Concentrating on the existential dread of horror movies released in the last ten years, intense, slow burning, highly strung movies are making their mark on the industry in a big way, with unbearable tension becoming the latest in replacing the good old reliable jump scare. Sorry guys, spooky monsters and CGI baddies just don't cut it any more, we're all about unrelenting anxiety now. Millennials, huh?
Slowly unravelling as the film goes on before exploding into a nail-biting finale, horror films work on intensity far more effectively than anything else, as these following films deftly prove. Whilst tone-heavy, atmospheric movies tend to lend themselves more to art-house fare, there's plenty of evidence that Hollywood blockbusters can still pack a punch without selling out on cheap gore and special effects - with films like The Conjuring and The Ring remake functioning much better for their reliance on spookiness in the long run, even if they don't manage to stick to it throughout.
It's a relatively new phenomenon that's resulting in one of the best continued horror movie highs that cinema has seen in recent years: the last five in particular honing in on the effect with terrifying precision...
10. The Wicker Man
To first pay homage to one of the big daddies of literal slow burn horror before breaking into the contemporary stuff, The Wicker Man has to make an appearance on this list.
Now, I don’t mean the infamous Nicolas Cage version which you should definitely watch for a bunch of other, less scary reasons, but Robin Hardy’s 1973 original. Travelling to a strange island to investigate the disappearance of a child, an investigator becomes embroiled in a strange Pagan community, and attempts to uncover the truth of his situation. It’s the classic tension builder and remains fresh for viewers even over 40 years later, setting a benchmark for psychological horror since its release - as well as plenty of adaptations.
Hardy’s version is a solid, upstanding entry, and will have you desperately working alongside the detective to get to the bottom of the whole creepy situation. Adamantly denying the child's existence at all and surrounded by actions that defy the devout Christian beliefs of our protagonist, it's a clash of cultures that both questions religion as well as demonstrates it in terrifying extremism, resulting in a third act that will quite literally burn itself into your memory.