10 Great Horror Movies With An Incredibly Simple Premise

With scares this good, who needs complexity?

Hell Fest

When it comes to storytelling, sometimes less really can be more.

Few genres have benefitted as much from this train of thought as horror. Straightforward, suitably sinister concepts such as masked killers and haunted houses have made way for scary, complexity-free gems over the years.

Look no further than the much-loved slasher subgenre. The majority of slasher flicks out there adhere relatively strictly to the same formula and plotline, usually ending on a final girl survivor who outlasts the monstrous killer in question. A variety of haunted house movies, meanwhile, revolve around the cast being supernaturally terrorised until they finally start piecing together what exactly is causing the haunting.

When the concept is simple and straightforward to establish, the filmmakers can apply more effort to both character development and scare factor. The latter in particular is of course essential to a worthwhile horror experience. Providing viewers with a nice cocktail of suspense, gore, and a grim villainous threat is of the utmost importance.

It's amazing how many horror flicks manage to overcomplicate or stumble over themselves in a bid to provide something memorable. For the following ten films, keeping things simple and laser-focused for the most part proved to be the magic trick.

10. The Hitcher

Hell Fest
TriStar Pictures

There's no better example of why picking up a hitchhiker is simply not worth the risk than this infamous '80s cult classic.

Rutger Hauer is on suitably evil form as the psychopathic John Ryder. When protagonist Jim Halsey makes the life-altering mistake of picking the hitching Ryder up, his life is fast turned upside down as he finds himself locked in a twisted cat-and-mouse game with the mysterious killer.

There’s no obvious reason for Ryder’s murderous mayhem here. All that matters for Halsey is finally being rid of the hitcher’s murderous hijinks. The lack of motive, and emphasis on the chase over any backstory or development, makes this fast-paced chiller an effective study in minimalist storytelling and the impact it can have on creating suspense and tension in the horror genre.

The action-packed climax benefits from the slow-burning fear factor the film has gradually built on up to that point. The closing scene feels thematically perfect for the dynamic the two lead characters share. The manner in which the Captain Esteridge character looks on in disbelief in the final frames is an effective representation of the viewer's own dismay at what's occurred.

Had this film attempted to complicate things, it's likely its third act's impact would've been diminished.


John Cunningham hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.