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Slow-Burning Chillers: Thirteen Eerie Horror Films

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While jump scares can be used as the “easy” way to spook an audience, one of the hardest things for a horror director to do is create a sustained and genuine sense of dread. When you come across a good, atmospheric slow-burn, the film tends to stick with you. Here are thirteen films, ranging from vintage classics to newer releases, that are guaranteed to keep you looking over your shoulder well after the credits roll:

(With apologies to Black Phillip, The VVitch (2015) has been omitted this round because we’re all so aware of it!)

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Image via IMDB

Unfortunately for the purposes of summary, the less said about the plot of this movie, the better. Two teenage girls are stranded at a Catholic boarding school during winter break, and something sinister may be lurking in the shadows of the empty dorm. While the performances are top notch, the ominous score will keep you in a state of dread. Directed by Oz Perkins. (Available via Prime)

The Vanishing (1988)

Image via IMDB

In this ultimate slow-burn, a young Dutch couple, Saskia and Rex, are on a car trip through France. They pull into a rest stop to refuel and relax, and Saskia goes into the store to buy drinks … but never returns. Three years later, Rex is still searching for Saskia, and the person responsible for her disappearance contacts him with a chilling proposal. How far would you go to have your curiosity satisfied? Directed by George Sluizer. (Available via DVD.com)

From the Dark (2014)

Image via IMDB

In this atmospheric Irish indie film, a farmer accidentally loosens a strategically driven wooden stake while digging in his field. Meanwhile, a young couple has car trouble just as the sun starts to go down. While it quickly becomes clear that the creature can be kept at bay by any sort of light, it’s always lurking juuuuust beyond the shadows. Directed by Conor McMahon. (Available via Prime)

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Image via IMDB

This horror classic, which is a masterclass in slow dread, follows a husband and wife in Venice after their young daughter tragically drowns. After a chance encounter with a psychic, the husband begins to catch glimpses of a little girl in a red coat that is identical to their daughter’s flitting through the city. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. (Available via DVD.com)

The House of the Devil (2009)

Image via IMDB

Have you ever been so desperate to move out that you’d be willing to do anything, including taking the most unbelievably red flag-festooned babysitting gig imaginable? Then perhaps you can relate to Samantha, a college student who’s only trying to make a few honest bucks for a down payment on a new apartment when she ends up at an isolated house for a dubious “babysitting position,” where someone (or something) may be waiting upstairs. Directed by Ti West. (Available via Shudder on Prime)

Cat People (1942)

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It’s the classic Hollywood love story: boy meets girl, boy and girl start dating, girl is convinced she’s turning into a panther. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. (Available via DVD.com)

It Follows (2014)

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After a hook-up gone horribly wrong, a girl is stalked by a relentless supernatural entity that is always headed straight for her. Most horror films use shadows and corners to scare the viewer, but this one manages to also turn even the widest and most open spaces in broad daylight menacing. Directed by David Robert Mitchell. (Available via Netflix)

The Valley (2015)

Image via IMDB

This eerie German miniseries (originally known as Weinberg) centers around a misty little village and its strange and (in some cases) sinister inhabitants. A man wakes up in a vineyard next to the body of the remote German village equivalent of the homecoming queen with no memory of how he got there and must untangle a web of mysteries to figure out what happened. Think Twin Peaks with a twist of Hannibal. (Available via Shudder on Prime)

Diabolique (1954)

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The headmaster of a French boarding school is cruel to both his fragile wife and his mistress. The two women team up to murder him … and that’s only the first act of this artfully tense classic! Directed by Henrie-Georges Clouzot. (Available via DVD.com)

Absentia (2011)

Image via IMDB

A pregnant woman has made the decision to have her long-missing husband legally declared dead. When her sister comes to stay with her, the two women begin to suspect the creepy tunnel across the street might have something to do with the husband’s disappearance. Keep an eye peeled for Doug Jones! Directed by Mike Flanagan. (Available via Prime)

The Babadook (2014)

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A widowed mother struggles with her hyperactive son, and then a sinister pop-up book appears on the bookshelf. Visions of a pointy-fingered creature with a penchant for top hats soon follow, and, once this emotional roller coaster is done, you’ll never view coat racks the same way again. Directed by Jennifer Kent. (Available via Netflix)

The Ritual (2017)

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Friends on a hike in Sweden decide to leave the trail and take a shortcut through the woods. Shockingly, they come to seriously regret this decision, as they are confronted with animal carcasses, eerie presences, and one very upsetting wicker abomination. Directed by David Bruckner. (Available via Netflix)

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

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A young woman’s face was horribly mutilated in an accident, and her surgeon father is determined to fix the damage … even if it means straight-up peeling a face off someone else’s kid. This film features an unbelievably eerie (and mostly silent) performance by the daughter, whose mask allegedly inspired that of Michael Myers. Oh, and strap in for the infamous (and seemingly interminable) surgery scene that is still … intense … even in the age of Saw. Directed by Georges Franju. (Available via DVD.com)

Featured images (L-R) via IMDB, IMDB, and IMDB

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About The Author

E. caught the first ten seconds of a Dracula movie on TV while in first grade and immediately became obsessed. She's a huge fan of Gothic lit, outrageous horror movies, strange cats, and DIY projects involving black glitter. She has a degree in Medieval Studies and a background in costume. Her home improvement muse is Sarah Winchester.

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