20 Horror Movies That Never Got a Sequel
The horror genre has been a favorite among cinema-goers for decades, and it has really exploded over the past couple of years, with entire franchises and interconnected universes popping up left and right. We now have the Conjuring universe and the Nightmare of Elm Street franchise, and of course, the most prolific of all – the Halloween/Scream universe.
While sequences are known to be fun and impressive and usually lend a hand in upping the ante, some horror movies work best as chilling standalone films. Movies that have the potential to deliver such a terrifying, disturbing punch in just one viewing that any sequel would only cheapen the experience. These are the kinds of horror films that haunt your dreams without needing a sequel to continue scaring you.
Imagine being deeply unnerved by a horror flick and being left with a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach that stays with you for days. Now consider if that movie got several unnecessary sequels or expanded an entire universe, impatiently trying to top itself with more over-the-top scares and gore until the fright factor fades and only camp remains. The impact would be lost.
But that’s not the case with all the movies on this list. Some leave room for the story to expand, for the characters to meet new challenges, and for the dread to persist. However, the mood-building atmospherics of these films are simply exquisite. They know that less is more, and the biggest scares sit in the spaces between what’s shown on screen and what’s left to the imagination. So, let’s dive in and take a look at some of the most frightening horror movies with no sequels.
20 Don’t Look Now (1973)
While some audience scoffs at people performing supernatural practices in movies, others shudder. Don’t Look Now doesn’t give you a choice as it bends your senses and remains relentlessly disturbing throughout. The movie follows a couple struggling to deal with the trauma of losing their little daughter. They move to Venice, Italy, for a change in scenery. There, the mother meets two sisters who claim to know how to access their daughter’s spirit.
The couple does not take them seriously until their new surroundings show them something unreal. The film builds a sense of paranoia that continues to grow as the lines between reality and delusion become terrifyingly blurred. A classic among standalone, Don’t Look Now is one unforgettable movie.
19 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
The movie, while being a remake of the 1956 classic, remains one of the most compelling horror movies of the ‘70s. Set in San Francisco, Invasion of the Body Snatchers follows Sanitary Inspector Matthew Bennell as he discovers that people are disappearing and being replaced by imposters – who are ultimately sinister pod people with a hive mind. The few remaining humans hide in plain sight, desperately trying to figure out how to stop the invasion before they’re all replaced.
The movie slowly dissects the McCarthy-era fears of rebellion and uses it as a metaphor for the horrors it crafted into people’s minds. It takes a science fiction premise and delivers a startling and horrific social commentary that is hard to replicate.
18 Braindead (1992)
Braindead is a splatterfest delight for fans who are gorehounds and the ghoulishly comedic at heart. And there’s a lot of us. Directed by Peter Jackson, the 1992 classic follows a doting mother, Vera Cosgrove, as she gets bitten by a Sumatran rat monkey and turns into a zombie. Scared of what she might be capable of doing, her son, Lionel locks her up in the basement. But she escapes and starts turning the neighbors into man-eating maniacs, and the horde goes on a hilarious and horrific killing spree.
The movie is as ridiculous and creepy as zombie movies are. With an over-the-top romp, slasher tropes, maddening comedy, and gory visuals, Braindead stays insanely memorable for all the wrong reasons.
17 The Faculty (1998)
Led by a young Elijah Wood, The Faculty is a fantastic teen thriller revolving around alien abduction. The 1998 movie does wonders in posing disturbing questions about reality and deception. The story follows Herrington High School’s group of rebellious students who suspect that their teachers have been replaced by murderous impersonators. Science fiction and slasher come together as one of the students witnesses the said possessions, and the spiral that follows is haunting as ever. Is this all in their heads, or are they slowly being picked off one by one? With teen horrors like the Scream franchise and The Blair Witch Project dominating the ‘90s, The Faculty stands its own as a smart and creepy alien invasion horror.
16 The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Sixth Sense features Bruce Willis as a child psychologist named Dr. Malcolm Crowe, who helps a haunted child named Cole cope with his psychic torments. But the catch here is that he is also harboring a psychic torment of his own. In exchange for helping Cole, Malcolm hopes to mend his relationship with his wife. The psychological shocker is all the more frightening for how grounded and believable it feels. That is, until the atmosphere builds into a jaw-dropping reveal. Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment are incredible in their role. Moreover, the movie’s iconic ending has now become a legend, proving just how well it works as a standalone.
15 Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Set in the haunting atmosphere of 1799, Sleepy Hollow brings Washington Irving’s chilling novella and the story of the Headless Horseman of to the big screen. Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane, a humble investigator who helps solve a series of gruesome decapitations in a small town. Starting with the townspeople describing the murderer to be a headless entity and entering the spooky world of shadows and creepy mythology, the movie retells the horrid tale with finesse. Directed by Tim Burton at his most Gothic, it’s a magnificent and menacing movie that never really was revisited by the duo.
14 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
When a movie is so deeply driven by its plot, it deconstructs the trope to the point where it’s not only dark but unpalatable; it’s given the movie is going to be great. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon brings self-awareness to slasher films. The protagonist Leslie Vernon, played by Nathan Baesel, is obsessed with the greatest horror heroes like Michael Myers and Freddie Krueger. And while he prepares to shoot his latest gory action, he calls up a young documentary crew to follow him around. There are hints that this whole thing may not be what it seems, but never once would you think of this as an origin story. As the layers of fiction and reality blur, it is hard not to freak out. The movie is a clever and campy look at slasher convention that continues to deliver the creeps.
13 Let the Right One In (2008)
Let the Right One In is a foreign-language horror romance. Set in the 1980s suburbia, it follows a bullied boy who finds solace and friendship with a mysterious girl who lives next door. But she has a secret – she’s a vampire, doomed to walk the earth forever. Although horrifying, Oskar continues to hang out with Eli, and they form a deep bond; their love gradually unfolds against the backdrop of horror. The young actors Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson are incredible in their roles. The movie, with all its poetic romance, is a beautifully made, deeply haunting, and imaginative reimagining of the vampire mythos that stays with you.
12 I Saw the Devil (2010)
South Korean horror movies are known to never hold back on the gore and bloodshed. And I Saw The Devil, is a serial killer thriller with a disturbing twist. Directed by Kim Jee-woon, the movie follows a secret agent trying to catch a notorious serial killer who brutally murdered his fiancé. When he does, he beats him up and lets him go, starting a devilish game of chasing one another. In the whole process, the agent becomes almost as ruthless and cruel as the killer. The movie relies heavily on psychological scares and unsettling scenes rather than actual, creepy ones. It is dark and grim and profoundly unnerving to watch the moral darkness of a man turn him into a devil.
11 The Crazies (2010)
The Crazies is based on George Romero’s 1973 story of the same name. A criminally underrated survival horror, the movie portrays a violent virus that has infected a small town, and all the residents have turned into raging psychotics. The only people left untouched are Sheriff David Dutton and his wife, and two strangers. As they try to claw their way out of this dreadful situation, the atmosphere becomes tense and claustrophobic. There are infected ‘crazies’ roaming the streets and danger lurking at every turn. Overall, the movie is intense, and the fright gradually increases into a chaos that seems inescapable. With that said, the ending does leave room for a continuation, but a sequel has never happened.
10 Stitches (2012)
Stitches follows Ross Noble as an unassuming clown going about his way entertaining kids at parties. But when he is killed in a prank, the children’s entertainer returns from the dead to haunt and murder the teens responsible for his death. To his favor, the said kids are all huddled at a party, and that’s when the slasher action begins.
Director Conor McMahon takes inspiration from the ‘80s horror to depict the gory murders. The movie effortlessly blends comedy and horror, with Noble’s character being as foul-mouthed as he is hungry for revenge. While the underrated movie never got a sequel, it would have been interesting to see one because of the potential it holds for turning into a massive and beloved franchise.
9 The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon give us a clever and brilliant horror flick that subverts the teen slasher formula. In The Cabin In The Woods, we see a group of five friends, led by Chris Hemsworth as Curt, as they head to a remote cabin for a weekend of partying and unwinding. But as soon as they get there, all they fun stays out the door and some dark forces conspire to destroy them. As the body count rises, they discover that they’ve been participants in a sadistic game with rules of its own. It is an outstanding and extremely terrifying meta-horror film with ingenious scares and thrills that defy the genre.
8 Oculus (2013)
A classic thriller that has fortunately remained untouched, Oculus makes horror better by featuring a haunted mirror capable of triggering terrible, frightening, unexplained events. Before he gave us The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan tells the story of Kaylie, a young woman who is trying to absolve her brother of a brutal murder that everyone thinks he committed, but the real culprit was a supernatural phenomenon in the form of a mirror known as the Lasser Glass.
The scares in the movie are very creepy, and the entire time you’ll feel danger crawling up your skin. Flanagan remains consistent with the pace and creates an environment that is oddly scary the entire time.
7 It Follows (2014)
As for as jump scares go in horror movies, It Follows packs a few creative ones. The psychological horror film tells the story of Jay Height, a normal teenager cruising through life like you’d expect her to. It’s autumn, and the breeze is chill, and as a carefree youth, one night, Jay sleeps with her new boyfriend, Hugh. Right after, she starts having visions and discovers that she is being followed by a ghastly supernatural force. Her friends don’t believe her, but a similar event induces paranoia among the group, and they huddle up to escape this monstrosity.
The creature “It” almost feels unknowable as it only lurks at the edges of perception, but the movie makes for an incredibly refreshing horror flick that never got a sequel.
6 The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook is an Australian horror drama about a mother-son duo. Amelia is a single mother devastated after the death of her husband. As she desperately tries to hold herself together, Sam, her son, begins to drift. His obsession with a sinister children’s book has drawn him toward a darkness that makes Amelia paranoid. When she discovers that her son is convinced that a monster from his favorite book has come to life in their home, she doesn’t want to believe it. Until she herself experiences strange things in their house.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, and acted out incredibly by Essie Davis and Naoh Wiseman, the movie is a dreadful exploration of grief, mental illness, and the terrors of childhood imagination. The Babadook itself is a frightening and compelling villain.
5 The VVitch (2015)
Robert Eggers numbs our brains with this historical horror film. Set in the 1880s New England, The VVitch follows an excommunicated Puritan family that moves to a secluded farm. But even their strongest of faiths and true hearts cannot stop the dark forces that come to haunt them. There are no explanations for the dread and paranoia stalking the family, but our central character is Anya Taylor-Joy’s Thomasin, the eldest daughter and the victim of whatever evil brews in their confines. Every step feels like a test; the only suspicions are black magic and witchcraft. And as disturbing as it feels, Thomasin is more at ease with the sinister than the family. The movie is a horrifying descent of the human mind into madness, one that does not need to be redone.
4 Get Out (2017)
Get Out blends horror and social satire to paint a picture that is as crippling as it is important. Serving as a metaphor for exploring the racial tensions in America, the movie follows a young African-American man named Chris who visits his white girlfriend’s family estate over the weekend. What seems like a lighthearted, albeit uncomfortable, getaway turns around, and Chris is caught up in a darker plot. The scares reach your mind and feel disturbing rather than being jolt-inducing or making you jump out of your skin, which represents the horrors of prejudice and oppression.
Jordan Peele’s direction delivers a statement – one that demands a response. Clearly, the movie concludes at a point where no loose strings are left undone.
3 Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Zombie horrors have remained fan favorites for decades. And Shaun of the Dead expertly spoofs the zombie genre by presenting the zombie apocalypse through the perspective of an average slacker. Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, a lovable loser and mindless banker who doesn’t really have anything to look forward to in life. But as the undead begin overrunning the streets of London, he must rise to the occasion to save his loved ones from the hordes of maniacal killers.
It’s a hilarious horror-comedy that brilliantly parodies zombie tropes while crafting its own compelling story of humans struggling to retain their humanity in the face of danger. Directed by Edgar Wright, the movie is taught, heartfelt, and wildly funny. Shaun of the Dead is a zom-com classic that doesn’t really need a sequel.
2 Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes the standard slasher trope and flips them on their head for comedic effect. The movie follows two well-meaning but dimwitted rednecks named Tucker and Dale as they plan a trip to their cabin in the backwoods. But when a group of panicked college kids finds them suspicious of being murderers, they get caught up in chaos and mystery. Disturbing deaths pile up and as the body count rises, the one question stands – who are the real villains, and who are the saviors?
While the leads are truly great, the scenes lead to some of the most hilarious hijinks. Moreover, the way it overthrows teen clichés places it among horror movies that never feel diminishing or disparaging.
1 Hereditary (2018)
As strangely horrific and crushed dysfunctional families go, Hereditary is a psychological horror film about one haunted by loss and grief. After the reclusive and mentally disturbed matriarch of the Graham family passes away, the family is traumatized by grief. Soon, Annie, the daughter, and the rest of the family start experiencing bizarre occurrences. As sinister forces emerge from their long-dormant ancestry, the family is plagued by something great and unsettling. Ari Aster’s feature directorial debut redefined the genre by relying on the terror of silence and using emotions to create the creeps.
The idea is to represent the dread stalking us from within and the constant terror of living with people who see it too. It is a bit soon to tell if the movie will ever be remade, but it sure isn’t the kind that needs a sequel.