I don’t believe in ghosts, but lock me into an abandoned insane asylum overnight and I guarantee you I’ll be scared by every creak and shadow. It’s because there are times when fear is so intense it completely overrides common sense and logic. And that’s why we love horror movies: They create a world where our intellect goes out the window, returning us to a child-like state where monsters and demons do, in fact, exist.
You don’t have to lock yourself into an abandoned insane asylum to get a hefty dose of undiluted terror. Watching a horror movie alone can be one of the most unnerving ways to pass the time. Even films that might not necessarily get under your skin in the company of others can have a totally different effect when watched alone.
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The films listed below are all scary as hell, but there’s something about each of them that makes them particularly disturbing to watch alone. Some feature an isolated protagonist while other will exacerbate the omnipresent dread that accompanies loneliness. Give it a read and let us know what you think in the Comments section! Do you agree that these films are especially unnerving to view alone? What are some other movies that are especially scary to watch solo? Let’s discuss!
The Strangers (2008, Directed by Bryan Bertino)
Official Synopsis: Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are expecting a relaxing weekend at a family vacation home, but their stay turns out to be anything but peaceful. First, a mysterious and dangerous woman arrives at the door while James is out on an errand. When he returns, he accidentally kills his friend Mike (Glenn Howerton), mistaking him for an intruder. And then real danger does show up — in the form of three masked torturers, leaving Kristen and James struggling for survival.
Let’s get the “No duh!” entry over with. Whether you love it or hate it, The Strangers is scary as hell, and it succeeds by turning the concept of a safe haven into a potential hell. The idea that you could be targeted in your home for no reason compounded with absent neighbors and no sign of authorities is a truly nightmarish combination of tropes.
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Halloween (1978, Directed by John Carpenter)
Official Synopsis: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.
John Carpenter’s Halloween remains legitimately terrifying almost 40 years after it’s original release, and watching it alone is almost impossible.
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Silent House (2011, Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau)
Official Synopsis: Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) is working with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to renovate an old family home to prepare it for sale. Long vacant, the house has no utilities, forcing the trio to rely on battery-operated lanterns to light their way. Sarah becomes separated from her relatives and soon finds she is trapped inside the cabin, with no contact with the outside world. Panic turns to real terror as the young woman experiences events that become increasingly ominous.
Presented as a single 88-minute shot, Silent House delivers the terror in real-time and never lets up.
House of the Devil (2009, Directed by Ti West)
Official Synopsis: Desperate to make some money so she can move into a new apartment, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) takes a mysterious babysitting job. When she arrives at the house, Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) mentions a full lunar eclipse and explains there is no child, but that Samantha will be watching his mother instead. After exploring the sinister-seeming house, Samantha soon comes to realize that her employers are hiding a horrifying secret and have plans to use her, dead or alive.
House of the Devil is a slow-burn creeper inspired by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s also particularly difficult to view solo. For an extra dose of horror, try watching this film alone in someone else house!
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Directed by Jack Sholder)
Official Synopsis: Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) moves with his family into the home of the lone survivor from a series of attacks by dream-stalking monster Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). There, Jesse is bedeviled by nightmares and inexplicably violent impulses. It turns out Freddy needs a host body to carry out his gruesome vendetta against the youth of Springwood, Ohio. While Freddy gains influence, Jesse and his girlfriend, Lisa (Kim Myers), race against the clock trying to figure out what’s going on.
While often considered the black sheep of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, I’ve often argued that Freddy’s Revenge is the most terrifying chapter in the bunch. It presents the idea that you don’t have to be an “Elm Street Child” to run afoul of Freddy’s fury, introducing possession motifs and serious body horror. As opposed to the other Nightmare films that feature a posse of teens, the protagonist in Freddy’s Revenge is a loner, making him even more isolated. Watching Freddy’s Revenge alone will definitely convince you there’s legitimate terror there.
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Hush (2016, Directed by Mike Flanagan)
Official Synopsis: A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.
Being stalked by a masked intruder is terrifying, but if you’re out in the woods alone—forget about it! Mike Flannagan’s Hush also features a deaf protagonist, adding layers of tension to an already unnerving premise.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006, Directed by Alexandre Aja)
Official Synopsis: A family road trip takes a terrifying turn when the travelers become stranded in a barren atomic zone established by the U.S. government. However, the unlucky travelers discover to their horror that the wasteland is far from uninhabited, A band of bloodthirsty mutants prowls the area, and there is nothing they like better than fresh meat.
The relentless terror and extreme brutality of The Hills Have Eyes are tough to endure in the company of friends, but experienced alone they can be completely devastating.
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The Ring (2002, Directed by Gore Verbinski)
Official Synopsis: It sounds like just another urban legend — a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling the viewer’s death in exactly seven days. Newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is skeptical of the story until four teenagers all die mysteriously exactly one week after watching just such a tape. Allowing her investigative curiosity to get the better of her, Rachel tracks down the video and watches it. Now she has just seven days to unravel the mystery.
Watching The Ring alone feels like an engraved invitation asking Samara to scare the hell out of you!
The Descent (2006, Directed by Neil Marshall)
Official Synopsis: A year after a severe emotional trauma, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) goes to North Carolina to spend some time exploring caves with her friends; after descending underground, the women find strange cave paintings and evidence of an earlier expedition, then learn they are not alone: Underground predators inhabit the crevasses, and they have a taste for human flesh.
The Descent is best known for stoking claustrophobia but experienced alone, it can be exceptionally harrowing. Even with all the lights on, this is a dark journey best traveled with others.
The Shining (1980, Directed by Stanley Kubrick)
Official Synopsis: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.
The Shining has terrified horror fans for decades, but watching it alone can be an exponentially more terrifying experience. The isolation of The Overlook Hotel and the appearance of bizarre apparitions will chill you to the bone.
The Conjuring (2013, Directed by James Wan)
Official Synopsis: In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron. The Perrons and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. Though the manifestations are relatively benign at first, events soon escalate in horrifying fashion, especially after the Warrens discover the house’s macabre history.
The scariest horror movie since The Exorcist is even scarier when watched alone.
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The Exorcist (1973, Directed by William Friedkin)
Official Synopsis: One of the most profitable horror movies ever made, this tale of an exorcism is based loosely on actual events. When young Regan (Linda Blair) starts acting odd — levitating, speaking in tongues — her worried mother (Ellen Burstyn) seeks medical help, only to hit a dead end. A local priest (Jason Miller), however, thinks the girl may be seized by the devil. The priest makes a request to perform an exorcism, and the church sends in an expert (Max von Sydow) to help with the difficult job.
Of course, the scariest movie of all time is even scarier when watched alone.
The Boy (2016, Directed by William Brent Bell)
Official Synopsis: A young American named Greta (Lauren Cohan) takes a job as a nanny for an 8-year-old boy in a remote English village. To her surprise, Greta learns that the child of her new employers is a life-size doll. They care for the doll as if it was human, which helps the couple to cope with the death of their own son 20 years earlier. When Greta violates a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring her worst fears to life, leading her to believe that the doll is alive.
Featuring an American nanny alone in a Gothic-style mansion, The Boy is extra intense when viewed alone. If creepy dolls don’t scare you, perhaps the though of an unseen stalker crawling through the walls will get your blood pumping!
We Go On (2016, Directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton)
Official Synopsis: A man offers a reward to anyone who can prove there is an afterlife. He embarks on an adventure through Los Angeles to meet with three viable candidates, and he has no idea he is about to experience an unthinkable nightmare.
We Go On includes a shocking twist that hits like a sucker-punch, pure poison for solo horror movie viewers. This one will have you seeing ghosts in every dark corner and fearing the unknown behind every closed door.
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Grave Encounters (2011, Directed by Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz)
Official Synopsis: The crew of a ghost-hunting TV show goes insane after being locked in an abandoned psychiatric hospital.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be locked in an insane asylum overnight? Grave Encounters is packed with jump scares, and watching it alone means you’ve got no one to cling to!