10 Horror Movies That Will Definitely Make You Shed Actual Tears
Some movies are scary; others are sad. Why not both?
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In recent years, we’ve seen a major rise in critically acclaimed, arthouse horror movies. Movies like Get Out and The Witch have sparked the term "elevated horror," and the debate over what exactly constitutes a horror movie. Whatever your opinion, one thing remains undeniably true: A horror movie is meant to frighten, shock, or inspire dread in the audience, no matter if they're blood-soaked slashers, "safer" dark fantasies, or something else entirely.
But there are movies that do more than just that. While everyone knows of horror-comedies that find a balance between making you scream and laugh, there are horror movies that strike a chord with our emotions and pull at our heartstrings just as easily as they make us jump out of our seats--movies that make us shed a tear or two.
In preparation for Halloween, we put together 10 of the best horror movies that will not only scare you, but will make you cry, too.
1. Train to Busan
If you think the zombie genre hasn't offered anything new since The Walking Dead began airing on TV, you definitely haven't seen the South Korean sensation, Train to Busan. The movie follows several commuters trapped on a train during a zombie apocalypse.
Train to Busan blends class warfare with a battle against the undead, offering terrific, blood-pumping action and some of the most innovative kills in recent zombie history. But what makes the movie stand out is the characters. As the train speeds on and we get to know them better, it hurts all the more when we start losing characters to the flesh-eating ghouls. Good luck trying to hold back the tears after your favorite character gets bitten and has to say goodbye to their loved ones.
2. A Quiet Place
The most recent entry in the "sad horror" sub-genre, John Krasinski's A Quiet Place is not only an excellent movie, but it is a testament to the emotional power of the horror genre. the film introduces a world invaded by monsters that kill anything that makes a sound. Krasinski stars as Lee, the head of a family that is trying to stay safe and completely silent in a cruel world.
A Quiet Place doesn't pull any punches. Right from the start the monsters deal a devastating blow to Lee and his family, which not only serves to raise the stakes, but sets the tone for the rest of the movie. As much as you will scream in fear, this is a movie that's about grief and family, and about the sacrifices we make for each other.
What would you do if you got bitten by a zombie and had only 48 hours to live? What if you also had an infant daughter you needed to protect before turning into a flesh-eating ghoul? That's the dilemma at the center of Cargo, a zombie drama that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Cargo tells you from the beginning that it will have a happy ending. But that doesn't mean it can't keep you on the edge of your seat as you agonize over the fate of the baby. Featuring a killer performance by Martin Freeman, who not only carries the film, but also a baby on his shoulders, this is an emotional tear-jerker of a zombie film.
4. A Tale of Two Sisters
If you've only seen the watered-down, American remake of A Tale of Two Sisters, then you have only seen half the story. This hallucinatory, psychological horror film follows Su-mi, who finally reunites with her beloved sister after being released from a mental hospital. The girl's widower father has remarried, and the siblings are resentful and suspicious of his new wife, who they are convinced is keeping a dark secret.
This is a bleak, nihilistic film that plays with audience expectations by selectively choosing what to present onscreen. It carefully builds up a creepy atmosphere that makes you question everything you're seeing, leading up to a sad, jaw-dropping conclusion.
One of the most underappreciated horror movies of 2018, Pyewacket plays out like Lady Bird meets The Witch. Look, we've all fought with our parents, and quite a few of us might have thought or wished at some point to have different parents, or no parents at all. The problem is, Leah not only feels that way, but she also runs off to the woods one night after fighting with her recently widowed mother and summons an actual demon to make her an orphan.
Leah quickly realizes she acted harshly and that she doesn't really want her mother dead. But then weird, inexplicable things begin to happen. Is there really a demon lurking around? Is it coming for Leah's mom? Can it be stopped? Pyewacket is a tense race against the clock, playing with relatable scenarios turned up to 11 and a story that will make you want to call your parents and tell them you love them.
6. Lake Mungo
Young Alice drowns during a family vacation , and the family--stricken with grief--start noticing weird things. Presented as a documentary about Alice's family, Lake Mungo is a chilling portrayal of grief. We see how the family start hearing strange sounds or seeing quick flashes of something moving around the house, and it is terrifying how believable everything is.
Without special effects or even jump scares, Lake Mungo sucks you into its story and takes you on a journey filled with a sense of dread, that still makes you feel terribly sorry for this family. One of the most original ghost stories in recent years, the documentary format makes you believe this could be real, before the story takes devastating turns.
Everybody loves a good "based on a true story" horror movie, but director Paco Plaza isn't content with giving us another screamfest like the found-footage zombie movie REC. Instead, the Spanish director loosely revisits one of the most infamous paranormal incidents in recent Spanish history. Verónica follows a 15-year-old girl who one day decides to play with a Ouija board at school, in order to contact her father. Things go south and Verónica lets out a demonic scream, later discovering that a dark spirit has attached itself to her.
As interested in jump scares and creepy imagery as it is in presenting the hauntingly sad tale of a girl being played with by forces she doesn't understand, Verónica lets you know the stakes from the beginning, and slowly builds to a heartbreaking third act that portrays events that still haunt detectives to this day.
8. The Devil's Backbone
Pretty much every Guillermo del Toro horror movie fits this category. The Mexican auteur knows how to build dread from real life horror and present it through the eyes of a child who doesn't understand the severity of what's happening. This extends to his own films in addition to ones that he's produced, including the hauntingly heartbreaking The Orphanage.
The Devil's Backbone takes place during the last days of the Spanish Civil War in a boarding school that shelters orphans and other abandoned children. 10-year-old Carlos is bullied by the other kids, at the same time as he discovers the ghost of another student who died on the school grounds. The film presents the ghost not as a terrifying creature (though there are some actual scary moments in the film) but as a being full of deep sadness. Del Toro expertly weaves the horror and the exploration of trauma until they reach a chilling climax.
Honestly, anything made by Mike Flanagan belongs in this list (especially The Haunting of Hill House). The writer-director always goes for the emotional jugular, showing deep empathy for others and understanding that horror needs relatable human emotion as much as it needs to scare the hell out of you.
Oculus has Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites play siblings who reunite after years apart and return to their family home, where they're awaited by an ominous antique mirror that they believe played a part in the traumatic event that separated them as children. The movie plays like a slow descent into madness, exploring grief and trauma while still telling a chilling tale of a haunted mirror and a family that is broken by violence. Maintaining a sense of dread throughout its runtime, seeing this family come apart--like in Hill House--will break your heart.
10. Pet Sematary
What can be said about Stephen King's Pet Sematary that hasn't been said before? Pick either of the two adaptations (though the newer one is more effective in its delivery of the themes) and you'll get a scary, gory, and emotionally charged story of grief and our refusal to let go of our departed loved ones.
Whichever version of the story you prefer, Pet Sematary has very disturbing imagery involving children that's sure to leave you rubbing your eyes while pretending you have allergies