From demonically possessed dolls and various creatures of the night to unknowable cosmic terrors and some good old-fashioned ghosts, the horror genre is stocked full of hordes of otherworldly nightmares designed with the sole purpose of making viewers sleep with the lights on.
Unlike other genres, however, horror isn’t bound to the mundane rules of reality. It has the freedom to dive headfirst into the supernatural to forge narratives that bring our deepest, darkest fears to life on the big screen. The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, The Conjuring, and Hereditary are just a tiny example of some of the most frightening and acclaimed examples of the genre, all of which exploit different elements of the supernatural to penetrate our fears.
But who said that horror films need to feature the supernatural to be effective?
While ghosts and monsters can be manifestations of terror, sometimes the scariest horror flicks are those that are more grounded in the natural rather than the supernatural. Depicting random acts of violence and situations that could plausibly occur in real life, here are just some of the non-supernatural horrors that will shake you to the core.
Beware of spoilers for Kill List, The Wicker Man, and Don't Look Now!
10. Kill List (2011)
Coming from the twisted mind of Ben
Wheatley (Sightseers and A Field In England) and co-written by frequent
collaborator Amy Jump, Kill List is just as
delightfully offbeat and twisted as you’d expect from this pair.
Centring around former soldier turned contract killer Jay (Neil Maskell), this bleak and nihilistic outing predominately focuses on Jay's struggle to reconnect with his family while he wrestles with his inner demons. Accepting a contract with his friend Gal (Michael Smiley) to earn some money, things take a strange and sinister turn.
After signing the contract in blood from a mysterious stranger, each of the three victims they're tasked to eliminate appear to recognise them and thank them before allowing them to take their life.
There’s something more insidious at play, and these friends are unwittingly in the centre of it all. It’s not until the shocking climax where the true horror is unveiled, revealing that a masked cult has been behind everything the whole time.
Without any real explanation for the events that have just unfolded, Kill List is a stark reminder that we may never know the bigger picture of what's happening around us.