There’s maybe no better experience than going into a movie without knowing much about it and coming out with a new favorite movie. This seems to happen more often with horror as it’s a genre where fans will purposefully avoid spoilers and sometimes even the simple premise and trust that the creators and genre will deliver something worth their time.
When one horror lover asks their fellow fright fans which movies they went into with no expectations and came out loving, there are over a thousand responses; these are the 10 best.
1. Raw (2016)
Starting with a film I saw without any knowledge besides “it’s about vegetarians,” Julia Ducournau’s 2016 feature film debut Raw blew me away when I first saw it in theaters.
The movie follows a young woman arriving at veterinary school and begins to crave all matter of raw flesh after a hazing ritual, including human. The film is a contemporary classic less than a decade after its release. It has now been much discussed, but it was a magical surprise when it came out.
2. Happy Death Day (2017)
Many fans who now love Happy Death Day and its sequel Happy Death Day 2U, say that they weren’t expecting much from the “Groundhog Day, but it’s a horror movie” premise of a young woman who keeps waking up the same morning after being killed. While both films in the franchise are well-loved now, most fans agree the first is the better of the two.
3. The Faculty (1998)
It’s surprising that so many people went into The Faculty with low expectations, given that it’s directed by Robert Rodriguez from a script by Kevin Williamson of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. But as you’d expect from those two greats working together, The Faculty delivers a super fun and star-studded, good time at the movies with its version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that sets the story in a high school.
4. Unfriended (2014)
Like the found footage umbrella under which it falls, the “screenlife” sub-subgenre has its fair share of detractors who think the idea of a movie playing out entirely on a computer screen is nothing more than a gimmick. But several fans say that they were happily surprised by the early screenlife film Unfriended, which takes place in real-time over the course of a video chat during which a malicious spirit contacts a group of friends.
5. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Jennifer’s Body is now a famous example of a marketing failure. It’s a great movie that was mismarketed, leading people to have low or no, expectations about the film. But those who have seen it overwhelmingly agree that the movie about a teenager who becomes a succubus after a failed ritual is a delightfully good time.
6. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Some films are perfectly suited to blowing away expectations because they allow their stories to develop slowly and morph into something different over time. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is just such a film.
Several horror fans say that they thought they were in for a low-stakes crime story with a horror twist and were very happy to find that the film is something much more intriguing than that.
You’ll have to watch to find out what, though.
7. The Empty Man (2020)
A movie that slipped through the cracks in the midst of 2020, The Empty Man is one of the most interesting and exciting horror movies of the last five years. But its lack of marketing has led many people not to know about it.
Like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Empty Man begins as one thing (here, a story about a detective investigating missing teenagers) and develops into something far more fascinating and terrifying.
8. As Above, So Below (2014)
As Above, So Below brings found footage into the catacombs of Paris with a group of young people searching for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone and delivers some incredibly effective suspense and genuinely scary jumpscares. But many had no expectations for the movie or thought it would be a forgettable and by-the-numbers found footage movie and were very happy to discover it’s one of the best the subgenre has to offer.
9. 30 Days of Night (2007)
Any prolific horror subgenre likely has more movies that aren’t good than good movies. That mindset led several vampire fans to expect little from 30 Days of Night, but after watching it, they were pleasantly surprised by the film’s unique take on vampires, both narratively and aesthetically.
The adaptation of the comic of the same name centers on an Alaskan town that experiences 30 sunlight-free days every year. One year, vampires decide to attack and set up in the town for the entire period.
10. Evil Dead (2013)
Remakes often get a bad name, especially in horror, where it’s so common to remake the great horror movies of yesteryear, but sometimes remakes get it right. Evil Dead (2013) is perhaps the best remake of the 21st century. Many fans say they were expecting a significant disappointment compared with the original and its sequels but ended up loving the new ultra-gory version.
This thread inspired this post.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Looper, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.