By what measure do we determine how scary a horror film is? Of course, there can be no definitive answer to the question: "what is the scariest film ever made?". Some of us are afraid of otherworldly threats and the unexplainable; others are far more affected by being shown what the human mind is capable of. Then we have real-world horrors of uncontrollable outbreaks, natural dangers or the threat of apocalypse, which for some people is a little bit to close to home.
And then there is the question of blood, gunk and general ickiness. While the overall consensus seems to be that atmosphere trumps gore every time, at least as far as scares are concerned, that's not to say that gore should necessarily be written off as nothing more than shallow shock value. Just look at David Cronenberg, for instance: he's built a career around all things gooey and disgusting, but there are ideas behind his repulsive visuals. After all, aren't we all afraid of facing our own mortality to some degree?
What can be considered 'scary' is obviously subjective, but ahead are 10 films that will (hopefully) provide more than just a momentary release and stay with you long after the credits roll.
Be warned: there are plot spoilers ahead.
10. The Others (2001)
Sometime you just can't beat a classic, period haunted house movie, complete with cliched tropes 'n'all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a tried and tested formula if it's executed well. One of the better examples of the Gothic haunted house subgenre, certainly of the 21st Century, is Alejandro Amenabar's The Others. Very few horror films have come close to matching the chilling atmosphere and underlying dread of this film. It plays out rather like a love letter to supernatural chillers like The Innocents (1961) or The Uninvited (1944).
There are numerous scenes in The Others that are legitimately horrifying, but by far the most notable is the "what have you done with my daughter?" scene. Unless you're superhuman, it'll take you a while to recover from that particular gem of a scare. This movie isn't free of loud bangs, jumps and jolts, however Amenabar proved that not all such 'scares' are necessarily cheap, or substitute momentary surprise for genuine horror. These instances are included sparingly, and are all accompanied by an overwhelmingly sinister atmosphere to justify them.
This is perhaps an unpopular opinion, but The Others handled its final twist far better than The Sixth Sense did. Yes, I went there.