13 Movies Like Insidious (2011)

Staff & contributors

After the successful run of the first instalment, The Conjuring 2 brings back lead couple Ed and Lorraine Warren for yet another real life-based case of demonic possession. This time, it's the Enfield poltergeist, a case which gained popularity in the London Borough of Enfield between 1977 and 1979, and while the Warrens in the film show reluctance to take on a new job amongst growing skepticism, we're so glad they did so in the end. The franchise's second chapter is perfectly built: a good amount of character establishment, a fair bit of rekindling allegiance with the Warrens, and a lot of ingenious scaries. What makes The Conjuring 2 a pitch-perfect horror of its kind is precisely this multivalence, combining empathetic characters and well-crafted, yet extremely disturbing visuals. When the supposedly simple case becomes a fight between good and proper evil, the film shifts gear to an obscenely dark, vengeful mode. You can't tell from its beginning, but the second Conjuring is even more proficient, deeply troubling, and most of all, bold in the way it renders the possession horror genre a canonical must.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Abhi Sinha, Bob Adrian, Bonnie Aarons, Emily Brobst, Frances O'Connor, Franka Potente, Jason Liles, Javier Botet, Joseph Bishara, Kate Cook, Lauren Esposito, Madison Wolfe, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Patrick McAuley, Patrick Wilson, Robin Atkin Downes, Shannon Kook, Simon Delaney, Simon McBurney, Sterling Jerins, Steve Coulter, Vera Farmiga

Director: James Wan

Rating: R

Full of twists on classic horror themes, this hilarious and gory comedy will have your sides aching, and still you’ll want more. The plot centers on two rednecks who are trying to have a good time while fixing up a summer home. True to horror movie form, a group of college kids set up camp nearby, and naturally evil begins to happen. This well-written, entertaining story even has some heart to it.

Genre: Comedy, Horror

Actor: Adam Beauchesne, Alan Tudyk, Alex Arsenault, Bill Baksa, Brandon Jay McLaren, Chelan Simmons, Christie Laing, Eli Craig, Jesse Moss, Joseph Allan Sutherland, Karen Reigh, Katrina Bowden, Mitchell Verigin, Myles Pollard, Philip Granger, Sasha Williams, Travis Nelson, Tyler Labine

Director: Eli Craig

Rating: R

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it's a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we're being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it's an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there's less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ellen Page, Elliot Page, G.J. Echternkamp, Odessa Rae, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

Director: David Slade

Rating: R

Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro creates another haunting movie that leaves you questioning your sense of reality. El Orfanato revolves around a mother tries desperately to find her missing adopted son soon after her and her husband move into her old orphanage. But the past horrors of the orphanage will not let her son be found so easily.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Andres Gertrudix, Belén Rueda, Belén Rueda, Blanca Martínez, Edgar Vivar, Enric Arquimbau, Fernando Cayo, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabel Friera, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Óscar Casas, Roger Príncep

Director: J.A. Bayona, Juan Antonio Bayona

Rating: R

All the synopses going around the internet won’t fail to let you know that The Falls takes place at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. The film is certainly marketed that way, with commercial posters featuring the leads in ubiquitous face masks, socially distanced from the blurred crowd. 

But interestingly, The Falls is not just a situational, pandemic-era story. More than anything else, it tells the story of Pin-wen and Xiao Jing, mother and daughter who, despite previously living a life of comfort, are now dealt with unfavorable circumstances (exacerbated but not entirely caused by the pandemic). Now, they are forced to navigate life with only each other, and it’s in the isolation they instate from the rest of the world do they forge a genuine and heartwrenching bond any and all family members will immediately recognize and perhaps even sympathize with. 

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Alyssa Chia, Chen Yiwen, Gingle Wang, Guan-Ting Liu, Huang Hsin-Yao, Kuan-Ting Liu, Lee-zen Lee, Liang-Tso Liu, Shao-Huai Chang, Shau-Ching Sung, Tiffany Hsu, Waa Wei, Yang Li-yin, Yi-Wen Chen

Director: Chung Mong-hong

Rating: Not Rated

Once banned by Chinese censors, Suzhou River depicts love and obsession amidst the gritty, urban underbelly of Shanghai. As the film is portrayed through an anonymous videographer, seen only by his hands, it’s easy to fall in love as he does, with the mesmerizing Meimei (Zhou Xun), performing as a mermaid in a dive bar. However, he can’t seem to trust her, as she flits in and out of his life, with no clear notice. Likewise, the tragic romance told by motorcycle courier Mardar can’t be trusted, given that the river’s inhabitants warped it into folklore. Faces can’t even be trusted, especially with the double casting of actress Zhou Xun as Meimei and as innocent rich daughter Moudan. Because of these contrasts and its ambiguity, Suzhou River sweeps us into an alluring, mysterious tale, but reminds us not to get caught by the current.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Jia Hongsheng, Nai An, Yao Anlian, Zhou Xun

Director: Lou Ye

In an age where recent horror films mostly use the jump-scare as a crutch to make their CGI-spawned (not to mention generic) creatures seem scary, The Babadook portrays real scares, relatable characters and a moving story. Jennifer Kent (director and writer) sets this on the backdrop of heavily Lars von Trier-inspired cinematography, elevating The Babadook from a shot at an amazing horror to a resemblance of an art house film. The unease felt during this film only increases as it creeps towards its conclusion. Whenever the Babadook (the monster of the film) is seen lurking in the peripherals of the camera, appearing in television sets and the shadows to create a sense of omnipresence that disturbs the viewer on a deeper, more primal level than that of so many recent horror films could even hope to reach. It leaves the audience with the sensation that they are being lowered onto a lit candle, spine-first. In short; the seamless acting, the beautiful shots, the slow-burning terror together creates a masterpiece that strides past any horror film of the past decade (maybe even further) and stands toe-to-toe with the greats without even breaking a sweat.

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Adam Morgan, Barbara West, Ben Winspear, Benjamin Winspear, Carmel Johnson, Chloe Hurn, Craig Behenna, Daniel Henshall, Essie Davis, Hayley McElhinney, Jacquy Phillips, Michael Gilmour, Michelle Nightingale, Noah Wiseman, Peta Shannon, Pippa Wanganeen, Stephen Sheehan, Terence Crawford, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Tim Purcell

Director: Jennifer Kent

Rating: Not Rated

, 1998

Despite being remade, parodied, and absorbed into pop culture over the years, the original Ring defiantly marches to the beat of its own drum. Focused entirely on building a slow-burn mystery instead of dispensing scares, the film provides ample space for a number of interpretations: on the spread of technology, the erasure of traditional beliefs, or even motherhood. It's all relentlessly quiet and extremely creepy, the tension building with the same energy as ghost stories told around a campfire. And while famous for its eerie images and the rules surrounding its cursed videotape, Ringu also serves as a reminder that great horror should compel the audience to keep on watching, even if they already know exactly what awaits them if they do.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Daisuke Ban, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hitomi Satô, Katsumi Muramatsu, Kiriko Shimizu, Masako, Miki Nakatani, Miwako Kaji, Nanako Matsushima, Rie Ino'o, Rikiya Ôtaka, Yôichi Numata, Yôko Ôshima, Yûko Takeuchi, Yutaka Matsushige

Director: Hideo Nakata

A chilling and dark movie to be especially appreciated by true suspense lovers. At the funeral of the family’s matriarch, no one is emotional except the granddaughter, whose grieving is disturbing, to say the least. When both grieving and not grieving are unsettling, you can tell what kind of family (and movie) this will be.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Wolff, Alexis Long, Ann Dowd, Ari Aster, Austin R. Grant, Brock McKinney, Bus Riley, Christy Summerhays, Gabriel Byrne, Gabriel Monroe Eckert, Harrison Nell, Heidi Mendez, Jake Brown, Jarrod Phillips, Jason Miyagi, John Forker, Kathleen Chalfant, Mallory Bechtel, Marilyn Miller, Mark Blockovich, Milly Shapiro, Moises L. Tovar, Morgan Lund, Pat Barnett Carr, Toni Collette, Zachary Arthur

Director: Ari Aster

Rating: R

The Cabin in the Woods came to be as Buffy The Vampire Slayer writers Drew Goddard and and Joss Whedon set themselves on a mission to upgrade the slasher genre. With this film, they wanted to satirize the way it slips into torture porn. In other words, they aspired to make a clever, punchy new classic. Amassing a 30 million dollar budget attests to their hopes: a massive backend of VFX work provided an elaborate film world, where different levels of 'reality' are at play. As six college students head into the woods to spend a debaucherous weekend undisturbed, a whole underground laboratory monitors their every move. It appears that a big operation is underway to trap the unsuspecting crowd into a curated murder scenario, straight out of a horror movie. Among the victims, we see Chris Hemsworth at the time his career was just taking off, so that's history in the making for you.

Unfortunately, in its devotion to provocatively render some horror tropes irrelevant, The Cabin in the Woods cannot help but reinforce others. It still carries the whiff of the late 2000s' misogyny in the way it portrays women and it certainly doesn't try hard enough to disrupt the genre's opposition to female sexuality. The characters of Dana (the virgin) and Jules (the experienced one) are sure to make you wince, as they're written as flat as a piece of paper. So you say no to torture porn, but embrace misogyny...?

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Adrian Holmes, Amy Acker, Anna Hutchison, Aya Furukawa, Brad Dryborough, Bradley Whitford, Brian J. White, Chelah Horsdal, Chris Hemsworth, Dan Payne, Dan Shea, Ellie Harvie, Fran Kranz, Greg Zach, Heather Doerksen, Jesse Williams, Jodelle Ferland, Kristen Connolly, Lori Stewart, Matt Drake, Nels Lennarson, Patrick Gilmore, Patrick Sabongui, Peter Kelamis, Phillip Mitchell, Richard Cetrone, Richard Jenkins, Rukiya Bernard, Sigourney Weaver, Terry Chen, Terry Notary, Tim DeZarn, Tom Lenk

Director: Drew Goddard

Rating: R

, 2007

TV reporter documenting a day with a local fire crew, they encounter a deadly virus trapped in a tower block. This film is bloody brilliant! Innovative camera work and a simple idea perfectly executed. When I watched this, I was alone in the dark and ended up constantly jumping around with fright and excitement. A real wake up for other horror filmmakers, Hollywood hasn't come close to anything like this.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Actor: Akemi Goto, Ana Isabel Velásquez, Ben Temple, Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente, Claudia Silva, David Vert, Ferran Terraza, Jana Prats, Javier Botet, Javier Coromina, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Kao Chen-Min, Manuel Bronchud, Manuela Velasco, Maria Lanau, Maria Teresa Ortega, Marita Borrego, Martha Carbonell, Pablo Rosso, Vicente Gil, Víctor Massagué

Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Rating: R

This movie is distilled horror. A teenager sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time, after which he tells her that he was the latest recipient of a curse that is transmitted through sexual contact. After she becomes completely paranoid without any manifestations, the curse manifests itself in assassins that kill their way to her. A genuinely creepy film that’s also very smart.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Actor: Alexyss Spradlin, Bailey Spry, Carollette Phillips, Charles Gertner, Claire Sloma, Daniel Zovatto, Ele Bardha, Heather Fairbanks, Jake Weary, Keir Gilchrist, Kourtney Bell, Leisa Pulido, Lili Sepe, Linda Boston, Loren Bass, Maika Monroe, Mike Lanier, Olivia Luccardi, Rich Vreeland, Ruby Harris, Scott Norman

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Rating: R

Given the nature of the subject (the discovery of a species that predates humans), this installment of the Unknown documentary movies has more fanfare than its predecessors. The narrative never transcends positing that a Homo Naledi is just like Homo Sapiens, but not really. The experts' enthusiasm is often unsettling when you quickly realize that no opposing view is mentioned. In other installments, the balance of arguments for and against discoveries made the narrative compelling. However, Cave of Bones is suspiciously wrapped in (and warped by) the need to have Homo Naledis feel different from humans. What is initially fascinating eventually lends itself to fatigue when discoveries and philosophized theories are repeatedly aggrandized. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Lee Berger

Director: Mark Mannucci

Rating: PG