There’s no better time than now to watch beginner horror movies given that it’s spooky season. But let’s face it, horror’s not for everybody. Some of us are just too scared of watching horror movies alone or don’t like the genre because it feels like it’s just boring jumpscare after jumpscare. Good horror movies are just hard to find.
That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of the best beginner horror movies to watch this October. It’s a mix of classics that you may have already heard of, but not classic to the point that you’ll get bored of the pacing. Yes, my fellow The Shining (1980) and Hitchcock stans, our overanalyzed favorites are typically not the best intro to horror for most people.
So here are some beginner horror movies that won’t bore you, scare you too much, or make you feel like you’ve just watched a cheap jumpscare montage.
1. Sinister (2012)
Full confession, I’m biased because Scott Derrickson’s Sinister is one of my favorite horror movies and the first one I really remember watching in full. Clearly, it made a strong enough impression on my 13-year-old brain at the time that it became my comfort film.
Anyway, the film follows the Oswalds as they move in and settle into their new home in Chatford Pennsylvania. Ellison Oswalt, the dad and a true crime writer, is trying desperately to recreate the success of his hit book Kentucky Blood. His solution to writer’s block? Move his family to the same house where the Stevenson family was murdered in the 1990s.
Some of us just take a walk before typing again, Oswalt. Maybe try that next time.
2. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
People either love or hate The Cabin in the Woods because of how quickly it descends to an ending that’s so out there, it breaks your suspension of disbelief. Now, not to be that snobby film person, but part of that hate is from ‘just not getting it’. The whole point is to satirize horror topes which is why you’re going to see references to other popular horror films that came before it.
The end result? You get a film that feels like Friday the 13th had a baby with The Heathers.
3. Scream (1996)
It would be a crime against horror not to mention the film that put the slasher genre on the map, Wes Craven’s 1996 movie Scream. It has some of the comedic elements of The Cabin in the Woods in that its characters poke fun at horror tropes with one character going into a long rant about the trope of characters getting killed after they have sex.
The movie starts with the murder of Casey Becker who gets a phone call from a stranger who proceeds to flirt with her. She’s into it at first since it seems like harmless fun, but things take a turn for the horrifying when the caller makes it clear they can see her. This turns out to just be the beginning when Sidney Prescott, who’s still dealing with the rape and murder of her mother, becomes the target of spooky calls.
Honestly, if there’s one film you have to watch on this list, it’s this one.
4. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s Get Out has undeniably become one of the most popular horror movies of the past ten years, often being recommended together with films like Hereditary and Midsommar. What makes this a unique film among these beginner horror movies is how it mixes popular themes in horror like being invaded in some way or form with the real-life horrors of racism.
Chris Washington, a photographer with a keen eye for aesthetics, agrees to come with his white girlfriend Rose to see her family. At first, it seems like Chris’ fears of racism from Rose’s family are unfounded and that they’re just regular old money white people. But all of these assumptions come to a screeching halt when Chris takes the wrong photo and realizes he made a crucial mistake in trusting the family.
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project did for found footage films what Scream did for the slasher genre. It’s just hard to imagine the found footage genre without it and its presence is still strongly felt in everything from movies to TV shows to video games that try and adopt the elements from it.
The movie follows three film students, Heather, Michael, and Joshua, as they make a documentary about the Blair Witch of Burkittsville, Maryland. Because of this, the movie is told through the footage discovered in abandoned cameras left by the three students whose whereabouts remain unknown.
6. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Drag Me to Hell (2009) is another personal favorite of mine because of its twist on a common trope in folklore. You’ve likely heard a folk story before that involves an elderly person, typically a woman, who asks for help from the younger hero/heroine. Their generosity is rewarded tenfold, but any refusal to help is met with a curse that ruins their lives and the lives of those around them.
Drag Me to Hell puts bank loan officer Christine Brown in a position where she has to choose whether to be kind to the elderly Sylvia Ganush and extend her mortgage or deny it. At first, Christine seems to be moved by the old woman and genuinely wants to help, but she remembers that her promotion is at stake and that her boss wants to see her be tougher on their customers before he lets her get her promotion.
So Christine does the worst thing you could do to a strange woman in a folk story: she denies her request. As a result, Sylvia places a curse on her that Christine has to lift before it’s too late.
7. The Witch (2015)
You’re not likely to see The Witch (2015) be recommended as a beginner horror film because of its relative lack of popularity. Sure, it’s gained some traction in recent years because of Anya Taylor Joy’s fame after The Queen’s Gambit, but it’s still a pretty niche horror film compared to the others on this list.
The Witch is set in New England during the 1630s and follows a family struggling to survive on their own after being outcast from their community due to their father’s religious views.
Panic and terror begin to set in as it becomes clear that they may have to beg the people of the village to take them back before they starve to death. Things take a greater turn for the worse after the family’s youngest son disappears and two of the other children accuse Thomasin, the eldest daughter, of being a witch.