doesn’t have to suspend disbelief too much. While the film doesn’t really break any new ground, it handles the scares well, builds tension effectively, and ends on a surprisingly powerful note.
The Last Exorcism is rated PG-13.
Switching gears. I know, this isn’t really a horror film. But, I contend it is built and structured like a horror film so it counts. If you have friends or family who just don’t enjoy scary movies, this is the “scary” movie to watch. It’s Tom Hanks’s best film and possibly his best performance. The supporting cast, including Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, and Rick Ducommun, is exceptional. The more you watch The ‘Burbs, the better it gets.
“Ray, this is Walter. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!” Does it get any better than that? No. It does not.
The ‘Burbs is rated PG.
I love director James Wan’s most recent horror films, especially The Conjuring series. He made a name for himself with the Saw films, which I mostly detest. Fortunately, he graduated to less barbaric, torture-related horror and Insidious was the first foray into that world. Insidious primarily works because the audience cares about the family at the center of all the terror. But, it also works because Wan is a master of building tension. And he’s not so bad at jump scares either.
Insidious is rated PG-13.
This is a limited television series on Netflix. It’s written and directed by Mike Flanagan, the modern horror master behind other shows like The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. Midnight Mass is difficult. It’s at times violent and raw and horrific. Midnight Mass is also one of the most compelling theological conversations I’ve seen put on screen. I don’t agree with much of where the show lands, but I applaud the effort and the willingness to engage. And while the show is not spooky and scary all the time, there are moments in Midnight Mass that will stick in my brain for the rest of my life. And even though the show is made by non-believers, true Christian faith still has a way of shining through.
Midnight Mass is rated TV-MA (Proceed with much caution. This show has moments of incredible violence and plenty of bad language.)
As I said in the introduction, horror is not for everyone. I get that. But, for those who enjoy the genre, I hope these recommendations will be to your liking. Let me know of some of your favorites in the comments below. Thanks for reading.