Unpredictable & Genuinely Scary Horror Movies Without Jump Scares
Here's our just-in-time-for-Halloween list of unpredictable, spine-tingling horror movies that might've slipped under everyone's radar.
Some of these are pretty dark, so consider yourself warned.
1. The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015)
Set in a Catholic girls' boarding school, this one begins with two students, Kat and Rose, left behind during winter break. Kat is a freshman and seems awkward and out of place, while Rose is a bit of an aloof upperclassman. There's a rumor about the school being haunted. Soon enough, Kat starts behaving increasingly strange – think eerie phone calls, uncomfortable encounters, and demonic possessions. At the same time, the film introduces another storyline about a girl named Joan who has escaped from a mental institution. As the movie progresses, the timelines converge, revealing the true horror of what transpired at the boarding school.
2. Lake Mungo (2008)
Shot in a documentary style, "Lake Mungo" centers on the Palmer family who lose their daughter Alice in a drowning accident. As they grieve, strange events start occurring in their home. Photos and videos surface that reveal Alice had been keeping a dark secret – she felt she was being stalked by a ghostly figure. The family discovers disturbing footage that suggests Alice foresaw her own death.
3. The Wailing (2016)
Set in a small South Korean village, this one begins with a series of brutal, unexplained murders. Police officer Jong-Goo starts investigating and hears rumors that a mysterious stranger might be responsible. When his own daughter exhibits strange symptoms – rashes, seizures, violent behavior – he calls in a shaman. An exorcism is performed, but instead of solving the problem, things get darker. The shaman warns that the stranger is a demon who must be killed to save the daughter.
4. Session 9 (2001)
Imagine cleaning asbestos from an abandoned mental hospital – creepy, right? "Session 9" follows a team of asbestos cleaners doing just that. One worker, Mike, finds old therapy session tapes of a patient with multiple personalities. As he listens to the tapes, things at the hospital start going sideways. Tools go missing, and one by one, team members disappear or die under gruesome circumstances. And no, there won't be a masked killer jumping out from behind a door, so breathe easy!
5. The Witch (2015)
Set in 1630s New England, a Puritan family is banished from their village and forced to live on the edge of a forest. Their baby son goes missing under the watch of the oldest daughter, Thomasin. Accusations of witchcraft start flying, especially when crops fail and animals behave erratically. The father locks Thomasin and her younger siblings in a barn after the twins accuse her of witchcraft. But by morning, everything is in shambles – the animals are dead, one twin is missing, and the other is unconscious. Don't expect broomsticks and pointy hats; the witchcraft here is way more disturbing.
6. It Follows (2014)
Remember those childhood games where being "it" was the worst thing ever? Well, "It Follows" takes that to a horrifying level. After a casual sexual encounter, Jay learns that she's received a curse: a relentless entity will follow her wherever she goes. It walks slowly but never stops. If it catches her, she's done for. Jay can pass the curse on through sexual contact, but if the entity kills the cursed person, it goes back to targeting the previous victim.
7. The Ritual (2017)
In "The Ritual," four friends hike through a Scandinavian forest to honor their deceased friend. Taking a shortcut was their first mistake. They start finding strange carvings and a gutted elk hanging from a tree. One of the guys injures his knee, and they decide to camp in an abandoned cabin (because that always ends well, right?). In the cabin, they find a wooden effigy that looks like a cross between a human and something much darker. They all have nightmares, hear unexplainable sounds, and one by one, start disappearing.
8. House of the Devil (2009)
Set in the 1980s, this flick sees college student Samantha Hughes take a babysitting job to make some extra cash. Only problem? The clients are a bit weird, and there's no baby. They ask her to look after an elderly family member instead. No biggie, until you realize the lunar eclipse happening that night is part of their satanic ritual plan, and Samantha's role is more sacrificial than supervisory.
9. The Babadook (2014)
Challenges of single parenthood take a dark turn in "The Babadook." Amelia is a widow struggling with her son Samuel's behavioral issues. Samuel finds a pop-up book called "The Babadook," and that's when the trouble starts. The creature from the book begins terrorizing the family, and the more you try to deny its existence, the stronger it gets. The mother and son duo have to confront the monster, which becomes increasingly violent and terrifying as they attempt to deny its presence.
10. Funny Games (1997/2007)
This one's got two versions – an Austrian original and an American remake; both are equally disturbing. A family of three goes on vacation, only to be taken hostage by two young men in their lake house. These guys don't want money or valuables; they want to play sadistic games with the family. And by "games," think psychological torture and physical harm. What makes it horrifying is its utter randomness; there's no motive, no explanation, just gratuitous violence.