TIME movies

11 Horror Movies for People Who Don’t Like Scary Movies

The Witch is just one of a recent crop of indie horror flicks that may make new fans of the genre

Horror movies have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. A slew of spooky arthouse and indie flicks have injected new energy into a genre which many lament often relies too heavily on well-worn tropes, unnecessary reboots and superfluous gore. Movies like The Witch (Feb. 19), Robert Eggers’ historical horror drama set in 1630s New England, eschew the expected in favor of genre mash-ups and fresh aesthetic takes.

For those who have been wont to dismiss the genre wholesale—whether out of sheer terror or lack of interest—these often beautiful, sometimes downright hilarious recent additions may just win over a healthy crop of converts.

  • The Witch (2016)

    A24

    A historical horror film which won Robert Eggers a directing award at Sundance in 2015, The Witch is an eerie slow burn which says as much about religious paranoia and the near-impossible conditions of the lives of early settlers as it does about the occult. Anya Taylor-Joy delivers an arresting performance as a teenaged girl accused of witchcraft by her own family in 1630s New England, 60 years before the Salem witch trials.

    Where to watch: The Witch opens in theaters on Feb. 19.

  • The Babadook (2014)

    IFC Films

    Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, about a widow and her young son who are tormented by a mysterious evil presence, received widespread critical acclaim for its performances and its moving allegory about the all-consuming havoc wrought by grief on adults and children alike. But The Babadook is not for the faint of heart: the director of The Exorcist called it the most terrifying film he’d ever seen.

    Where to watch: Rent from Amazon, iTunes or SundanceNow.

  • It Follows (2014)

    RADiUS-TWC

    A movie in which a young woman is cursed by a mysterious evil as a result of having sex may sound like the centerpiece of an abstinence-only curriculum. But it is, in fact, the premise of a horror film many critics have labeled the best in a decade. The “It” in the movie’s title sparked widespread debate, but interpretation is almost beside the point—the terror here results directly from “it’s” painfully unresolved ambiguity.

    Where to watch: Rent from Amazon or iTunes.

  • Goodnight Mommy (2014)

    Stadtkino Verleih

    This low-budget Austrian film interrogates a terror that’s close—literally—to home. When a mother returns from a plastic surgery operation wrapped in bandages, much like a mummy, her twin sons gradually begin to suspect that the woman beneath the mask may not be mommy dearest. But the movie’s not just fodder for nightmares. It’s also an examination of the parent-child relationship, the vulnerability that stems from trust and the demands of modern motherhood.

    Where to watch: Stream for free with Amazon Prime or rent from Amazon or iTunes.

  • What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

    Madman Entertainment

    If the previous titles on this list sound more like a recipe for pants-wetting than a relaxing night at home, What We Do in the Shadows offers a welcome reprieve: comedy. Though many moviegoers are understandably vampire-d out, this horror-comedy mockumentary from members of the Flight of the Conchords team finds humor and humanity both in the well-trodden territory of blood-suckers.

    Where to watch: Rent from Amazon or iTunes.

  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

    VICE Films

    Another unconventional vampire flick, positioned upon its release as the first Iranian vampire Western, writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut is a moody, black and white genre mash-up. It’s horror-flick-meets-spaghetti-western, with an aesthetic sensibility gleaned as much from graphic novels as from Iranian New Wave cinema. The titular girl prowls the night on a skateboard to a soundtrack of Persian rock and electropop, and the movie’s subversion of gender norms widely earned it a feminist seal of approval.

    Where to watch: Rent from Amazon, iTunes or Vimeo On Demand.

  • Under the Skin (2013)

    A24

    Horror skeptics will be glad to know that Under the Skin is as much sci-fi art film as it is horror—and what elements of that genre exist are nontraditional at best. An eerily blank-faced Scarlett Johansson plays an alien, disguised as a woman, who lures unsuspecting men into a van and then does the kinds of things you might imagine happen to unsuspecting men lured into vans by an alien. The result is beautiful, otherwordly, and deeply, deeply unsettling to watch.

    Where to watch: Stream for free with Amazon Prime or rent from Amazon.

  • Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Yes, another vampire movie, but—this one’s got Tilda Swinton, an award-winning soundtrack and its vampires are hipster rock stars, to boot. Described by more than one critic as “poetic,” Jim Jarmusch’s tale finds Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as two low-key, nonviolent vampires (they subsist on provisions from a blood bank) married for centuries but living apart, who reunite in a depopulated Motor City. Don’t come for the plot (it’s minimal); come for the spellbinding, laid-back cool of a vampire flick that trades in vinyl and timeless love.

    Where to watch: Buy from Amazon or iTunes.

  • The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

    Lionsgate

    This Joss Whedon-produced comedic sendup of the horror genre begins in a familiar way: five college friends holed up for a weekend in a remote cabin. What happens next can’t be discussed without spoiling the fun, but suffice it to say that one gory scene after another serves to bludgeon the tropes of the genre. It’s a formula that’s equally as delightful for steadfast fans as it is for those who have avoided it thanks to those aforementioned tired tropes.

    Where to watch: Rent from Amazon or iTunes.

  • Let the Right One In (2008)

    Magnet Releasing

    This dark Swedish film centers on two 12-year-old kids, one a lonely, bullied boy and the other a sullen neighbor girl who turns out to be a vampire. The restrained, cinematically beautiful tale of adolescent loneliness was an awards magnet, racking up honors at film festivals around the world and even getting an arguably lesser American adaptation, Let Me In. It’s scary, yes, but more than that it is a triumph of two young actors and, ultimately, a love story masquerading under the banner of horror.

    Where to watch: Rent from CinemaNow or Vudu.

  • Teeth (2007)

    Roadside Attractions

    In the horror comedy Teeth, a wholesome teenage girl discovers that her vagina has chompers which engage to bite off the member of any male who foists himself upon her uninvited. Unwanted sexual advances are, of course, no laughing matter. The joke here is the fear of female sexuality—specifically, a folk-tale phenomenon called vagina dentata—and writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein takes that fear to its not-so-logical but highly entertaining conclusion.

    Where to watch: Rent from iTunes.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


YOU BROKE TIME.COM!

Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team