(Left to Right) 'Hush', 'The Babadook', 'The Witch' via IMDB

Jump scares are a classic technique in the horror genre, but they are also widely abused for cheap thrills. Rest assured, there is a time and a place for jump scares, but we have compiled a list for those who have become jaded by them. These modern horror films use jump scares rarely (if at all), and still manage to provide the spooky goods.

‘Lake Mungo’ (2008) – After Dark Films, Mungo Productions

1. Lake Mungo (2008)

Cast: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe

Director: Joel Anderson

Why You Should Watch: This faux documentary about (alleged) supernatural occurrences following a young girl’s tragic drowning is an eerie ghost story that never yells “BOO!” Lake Mungo’s mystery of continues to unravel until the last scene, which reveals many more layers to this creepy paranormal tale.

Where to Watch: YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ via IMDB

2. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Cast: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton

Director: Oz Perkins

Why You Should Watch: Tragedy befalls two students who are stranded at an all female prep school during winter break. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a slow, creeping infiltration of evil. Without delving into spoilers, this foreboding film doesn’t reveal its true threat until it’s already too late. This one will haunt you long after the credits role. Who needs jump scares when you’re already chilled to the bone?

Where to Watch: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

Hereditary ants
Image via A24 YouTube

3. Hereditary (2018)

Cast: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff

Director: Ari Aster

Why You Should Watch: Jump scares, while startling, often release the build-up of tension. Hereditary, on the other hand, repeatedly builds the suspense until it becomes unbearable, and rarely provides audiences the sweet relief of jump scares. This film about a family going to Hell doesn’t just scare its audiences. It tortures them.

Where to Watch: In theaters June 8th, 2018

‘It Follows’ via IMDB

4. It Follows (2014)

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Why You Should Watch: The thought of an entity always walking towards you with murderous intent puts audiences in a constant state of paranoia and alertness. It Follows has viewers continuously scanning the entire frame searching for anyone suspicious lurking in the background. This twisted game of “I Spy” will make your heart skip a beat even when you see the threat coming from a mile away.

Where to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘The Babadook’ via IMDB

5. The Babadook (2014)

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall

Director: Jennifer Kent

Why You Should Watch: A widowed mother and her son are terrorized by an evil entity that prey’s on their vulnerabilities. With nowhere left to turn, family must face their emotional and literal demons in this psychological/supernatural horror. The Babadook favors isolation and heavy atmosphere over a loud CGI monster that goes BUMP in the night.

Where to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Showtime

‘The Ritual’ via IMDB

6. The Ritual (2017)

Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton

Director: David Bruckner

Why You Should Watch: Things go from bad to worse for a group of hikers in the Scandinavian wilderness when they begin to suspect something may be stalking them. This backcountry horror film set in a desolate forest is a refreshing departure from the standard crazy hill-people premise. The Ritual’s claustrophobic setting and hopeless situation makes it feel like a closer spiritual successor to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project than the 2016 jump scares-heavy reboot.

Where to Watch: Netflix

‘The Witch’ via IMDB

7. The Witch (2015)

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

Director: Robert Eggers

Why You Should Watch: The Witch is an unsettling period drama depicting a 1600’s New England family slowly unraveling when they believe a witch has laid a curse upon them. This film is light on horror theatrics, and heavy on historic authenticity and paranoia. It shows how quickly evil can corrupt people, and force them to turn on each other when they’re at their weakest.

Where to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘Hush’ via IMDB

8. Hush (2016)

Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel, Michael Trucco

Director: Mike Flanagan

Why You Should Watch: Hush puts an interesting spin on the home invasion genre, when a masked killer stumbles upon the secluded home of a deaf/mute female writer in the woods. As the psychopath lurks outside Maddie’s home, we find both she and her assailant prove to be equally cunning. In most slasher films, the faceless killer is silent, and the victim does all the talking (or screaming). This tense thriller flip-flops the roles to create an interesting dynamic between killer and victim, and uses silence instead of loud jump scares to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Where to Watch: Netflix

‘The Wailing’ via IMDB

9. The Wailing (2016)

Cast: Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Do-won Kwak

Director: Hong-jin Na

Why You Should Watch: A mysterious illness follows the arrival of a stranger in a small village, and a police officer must figure out what is going on to save his afflicted daughter. What one might initially think is some kind of straight-forward zombie outbreak film turns out to be a much more complex tale of good and evil. While The Wailing has a generous 2 1/2 hour run-time, the film uses bleak atmosphere, and plenty of mystery to creep you out all the way to its ambiguous conclusion.

Where to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘A Dark Song’ via IMDB

10. A Dark Song (2016)

Cast: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker, Susan Loughnane

Director: Liam Gavin

Why You Should Watch: A bereaved mother turns to an eccentric occultist to contact her son with black magic. The film is an exercise in endurance as the two lock themselves in a rural house, and are unable to leave until the grueling ritual is complete. A Dark Song lets your imagination do most of the legwork, as the scariest aspect on the film is the unknown, forbidden territory our leads are venturing into.

Where to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies

‘The Void’ via IMDB

11. The Void (2016)

Cast: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers

Director: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski

Why You Should Watch: The Void follows a small group of people who find themselves trapped in a hospital by hooded cultists, and soon realize there are far worse things lurking in the depths of the building. This Lovecraftian tale is a slow descent into madness, focusing on nightmarish imagery, practical monster effects, and body horror for its scares.

Where to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘Last Shift’ via IMDB

12. Last Shift (2014)

Cast: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, Hank Stone

Director: Anthony DiBlasi

Why You Should Watch: A rookie cop finds herself babysitting a closing police station alone her first night on the job, and discovers there’s a terrifying reason why they moved the precinct to a new location. A police station is an interesting setting for a haunted house film, and this eerie spookfest about a greenhorn officer trying to prove her worth manages to be intense without resorting to cheap scare tactics. Last Shift was also part of our Best Female-Focused Fodern Horror Films list.

Where to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘The Blackwell Ghost’ via Amazon

13. The Blackwell Ghost (2017)

Cast: Turner Clay, Terri Czapleski, Ruth Blackwell (?)

Director: Turner Clay (Uncredited)

Why You Should Watch: The Blackwell Ghost can be enjoyed purely for its ghost story; however, it’s really a meta-documentary examining the endless “paranormal footage” found online. What if someone uploaded genuine footage of a real ghost, and you just brushed it off as yet another fake video? Is there any amount of video or photographic evidence that would convince you what you are witnessing is legitimate proof of the afterlife? The notion is thought-provoking, and creepy, to say the least.

Where to Watch: Amazon

‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ via IMDB

14. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Cast: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond

Director: André Øvredal

Why You Should Watch: This autopsy truly gets under your skin, as the mystery behind an unidentified woman’s corpse becomes increasingly baffling. The build-up in the first half of the film will make your blood run cold, as you wait for the riddle to be solved. Jane Doe’s lifeless eyes are enough to make you look away from the screen.

Where to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Showtime

‘Bone Tomahawk’ via IMDB

15. Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox

Director: S. Craig Zahler

Why You Should Watch: This horror/western shows just how unforgiving the wild west could be. Like the settlers in the film, the viewer is never allowed to feel safe or comfortable. Danger can come from anywhere at any time. And instead of romanticizing violence like westerns often do, Bone Tomahawk uses horrific gore to show there is no glory to be found in these harsh lands.

Where to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘Goodnight Mommy’ via IMDB

16. Goodnight Mommy (2014)

Cast: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz

Director: Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz, Susanne Wuest

Why You Should Watch: A mother is often the safe haven for children; however, Goodnight Mommy immediately creates a sense of distrust and isolation by making the mother a suspicious character. Is this woman really Lukas and Elias’ mom, or is it an imposter? With no one to turn to for help, the twins will just have to find out for themselves.

Where to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘Honeymoon’ via IMDB

17. Honeymoon (2014)

Cast: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber

Director: Leigh Janiak

Why You Should Watch: The honeymoon of two newlyweds turns frightening when Paul’s wife Bea begins acting strangely, after he finds her wandering the woods in the middle of the night. The film uses Paul’s intimate knowledge of his wife to detect Bea’s subtle, yet bizarre behavior. He’s convinced something is amiss, but will he be able to find out what it is before it’s too late? The movie is a slow escalation of events before reaching a disturbing finale.

Where to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Hulu, Google Play Movies, Vudu

‘Gerald’s Game’ via IMDB

18. Gerald’s Game (2017)

Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Chiara Aurelia

Director: Mike Flanagan

Why You Should Watch: Jessie struggles to survive after finding herself bound to a bed and alone, when her husband suffers a massive heart attack during a romantic getaway. To make matters worse, there’s a serial killer on the loose, and the front door is wide open. This Stephen King adaptation was once thought to be impossible to film, but turned out gripping from beginning to end thanks to Flanagan’s sure hand. Jessie’s physical and psychological struggle forces her to face her dark past to survive her perilous present.

Where to Watch: Netflix

‘The Orphanage’ via IMDB

19. The Orphanage (2007)

Cast: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep

Director: J.A. Bayona

Why You Should Watch: A family’s son goes missing during a party at their home, and his mother Laura believes his disappearance is linked to a new imaginary friend he recently met. The Orphanage is not just an atmospheric supernatural mystery. It also packs an emotional gut-punch that elevates it beyond the horror genre. This emotional, eerie film was also just featured in our list for The Best Supernatural Horror Films Available For Streaming Right Now.

Where to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Movies, Vudu

What are some of your favorite horror films that don’t rely on jump scares? Let us know in the comments!

1 COMMENT

  1. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of these movies I have already seen. I completely agree with the writer…hidden gems abound. My personal favorite is “Gerald’s Game’. A great story turned into one of the best adaptations ever! It may be my #1 King movie…so good!

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