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  • Rough Cut Staff

Watch These 8 Movies If You Don't Want to Sleep

Some horror movies make you jump; others make you scream. But some sink all the way down to the marrow of your bones, settling in like an uncomfortable pit in your stomach, tickling your brain just a bit every time you think you're able to forget what you saw. These are the movies that pop into your head just as you're about to fall asleep. These are the Can't Sleep Movies.

If you're looking to be shaken so deeply that you'll need a night light again, check out one of these movies on Halloween.


The Shining (1980)

Warner Bros.

You know the cliche moment-before-death flash, where you’re supposed to see your whole life wash across your field of vision, or maybe just those moments you truly cherished, or the ones you always regretted? I have that. But instead of before I die, it’s before I fall asleep. And instead of once-in-a-lifetime, it’s every night. And instead of memories, it’s just terrifying clips from The Shining. Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece has taken on increasing relevance in the age of quarantine, but even as we head into a winter of Jack Torrance level discontent, it’s those twisted images - Danny and the twins, the lady in the bathroom, the ocean of blood in the elevator bank - that forever haunt me. - Zach D'Amico


Funny Games (1997)

Castle Rock

No, thank you.

The twisted, sociopathic home invasion thriller so fucking horrifying that Michael Haneke made it twice, I have watched only one version, and much of that time was spent staring at my hands, or the wall, or the floor, or the backs of my eyelids, or anything other than the downright bone-chilling, skin-shriveling terror on-screen. It’s like staring evil straight in its dead, hollow eyes for ten seconds. Then, when you’re just about to break and look away, evil smiles. A toothy grin, devoid of all emotion we associate with smiles, but it looks like a smile. So, as I said before: no, thank you. - ZD


The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Artisan Entertainment

For many of us, The Blair Witch Project was our introduction to horror as early-age teens – and, god, does that ending still send us off on a high note. While they deserve all the credit in the world for some out-of-this-world marketing and a new popularization of the found footage genre, TBWP’s biggest strength is that ability to build tension on a shoestring budget – even if all the forced arguments border on annoying filler after time. With an ever-lasting image as iconic as this one, however, it’s certainly worth the wait – especially if you can lure in an unsuspecting target to watch with. - Ben Nadeau


The Descent (2005)


The pitch dark has never been so colorful before! Madness, monsters, and a spelunking trip gone wrong has aged like fine wine over the years. In an era largely bereft of quality, non-jump-scare horror, The Descent remains a sterling example of both tension and gore. Still, it can feel mighty claustrophobic as patient unease runs alongside bouts of pure silence and nightmare fuel. There’s no insane lore, no hack-y Final Girl ending – although the original UK version is better – and you’ll hold your breath in even more than you realize. The slow burn horror takes its time getting to the ultimate mayhem, but there’s no filler scenes here either – and the first-half cave exploration thriller is equally as engaging too! - BN


The Fourth Kind (2009)


Your mileage here will likely depend on whether or not you buy the gimmick – but as a high schooler, and even on rewatch, I did/have/will forever. In terms of egregious Letterboxd/Rotten Tomato scores, TFK might take my personal cake. This is a movie so downright horrifying at times that I had to sleep in a downstairs office following the end credits, too afraid of any impending abduction upstairs. But the poor rating here has always weighed on me a bit – of course everything is going to be less scary after you read all the articles about it afterward. Most of the ambivalence toward this flick seems to hinge on realizing – oh, they lied to me? It isn’t true? Sir, have you ever seen a single movie before?

My best advice is to turn the lights off, put your phone down, don’t head to Wikipedia, and just see if this genuinely unsettling gem is your cup of tea. If it sounds like I’m bitter, I absolutely am. - BN


Unfriended (2014)


Six years before Rob Savage weaponized a pandemic-fueled Zoom-splosion for his taut, video-chat-based horror film Host, Nelson Greaves and Levan Gabriadze scared the pants off of me without ever switching away from their webcam. Unfriended animates the spirit of a dead classmate rather than a stranger, and in doing so, makes every detail just a bit more personal. And while the visual tricks can be terrifying, it’s the gradual toxification of the group dynamics within this tight-knit group of friends that reflects such a horrific, recognizable reality that I couldn’t get it out of my head for months. - ZD


The Houses October Built (2014)

RLJ Entertainment

An indie haunted house movie that mostly came and went in 2014, The Houses October Built finds its terror in its origin story: docudrama. Three years earlier, director Bobby Roe released a documentary of the same title, chronicling the “dark world of haunting,” highlighting the people and the places that take haunted houses too far. Akin to extreme sports but for fear rather than adrenaline junkies, these twists on a Halloween classic laugh in the face of your liability waiver. The 2014 version weaves in interview footage to a fictional narrative. The historical context is interesting, but the real benefit is the consistent reminder that this is very real, and that it could very much happen to you next. That fact left me with chills long after the film’s disappointing ending. - ZD


As Above, So Below (2014)


Where TBWP ignited the found footage genre, As Above, So Above might have just rejuvenated it. Take a perfectly-terrifying real-life location – the catacombs under Paris – and add in claustrophobic darkness (sensing a theme with mine yet?) plus simple-to-follow lore – accidentally reaching the gates of Hell – and you’ve got an undeniable winner in my book. It feels like the found footage genre had well-lost its steam by the time AA,SB came along, but if you skipped this one, head back for another foray into shaky-cam greatness. - BN


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