The horror genre is one of the most interesting facets of filmmaking in the entire film industry. The turnover in horror is fast and trends come and go more quickly than in any other area of film, and because the success of horror movies completely relies on it's ability to surprise and scare it's audience, horror filmmakers are always under pressure to come up with new ideas and new ways of terrifying the people who are watching.
But it's also pretty hard to reinvent the wheel. Horror movies are also constrained by the fact that their entire purpose is to scare the audience, and in order to come up with a truly original horror film the producers and creators of a movie need to be able to come up with a new concept, execute it well, and not be afraid to boldly go where no one has gone before. Coming up with a truly original horror film is a rarity, but here are 10 of the best inventive horror films that don't rely on old tropes.
It's insanely difficult to create a tense, thrilling horror movie that takes place in one spot and only focuses on one character. And it's doubly hard to do that when you're dealing with a space that is only enough to hold one human body and nothing more. It's no surprise that no one has tried to do this before or since, but the Ryan Reynolds vehicle film Buried is actually a shockingly good horror thriller. Reynolds sells the tension of a man who has been buried alive and is trying to escape, and the ending of this movie is enough to send chills down anyone's spine.
9 A Quiet Place
In theory, the more restrictions that someone puts on a movie's premise, the more difficult it is to actually successfully pull that movie off. But John Krasinski's directorial debut film A Quiet Place takes it's premise and uses it as well as anyone possibly could have.
The story is about a family who is surviving after the earth has been invaded by some kind of creatures that are hypersensitive to sound, and they luckily have a leg up on the competition because they all know sign language as a result of having a deaf daughter. It's actually really cool to see a movie play out almost entirely in sign language, and this nearly silent film is as terrifying as any other great horror movie.
8 28 Days Later
Once upon a time it seemed like the zombie sub-genre of horror films was on death's door, but then director Danny Boyle stepped in and completely revitalized the concept with some seriously scary reinvented zombies. 28 Days Later was kind of The Walking Dead before The Walking Dead existed. It's lead character wakes up in the hospital to find that the world ended while he was asleep, and now the entire UK seems to be completely overrun by zombies. But these aren't the slow moving creatures of days gone past, these zombies are super fast and even more deadly than the originals.
7 The Blair Witch Project
At this point the found footage genre of horror films feels incredibly overused and almost played out. But once upon a time it was a completely original invention. The filmmakers behind The Blair Witch Project were basically a pack of students who just wanted to make their own horror film on a nonexistent budget, and they somehow managed to make one of the scariest and most inventive horror movies in decades just by making a film that seemed like it was made up of real footage that had been found after something terrible had already happened to the characters. It feels old now, but it was absolutely revolutionary then.
Doppelgangers are a mythical concept that have existed in some form or another for hundreds of years, but in Jordan Peele's second venture into the horror world he took things to an entirely new level and came up with one of the most unsettling films since, well, since his first venture into the horror world.
Us focuses on a family who is on vacation and then suddenly finds themselves under attack from some bizarre alternate version of themselves. The movie wasn't as strong as Jordan Peele's Get Out, but this inventive concept was executed beautifully and terrifyingly, and it really was unlike any other movie that has come before it.
5 The Thing
Although The Thing was not initially a critical or commercial success, it eventually became a cult classic and is now considered one of the best horror movies ever made. And it's easy to see why. The Thing is about a group of researchers in Antarctica that come across some kind of parasitic alien life form that can take on the appearance of other living things. The tension of the film is insane once the characters discover that the thing can take on the appearance of any one of them, and while the thing itself is a horror monster for the ages, the movie brilliantly takes advantage of the inner paranoia that all of the characters experience as a result of it.
4 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Horror movies are often times a very stark reflection of the world as it existed in the time that they were made, so sometimes they really age poorly and just cease to be scary just a few years after they've been made. But The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not one of those films. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre tells the story of some hitchhikers who are taken in and hunted down by a deranged rural family of cannibals, and although the movie is not a found footage film it does almost feel like director Tobe Hooper just found a pack of insane people to portray these monstrous humans.
3 Get Out
It's actually surprising that it took so long for a film like Get Out to be made, because white people can be absolutely terrifying. In comedian Jordan Peele's feature film directorial and writing debut, the audience gets a profoundly disturbing glimpse into a picture perfect, rich, white family who has come up with an ingenious side hustle.
They're taking raggedy old white people and installing their consciousness into fit black bodies. It's a clear allegory for American slavery, and the movie tackles nearly everything about racism in America and handles it absolutely masterfully. The movie truly has something to say, and no movie has ever quite said what Get Out says before.
2 The Witch
There has never been a movie quite like The Witch before, because frankly most mainstream filmmakers wouldn't even have the courage to make something so stylized and strange. The Witch is a period piece about a family of Puritans who have abandoned their community for not being pious enough, and the family comes to believe that the eldest daughter Thomasin is a witch. Their belief is nothing more than religious hysteria, but one by one it seems like every member of the family is being overcome by their own sin. Finally the genuinely innocent Thomasin is the only one left alive, but when the devil offers her a life of sin and pleasure she accepts it.
1 The Shining
The Shining may be decades old now, but it's really impossible to top it's originality and overall quality as a horror movie. This adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name manages to take it's source material and make it even better. The story of Jack Torrance, his family, and a hotel that seems to be haunted or downright possessed is one of the scariest movies of all time and it also takes a lot of standard tropes and turns them on their head. Most horror movies make the viewer feel trapped in darkness and closed spaces, but The Shining makes everything bright and sprawling, so that escape is literally everywhere but there is nowhere to escape to.