Terrifier 2 has been sharing vomit bags in screenings – What are the other scariest horror films of all time?
It’s arguably the best marketing scheme we’ve seen all year: the new Halloween horror film Terrifier 2 has been providing its audiences with vomit bags.
The idea is that the film is so awful, so horrific, that audience members may need to throw up: the bags say, “Warning, this vomit bag is being provided due to the extreme violence and excessive gore of this feature.”
The film’s producer, Steve Barton, also released a dramatic warning on Twitter. He said: “Viewers who are faint of heart, prone to lightheadedness or have weak stomachs are advised to take extreme caution. There have already been numerous instances of fainting and vomiting in theatres.”
Figures around how many people have actually used the sick bags or have fainted are unknown, but it’s a brilliant promo strategy that has definitely got people talking.
Reviews for Terrifier 2 have so far been varied: “A tedious, uninspired, and exhausting experience that bombards the audience with relentless violence, depravity, and gore... At 2 hours and 18 minutes, it’s overkill – pun intended,” said one, but another said: “This exceeds the first film in almost every way.”
Terrifier 2 is the latest in a long line of terrifying horror films. Some lean into the gore, others focus on jumpscares, others plant psychological seeds that fester for days and weeks after you have seen the film, while others use ghosts and spirits to thrill. Here is our round-up of ten of the most frightening films of all time.
1. Don’t Look Now (1973)
Don’t Look Now has gained legendary status for being one of the most terrifying films of all time. The premise is simple enough - there is a death of a child and the film follows the emotional effects of the event on a couple. On a trip to Venice they meet two sisters. One says she is clairvoyant and says that their dead daughter is trying to contact them. Based on the 1971 short story by Daphne du Maurier, the film uses experimental techniques such as flashbacks and flashforwards, recurring motifs to delve into the parents’ psyche as they start to become undone.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist has been referenced so many times since its release that the film has almost become cliché. But don’t be perturbed - this is the real deal, so get ready to be terrified.
It’s basically one big Christian nightmare as the mother tries to save her demonically possessed daughter using exorcisms with the help of Catholic priests. The film faced hurdle after hurdle during its production – there were some deaths and accidents, leading cast members apparently sustained long-term back injuries and most of the set even burnt down at one point, which has led to the myth that the film is cursed. Of course, it all just adds to its status as one of the scariest films ever.
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Banned in several countries for being too violent, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is literally about a man (called Leatherface because of his chilling mask made of human skin) who butchers people with a chainsaw. Like so many horror films, it follows a group of friends who get slowly picked off by the lunatic. The film was a huge success leading to a franchise of eight more films that have been made over nearly fifty years. The latest, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was released in February this year.
4. Phenomena (1985)
Italian director by Dario Argento has become known for producing some of the world’s most terrifying horror stories that are also, somehow, aesthetically beautiful. His 1977 film Suspiria has become a classic of the genre and can be found on nearly every ‘best horror film’ list out there, but we prefer his 1985 Phenomena.
Still filmed in his unique style, it tells the story of an American schoolgirl who is sent to a Swiss boarding school. When she discovers she has supernatural powers (and can communicate with insects) she tries to use them to catch a serial killer who is killing young women in the area.
5. The Shining (1980)
The Shining has also become a classic of the horror genre - even if you haven’t seen the film you’ll know the image of Jack Nicholson’s deranged face as he pushes through a doorway, the image of two twins standing at the end of the corridor and the kid, Doc, cycling around on his tricycle. But fear not - its familiarity won’t reduce its ability to scare the living daylights out of you.
Arguably Stanley Kubrick’s most famous film, The Shining is based on Stephen King‘s 1977 novel and tells the story of a writer who becomes the off-season caretaker of a spooky hotel, moving there with his wife and young son. He starts to lose his mind, the boy seems to have psychic powers, and the stay all goes horribly wrong. There’s blood and an axe-wielding chase scene, but it’s the psychological elements of the film that make it truly scary.
6. Ring (1998)
Readers might be familiar with The Ring, the 2002 remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 film Ring. It’s undeniably terrifying, but we prefer the original. Journalist Reiko Asakawa is investigating what seems to be a cursed videotape – those that watch it die seven days later. After watching the video, strange things start happening to Reiko. She believes she has been cursed and calls on her psychic ex-husband RyÅ«ji to help her.
7. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project completely changed the horror game when it was released. The story follows film students Heather, Mike, and Josh who go to a wooded area to film a documentary about the Blair Witch and spooky things start happening to them. Because it’s filmed in its entirety through a hand-held camcorder (the premise is that the film is recovered footage) it’s all unbearably realistic.
8. Audition (1999)
This Japanese horror film from director Takashi Miike tells the story of widower Shigeharu who stages a fake audition in an attempt to find a new partner (well that’s certainly imaginative). He takes a liking to one of the women who show up, Asami, and so pursues her. But, it turns out, she’s a nutter. Though it takes some time for some of the more obvious ‘horror’ elements of the film to appear, they do come, and when they do they’re terrifying.
9. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
It could be overkill to edit a modern horror so it is entirely in black and white, but in The Eyes of My Mother the technique works brilliantly. A family lets a strange man in to use the loo which turns out to be a terrible mistake. When he starts to attack the mother, the father and daughter manage to take him on and lock him up. Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut lingers in the mind as it interrogates the dark side of human nature.
10. Hereditary (2018)
Director Ari Aster is probably best known today for his 2019 film Midsommar, but it’s his earlier film Hereditary which is widely regarded as one of the best horror films of all time. The film stars Toni Collette as a mother who goes slowly mad, and it cleverly plays on ideas around inherited trauma. It’s both gory (there’s one particular scene which will linger in your mind) and psychologically provocative.
Is it as terrifying as some of the others on this list? We think not, but others would disagree. Empire called it, “A raw horror masterpiece” while The New Yorker said it’s “genuinely terrifying”.