10 Chilling Cosmic Horror Movies That Instill Existential Dread
If you want to indulge in horrors beyond human comprehension, you will definitely find something to send shivers down your spine among these ten.
The horror genre is incredibly diverse and has split into countless branches over the years, allowing almost everyone to find something to their liking.
The subgenre of cosmic horror, also known as Lovecraftian horror (although the latter term is a bit more specific), deals with terrifying beings and events beyond human comprehension that, despite the genre's name, don't necessarily come from outer space.
So if you're looking for movies that will instill existential dread in you, here are ten cosmic horror films that might interest you.
1. Color Out of Space (2019)
Let's start with an adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft's works, because while many of them have been pretty underwhelming, this 2019 film starring Nicolas Cage and based on a story of the same name does a decent job of bringing the source material to the big screen.
After an unusually colored meteorite crashes on the Gardner family's property, only to dissolve into the ground practically overnight, it slowly begins to change everything in the area, making it clear that it wasn't just a space rock.
2. Annihilation (2018)
The setup of the story is a bit similar to our previous entry, although Annihilation isn't directly based on any of H.P. Lovecraft's works.
An anomalous zone known as the Shimmer was created when a mysterious meteorite crashed into St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, causing mutations to all life in the area.
The story revolves around Lena, portrayed by Natalie Portman, the sole survivor of a special group sent to the area to study the Shimmer and find a way to stop it from spreading further.
3. The Mist (2007)
Based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King, the movie is set in the small town of Bridgton, Maine, which becomes shrouded in an unnaturally thick mist that comes from the nearby lake.
Soon, however, David Drayton, a painter played by Thomas Jane, who happens to be in the supermarket with his son at the time, realizes that they can't actually leave because something sinister and incredibly hostile is lurking in the mist.
4. The Beach House (2019)
After young couple Emily and Randall arrive at the titular beach house for some alone time, they find it already occupied by two friends of Randall's father.
But the unexpected company is the least of their problems, as some sort of microorganism has emerged from the sea, leading to some gruesome consequences for the entire planet.
5. Nope (2022)
Jordan Peele has made a name for himself as a creator of unique horror films, but 2022's Nope may be the most "Lovecraftian" of them all due to the fact that the entity at the center of the story is barely explained.
After the patriarch of the Haywood family is killed by a nickel that mysteriously falls from the sky, his children, Otis and Emerald, portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, respectively, begin to witness even more strange happenings on their ranch.
This sets them on a quest to find out what really caused their father's death, and they encounter an unknown entity that turns their whole world upside down.
6. The Thing (1982)
An absolute cult classic, this film by John Carpenter follows the staff of an American research station in Antarctica who encounter a malevolent shape-shifting creature that has already murdered and consumed their Norwegian colleagues.
If you want to know what happened to the Norwegian scientists after watching, you can check out the 2011 prequel of the same name, but keep in mind that while it is a pretty decent horror movie, it is still inferior to the 1982 original in many ways, mostly due to the use of CGI instead of practical effects.
7. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Another John Carpenter work on our list, the film follows freelance insurance investigator John Trent, portrayed by Sam Neill, who is tasked with finding an extremely popular novelist, Sutter Cane, whose works are so horrific that they are rumored to drive the reader insane.
Skeptical of the writer's fame, Trent agrees, but as a seemingly simple job slowly turns into a reality-shattering nightmare, he will eventually reconsider his entire existence.
8. The Lighthouse (2019)
Directed by Robert Eggers and starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, this film is unique in that it is entirely black and white and shot in a square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, which may put some viewers off.
Set in the 1890s, it follows two drastically different lighthouse keepers who must tolerate each other for the entire four-week shift in the enclosed environment of a distant lighthouse.
Eventually, however, the stress of isolation takes its toll, making it difficult to understand if the two are simply going mad or if something supernatural is actually going on.
9. The Void (2016)
In the best tradition of Lovecraftian horror, the movie does little to explain the horrific events at the center of its story.
It overwhelms you with what is going on from the start, only providing glimpses of evidence when the main characters meet in a hospital and it becomes clear that a mysterious dimension, the titular Void, is somehow connected to the cultists and nightmarish creatures the viewer has witnessed.
10. The Ritual (2017)
After a group of friends go on a hiking trip in the Swedish woods to honor the memory of their comrade who died in a tragic accident six months earlier, the journey takes a dark turn from the start when one of them injures his leg, forcing them to cut through an unmarked part of the forest.
Little do they know that an incredibly ancient being has called these woods home since the dawn of time, and a simple hike is about to turn into a life-changing event for the tourists.