FILMxFIVE: Five Scary Films That Won't Keep You At Night Awake
by Mikey Murry, Cultures and Communities Project Coordinator
So. It’s Saturday night.
You and your bae (or a small group of socially distanced homies!) are having a movie night.
Popcorn is popped. The TV is on. Everything is going well until someone suggests having a spooky evening filled with horror, gore, and terrifying villains. Your heart races.
At their core, horror flicks and thrillers are great, imaginative ways to critique society, question authority, and expose the scary parts of ourselves we try to avoid. However, if you're like me, as much as you love the feeling of being anxious or scared while watching a film, you also value the ability to go to sleep at night. So whether you’re with your bae, your friends, or if you are braving the screen solo, I created this list of scary or anxiety-inducing films that won't keep you awake at night, but will still satisfy your need to be on the edge of your seat.
WARNING: All five of these films are Rated R and contain mild to high bloodshed. All films listed also have very few jump scares or none.
(dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Filled with numerous symbols, social commentary, and award-winning performances, Parasite was one of the biggest films to come out last year. This Korean black comedy thriller follows members of the Kim clam as they scheme a way to become employed by the wealthy Park family. This movie, which won Best Picture earlier this year, knows how to brilliantly pull you inside the story. Not to mention, it has a 2h 12m runtime, but spends each moment wisely and with intention. This makes for a thought-provoking, stomach churning, and anxiety-inducing film. I distinctly remember pulling out my phone during my first time viewing to calculate the final remaining moments, exclaiming quietly to my friends, “Oh, my god! There is still 45 minutes left! How are they going to wrap this up?!” It has everything you want from a thriller: well-written characters, awesome dialogue, schemes and mystery, and of course, some humor to lighten the many, many blows.
Genre: Thriller / Comedy
Horror Element: Greed & Classism
Parasite is available on Hulu.
2.) The Girl With All the Gifts
(dir. Colm McCarthy, 2016)
This film, based off the book by M.R Carey, is one of my favorite zombie films. The Girl With All the Gifts takes the zombie / apocalypse genre and turns it entirely on its head. In this near dystopian world, an infection has turned much of the world into blood-thirsty zombies. Though not all infected turned completely. Some, in this case, a small group of children, have retained their ability to think, learn, and feel, despite their cravings for human flesh. One of these kids, a young girl named Melanie, is our protagonist. She is sweet, kind, caring, and not afraid to lead in her own unique way. Though I do warn you, this film goes a few routes you do not expect, including the ending. (Personally, I think the ending is one of the things that makes this movie so outstanding.) Additionally, the casting is also spectacular. Here, we are introduced to Sennia Nanua in her full-length feature debut as Melanie, and we get a wonderful performance from Glenn Close as Dr. Catherine Caldwell.
Genre: Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi
Horror Element: Zombies
The Girl With All the Gifts is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
3.) The Love Witch
(dir. Anna Biller, 2016)
Okay, hear me out. This film is definitely no Oscar-winning, mind-warping, phenomenal piece of cinematic genius. At the same time, it is also all of those things. This campy, feminist ode to love, sex, and magic follows the gorgeous sorceress named Elaine as she searches for love in a new Californian town. She brews potions, seduces men, and strives to be the perfect woman. The only problem is, Elaine’s power is too great for her to truly control and she is eventually driven to insanity. This film made its way to my Top 5 for many reasons. One, it is delightfully bad. Two, it is funny, awkward, and colorful. Three, despite the first point, The Love Witch is a gorgeous ode to the Technicolor melodramas and horrors of the 1960s. The fact I got to see it in all of its 35mm glory on the big screen at Oriental Theatre makes it one of my favorite movie-going experiences.
Also, did I mention it was written and directed by a woman of Color, Anna Biller?
Genre: Comedy Horror / Tragedy
Horror Element: Witchcraft & Gore
The Love Witch is available on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Apple TV.
4.) Gone Girl
(dir. David Fincher, 2014)
This is one of the first films I watched during quarantine, and let me tell you, I regret sleeping on it for six years. This dramatic thriller / mystery follows Nick Dunne and his wife Amy. On the outside, the two appear to have a picture-perfect union, but when Amy goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary, all eyes turn to Nick as the prime suspect. Though not considered a horror film, the twists and turns in this script keep you on your toes as if you are waiting for a monster to be unveiled. When the true monster (perhaps even monsters?) are revealed, you won’t be able to look away.
Genre: Thriller / Mystery
Thriller Element: Missing Person & Crime
Gone Girl is available on Amazon Prime.
5.) Get Out
(dir. Jordan Peele, 2017)
I saved the best for last! Jordan Peele entered the filmmaking scene with this gem in 2017. Chris and his girlfriend Rose have reached the stage in dating where it is time to meet the parents. They go away for a weekend upstate to visit Rose’s parents, Missy and Dean. At first, Rose’s family comes off as just painfully awkward, microaggressive, and well… white, but as things get stranger and more disturbing, Chris discovers a painful and shocking truth. This is definitely a movie where the horror lies within the people onscreen, and it is enjoyed most when watching with a group of friends.
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Horror Element: Racism
Get Out is availble to stream via various digital platforms.
Though I stated that these movies will not keep you awake at night, they may do so anyway. I know I could spend hours talking about these films and have spent many nights unpacking every piece of dialogue, gesture, casting decision, etc. I hope these movies keep your inner thrill-seeker satisfied, and I wish you a good night’s sleep after watching!