The horror genre goes hand in hand with movie monsters. From witches and ghosts, to zombies, miscellaneous monsters, and the lesser spotted goblin, spooky films have built franchises and fortunes around creatures of legend and imagination, capable of frightening viewers out of their seats.
But a great horror movie doesn’t need to go supernatural to be scary, though. Indeed, many of the most frightening horror villains or concepts in history have worked specifically because they steered clear of anything outside the realm of possibility. A story is abundantly more chilling, of course, if it could actually happen.
Whether ripped from the headlines, feeling altogether too plausible, or tapping into a familiar but unsettling quality, these movies prove that real fear begins at home.
These classic horrors eschew mythical beings for the sheer terror of the unknown, or of fellow humans. Walking out of the theatre and jumping at shadows is bad enough when you know that everything you’ve just seen couldn’t possibly happen on your way home. When a movie taps into the dark power of the real world, though, that’s when filmmakers have really gotten their claws into you.
10. Eden Lake
Forget zombies or monsters - for any right minded adult, there can be no concept scarier than being stalked by a pack of teenagers. James Watkins’ well made - if slightly politically iffy - thrill ride pitches the modern adolescent as the ultimate in terror, and stakes his case well.
The film stars Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly as a middle class couple taking a break in the secluded country. Their idyllic scene is disturbed by a gang of kids led by Skins’ Jack O’Connell. When the lovebirds make the mistake of asking the teens to dial down the rowdiness, they become prey, and the hunt is very much on.
There are shades of Deliverance or even The Descent to Eden Lake. Our heroes stumble into somewhere they shouldn’t be, and once the code of conduct is broken, the rules go out the window. It’s painfully tense in part, with every decision leading only to more brutal ramifications.
Watkins’ film does play on class divides in a bit of an unpleasant manner, but horror is a genre prone to somewhat unrefined political statements. That aside, it’s a brilliantly acted pulse quickener, with O’Connell in particular fantastic as the horrifying - but human - ringleader.