Top-13 Saddest Horror Films
If the horror genre is all about doom and gloom and unhappy endings, it should come as no surprise that some films are just plain sad. Think of it as a final kick to the ribs or a twist of the knife when all’s said and done.
These Top-13 Saddest Horror Films resonate because they move beyond blood and gore and cut into the marrow of our bones – but only if the viewer’s invested in the character(s) and narrative. However, some films may have passed by an audience member’s radar, so give these films a second look – and break out the handkerchiefs.
To unfurl the tissues, spoilers abound, so be wary or you’ll cry for a different reason…
13 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
There’s nothing worse than knowing that all hope is lost for the human species. Even so, we can’t help but cling to the fact that Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) somehow fooled the emotionless alien fiends that possessed every other human soul on the planet.
Yet, in that final scene when he unleashes his cry that exposes humanity’s last hope: Nancy Belicec (Veronica Cartwright), we know it’s over. Both Matthew and Nancy went through Hell to survive and even thwart the invaders, but one can only stay awake for so long.
12 The Skeleton Key
Ehren Kruger’s smart writing made this Iain Softley film work on many levels: including a poignant scene some may have missed in the Hoodoo mayhem, when Papa Justify (Ronald McCall) and Mama Cecil (Jeryl Prescott) are lynched for practicing their craft in a white plantation home. The owners and their wealthy guests cheer around the hanging couple. Little do they know that the pair has already switched bodies to the young boy and girl of the estate.
So, get the bodies of the swinging adults out of your mind and replace them with the two innocent children who have been hanged by their parents.
11 Love Object
Poor Lisa Bellmer (Melissa Sagemiller). She finally meets a nice guy at work, and though he’s quirky and probably has Asperger’s Syndrome, Lisa can’t stop herself from falling for him. But when Kenneth Winslow (Desmond Harrington) takes things too far, Lisa ends up kidnapped and forced into a Dominatrix’s outfit for his pleasure.
Freaked out and fighting for her life, she breaks free, only to be mistakenly gunned down by the police who thought she had been brutalizing Kenneth in mind and spirit. Even worse, and to make this one of the saddest horror films on record, the poor woman’s reputation has been tarnished beyond repair. All those suckers at the office think she was a horrible, abusive person, and Kenneth’s seen as victim turned survivor.
George (Tom Cavanagh) is the American Dream made real: great wife, good kids, and a winning job. But less than 24-hours after his fortieth birthday, George finds himself undergoing a routine colonoscopy that results in a comedy of errors that destroys his body and torments his mind. The world around him becomes a living nightmare, and to find peace, he must commit suicide.
It’s not just that a once happy man and his loving family have come undone from unexpected events, but George’s struggle rings true thanks to a stellar performance from Cavanagh who lets us feel his character’s torment with every beat from a heart monitor.
9 The Wolf Man
The original film has Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), returning to his homeland of Wales after the death of his brother. Larry’s a kind, practical gentleman whose mind can’t grasp that werewolves exist. But when a werewolf attacks Jenny Williams (Fay Helm), Larry springs into action and kills the wolf – but not before he’s bitten.
With a full moon to power up the wolf inside him, a good man loses reconciling with his father, getting the girl, and getting on with his life. This is the most gut-wrenching “sympathy for the monster” and one of the saddest horror stories since the demise of poor Frankenstein’s monster.
8 A Tale of Two Sisters
Oddly enough, for such a sad, heartbreaking tale, Mo-gae Lee’s cinematography makes this Korean drama one of the most beautiful horror films ever shot. But even his magic can’t save Soo-mi Bae (Soo-jung Lim) from coming to a realization that will destroy her on every psychological level for all-time.
Regardless of what she conjured in her head about family life and how it all went wrong, the truth ultimately wills out. And her pain only makes us feel worse for her sister, Soo-yeon Bae (Geun-young Moon) who suffered an even worse fate.
7 Don’t Look Now
Laura and John Baxter (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), have just faced a parent’s worst nightmare: The death of a child (Sharon Williams). To escape their home and the trauma, they head off to Venice. But as John immerses himself in a church restoration, Laura thinks their daughter’s trying to communicate with them.
John, however, is a man who only sees the reality his eyes capture. And that’s unfortunate because he fails to understand and accept his own sixth sense powers of perception, which ultimately leads to his demise, and leaves his wife a widow and his son without a father. Grief blinded him from all the warnings to save his daughter and himself, making this one of the truly saddest horror tales.
This incredible French film is certainly one of cinema’s most disturbing, which makes its sadness even more horrific. Call it “torture porn with a philosophy.” Can you imagine being Anna (Morjana Alaoui)? Not only has she experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of a diabolical family, but now she’s being tortured to death so she can – hopefully – see and report on a gateway to the netherworld.
It’s hard to contemplate another main character in a film enduring so much damn suffering, as if she’s a female Job without the end reward. She endures extreme disrespect and exploitation, and is cast asunder.
Another disturbing entry is this horrific, non-stop foray into the torture porn sub-genre from writer/director Kôji Shiraishi. This Japanese entry is 73-minutes of pure unadulterated terror as we watch a mad surgeon (Shigeo Ôsako) destroy the bodies of a young couple (Kotoha Hiroyama and Hiroaki Kawatsure). The “doctor” takes them apart piece by piece, annihilates genitalia, and scars them like a mad abstract artist.
Beyond the nightmare is the knowledge that he captured them just as they were about to have their first date. They’re young, sweet, innocent, and hoping for love when a nightmare outside of anyone’s imagination overcomes them.
4 Rosemary’s Baby
Poor Rosemary (Mia Farrow). All she wanted was to give birth to her child, and bring the baby into a loving home. Sadly, she lives next store to the leader (Sidney Blackmer) of a witch’s coven, and her greedy husband (John Casavetes) sells her out so Satan can rape her and bring his demonic spawn into the world. Good times. Rosemary’s truly a sweetheart, and director Roman Polanski presents her as a loving, angelic soul.
Hell, if Rose doesn’t make it to Heaven, none of us stand a chance. Yet, in this saddest horror, one’s left to wonder what’s next for Rosemary and how long she’ll be allowed to live.
3 Grimm Love
Oliver (Thomas Kretschmann) and Simon (Thomas Huber) discover each other on the internet with the sole purpose of having their one-time dream made true: One will murder and cannibalize the other. Right from the beginning, there’s no sense of exploitation, but a brooding sense of complete and utter sadness for two men who can’t seem to connect with the world around them and enjoy life.
Based on the real-life murder and cannibalism of a man in Germany, director Martin Weisz created scenes taken from actual crime scene photos to make the tale far more potent and unblinkingly disconcerting.
2 The Orphanage
Laura (Belén Rueda) has a problem: Her son’s gone missing and she’s hellbent on finding him – but he’s vanished. As she and her husband search from the orphanage where she was once raised, the ghosts of her past come calling. In the end, Laura finds her son – but far too late. Not only has he died, but it’s all her damn fault.
Knowing that she can be with him again, Laura crosses over, leaving behind her husband to try and pick up the pieces of his now shattered life.
1 The Sixth Sense
There is no “twist” to M. Night Shyamalan’s landmark film. What occurs isn’t a trick of the camera and Night didn’t pull a fast one. In one brilliant stroke, Night presented everything the audience needed to know about Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) as he tries to help Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) cope with the frightening world of spirits around him.
Estranged from his wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), Crowe moves on in melancholy as he does his best to help the boy and his mother (Toni Collette), and ultimately reunite with the woman he loves. But he can’t because the boy who could “see dead people” saw Crowe for the dead man he was, and his wife mourns for him.
In The Sixth Sense, when Crowe’s wife dropped the wedding ring, I shot to my feet in the theatre and yelled, “Shit!” Then I sat back down and cried. The Orphanage made me cry as well. As for that, no other horror films have been able to extract such tearful emotion from me. The rest on this list of saddest horror mental torment left me with an unsettling feeling as if my soul had been rattled.
But what about you? Let the rest of us know what you think the Saddest Horror Films happen to be and how they’ve pierced your soul…
The Plot Sickens: Don’t miss part one of Billy Crash’s list of top horror locations!
Share your favorite’s, and maybe they’ll find themselves on the next list…
Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk)
He loves great, in-depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, IMDb, Amazon, Behance, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+.
(Photo of The Orphanage from Quarter to Three.)