Most nights I find myself restless. As I lie awake in bed, I look for things that aren’t there––things that cannot be explained. I think of the unknown; the inky black expanse of space or the dark secrets within the sea. And as I fall into a fitful sleep, I wonder if there are eyes on me. Watching me. Calculating my every move. I am scared.
I am scared, and I love it.
I watch horror movies to recreate that same sinking feeling of dread. So, I offer a few movies that may produce the same results within you.
Color Out of Space
My first recommendation is Richard Stanley’s “Color Out of Space,” an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name. The movie focuses on a family of four living in “the sticks.” After a meteorite lands in their front yard, strange things begin to occur. The water becomes brackish, animals begin shifting and attitudes change. There is no clear way out, and the family can’t help but succumb to the madness. It’s a slow-burn film that requires some patience, but the stellar performances by each cast member are enjoyable to watch.
My next recommendation is Alex Garland’s “Annihilation.” I watched this movie for the first time two or three years ago, and my recent rewatch cemented its placement as one of my favorite cosmic horror movies. The film follows Lena, a biology professor and veteran whose husband went missing on a special forces mission. He reappears after a year but he acts differently. Strange. He starts convulsing, in the early stages of a seizure. Lena is given a sedative and wakes up in a military camp outside “The Shimmer,” an all-encompassing field that grows bigger with each passing day. She joins a team of scientists and journeys inside, hoping for an answer as to what’s wrong with her husband. What follows is a two-hour nightmare, paired with atmospheric sound design reminiscent of “The Last of Us” soundtrack and stunning visuals. It’s certainly a movie you don’t want to miss.
Lastly, I recommend one of my favorite pieces of horror in general: Junji Ito’s horror manga “Uzumaki.” While there is a movie adaptation, I found that it does not do the source material justice. There is an upcoming anime coming to Adult Swim that looks promising. There is no confirmed release date after its third delay, but I truly believe it will be one of the best additions to the horror genre. There is something about Ito’s artwork that unnerves me. The clean, precise lines that slowly become more frantic and hazy once the madness sets in. The curse of the Spiral.
I want to offer some honorable mentions. These are movies I watched but ultimately decided not to highlight. My favorite is 1997’s “Event Horizon,” which is an intriguing sci-fi horror set on a derelict ship. I won’t say any more, because you should experience it for yourself. My viewing of 1994’s “In the Mouth of Madness” left me wanting more. The plot framing could have been better, and I felt the conclusion was rushed. But, I recommend it because of the Lovecraftiancore, even though I don’t agree with its execution. These aren’t stories that will keep you up at night, but they are good to watch with a friend who wants to experience the horror genre but can’t stomach anything hardcore. There are instances of body horror within both films, with the former being the more egregious offender, but they likely will not elicit an adverse response.
I hope that my recommendations will instill the same fear of unexplained phenomena in you. That when you look at the sky and see a star start to dim before your very eyes, you’ll feel your skin crawl. That when you cast a look over your shoulder, you will see something indescribable. Not a squirrel, nor a bird, something that shatters you completely. Until there is nothing left of you that remains.
By Cecilia Thompson, Contributing Writer