A long and winding trip to the box office awaits Slender Man this weekend (including multiple release-date changes and a mostly absent marketing campaign). There is an Internet mythos about this long, spindly, human-like entity who abducts, rapes, and traumatises people – especially children. In the film, a group of teenage girls work together to unravel the mystery of Slender Man in order to protect themselves and save a friend who has vanished. Those urban legend horror stories you heard from your best friend’s cousin’s girlfriend about a guy who was killed by mixing Pop Rocks with cola are here again.
Urban legend-based horror movies have long been popular, and we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the best of them, listed in order of merit. Here’s a list of the best urban myth-based horror films, from Japan’s haunting VHS tapes to the alligators of the American sewers.
The 1983 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining is one of the best examples of the author’s work on the big screen. Keith Gordon’s goofy Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) buys the car of his dreams with the hard-earned college funds he saved up for the purpose. Christine is the car’s name, and after a thorough restoration, it bestows upon Arnie a newfound sense of self-assurance and a particularly vicious streak. Arnie is smitten with his new vehicle, and he can count on it to keep him safe from any harm that could come their way. One of the more shockingly long-lasting ghost stories is that of autonomous angry cars, and Christine is the standard-bearer for this trope.
The Hitcher (1986)
Having Rutger Hauer in your life is terrifying. The end of it. He elevates The Hitcher into a masterpiece with his icy, unyielding brutality. With his thumb out on the highway as John Ryder, Hauer is what your mother warned you about. As it turns out, Ryder spends the rest of the film trying to ruin the life of young Jim (C. Thomas Howell) by accusing him of being a co-conspirator in his cross-Texas killing spree. Hitcher also featured a young Jennifer Jason Leigh who portrays disillusionment to a tee.
This retelling of W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw,” also known as “Dead of Night,” involves a soldier who is killed in combat but is brought back to life by his mother’s pleadings. However, when Andy, the soldier, returns, he is no longer the same and is even aware that he has become a walking corpse. Ghoulish conduct is keeping him from withering, and he and his family are falling apart around him. One of Canada’s most beloved films, Deathdream examines the psychological repercussions of fighting on troops returning from war. Not every film based on an urban legend is a waste of time.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
The hook-handed guy tale has been around for a long time, but it has never been presented with as much gloss as it has in I Know What You Did Last Summer. “Sexy teens in horror” was a staple of the 1990s, and this group of actors, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr., smashed the competition in that regard. A group of friends on the verge of high school graduation mistakenly kill a man during a drunken joyride after a night of drinking and rioting. To be stuck in your small-town bait shop is an easy sentence in comparison to the punishment that will be meted out to the kids for their crimes and their shady cover-up. What are you waiting for if you haven’t seen this yet?
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
The Japanese ghost horror wave of the 1990s and early 2000s was led by Ju-on and Ringu. Intertwined tales about a house that was haunted by traumatized victims recount stories about a sequence of people who came into contact with that house. While Kayako (the long-haired ghost evocative of Samara/Sadako) Ringu’s would have made Ju-on terrible on her own, it also served us Toshio, one of the most terrifying children in horror film history. But don’t bother with the American remake, which was released in 2004.
Black Christmas (1974)
Be ready for some heresy, if it comes to that. The convention of “the killer is already in the house” was established by When a Stranger Calls, however Black Christmas is a better implementation of the notion. Stranger Calls’ first 30 minutes are arguably of the most effective examples of sheer terror ever captured on film, but the next hour isn’t quite as effective. However, from start to finish, Black Christmas is a sorority slasher delight. The Moaner harasses numerous sisters from Pi Kappa Delta in this Canadian classic, calling and making inappropriate noises on the other end of the phone. Aside from the fact that it’s a nuisance, it’s nothing more than a low-budget film that makes it all feel very, very genuine. Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin’s nascent film careers will be on display for all to see.
Willow Creek (2013)
First and foremost, there are two surprising aspects of Willow Creek to keep in mind. Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed this terrifying film on the legend of Bigfoot. Most people remember him as the “neurotic shouting comedian” from the 1990s, even though he’s already established himself as a successful television director. When a couple goes camping in the woods in search of Sasquatch’s rumored haunts, they discover far more than they bargained for. The film makes excellent use of discovered footage, and one scene in a misty tent is so stressful that it will likely shorten your lifespan by at least a year.
The Ring (2002)
This adaptation of Ringu is the only one that worked in the aughts when it came to bringing Japanese horror to the US, and boy did it work. As a mother battling to save her kid from the evil Samara, a spirit that spreads like a sickness when you watch a terrifying VHS tape she seized, Naomi Watts gives a classic performance as a horror heroine. You have seven days from the time you start watching the video to finish it. I’m glad Jacob Tremblay didn’t try to come up 16 years sooner since Amber Tamblyn and David Dorfman, the son of Watts, are both scary enough to make me wish I hadn’t.
First, a group of individuals were frightened by the first tape demon, Sadako Yamamura, in Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, which was based on a Japanese horror film of the same name. It was this iconic image of the pale white ghost with the long, stringy hair — and one awful eye peering out from behind it — crawling out of a TV that set off an entire American mania for adapting whatever Japanese horror stories studios could get their hands on. Chain letters have finally been brought into the 21st century!
Candyman is the best urban legend horror film ever made. Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden” was used as the basis for this take on the Bloody Mary legend starring Tony Todd. Racism has a central role in the horrors, which take place in a housing project and are introduced through the narrative. During a university student’s inquiry into urban mythology, she discovers the Candyman and learns that he wants to take her to the afterlife with him. It’s a staple of the Black Horror canon and a genre classic.