At The Movies: The Scariest Films You’ve (Probably) Never Seen

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Halloween is looming so our movie guy, John Lyons, picks the scariest movies which may have passed you by…

LAST Summer someone asked me an interesting question: “John, what’s the scariest film that you’ve ever seen?”

I cycled through the obvious answers in my head: Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, etc. But after a lengthy moment of thought I came to the conclusion that the scariest films that I’ve ever seen aren’t actually horror films, but rather, they’re documentaries.

The obvious reasoning behind this, of course, is because since documentaries are real, you carry them with you for longer. The terrifying subject matter wasn’t just a figment of some twisted filmmaker’s imagination. It was real.

And what fills our heads with a foreboding sense of dread is that singular, unsettling thought: “My god, that actually happened…”

But still, even though that was my honest answer at the time, it was a bit of a cop out.

Earlier this week a close friend of mine asked me that same, difficult question. But she followed it up by arguing that “Horror is such a contrived genre. There’s no horror films out there that are actually genuinely scary.”

And I’m here to say that she was wrong! …Well, partially.

Yes, horror is an incredibly contrived genre. And most horror films aren’t actually scary. But there are indeed some truly horrifying horror films out there, you just have to dig around for them.

Hopefully this list will save you some digging (just be sure not to share it with the faint of heart). And to keep things interesting, I decided to steer clear of the more predictable answers, in order to discuss some of the lesser appreciated horror films.

Happy Halloween. Stay scared.



Audition (1999) – Dir. Takashi Miike

‘Audition’ starts off as a fairly light-hearted melodrama. The main character, Shigeharu, is a widower who decides that he’s had enough of single life and wants to remarry, but doesn’t want to go through the arduous process of dating and trying to find ‘the one’. He just wants a wife.

Shigeharu and a co-worker decide that they’ll hold auditions for a job interview at their firm, but in actuality they’ll be trying to find Shigeharu’s ideal woman.

The ‘job interview’ goes ahead, and sure enough one woman catches his eye, Asami. And as you’d expect, he falls madly in love with her. And it’s all romantic and lovely and cute, and surely they’ll live happily ever after because this is a lovely little film about lovely people.

But in actual fact, nobody could have possibly guessed what was going to happen next…


Blue Velvet.

Blue Velvet (1986) – Dir. David Lynch

‘Blue Velvet’ is not a horror film, plain and simple. It’s really more of a mystery thriller. So why have I included it in this list? Because the shock factor in Blue Velvet is absolutely astonishing.

The first act of the film is rather straight forward, and it’s easy to assume that you’ve seen this type of mystery film before. That is until we’re introduced to the character of Frank Booth (played by the amazing Dennis Hopper), a complete madman.

‘Blue Velvet’ is the best film David Lynch has ever made, it has the best performance that Dennis Hopper ever gave, and it’s the best film on this list (by far).


Funny Games.

Funny Games (1997) – Dir. Michael Haneke

If you’ve ever listened to or read an interview with Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, you’ll quickly realize that he puts so much thought into the meaning behind all of his films.

But I’m not sure what exactly he was trying to say with this one.

‘Funny Games’ is about a wealthy German family, Anna, George, and their son George Jr., who’re on a weekend getaway to a lake house.

After they arrive, two young men come to the door asking can they borrow some eggs. They family oblige, but the men seem to have no intention of leaving.

What follows is the most intense home invasion you could possibly imagine.

Out of all the films on this list, ‘Funny Games’ is the one that made me have a hard time sleeping after I watched it. It’s a terrifying and incredibly frustrating film to watch, but if you want to leave yourself shivering under the covers, look no further than ‘Funny Games’.



Martyrs (2008) – Dir. Pascal Laugier

Martyrs is a French film that I actually hadn’t heard of until a year or two ago, when a friend of mine said: “There’s only one film that I’ve seen that I’d be too scared to watch again: Martyrs.”

My attention was piqued instantly, and I went away and watched the film.

‘Martyrs’ has so many facets that I’m not even sure where to start. It really is an absolutely crazy film.

The film is a combination of intense bloody gore, psychological horror, torture, ghostly entities, and so many insane twists and turns throughout.

As much as ‘Martyrs’ makes us question what’s real and what’s not, and makes us wonder what’s REALLY going on, it does provide answers.

And the answers we’re given are more insane than anything we could’ve imagined. This is a proper horror film.


The Poughkeepsie Tapes.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) – Dir. John Erick Dowdle

If you want to scare the living daylights out of your friends, show the ‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’ and tell them that it’s real.

‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’ is a mockumentary about a serial killer who terrorized a small American town for years, and videotaped all of his killings.

I’m hesitant about calling it a mockumentary, because the term mockumentary is usually used to describe the likes of films such as ‘Spinal Tap’. ‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’, on the other hand, is one-hundred-percent serious.

What’s great about ‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’ is that it’s crafted in such a way to give the impression that it is, in fact, a real documentary. And that adds to the terror enormously.

Follow John Lyons on Twitter: @Fireinthelyons

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