Artwork by Cap Blackard (Purchase Prints + More)
Why do we love being scared? It can’t be the way it makes our heart beat at rapid rates. Or how it keeps us up at night, leaving us to clutch our sheets as we stare at our half-open closets and listen for the faintest sounds down the hall. What the hell is it then? What gives us the oomph to spend 24 hours at vintage theaters for horror movie marathons? Why do we feel the need to sit down and watch John Carpenter’s Halloween for the 568th time every time October rolls around? It’s really odd.
For some, it’s an emotional release. Watching masked murderers hunt down hapless idiots or seeing nuclear families flee from the fractured promise of the American dream is a spiritually cynical escape from our own problems. It’s a cleansing of sorts that filters out our own personal anxieties that stem from real-world problems. So, in effect, these 90-minute B-fests serve as a therapeutic experience that a) costs less than your average therapist and b) traditionally involves candy and/or beer.
For others, it’s a nostalgic thing. Growing up throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and even throughout the ’00s to a certain extent, there was a mythology to the horror movie genre. What made you scared said so much about you as a person. Whether your skin crawled over the sight of gore or your spines tingled at the sound of a werewolf, it was your fear to cultivate, and you wore that fear as a badge of courage. It was something to talk about on the playgrounds and in the aisles of your local video shop.
Today, that connection seems different, if only because everything has been sterilized by being parsed out through various streaming services. We seek out horror in different ways now, not through physical scouring but through mindless scrolling. It’s kind of the same, but it’s also not really the same — overall, it feels like something’s been missing from the experience. But, here’s the thing: Fear will always find us, no matter what changes, and this list is definitive proof of that notion.
Because no matter the time nor the medium, these films will scare you.