Gore and jumpscares not your thing? These disturbing non-horror movies are great to still give you the frights. Be warned though: these films may be devoid of spirits, ghouls, axe murderers, and copious amounts of blood, but they are all unsettling
Some people aren’t really into horror, whether it’s because they find it boring or they hate being scared. No judgment here, that’s perfectly fine. If you’re looking to get into a frightful mood as many like to during this month but want to steer away from the likes Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Conjuring, or similar traditional scary movies, then this list might come in handy. Some might even argue that these disturbing non-horror movies are scarier than traditional horror movies. You can be the judge of that.
5 disturbing non-horror movies that will chill you to the bone
Todd Phillips’ Joker is the tamest on this list, but it’ll still make you feel uneasy. Sure, it’s based on a comic book villain whose lunacy is legendary, but the Joker has always been depicted as already being the Joker; how he got to be the iconic villain has never been explored. Granted, the 1989 Batman film gave him an origin story, but this Joker’s slow descent into madness is unnerving, to say the least. Watching Arthur Fleck go from someone who’s truly trying to be optimistic only for society to drive off the edge is disturbing to see because… well, it seems like something that could possibly happen to anyone. In fact, when I first saw the movie in theatres, the audience and I were so shaken that when we were out on the sidewalk waiting for cabs, we actually queued up—and anyone who’s lived in Bangkok knows queueing is out of the ordinary.
Watch Joker on Netflix
Remember when you thought Sweden was the picture-perfect European country with serene, lush countryside, beautiful architecture, and friendly people? Well, prepare for that beautiful imagery to be blasted into smithereens thanks to Midsommar, a wonderful film about innocent college students who go on a Swedish vacation only to find themselves in the middle of a pagan cult that does human sacrifices. The film’s use of bright colourful imagery juxtaposed with the utterly disturbing events is an ingenious filmmaking choice, but bright colours aren’t enough to dampen just how unsettling this movie can be.
Watch Midsommar on Netflix
This film was so taxing for Jennifer Lawrence that she tore her diaphragm, reportedly dislocated a rib, and was also repeatedly lost in the emotion of scenes that she kept hyperventilating. Darren Aronofsky, the film’s director, has gone on record to say that he did let her recover but once she did, immediately put a camera on her face “because that’s the kind of emotion that you never, ever see.”
So this film is already sounding like a lot of fun.
Its premise is also wild and, well, confusing. Without spoiling anything, the film is an allegory of how mankind treats nature, and though that seems very straightforward, Arofonsky utilises imagery and scenes that are… interesting. And when I say “interesting”, I mean “likely to replay in your head and keep you up at night.”
Watch mother! on Prime Video
The Skin I Live In
This Spanish film starring Antonio Banderas starts out like a normal thriller. He plays a doctor who, after revealing his controversial study, is prohibited to continue his research. Of course, this doesn’t stop him, and he continues. He also apparently has held a woman captive in his home who he’s been experimenting on. Then there’s a robbery, an act of sexual abuse, a murder, and believe it or not, that’s not even the worst part. As the film unravels the past of the characters, it goes in a completely different direction than anyone would ever expect. It’s difficult to explain without completely spoiling the movie, but all I’ll say is I wish Antonio Banderas just remained Puss in Boots and Zorro in my head.
It’s no surprise that one of Stephen King’s unsettling works would make it onto this list, but unlike his famous It, which features the iconic and utterly frightening Pennywise, this one is more psychologically disturbing. Based on the novel of the same name, the film follows a couple who go on a romantic getaway in the hopes of trying to rekindle their relationship, but it all goes wrong when the man sufferers a heart attack while the woman is cuffed to the bed. That’s already a troubling predicament, but it gets even worse as the woman has to face not just the prospect of dying alone with the corpse of her late husband but also the demons of her past, and boy, does she have demons.
Watch Gerald’s Game on Netflix