13 of the Scariest Movie Premises That Can Actually Happen

13 of the Scariest Movie Premises That Can Actually Happen

As a somewhat rational, somewhat-grown-up, I can handle ghost movies. Once the movie ends, I can safely resume normal life knowing that those ghosts, demons, and zombies probably can’t hurt me. But psychological thrillers? Home invasions? Vengeful ex-lovers? Those are the kinds of scary movies that get under my skin and stay there long after the lights are back on.

If you’re looking to ground your horror film experience, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of scary movies that could technically go down in real life.

Note: I tried to stay away from thrillers based off historic, largely overdone true crime stories, such as the portrayal of Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019). For stories more along those lines, check out these documentaries that are scarier than made-up horror movies.

The Watcher (2016)

Not to be confused with 2000 film by the same title, The Watcher (2016) is based off the experiences of Derek and Maria Broaddus, a real-life couple who moved into their dream house only to be tormented by an anonymous stalker. Sure, stalking and home invasion is scary enough. Throw in the motif of dead birds and bird masks, and you’ll be thoroughly creeped out.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Ma (2019)

Octavia Spencer plays a lonely woman who befriends some cool teens and turns her basement into a drinking den for them–so long as they stick to her rules. Hey, if you’re gonna drink, I’d prefer you do it inside the house Octavia Spencer’s basement.

Where to watch: Apple TV, Google Play

Contagion (2011)

This 2011 thriller started trending again last year, for some unimaginable reason, and like we’ve said before, it’s totally worth revisiting. Watch society collapse at the onset of a global pandemic. Sicko.

Where to watch: Apple TV, Google Play

Hush (2016)

A deaf writer lives alone in the woods. The only issue is that, surprise surprise, she’s not alone. Without spoiling anything, the identity of the masked killer definitely gives this one an extra real-world scare factor.

Where to watch: Netflix

The Strangers (2008)

From the Scream franchise to The Purge, what could be scarier than real people in creepy masks? The fear factor of The Strangers is amped up when you know that it was inspired by two real-life events: the multiple-homicide Manson family Tate murders and a series of break-ins that occurred in director Bryan Bertino’s neighbourhood as a child.

Where to watch: Apple TV

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

No round-up of psychological thrillers would be complete without this cinematic classic (even non-exhaustive lists like this one). Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee who seeks the advice of the imprisoned, brilliant, cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in order to get into the mind of a serial killer skinning his female victims.

Not to blame the Lecter parents, but what did they expect after naming someone Hannibal? The nickname is right there.

Where to watch: Stan, Foxtel Go, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play

The Visit (2015)

To be frank, when it comes to highlighting an M. Night Shyamalan romp, I’d rather spend some time at the beach that makes you old. Alas, the most plausible of all the Shyamalan-style twists happens in The Visit. Two kids visit their grandparents on a remote farm, but the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in deeply disturbing activity, and the youngsters’ chances of getting back home seem to fade with every passing minute.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Compliance (2012)

When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to question an innocent young employee, the interrogation gets harsher and harsher. Once again, everything is scarier when you realise the story is based on true events.

Where to watch: Apple TV

Open Water (2003)

Newsflash: Sharks are scary. And guess what? I don’t care about your “statistics” related to how rare shark attacks are. Luckily, I’m not alone: There’s no shortage of shark-related horror, whether you’re a classic Jaws fan to an enlightened Sharknado appreciator.

Open Water is loosely based on the true story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who in 1998 went out with a scuba diving group on the Great Barrier Reef and were accidentally left behind in shark-infested waters.

Where to watch: Stan

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

I’ll admit, the inclusion of this film depends on a flexible definition of scary movies. I argue that any slasher films is like a child’s bedtime story compared to this wild ride of painfully real loneliness. (Am I ok?) (No.)

Where to watch: Stan

Vacancy (2007)

A couple in a remote motel kill time with low-budget slasher movies on the TV, only to discover that the disturbing images on screen were recorded in the very room where they’re staying. If you were ever fully at ease in motels before, you won’t be again.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google PLay

Black Water (2007)

A pregnant woman, her boyfriend, and her sister take a boat tour of a mangrove swamp where they are terrorised by a killer crocodile. This movie confirms that few things are scarier than the fact that Australia is somehow a real place.

Where to watch: Apple TV, Google Play

All five Twilight Saga movies

A girl can dream, ok?

Where to watch: Netflix


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