Everyone deserves a good scare: 5 thrilling non-horror films for scaredy cats

It’s October 31st! These days, it’s sort of an unwritten rule that Halloween revolves around the spooky, the dark, the evil and the horrifying. Horror films are a genre with a dedicated following thanks to the likes of Stephen King, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker to name a few. From tales of demonic clowns feeding on unsuspecting children and stealing limbs from corpses to bring the dead back to life, to carving out the eyes of animals and sucking out one’s blood with razor sharp fangs, people have always enjoyed being scared. It provides us with an adrenaline rush that we tend to lack in our daily lives and seeing such grisly tales come alive on the big screen pushes us over the edge.

But pure horror isn’t for everyone. Recently, I’ve begun to expose myself to the genre more but it’s a slow process. Don’t get me wrong, I love creepiness as much as the next guy, but at this point, I can literally count the horror movies I’ve seen on one hand (it’s three, by the way). But just because I’m developing a stomach for such tastes doesn’t mean everyone will, doesn’t mean everyone will want to. My twin sister for example, practically loves all the same films I do, but horror? Blood and guts? No way. When I force her to watch The Walking Dead with me like the good sibling I am, her eyes are squeezed shut for half the episode. But that’s not a bad thing! People like what they like. So, since Halloween night is finally here and not everyone wants to steer clear of dark basements or those eerie woods that just so happen to stand between you and your way home until the winter holidays, I’ve compiled a list of five suspenseful films that aren’t pure horror but will definitely give you the chills and keep you jumping under your blankets for the rest of the evening.

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 mystery was the masterpiece that solidified Natalie Portman as one Hollywood’s most capable actresses. Black Swan is a psychological thriller that will leave you questioning everything around you-including yourself which, as Aronofsky and Portman brilliantly demonstrate, is our most dangerous enemy. Portman stars as Nina Sayers, a sheltered but beautiful prima ballerina vying for the lead role in her studio’s upcoming production of Swan Lake. Her childlike innocence makes her the best dancer for the role of Odette, the White Swan. However, she lacks the rawness, sexiness and brutality that Odile the Black Swan, Odette’s counterpart in the story, requires. Nina’s determination to become the perfect Black Swan, only leads to her becoming more and more and more paranoid that Lily, the company’s newest dancer played by Mila Kunis, is trying to steal the role away from her. Aronofsky’s film is truly brilliant. The story is a twisted mess of self-sabotage, lust and hatred, that gives way to fatalism and violence. Ballet is a brutal art form where the performers must conceal their pain and turn it into something ethereal. If you’re brave enough to hand over your sanity this Halloween, Black Swan is a must see.

A Quiet Place

Apocalypse. Monsters. Emily Blunt. If those three things aren’t enough to get you hooked on this next film, then you’re a lost cause. John Krasinski’s directorial debut has made a whopping 300 million in total and it’s even been getting some Oscar buzz these past few weeks. A Quiet Place is a dystopian thriller film that follows a family trying to survive the end of the world. The catch? The continuing eradication of the human race comes down to most mundane of things: sound. Monsters stalk the streets and if you make a sound-just the slightest of sounds-they’ll hunt you and kill you. The Abbott family are forced into a life of silence, suffering and isolation, pitted against grotesque creatures they cannot see, who lie in wait for them to slip up and speak. Though his film is significantly devoid of dialogue, the times noises are heard is enough to throw you from your chair. And did I mention the theme music??? Boy oh boy, when the title finally rolled nine minutes after the beginning of the movie, I was screaming. Krasinski blends the classic survival genre with high-intensity dramatic suspense. In this case, the phrase it goes bump in the night actually holds a lot of merit, which does nothing to stop the hairs on the back of my neck from standing up. If they hear you, they hunt you. I’d suggest stuffing your face with candy while you watch this to avoid screaming, and so you don’t have to worry about being snatched right out of your living room this Halloween.

The Impossible

When it comes to horror, it doesn’t have to be supernatural or even fabricated in order to be disturbing. In fact, many things in real life are just as horrifying as in the movies, if not more so. The Impossible is a true story, based on the experiences of the Belón family who were vacationing in Thailand at the time of the 2004 tsunami. Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland, this is a disaster film in all aspects of the word. In my opinion that’s exactly what qualifies this movie as ‘horror’, because it revolves around one of life’s worst-case scenarios, and continues to beat down the characters with unimaginable challenges. When the tsunami destroys the vacation villa the family is staying in, they are torn apart by the brutal waves, pushed further and further from safety and the hope of staying alive to see a better tomorrow. Besides causing me to blubber like a baby, my mouth dropped open in alarm every five minutes. Drowned multiple times over, by the dirty, dangerous waters of uncertainty, the characters and the audience alike are dragged under the surface head first, without any chance at escaping for air. Because when a film is based on true events, a happy ending is never guaranteed. When there is nothing but a slim ray of hope to hold on to, when the whole world as you know it is gone and you’re left alone with nothing but instability and your instincts, the true meaning of horror becomes clear. So, if you’re willing to battle the all-powerful forces of nature this Halloween, this movie is definitely the right one for you.

The Prestige

Aside from the fact that Christopher Nolan never creates a bad movie, The Prestige is a dramatic noir film that preys upon the human need for invention and competition. The Prestige documents the relationship between two talented and selfish magicians, whose close friendship quickly turns into a tormented rivalry after a sudden traumatic event. With Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in the lead roles, this film is already on track for success. Both magicians will stop at nothing but the other to shame, severely blurring the boundaries of what is moral and what is criminal in the process. The overall tone of the film is grim, weighed down by a sense of malevolence and peril which ultimately drives the entire plot forward in a beautifully violent way. But the true magic and horror lie in the mystery at the very core of the film. As the two magicians fight to gain the upper-hand at every possible turn, their search for that one trick send them spiralling into an abyss that neither can emerge from unscathed. Though Nolan’s film is packed with memorable scenes, perhaps the greatest moment is the finale, when all is revealed yet retains enough information to keep viewers incredibly unsettled for many hours to come. Nolan is a genius at building up suspense so awful and so grave that it does nothing less than freak you the hell out. It’s delightful. If you get to the end of this film, and your eyes aren’t bulging out of your head and your jaw isn’t on the floor, then something is wrong with you. Not to give anything away, but if you are up for never looking at a water tank the same way ever again, then I command you to watch this movie immediately.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

What’s Halloween without a few zombies? The previous four films are all scary in their own way, dabbling with the conventional genres of thriller, dystopian, and drama and morphing it into something completely new and completely chilling. Therefore, I thought it only fair to end this list of alternative Halloween horror films with a picture that’s outrageously fun and just as entertaining. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tells the story of the Bennett sisters and their experiences with romance in Regency Era Britain. The plot maintains the same aspects found in Jane Austen’s timeless tale, only with the undead weaved in. It sounds ridiculous, and it is. But that’s what makes it so fun to watch. While the idea of pairing an iconic literary tale with brain-eating monsters may seem, to put it bluntly, rather dumb, PPZ allows the roots of Austen’s story to blossom and appeal to a modern-day audience. The importance of feminism and challenging the status quo is clearly evident in this film. Plus, who doesn’t adore the enemy-turned-lovers relationship trope? Horror doesn’t always have to be the stuff of nightmares. Horror can simply be enjoyable, and that’s exactly what PPZ does. Also, any film Lily James is in is one I will be watching. And so, if you’re looking to have a good time on Halloween, I highly recommend this one.

 

Everyone’s entitled to one good scare. Listen to Michael Meyer’s advice, even if he is a crazed fictional killer, and most importantly, have a Happy Halloween!

 

by Kacy Hogg

Kacy is a college student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately) but Canada, where she graduated with a BHSc in Health Science and is currently studying English. She’s deeply in love with popcorn, French fries and anything Harry Potter related. When’s she’s not chugging back on tea, you can most likely find her at the cinema or tucked away in the corner of a bookstore. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series (obviously!), Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, Casino Royale and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95

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