Teasers. Trailers. Clips. First looks. Leaks. When it comes to new horror films in the vast amounts of marketing media that’s around them, it’s almost impossible to avoid the details. Social media, whether intentional or by our own curious eye, is a combative source of drawing viewers in, but spoiling all of the fun. Without giving away too much upfront, I’d like to look at a few films that were not only an awesome experience, but have far too many valuable elements to be ruined by overzealous marketing and the hype that ensues around their release.
The following 10 Of The Best Horror Films To Go In Blind don’t need a synopsis to support their cause. Not all have a twist or even need one to be an enjoyable testament of the horror genre’s pull on our conscious viewing, even though a good surprise bender always helps. The best way to experience these flicks is to have as minimal experience with them beforehand as possible. Sometimes the best synopsis is the warning of not reading one to begin with.
As much as I wanted to comment on the following films without giving any prior pretense to their content, it’s just far too difficult to list them without any description at all. If you really plan to go into any of these films purely blind, I suggest eyeballing the bold titles and setting your sights on them as soon as possible before reading any descriptor, even mine.
So, obviously, spoilers ahead…
10. Orphan (2009)
Juame Collet-Serra’s (The Commuter) The Orphan brought back the fans’ acclaimed theme of a twist on events that where there are enough hints laid out in front of our eyes the whole time to wrap up a wicked twist in the third act. Details that are present, exposition that is plain as day, and a hidden answer coat the film in a serious tone. The villain’s questionable motive is what we are aiming for, but we just don’t know that until she is ready to show us herself. If you’re going into it uninformed it seems like a typical child horror, and a good one too, but what we get is so much more, so skin deep, that it’s incredible for the filmmaker to have pulled it off to begin with. It gave modern horror films a run for their money, especially when original twists were almost retired in the genre.
9. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Robert Hiltzik’s (Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers) Sleepaway Camp is one of those classic, summer slasher films that developed a cult following with its campy gore and borderline comedic terror. We almost know what to expect throughout, as the narrative follows the basic slasher formula. It’s a whodunit from the start, really not giving us all too much exposition to comprehend. We may think we know who the killer is, but the truth is shocking… and the more physical details related to the truth are even more of a surprise. It’s definitely one of those iconic horror films you should avoid spoiling. When the scenes start rolling, the bodies pile up, and the final scene reaches a startling, pretty drastic end, the viewer is in for one weird surprise. Go in blind, but keep those eyes open for the last shot.
If you dare.
8. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s (Blair Witch) The Blair witch Project is a staple horror commodity not only because of its simplicity and realistic film style, but because of the intense marketing that evolved prior to its release. While we obviously can’t go back that far, I can definitely recommend it as a first time watch for anyone willing to go into it completely in the dark. And when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean to just go in blind. I’m talking about turning off all of the lights, all of them, setting the volume as high as your hearing can tolerate, and really letting the events unfold around you. It’s a terrifying experience if you do it right and while it doesn’t have all the glitz and glamor that modern horror has to offer now, it’s still creates a chilling, hunted atmosphere for new age audiences. This one will make you afraid to close your eyes, but also afraid to keep them open.
7. The Cabin In The Woods (2011)
Meta-horror is not exactly a new concept. We’ve seen it done before, each time taking a fresh approach and intriguing us as viewers and as fans of the genre. Drew Goddard’s (Bad Times At El Royale) The Cabin In The Woods is one of those tongue-in-cheek adventures that not only pokes some good humor at many of horror’s favorite tropes, but surprises viewers in more ways than one. If you go into it with just the title in mind, then you are in for one crazy, objective, fun ride of gore and originality. Knowing what the true synopsis is spoils all of the entertaining value behind what’s really going on in The Cabin In The Woods. It’s a beginner’s twist that keeps on spinning. Avoid the spoilers at all costs and let somebody else take charge of the narrative, literally, with this one.
6. Saw (2004)
While being part of one of the craziest horror film franchises out there, the first installment into the Saw franchise is an insane ride all on its own. As fans, we are already pretty desensitized to the torture porn core aspect, but James Wan’s (The Conjuring) Saw takes firm control of its carnage effectively leaving room for a real, legendary twist in the end. Like so many others on this list, once the truth stands up and reveals itself to viewers, the lasting effect is one to be experienced as purely as possible. Wan, like the villain, is a serial game player. Once the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, it’s an astounding picture to look at as a whole. The true key player is living and breathing in plain sight, but with a sequence written and portrayed so well it will have you angrily questioning how you could have been so blind to them the entire time.
5. Insidious (2010)
James Wan’s Insidious is a personal choice for this list. When I went to the theater to see it, I wasn’t expecting much but a mediocre “been there, done that” haunted house flick. The horror genre had released little to nothing exciting or groundbreaking the few years before it’s released, and I could feel myself losing interest in anything that was coming to theaters. The poster alone had me rolling my eyes. Thanks to a boring night with nothing to do and a few friends willing to go see a “probably not scary at all” movie, I was engaged within the first few initial notes of that spine-tingling score. It frightened me to my core from the first title card and the scares never really let up. Forget about the Waniverse and all the subsequent sequels and linked parts. Insidious was one of the most important film experiences I’ve ever had. I went in pretty blind, ignorant in fact, and came out with a refreshed appreciation of modern horror… and the inability to drive home alone.
It’s true. I had to leave my car at the theater and ride home with a friend.
4. The Exorcist (1973)
Forget about the morbidly green pea soup vomit projected from a young girl’s decrepit mouth. Erase the thought of a little girl’s head spinning a full 360 degrees with a menacing smile on her face. Ignore the image of an innocent child‘s body levitating above her bed as two priests cower and pray in fear. Being part of the horror community, we’re prone to the horrific images of The Exorcist. We’ve grown desensitized to the scary parts of William Friedkin’s (The French Connection) untouchable story. We know what to expect to see, being that the film relies so heavily on its artificial imagery and style. However, watching it initially blind to horror’s most possessive scenes is what makes The Exorcist one of the most terrifying movies for all audiences to see still to this day. If I can go back and see it for the first time, without all of the visuals already spoiled for me, I can’t imagine how scary it really would be.
Who am I kidding? It’s scary as hell no matter how many times you see it.
3. Creep (2014)
Over the last few years there have been a few films I’m excited to have others watch. With the release of so many relevant and broad subgenres of horror it’s easier to get more people to actually sit down and take your film suggestion seriously. One of the films I constantly recommend to those who are not big fans of the genre, but are willing to give something a shot, is Patrick Brice’s (The Overnight) Creep. I knew very little about it going in myself as it had just popped up on my Netflix, I was even a new Netflix user as the time, and decided to give it a whirl. What you get with Creep is something truly special, fun, and sinister. While its synopsis is intriguing and would definitely hook anyone interested in a simple story with a wildly awkward character, Creep is best to go in to completely clueless, but ready to find out. It’s one of those recommendations you don’t even want to tell people about, you just want them to watch it (and Mark Duplass) for themselves.
2. The Village (2004)
If it’s a film by M. Night Shyamalan (Split), the odds are I’m going to be so excited to see it that I fail to see any flaw in the workings. Shyamalan returned to the horror scene with Unbreakable and Signs, but refined his trickster mastery with The Village. Between the stellar acting, unique characters and a twisted narrative, as always, Shyamalan does not disappoint. But what he did in the very last few scenes of the film really took my breath away and proved him to be a master in the element of surprise, truly one of a kind in cinema. Go in blind and expect to be left with the dramatic effect of questioning everything you’ve just seen. It will open your eyes wide to the true talented filmmaker he is.
1. The Sixth Sense (1999)
I barely believe anyone who claims to have seen the third act gut-punch of M. Night Shyamalan’s debut slow burn horror coming, but the ending of The Sixth Sense is so widely known that it’s hard to find anyone who can genuinely experience it for the first time. Though it is shrouded in manipulation and mystery, the revelatory secret happens to be one of the most commonly spoiled endings in film. If you can go into The Sixth Sense completely void of sight and sound, I highly recommend doing so. It really is a definitive twist in cinema, one worthy of going into totally blind. Shyamalan’s ability to gently mislead viewers and divert his craft is an experience all its own aside from the one-two punch twist.
When it comes to horror films, what have been your favorite blind experiences? What film do you recommend others go into completely blind? Let us know what you think over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!