Top Ten Scariest Non Horror Films

Posted: October 16, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Just as there are funny films which aren’t actually comedies, so too are their films which bear certain elements akin to a horror movie, but don’t actually belong to the genre. That’s what this list is all about; taking a look at films which have elements of horror, but don’t actually qualify. It should be noted that I’m not talking about movies like The Silence of the Lambs where people debate over how much of a horror film it really is, I’m talking about movies which are not qualified as horror by anybody, but still contain some terrifying content all the same.

10. There Will Be Blood

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Taken as a whole, There Will Be Blood probably doesn’t seem very horrific, but a few isolated elements do stand out. For one, the title. It’s foreboding, dark, and was even the tagline for Saw II. Then of course there’s Johnny Greenwood’s aggressive score, with its screechy violins evoking Bernard Herrmann and Psycho. Finally, the whole film has a dark, American Gothic undertone. Does it come out to being a horror film? No, but those elements are there.

9. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

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At first I considered placing Willy Wonka in the list as a bit of a joke, citing the various bizarre things that happen to the kids and the fact that we never see them at the end. Sure, Wonka says they’re fine, but the dude is a liar so we can’t take his word entirely. However what locked this a spot in my list is the infamous tunnel ride with its dark lighting and horrific imagery all set to a playful little tune from Wonka. A tune with lyrics like “Are the fires of Hell a-glowing?/ Is the grisly Reaper mowing?/ Yes! The danger must be growing.” Oh, and when Wonka’s finished singing, he lets out a blood curdling scream. So yeah, while the film is full of colours and musical numbers, there’s some twisted shit going down in Wonka’s factory.

8. Orpheus (1950)

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I also strongly considered Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast for this list as well. Both films feature some really abstract, dark imagery and a sense of helplessness, but I think the plot of Orpheus fits horror better. The film is about a man whose girlfriend is killed, so he travels the underworld to retrieve her. However during his trip, the man falls in love with death. Cocteau depicts the underworld as being very dark and abstract, but also run in a bureaucratic fashion. At the end of the day, the film is more a dark romance focused on exploring ideas, but if he wanted to, Cocteau could have made this a horror film pretty easily.

7. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

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I might be losing major credibility here. Disney films aren’t really thought of as being scary or twisted. But really think about Alice in Wonderland. It’s a little girl who becomes lost in a world of madness where everyone is insane and/or wants to kill her. That’s pretty damn grizzly. Of course, the film doesn’t play even remotely as horror. It’s a bright, colourful, and silly adventure. But the basic structure and some of the side elements are fairly horrific. There’s a reason so many different works have taken this story and the characters into darker territory. And while we’re on the subject of Disney, let’s given an honourable mention to Pinocchio and that fucked up scene where the kids are turning into donkeys. The rest of the movie is colourful and fun, but that shit is some serious nightmare fuel.

6. Brazil

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Based heavily on George Orwell’s 1984, Brazil depicts a man trapped in a dystopian, bureaucratic nightmare world where governments monitor everything, machines are overtaking people, and individual freedoms are not valued. The ending in particular has some very horrific implications. However Terry Gilliam leans far away from the darkness in the tone, instead embracing a comedic vibe. Brazil is full of slapstick, gags, and a zany comic energy. Had Gilliam chose to emphasize the dystopia, he might have made something terrifying (albeit still probably not a horror film). Instead, Gilliam made something hilarious which still contains some very dark undercurrents.

5. Jurassic Park

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Jurassic Park is basically a remake of Frankenstein, where a scientist tampers with the laws of nature, creating something far more powerful and dangerous then he imagined. The difference is Steven Spielberg chooses to downplay to moral questions at work in favour of adventure, excitement, and wonderment. The film does a lot of suspenseful moments, but it does tip into horror in a few brief moments. I’ll never forget the moment where Sam Jackson’s severed arm drapes over Laura Dern’s shoulders, particularly how the initial calm gives way to terror.

4. Touch of Evil

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A lot of Orson Welles films almost feel like a cinematic representation of a nightmare. This is true of Mr. Arkadin, The Trial, Othello, and the climactic scene of The Lady from Shanghai. However none of his films embody a nightmare as well as Touch of Evil. The tilted angles, dark shadows, morally compromised people, and all around awful stuff that happens in the film all add up to a world of darkness and aggression. These elements may seem par for the course for film noir, but there’s something about Welles’ execution that takes it to another level. Welles himself plays a very frightening and corrupt character. At the end of the day, Touch of Evil is undoubtedly a film noir, but one could say it flirts with horror. Plus, Charlton Heston plays a Mexican. Doesn’t get much spookier than that.

3. The Terminator

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I’ve discussed how The Terminator feels like a horror film before, so I won’t spend too long on this. Basically, the film is structured exactly like a slasher film. An indestructible villain relentlessly pursues a young girl with intent to kill. Nothing can seemingly top him as he slaughters all in his way until (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) only girl is left to fend for herself. That basic structure can be applied to most slashers, and it can be applied to The Terminator as well. However because the violence is brought on by guns and not knives or chainsaws, it becomes an action movie.

2. A Clockwork Orange

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Weird, abstract science-fiction often has some elements of horror. The characters feel helpless in an inhuman world where things are often strange, surreal, and frightening. I considered THX 1138, but it quickly became apparent that the only right choice would be Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Aside from the fact that Alex DeLarge is often placed with horror villains like Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers in popular culture, A Clockwork Orange also depicts some extremely heinous violence, as well as one of the most brutal torture sequences in film history. However Kubrick does not dwell in horror. In fact, he seems to find a twisted humour in Clockwork, which ends up becoming satire more than anything. It wouldn’t take much to push this into the realms of horror though.

1. Requiem for a Dream

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Darren Aronofsky’s portrayal of drug addiction is honest, brutal, and one of the most horrifying films I’ve ever seen. Aronofksy uses some really aggressive editing and oppressive music to really illustrate how much of a living hell drug addiction can be. I think most people would agree that it’s a very scary film, but would also agree it’s not a horror movie. Why doesn’t it qualify? It’s hard to say. From my perspective, the film is such an open exploration of real human suffering that it moves away from horror and become something else entirely.

Comments
  1. vinnieh says:

    Really like the idea behind this post.

  2. alysonkrier says:

    I love this idea for a list! Brazil is my nightmare fuel. And I can agree with adding Alice in Wonderland to the list.

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