15 Horrifying Films Guaranteed to Keep You Up at Night
These films will keep you up well past your bedtime, eagerly awaiting the dawn.
1. Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo is an Australian psychological horror that will leave you questioning reality. The film follows a grieving family dealing with the death of their daughter, Alice. Soon they start experiencing what they believe are Alice's ghostly appearances, and decide to hire a parapsychologist. Shot as a mockumentary, the eerily lifelike performances will have you second-guessing whether it's a genuine documentary. It's a slow burn, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. Interestingly enough, despite the creepy atmosphere, it was filmed in just 5 weeks!
2. Absentia (2011)
Absentia centers on a woman, Tricia, whose husband has been missing for seven years. Her younger sister, Callie, comes to stay with her as the pressure of declaring him legally dead in 'absentia' looms. However, Callie finds a tunnel across the house that holds something sinister. The psychological terror in Absentia is a cut above the standard horror fare, with its heart-pounding storyline and superb performances. This movie was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and has a staggering 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
3. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
This film invites you into the world of father-son coroner duo Tommy and Austin, as they conduct a late-night autopsy on a mysterious corpse known only as Jane Doe. As they dig deeper into her body, they discover increasingly bizarre and horrifying anomalies. The Autopsy of Jane Doe skillfully intertwines the forensic science with supernatural terror, delivering a horror experience that's hard to forget. Interestingly, this film marks the first English language movie for Norwegian director André Øvredal.
4. Triangle (2009)
A sailing trip turns into a nightmare for the main character, Jess, when she and her friends become stranded on a deserted ship. Triangle crafts a horrifyingly surreal loop of events that will leave you puzzled and scared in equal measure. The complex storyline demands your full attention, making it a film that's both mentally stimulating and terrifying. Adding to the creepy vibe is the film's desolate filming location – the eerily beautiful Bermuda Triangle.
5. Session 9 (2001)
Session 9 follows an asbestos removal crew working in an abandoned insane asylum, where they encounter strange occurrences and spine-chilling discoveries. The film effectively builds suspense without the need for cheap scares or gore, instead relying on a deep sense of dread that seeps into your bones. The haunting setting of this movie is the real-life Danvers State Hospital, a former mental institution known for its eerie appearance and troubling history.
6. The Ritual (2017)
Based on the novel of the same name by Adam Nevill, this British horror film is truly a wolf in sheep's clothing. What starts as a heart-warming reunion among college friends turns into a heart-stopping ordeal as they venture deep into the Scandinavian wilderness. Following the tragic death of one of their own, the friends decide to hike through the Swedish mountains to honor him, only to be stalked by a malevolent presence. The Ritual masterfully uses the beautiful yet remote setting to its advantage, with the isolation amplifying the dread. Coupled with brilliant performances, the movie takes you on a suspenseful, gut-wrenching journey that will have you questioning every rustle in the forest.
7. Pontypool (2008)
Radio may be dead, but it's undead in Pontypool. This Canadian horror flick takes place almost entirely within a radio station where shock jock Grant Mazzy is reporting on a series of strange occurrences in the town. Things quickly escalate as the radio crew realizes a horrifying virus is spreading through the English language. The film's unique concept and claustrophobic setting make it a nail-biting, nerve-shredding experience. The chilling revelations unfurling only through audio reports make Pontypool a distinct entry in the zombie subgenre. The film has an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. Banshee Chapter (2013)
If you thought the last movie had a unique concept, wait until you meet Banshee Chapter. This film is a bizarre blend of horror, sci-fi, and conspiracy theory, drawing inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft's From Beyond. The story follows a journalist, Anne, searching for her friend James who vanished after taking a government-manufactured hallucinogenic drug. With a haunting radio signal, unnerving 'numbers stations', and horrifying entities, this film will keep you wide awake, and perhaps just a little paranoid about government conspiracies.
9. The Invitation (2015)
The Invitation will make you rethink every dinner party invite you've ever received. The film centers around Will, who, along with his girlfriend, attends a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband. As the night progresses, Will becomes increasingly convinced that his hosts have sinister intentions for their guests. It's a slow burn that gradually stokes the fires of discomfort and dread, culminating in an unforgettable climax. The director, Karyn Kusama, intentionally withheld the script's climax from the actors to maintain an atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty on set.
10. The Borderlands (2013)
What happens when you mix British humor, found footage, and pagan horror? You get The Borderlands, a terrifying tale of Vatican investigators sent to an old church in the British countryside to look into reports of paranormal activity. The film expertly uses the found footage format to its advantage, building tension and fear with the creeping realization that something is terribly wrong. It's the kind of horror that settles into your subconscious, making it an effective late-night chiller. The film's final act was shot in real-life, centuries-old, underground caves.
11. Coherence (2013)
Coherence is the kind of movie that redefines your understanding of the horror genre. It's a mind-bending thriller that revolves around a dinner party, the night of a rare astronomical event. Soon, strange things start happening, leading to paranoia, fear, and questions about reality itself. Though the film employs the multi-universe theory, the real terror comes not from the sci-fi elements but the breakdown of relationships under stress. This chilling narrative, combined with the claustrophobic setting of a single house, will have you questioning your own reality. Notably, the film was shot without a traditional script, and actors were given notes each day on their characters' motivations and backstories.
12. Dark Water (2002)
Let's journey eastward to Japan, the land known for its bone-chilling horror cinema. Dark Water revolves around a mother, Yoshimi, battling to gain legal custody of her five-year-old daughter. As they move into a rundown apartment, they notice unsettling occurrences centered around water and a mysterious patch on the ceiling. The movie weaves an unsettling tapestry of suspense, proving that psychological horror can be far more terrifying than blood and gore. A fun fact for this film: it's based on a short story by Koji Suzuki, the same author who penned the original The Ring novel.
13. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
If you're a fan of found-footage horror, The Taking of Deborah Logan is a must-watch. The film begins as a documentary about Alzheimer's but rapidly descends into the realms of the demonic. As the eponymous character's behavior becomes more erratic and sinister, the line between disease and demonic possession blurs. The movie's exploration of a real and devastating disease through the lens of horror brings an added layer of chilling authenticity. Actress Jill Larson performed many of her own stunts in the film, including the infamous snake scene, which will ensure you'll never look at your garden-variety reptile the same way again.
14. The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015)
The Blackcoat's Daughter, also known as February, is a slow-burn horror film that gradually builds a sense of dread and unease. Set in a prestigious Catholic school, two girls are left behind during the winter break. As they bond over their shared isolation, an unseen evil starts to surface. The cold, desolate setting heightens the feeling of loneliness, while the unexpected plot twists will leave you questioning everything you've just seen. As a side note, the film marks the directorial debut of Osgood Perkins, the son of Anthony Perkins, who famously played Norman Bates in Psycho.
15. Resolution (2012)
Finally, we have Resolution, a horror film that cleverly deconstructs the genre itself. It follows two old friends holed up in a remote cabin as one of them tries to overcome drug addiction. However, they soon find themselves terrorized by mysterious and increasingly bizarre happenings. Unlike traditional horror films, Resolution doesn't rely on jump scares; instead, it employs meta-horror elements that comment on storytelling and the nature of horror itself. With its intriguing plot and the feeling of existential dread, it's a movie that will stay with you long after the credits roll.