Grab a blanket, a drink, some tasty snacks, and press play for a night of comfort horror!
Horror films aren't usually associated with comfort. It may sound strange, but some find solace in the horror genre. Many watch horror films for their unrealistic components and the ability to “get scared” in a safe space. There’s a comfort in knowing whatever is happening on screen is not happening to you. Due to this separation between the screen and reality, a horror film can be for simple entertainment and distraction or a way to cope with complex trauma.
Escapism is another reason why horror films are so popular. They provide an escape from the monotony of daily life. Watching a scary movie can be exhilarating and produce strong emotions, like fear. After a frightening film, the brain relaxes and recognizes that none of it was real, making the winding-down process soothing, especially for people who suffer from anxiety. With this list of ten horror comfort films, you’ll find that anyone can enjoy horror. Grab a blanket, a drink, snacks of your choice, and press play!
THE FOG (1980)
The Fog already has an intimate and comfortable feel, directed by John Carpenter, starring Jaime Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh; audiences know these stars from Halloween (1978) and Psycho (1960). In the Coastal town of Antonio Bay, California, preparations for a centennial anniversary are underway, but something sinister lurks beneath the water. Supernatural incidents begin with fog rolling over the small town, leading to disappearances. The town's founding members committed a crime a century before, and victims of the crime are returning for revenge. There’s always something comforting about a small, quaint coastal town with a spooky history.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby can be considered a comfort film due to characters like Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer), along with Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes), and soothingly reassuring Rosemary (Mia Farrow). The audience is made to feel like everything is all right, even though it’s far from it. After moving to a new apartment with her husband, Rosemary begins to experience unsettling occurrences and abnormal pregnancy, not to mention a lot of gaslighting. The Castevets are so involved with her pregnancy that it leads to Rosemary’s heightened suspicions and paranoia about those around her. It’s hinted throughout the film that something sinister is happening, so audiences know to expect the worst. The film is a slow burn, making it easier to watch than a fast-paced, chaotic, bloody horror film. Rosemary’s Baby is a creepy occult film and a psychological horror trip.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)
Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) have uneventful, mundane lives in the horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead directed by Edgar Wright. Pegg and Frost followed this hit by appearing as an on-screen comedy-duo in Hot Fuzz (2007) and Paul (2011). Shaun’s life is at a standstill, and he’s on a different page in his relationship than his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). He’s locked in a routine of working at a thankless job, going to the pub, playing video games, sleeping, and repeating. Regrettably, the dead are coming back to life as soon as Shaun wants to make a change. He makes a vow to protect the ones he loves amidst the zombie plague.
The film defies horror genre norms by mixing a rom-com with a zombie apocalypse and action before films like Warm Bodies (2013) brought it back. The film is rooted in the mundane realities of life. It doesn’t have the usual dark, gritty, and frightening aspects we expect a horror film to possess. This one's for you if you like a redemption journey, character development, and zombies.
PUPPET MASTER (1989)
Puppet Master is a classic blending of the paranormal, comedy, and horror genres; here’s a film about killer puppets written and directed by David Schmoeller. The film opens with the origin of Puppet Master Andre Toulon, played by actor William Hickey. The puppeteer has the knowledge to animate the puppets and bring them to life. While hiding from the Nazis, he commits suicide. Years later, two psychics appeared at the Bodega Inn in 1989, where the puppets were hidden. However, their former colleague seems to have devious plans for their arrival. Amusingly, the puppets take center stage in the play, not the human characters. Watching puppets can evoke a wide range of reactions in audiences. It may be creepy for some to see puppets act in murderous ways. Still, for others, the indignity of seeing puppets react in that way is more comforting than watching people react in that way. Cinematographer Sergio Salvati captures some scenes from the puppet's point of view, making for a unique viewing experience. To watch toy puppets fight humans is somewhat absurd, so it is a nonsensical film you can watch at any time.
John Carpenter created an iconic slasher film and a distinguished score that every horror fan knows with Halloween. On Halloween night in 1963, Judith Myers was brutally murdered by her six-year-old brother Michael. After escaping an institution 15-years later, Michael Myers played by Nick Castle, and Tony Moran returns home to Haddonfield, Illinois, to satisfy his need to kill. The film provides a cozy, autumn ambiance despite The Shape creepily stalking suburban streets. The fictional midwestern atmosphere of Haddonfield exudes a suburban peacefulness, of course, before the murders begin. The quiet streets of the small American town are comfortable and homey. There’s even a hint of sentimentality when watching the film today. Unlike today, people weren't afraid to leave their doors unlocked or paralyzed by fear because they didn’t know they needed to be.
THE FACULTY (1998)
The Faculty is a science fiction horror film, directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Kevin Williamson, set in small-town Ohio at Herrington High School. Casey Connor (Elijah Wood), the slim and shy school photographer, discovers a strange creature on the football field before coming to realize that something sinister is afoot. Deciding to explore further, six students and unlikely allies convene to unveil the unusual things happening at their school. The students suspect the faculty of being hosts to aliens and must fight to stop the invasion and remain human themselves. How hard can it be? It’s a jog down memory lane and makes one nostalgic for the teen dramas of the 90s and early 2000s with a supernatural twist. If this seems to be your type of film, watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), or read Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers (1955). The book has been adapted for film four times, not counting this film’s obvious inspirations.
In 1974, Stephen King published Carrie. The book was adapted for film in 1976 and directed by Brian De Palma. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a sheltered girl, secluded from the world by her overbearing and religious mother (Piper Laurie). Carrie discovers she has telekinesis, and after being harassed, bullied, and humiliated, her calm and relaxed demeanor comes crashing down on prom night. Carrie releases the anger and resentment she’s been holding back, freeing herself from the past with dire consequences. This film is about outcasts and their personal experiences dealing with the struggles of high school drama which is a relatable topic. The film is comforting and a satisfying story of revenge. We feel for Carrie, and the film’s conclusion is a special treat for horror fans.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Based on Thomas Harris’ novel published in 1988, The Silence of the Lambs has morphed into a horror classic. Demme perfectly blends the true crime, horror, and thriller genres with this film. It’s directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The film captivates audiences with its twists and turns. Clarice Starling seeks insight from Doctor Hannibal Lector to catch Buffalo Bill (Ted Lavine), a serial killer fond of women’s skin. It deserves recognition as a comfort film due to the well-known story and culturally pertinent legacy it maintains to this day.
Many moviegoers who love the film are still making fava bean and chianti jokes over 30-years later. The film has had a lasting influence and psychological and procedural horror films. It remains the only horror film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. It's not elevated, it's just a good film.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street evokes memories of 1980s nostalgia. Writer and director Wes Craven's slasher villain, Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund), has become a horror icon. While final girl Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), is a feminist icon. Freddy invades the most comfortable areas of people's lives, appearing in their dreams and tormenting them at their most vulnerable. By blurring the lines between waking life and the dream state, the film makes Krueger's appearances even more frightening. It makes the audience question what is real. Krueger isn’t real but is compelling enough to scare us through the screen. The film was made more than thirty years ago. While the scare factor may have waned over time due to 80s special effects, the film is still a thrill. It’s classic pre-popcorn horror fun!
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
You can watch a comfort film multiple times and never tire of the story. An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis, is a horror comedy that follows two American college students embarking on a walking tour of the moors in England. The two friends are attacked by a werewolf after the shady locals warn David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) to be wary of the full moon. Landis wrote the script in 1969 and fought hard to get it made. He was shot down by studios for the story, both being too scary to be a comedy and too funny to be a horror film. It makes for a great watch with impressive special effects and one of the best werewolf transformation scenes in horror history. It’s a classic creature feature that perfectly blends laughter and scares.
All of the films on this list have had a lasting impact on the genre and horror fans. They continue to be re-watched long after their theatrical releases, and the horror community continues to propel these films to be discovered by new generations of phobophiles. No more waiting; add these to your watch list and get cozy!