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20 Unconventional Horror Movies That Scare You in New Ways


20 Unconventional Horror Movies That Scare You in New Ways


One of the most important questions people usually ask themselves is what makes them tick about horror movies. It may be the jump scares (which, contrary to what people say, shouldn’t be a matter of shame) or a well-built story, but the really interesting issue is that there seems to be something tailor-made for everyone.

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Even in the most fundamentalist underlayer of horror, everyone is welcome, because discrimination in the most popular genre of all is simply stupid. Horror is supposed to be scary, but if it doesn’t scare you, it surely will scare someone else. Gatekeeping is, for lack of a better word, unnecessary.

Such universality is profound enough to make us address the innovative methods of horror and come up with a list of films that will scare you. But such an effect will not be accomplished with the traditional tools and tropes. The following compilation of films refers to unconventional horror films that manage to scare you in whole new ways. While some of these are widely recognized, there are some that are more obscure, but believe us when we say that they’re worth checking out.

20 Under the Skin (2013)

under the skin

Under the Skin

Release Date
March 14, 2014

Director
Jonathan Glazer

Cast
Jeremy McWilliams , Lynsey Taylor Mackay , Dougie McConnell , Kevin McAlinden , D. Meade , Andrew Gorman

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Runtime
108

Jonathan Glazer’s nightmarish sci-fi horror film, Under the Skin, takes viewers to Glasgow, where a young, beautiful, and seemingly innocent woman is able to pick up just about every man off the street. What they don’t know is that they fall into a trap—one that lets them evidence the woman’s attractiveness before a dark, liquid abyss swallows them whole. She feeds off horny dudes, and she’s always hungry.

A Different Kind of Alien Invasion Film

With such a description, you would think Glazer’s film is an explosive and graphic sci-fi film like Species. Only there’s nothing colorful or entertaining about this woman’s journey. It’s a setting filled with dread, where the sun doesn’t rise, and where hopes are shattered in seconds as a beautiful alien submits regular men into an eternity of pain.

Under the Skin uses a different style of alien attack to get… under your skin. If you were a man in this very realistic version of Scotland, there’s a very high chance you would fall prey to Scarlett Johansson’s ravaging and deadly looks. You can stream Under the Skin on Max.

19 Saint Maud (2020)

Saint Maud

Saint Maud

Release Date
October 9, 2020

Director
Rose Glass

Runtime
84

Rose Glass’ insanely effective directorial debut, Saint Maud, is the story of Katie, a nurse who’s traumatized after she failed to save one of her dying patients. Now, she calls herself Maud and is an extremely pious woman who retired from regular nursing and now works in the private sector, working for those who need care. Her new patient, Amanda, sends Maud on an obsessive spiral where she tries to save her soul from damnation. Unfortunately, Maud goes too far in her quest and loses her mind.

The Power of Belief

One of the best religious horror films you can see today, Saint Maud asks the right questions about belief and faith, but it decides early on that it won’t be as forgiving as its peers. What’s scary about Saint Maud is that it’s not afraid to confirm the direction of its complicated character.

Maud is suffering from something residing in her mind, but Glass appeals to the horror rules and materializes her descent in a compelling and gut-wrenching conclusion that will make you feel for Maud while she becomes a martyr to her own set of beliefs. Stream on Prime Video.

18 Skinamarink (2022)

Skinamarink

Skinamarink

Release Date
November 4, 2022

Director
Kyle Edward Ball

Cast
Jaime Hill , Lucas Paul , Ross Paul , Dali Rose Tetreault

Runtime
1hr 40min

In Skinamarink, we are subjected to a nightmare. We enter a dark household where time is theoretical, physics is nothing but a suggestion, and logic has decided to take a break. A collection of footage clips that show siblings Kaylee and Kevin waking up to find themselves in a deserted home where something is lurking around. Things begin to disappear, and through a very distinct style of narrative, we become part of a film experiment that will surely make your blood run cold with fear.

Kyle Edward Ball’s feature debut, Skinamarink, is unlike any other film you’ve ever seen. It’s extremely scary, but yes, it’s not for everyone. This isn’t structured as a feature film with a narrative backbone you can follow. It’s merely a compilation of clips showing the children falling into a hole of paranoia and threat that feels random, chaotic, and infinitely scary.

This is what a nightmare looks like, literally, and Ball has accomplished a perfect depiction in this 2022 feature that twisted the found footage subgenre into innovative territory. Stream on Shudder.

Related: 20 Scariest Horror Movies to Come Out in the Last 5 Years

17 Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Jacob’s Ladder takes place in the 1970s, when Jacob Singer is fighting in Vietnam, but then an attack leaves him unable to stay. He wakes up in New York, where he’s trying to cure himself of the trauma. Living with his girlfriend, Jacob is always thinking about his dead son. But nothing is as invasive as the horrors of war, and these are manifested as monsters that cloud Jacob’s mind and sanity, turning him into a paranoid man who’s always about to suffer a breakdown.

The Broken Mind of a War Veteran

Adrian Lyne’s unique horror film is a portrayal of an accelerated descent. Jacob is a victim, and Bruce Joel Rubin’s script shows no intention of letting him go.

Instead, it subjects the poor man to something as horrific as the deviations of the mind. Jacob’s Ladder uses a broken mind and its effects to scare the audience into believing in monsters that, even though they only live in Jacob’s mind, are scary enough for this film to give you nightmares for days. It is, by far, Tim Robbins’ best performance. You can stream Jacob’s Ladder on Kanopy.

16 Kill List (2011)

Kill List

Kill List

Release Date
September 2, 2011

Cast
Neil Maskell , MyAnna Buring , Harry Simpson , Michael Smiley , Emma Fryer , Struan Rodger

Runtime
95

In Kill List, Jay and Gall are war veterans who have found a way to retire from official business. They’ve turned into hitmen, and their latest assignment is ridden with mystery. Jay’s family doesn’t exactly condone his line of work, but Jay observes the value of such an easy job. He’s ruthless, suffers from PTSD, and has violent outbursts. As the murders start to show signs of something bigger going on, Jay and Gall ultimately face the real threat.

Is an Idea Scary Enough to Convince You to Stay?

The very disturbing Kill List isn’t exactly built like a horror film. Instead, it goes for a nihilism exercise that’s fully loaded with Jay’s dramatic backstory. The violence is graphic, but it never follows the rules of horror.

Nevertheless, the tension still rises with every second, and viewers get uncomfortable with the huge mystery. When the conclusion arrives and the real nature of the film is revealed, the film is revealed to have always been a horror film in disguise of something else. You just weren’t that lucky in figuring out the conspiracy of Jay and Gal’s last job. Stream on Shudder.

15 The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Yorgos Lanthimos’ original take on the horror genre, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is the story of Steven Murphy, a surgeon who faces the wrath of a young patient whose contempt drives him to desperation. However, Martin doesn’t exactly resemble the violent killer of horror movies. Steven rejects his and Martin’s mother’s advances, and the boy decides it’s payback time. He only uses anger and the idea of revenge to send Murphy and his family down a path of certain and painful death.

The All-Mighty Power of Desire

Many would argue against categorizing the very disturbing The Killing of a Sacred Deer as a horror film, and yes, it mostly isn’t a full-blown horror film. But Lanthimos uses an extremely original premise to set his path and turn the dramatic thriller into horror by going for suspension of belief.

Surely, this can’t be happening, right? Well, Lanthimos turns a nightmarish idea into an ordeal for the Murphys, whose only sin was to follow the societal rules and reject the desire of a very powerful and sick individual. Stream for free on Tubi.

14 It Follows (2014)

it follows

It Follows

Release Date
February 4, 2015

Runtime
100

It Follows is the story of Jay, a young and attractive girl whose latest date with her boyfriend goes terribly bad. After the couple has sex for the first time, she wakes up tied to a chair and unable to escape. Her boyfriend just tells her that he has given her something, and her only chance to get rid of the disease is to pass it over to someone else. After the event, Jay begins to notice strange people following her all the time. The problem is that they seem to turn into violent, mindless killers if they reach her.

The Horrors of STDs. Literally

One of the scariest films of the 2010s, It Follows, never denies that it takes place in a setting of absolute fiction, where belief and realism are not acceptable.

However, Jay’s ordeal is strict when it comes to tackling one of the most basic fears of all: the fear of intimacy. It Follows doesn’t exactly ask the question about its threat, but it does address the nature of exposition and Jay’s inevitable realization of her worst role in society: she has to use sex to free herself and cause death at the same time. The unconventional film by David Robert Mitchell takes place in a bubble of paranoia and teen angst that simply feels appropriate for a modern horror film. Stream on Netflix.

13 Inside (2007)

Inside (2007)

Inside (2007)

Release Date
June 13, 2007

Cast
Alysson Paradis , Jean-Baptiste Tabourin , Claude Lulé , Dominique Frot , Nathalie Roussel

Runtime
82 Minutes

After losing her husband in a freakish car accident, Sarah is about to give birth. Her last night with the baby inside her is as sad as being alone on Christmas Eve. That is, until a strange lady knocks on her door, asking for help. Sarah refuses to let her inside and says her husband is sleeping. The lady says that she knows her husband is dead. After this, the woman breaks in and, very violently, tries to kill Sarah and the baby inside her. Inside, also known as À l’intérieur, is one of the best French horror films in history.

Is Motherhood Worth it?

Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the very graphic film Inside is part of the New French Extremity movement, a cinematic rebellion in the form of horror movies coming from France that took the world by surprise and attacked the psyche of modern audiences.

The film’s unstoppable and never-ending violence is almost overwhelming and truly makes us ask ourselves the question of why this scorned woman is trying to fulfill something so specific. Yes, there’s a twist, and you will get satisfaction out of this unconventional home invasion horror thriller that will make you call anyone if there’s a chance of sleeping by yourself in a big house during a rainstorm. Stream for free on Tubi.

12 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, audiences were treated to a sort of explanation for their favorite murder mystery TV show. Released in cinemas in 1992, the film attempted to shine a light on the last days of Laura Palmer, the girl whose body was found in the pilot of the groundbreaking TV show that changed the mystery genre in the early 1990s. Unfortunately for some, the movie did nothing but increase the cryptic aspect of Laura Palmer’s murder. This one will scare you with the disorienting style of David Lynch’s masterful techniques.

The Perfect Companion to a Perfect TV Show

To call David Lynch’s work, especially Twin Peaks, “unconventional” is an understatement. But this very original prequel particularly doesn’t follow the same tone as the TV show, which took its time and heavily experimented with new characters as it went on. Instead, Lynch goes for a pure horror statement, unrestrained and free of the limits imposed by television.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a very dark exploration of the surreal events that led to Laura’s demise, but don’t let it be conditioned by the series. This is actually a pretty good (and bizarre) standalone horror movie that you won’t forget anytime soon. Stream on The Criterion Channel.

Related: 15 of the Most Highly Rewatchable Horror Movies

11 Begotten (1990)

Begotten-1

Begotten

Release Date
June 5, 1991

Director
E. Elias Merhige

Cast
Brian Salzberg , Donna Dempsey , Stephen Charles Barry , James Gandia

Runtime
72 Minutes

E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten is offensive, terrifying, and enigmatic. The film doesn’t do much to tell a logical story and instead lets the audience draw conclusions about a figure in white, aptly referred to as “God Killing Himself,” who mutilates itself by slashing its own stomach and bleeding out. Something emerges from him: a female figure who uses the corpse to extract sperm, and the figure impregnates herself. Do you want to know what comes out of her? Or have you given up by this point?

An Unforgettable Experience in Horror

Something as mysterious as this shouldn’t really freak you out. After all, you know nothing about what’s going on. However, Merhige’s Begotten is a unique experience that doesn’t need to solve its mystery for audiences to connect.

Those lucky enough to see it (it’s an avant-garde experimental film that was passed on between students during a craze of bootleg copying) were fascinated by the film’s biblical symbolism, but Begotten is as friendly as it is conventional. This is straight-up horror that uses disturbing imagery to get inside your mind and plant a seed of an idea that will stay around for days and manifest in nightmares. They will be in black and white, of course.

10 Midsommar (2019)

midsommar

Midsommar

Release Date
July 3, 2019

Director
Ari Aster

Runtime
140

Midsommar is the story of Dani, a young student suffering from grief and a horrible relationship with an absent boyfriend who “lets” her come on a vacation in Sweden with his friends. Upon arriving at a pagan commune that is holding a midsummer festival, the group realizes the community isn’t exactly traditional. Dani begins to observe signs of a terrifying festival conclusion that may be related to her presence.

Physical Darkness Becomes Unnecessary

Ari Aster’s horror-defining film of 2019 gets rid of rules and depicts a journey of tension and dread in the most beautiful place you can imagine. Midsommar is nothing but Dani’s rise to the occasion and her welcome into a place where she should have always been.

The problem is that some bodies drop along the way, making the film also a revenge film in some way. It will scare you with occasional violence, but it’s Aster’s execution of the tension exercise that will make you uncomfortable throughout the whole film. Stream on Max.

9 Santa Sangre (1989)

Santa Sangre-1

Santa Sangre

Release Date
June 27, 1990

Cast
Axel Jodorowsky , Blanca Guerra , Guy Stockwell , Thelma Tixou

Runtime
123 Minutes

Santa Sangre is the story of Fenix, a man who used to work in a circus as a magician when he was a child and who is now institutionalized. Before he manages to escape, we find out the trauma he lived through as a child, when his father, Orgo, owned a circus and subjected him and Fenix’s mother to all sorts of violent acts. Now his mother, Concha, leads a cult, and upon reuniting with her son, his true nature rises. This is the weirdest film you have never seen.

A Modern Surrealist Approach That Should be Revisited

Made by Alejandro Jodorowsky, the avant-garde filmmaker mostly famous for trying to make Dune at some point, Santa Sangre is a horrific and extremely original film that surpasses genre rules and smoothly sails into being its own thing very quickly. However, nothing we say will allow you to imagine what the film looks and feels like.

It’s surreal, disturbing, and will produce a bunch of questions, but it’s one of Jodorowsky’s “logical” films. This one will scare you with its nightmarish depiction of extreme pain, psychological trauma, and violence. Stream on Shudder.

8 Resurrection (2022)

Resurrection

Resurrection

Release Date
August 5, 2022

Director
Andrew Semans

Runtime
103 Minutes

In Resurrection, Margaret is trying to deal with the issues of being a single mother and a successful business executive. She’s overly protective of Abbie and restrains the teenager from having a normal life. In reality, it’s all about her past, which comes back to haunt her in the form of a man called David. When she finally accepts his proposal to meet, we find out why Margaret is the way she is and how close she is to falling under the man’s psychological grasp.

The Power of Twisted Psyche

The great thing about Resurrection is that it manages to resonate by augmenting its sense of doubt and never fully confirming that it all takes place in a grounded setting. Margaret, Rebecca Hall in one of her finest roles, inevitably collides with the realistic aspect of her ordeal and gives in to the idea that David may be, in fact, holding a baby inside him.

When writer/director Andrew Semans finally does the unexpected and depicts Margaret’s nightmare come true, we become awestruck with the bold stance on a film that always felt sober but perhaps got rid of logic to produce one last scare that works and leaves you trembling. Stream on Hulu and Shudder.

7 Ghostwatch (1992)

Ghostwatch

Ghostwatch

Release Date
October 31, 1992

Director
Lesley Manning

Cast
Sarah Greene , mike smith , Craig Charles , Michael Parkinson

Runtime
91 Minutes

In Ghostwatch, the hosts at the quarters of the BBC evidence paranormal events when a TV crew investigates the events taking place in a cozy little home in London. Michael Parkinson speaks with a bunch of ghost specialists as they bear witness to the entities terrorizing the Early family. What begins as a live broadcast of a talk show turns into a horrifying ordeal for just about everyone. Needless to say, the events aren’t real, but everyone thought they were.

The Prank that Actually Scared a Whole Country

A groundbreaking TV special, Ghostwatch is considered a pioneer in the found footage underworld because of how it used its inherent realism and approach to shock an entire country.

The phone lines were flooded with calls from viewers who demanded some answers about the documentary that seemed all too real and showed a real host becoming a victim. The unconventional TV special is among the best mockumentaries ever made. Stream on Shudder.

6 The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

The Eyes of My Mother is the story of Francisca, a girl who lives on a remote farm with her parents, where she learns every day about anatomy and religion. One day, a criminal dares to enter their house, and when he kills Francisca’s mother, the father chains him in a barn. Francisca begins experimenting with him and reveals to him that she has no intention of killing him. She just wants a friend. The problem is that Charlie, the violent burglar who dared to attack a family he should not have attacked, doesn’t die.

A Nightmare in the Form of a Film

The feature directorial debut by Nicolas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother, is a very underrated horror film that perhaps many will immediately discard because of the black and white element. However, it’s one of the most interesting takes on modern horror that doesn’t fall under conventional storytelling with heroes and victims.

Many will confuse the film with torture porn tropes, but Francisca’s story matters because of how wicked she ends up being. The descent into a journey of death, murder, and extreme violence will leave you shaking. Stream on Hulu.

5 The Vanishing (1988)

The Vanishing poster

The Vanishing (1988)

Release Date
October 27, 1988

Cast
Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu , Gene Bervoets

Runtime
107 min

Rex and Saskia are traveling through France. The road trip is cut short when they stop for gas, and Saskia vanishes without a trace. She’s never seen again, and Rex falls into a spiral of absolute grief. Years later, he’s still looking for her, and Saskia’s kidnapper starts contacting him and playing with him. Finally, Rex manages to meet Raymond, and what should be a confrontation between good and evil is actually Raymond’s game to grab Rex’s mindset and subject him to unspeakable terror.

The Nihilistic Journey You Will Never Forget, and You’ll Wish You Would

The Vanishing succeeds in its approach as a thriller, with a very interesting villain grabbing your attention with a slowly revealed intention that will make you lose your mind. However, it’s the film’s conclusion that will give you access to cinema’s most important and poignant version of an antagonist. It’s highly regarded as one of the must-watch international thrillers of all time, and features a version of a serial killer that you will quickly get under your skin. You can stream The Vanishing on The Criterion Channel.

4 Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead

Eraserhead

Release Date
February 3, 1978

Cast
Jack Nance , Judith Roberts

Runtime
1hr 29min

David Lynch’s body horror epic, Eraserhead, takes place in the surrealist mind of a visionary who wasn’t afraid to bring to life whatever he thought of. Henry Spencer is a troubled man who finds out he may be a father during the most bizarre family dinner you will ever witness. What happens after is Henry’s encounter with the idea of taking care of a child in a dream world that holds no logic, but this doesn’t mean it won’t give you nightmares.

What Does a Nightmare Look Like?

Lynch is a groundbreaking director who dared to see beyond the schematics of Hollywood. Eraserhead is his most important business presentation, as his debut was essential to landing him a career in an industry that would later lead him to a much more sober film.

However, Eraserhead was the perfect introduction to a distinct artist who managed to capture a different frame of horror during a decade that specialized in grounded horror films reflecting the turmoil of society. This one did as well, just not in a traditional and conventional manner. Stream on Max.

Related: 20 Horror Films That Bent the Rules and Became Iconic Because of It

3 Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

In Eyes Wide Shut, a wealthy and successful couple goes through a rough patch. Alice reveals to Bill that she has fantasized about another man she met, and Bill doesn’t exactly react the best way. He seeks prostitution, but before he can do something, he’s thrown into a web of conspiracies, murder, and occult societies that will make him question his own mind. This is the fall of the Harfords, as the elitist couple face an unimaginable threat that will take them out of their shell.

A Primal Instinct Becomes Dangerous

Stanley Kubrick’s underseen sexy thriller, Eyes Wide Shut turns into a full-blown horror film through the use of a disconcerting setting that represents Bill’s descent into an obscure underworld where desire meets fulfillment if you’re able to recognize the primal aspect of lust.

This one will make you distrust your own shadow, regardless of your relationship’s integrity. It will make you question yourself and the happiness you’re certain of. Eyes Wide Shut will scare you beyond your wits the next time someone close says, “I love you.” Rent on Apple TV.

2 The Lodge (2019)

The Lodge

The Lodge

Release Date
January 16, 2020

Director
Severin Fiala , Veronika Franz

Runtime
100

The Lodge tells the story of Aiden and Mia, siblings who are facing the sudden death of their mother, who has decided to end her own life after finding out Richard filed for divorce because he met Grace. Richard insists the kids have to cope with Grace, their new stepmother, and thinks a Christmas weekend in a remote lodge is the perfect opportunity.

The children’s father is forced to make a run to the city, and they stay with Grace. Spooky things begin to happen, and the trio feels like things are off in this place. Eventually, Grace’s past becomes relevant, and Aiden and Mia find out the truth about their father’s new partner.

One of the Best Twists in Recent Horror History

The film is like several films at once. It’s a mashup of religious horror with supernatural horror and a psychological thriller, and the best thing about it is that all these subgenres come together in the film’s impressive conclusion.

An unconventional twist will make you ask the important questions about the film’s moral code, which lands at the perfect time when Grace is forced to revisit her past and subjects the children to a religious-based ending that will give you goosebumps. Do you want a spooky Christmas movie? This is it. You can stream The Lodge on Max.

1 Raw (2016)

Raw

Raw

Release Date
March 15, 2017

Cast
Garance Marillier , Ella Rumpf , Rabah Nait Oufella , Laurent Lucas , Joana Preiss

Runtime
99 Minutes

Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a brilliant French film that follows Justine, a veterinary student who’s very strict about following the family’s tradition of veganism. However, she participates in a ritual for new students where she’s fed rabbit organs. Justine finds out she may have a craving for meat after all, but as it turns out, she doesn’t exactly like to eat animals. After her sister tries to help her, Justine gives in to her cravings and starts to indulge in cannibalism.

The Best Example of International Body Horror

If you’re into films that will surely gross you out, Raw is right up your alley. It’s exactly how the film works and how it manages to provide scares under the rules of European horror, which doesn’t rely on jump scares but is sure to leave you thinking because of something you see on the screen.

Justine’s transformation is compelling and almost understandable, but Raw is undeniably a horror film about the birth of a monster who seeks out desperate measures but instead finds some things are just meant to be. Rent on Apple TV.

To keep the spirit of the art of the scare alive, here’s a video about some horror movies that rely too heavily on jump scares:

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