The best horror movies for people who hate horror



Still from ‘Hereditary,” written and directed by Ari Aster.

October is finally here, which means that in addition to cooler weather, midterms, and voting registration, it is officially horror movie season. 

On the whole, horror tends to be a very polarizing genre — it has its diehard fans, yes, but it also has just as many detractors who write the entire genre off as repetitive, predictable, jump-scared laden torture porn. There certainly are some horror films that fit that bill, but despite having a few stinkers (and let’s be honest, what genre doesn’t?) on the whole, horror is a sprawling, fascinating genre that’s far too frequently written off because of a few bad eggs. 

“But Lauren!” You cry. “How am I supposed to know which are the good eggs and which are the bad eggs? I hear you reader, and I feel your pain. You’ve been burned before by terrible D-list horror movies, and you don’t want to give the genre another shot. So, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you — I’ve compiled a gaggle of horror films for the horror-weary viewer. 

Armed with movies that counter every complaint you may have about the horror genre, you can head into this Halloween season with a new appreciation for horror, and perhaps even a willingness to give some less prestigious (but no less fun) horror flicks a try. So, without further ado: the horror skeptic’s guide to getting into horror films. 

“Horror movies are all just cheap jumpscares”

It’s a criticism I hear frequently, but that’s because it’s (unfortunately) often true. Horror films, especially ones made in the last mid to late 2000s and 2010s, tend to use jumpscares as a crutch to set the audience on edge, and the sheer frequency of their use in modern horror has driven many a moviegoer away from the franchise. 

So, if you’re trying to get into horror but wary of films chock-full of jumpscares, what do you watch? My recommendation? Try a film like “Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Shining” on for size. Both are terrifying, iconic, and critically acclaimed films that will chill you to your core, without relying on jumpscare fake-outs every ten minutes to bring the thrills.

“The characters in horror movies are all so dumb”

Another criticism based in truth. One of the most famous tropes of the horror genre (parodied beyond belief in films like “Scary Movie” and “Cabin in the Woods”) is how stupid the main characters are — they split up constantly, they go into dark, dingy houses alone, and they never double-tap the killer. In part, that’s due to the fact that you have to have some characters who aren’t all that smart — slashers can’t rack up body counts if every main character is smart enough to outwit your killer. 

Still, sitting through movie after movie where the final girl makes dumb decisions can be grating, so why not take a look at a film where the protagonists are quick-witted and smart for a change? Films like “You’re Next” and “Scream” feature protagonists who are incredibly intelligent and don’t rely on pure stupidity to propel the plot forward.  You won’t find yourself yelling at the screen while watching these flicks. 

“Horror movies are so shallow — it’s all just senseless killing”

We’ve come to our last critique — and yeah, sometimes this is true. Not every horror movie is telling an Oscar-worthy story, nor are they trying to. There are franchises like “Leprechaun” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” that delight in being campy, trashy, D-movie flicks that serve up creative kills and not much else — but maybe that’s not your speed. 

There are certainly meaty horror films out there full of depth, emotional nuance, and layered storytelling — not just Freddy Krueger turning girls into cockroaches. Filmmakers like Jordan Peele, Robert Eggers, and Ari Aster have revitalized the genre in terms of bringing prestige back to horror, so if you’re looking for films that will give you something to think about as well as something to scream at you’ve certainly got quite a bit to choose from. “Get Out” and “Hereditary” are some famous examples you may have already seen, but films like “The Babadook” and “The Platform” (originally “El Hoyo”) are lesser-knows flicks that will give you just as much to think about. 

So, when Halloween rolls around this year, don’t be the person in your friend group whining about how you don’t want to watch a scary movie. Instead, sit back, relax, and try out any of the films I’ve mentioned. I promise that at least one of them will help change your opinion on the genre for good.