More than any other genre, horror movies are best enjoyed with company. Sometimes the joy comes from communally yelling at the screen when the hero goes into the basement, and other times it’s because the film in question is so intense it burrows into your psyche. The diverse nature of the horror genre means that there are plenty of films designed to give the viewer a pleasant jolt of fear. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: the horror movies that you should never watch alone.
For the most part, these films come with a built in reputation. Their fear factor is universally acknowledged, but the fact that these movies require the buddy system is often ignored. And that can only lead to nightmares, sleepless nights, and maybe even a brand new recurring fear or two. Why not share the trauma? Grab a significant other, a friend, or a fellow horror movie fanatic and settle in because these movies should never be watched alone.
Released in 1973, director William Friedkin’s masterpiece hasn’t lost any of its power to scare the hell out of viewers. Watching 12-year-old Regan’s body become ravaged by a demon is as disturbing as it gets. The movie is profane, brutal, and unrelenting in its depiction of a preteen’s demonic possession. When it was first released, audiences had never seen anything like it before, and according to news reports from the time some responded by fainting in the aisles.
A modern viewers reaction may not be quite that intense, but the film’s potency remains unquestioned. For people who count themselves as even a tiny bit religious, the sheer act of watching The Exorcist can feel like a transgression. And even the non-religious must admit that head-spinning scene is something that can never be unseen.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Of all the great horror movie villains, Leatherface may be the most terrifying of them all simply because he feels like the kind of monster that could exist. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s cinematic style is so naturalistic that it feels as if the viewer is right beside the unsuspecting victims being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. It’s that plausibility factor that makes the film so unsettling.
To watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre alone is to commit to an unrelenting hour and half of watching people be tortured, chased, and dismembered with no backup whatsoever. Maybe hardened horror fans can handle the tension, but for most people the intensity factor of the original slasher film is unthinkable.
28 Days Later
Zombies aren’t supposed to run. The sheer fact that they run throughout this movie is enough to spike anyone’s blood pressure. However, the undead have little to do with why this film requires a viewing partner. It’s the humans who make this movie a nightmare.
The apocalypse strips many of the survivors of their humanity, and by the time the film reveals the intentions of a group of alleged good samaritans, the only comfort a moviegoer has in knowing that there’s someone beside them who maybe wouldn’t immediately turn into a monster at the first sign that the world could be ending.
Night of the Living Dead
George A. Romero’s status as a horror maestro is unquestionable thanks to this 1968 classic. Like all of the best horror movies, Night of the Living Dead fills the viewer with an instant sense of disorientation. A visit to a family member’s grave isn’t supposed to lead to a night of zombies clawing at the windows.
It’s the ending that sinches this one though — it leaves viewers feeling shell-shocked even when they know what’s coming. It’s hopeless, senseless, and hits just close enough home that it’s best to have someone nearby to help you shake away the feeling of futility that sets in when the credits roll.
For people with mental health issues, The Babadook can trigger any number of unpleasant feelings. A Netflix error turned the story’s monster into a unexpected LGBTQ icon, but the truth is, the horror of losing control is what truly drives the film’s meditation on grief and depression. The monsters that live within the film’s single mother protagonist are far too real, making this one horror movie that lends itself to an open dialogue about the darker parts of ourselves that everyone would prefer to keep locked in a basement.
Roman Polanski’s most well-known horror movie is Rosemary’s Baby, but Repulsion is far scarier. Throughout the history of film, movies have forced viewers to see things from a myriad of perspectives. However, it remains rare for a film to so completely simulate the sensation of losing one’s mind.
The movie’s central character — it’s only character really — is a reclusive and timid young woman who is left alone for a weekend. During that short span of time she becomes undone in ways that are disorienting, stomach-turning, and ultimately violent. By the end, viewers will want nothing more than to escape this movie’s grip, and that’s so much easier to do when there’s another human close at hand.
Body horror is a subgenre that is already prone to freaking people out. In the hands of director David Cronenberg it’s easy to see why. In The Brood nothing is sacred: not pregnancy, not childbirth, and not even the children themselves. Everything is monstrous, bloody, and downright deadly for the transcendent mother and her litter of monsters. From the visuals to the subtext, this film is designed to leave viewers feeling gross, and misery truly does love company.
These seven horror movies can be watched alone, of course. But movie fans should do so at their own risk.
Sabienna Bowman has been covering entertainment news since 2010. She previously served as an editor at TV Equals, and currently writes for Bustle, Reelgood, and Roku.