There are the horror movies that make you jump, others leave you breathless, and others make you scream and close your eyes. But a movie that can make your skin crawl as you sit there squirming in your seat, resisting the urge to dig your nails into the palm of your hand, is something that’s not always easy in a film. Many audience members don’t enjoy that level of discomfort—but not you! You came for the list. So sit back and get ready to feel your skin crawl.
10. The Ruins
What might seem at first to be a standard, run-of-the-mill horror flick about a group of naïve American tourists in an ancient temple turns out to be an intensely psychological quarantine story with a “monster” you won’t expect. You’ll want to cut your nails before watching The Ruins to avoid itching your skin—which will crawl, literally!—while you watch it.
Yikes—this one is not for the faint of heart, but if you like a film that makes you squirm, then look no further. Part revenge, part torture, part creature flick, Martyrs is the story of two young women who befriend each other in an orphanage, one of whom escaped years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of an unknown “society.” Just when you think you’ve had too much, the movie takes a twist into an even darker storyline. To be honest, I am not sure I could watch this movie more than once.
8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
There are many incarnations of this body-replacing film—at least four by my count—but the 1978 one is the best, and has a cast a sci-fi nerd can only dream about, including Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright, and Jeff Goldblum. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers' alien “pods,” which replace humans with exact copies while they sleep, leave you with that creepy skin crawl of not knowing who has been replaced, and who hasn’t.
7. Cabin Fever (2002)
This is another so-called teen horror flick that ends up being psychologically interesting and equally skin-crawl-inducing. Save for the gun-toting rednecks that end up targeting the five just-graduated from college youngsters stranded in a log cabin, Cabin Fever's “monster” is the one that comes from within each character as they contract (and try to avoid contracting) a flesh-eating disease turning them into ghouls. Might I suggest: Avoid drinking the water.
6. Under the Skin
Not a horror flick by any stretch of the imagination, Under the Skin follows an alien literally “wearing” human skin as she lures unsuspecting young men with the promise of sex into a trap. Combined with the nails-against-a-chalkboard music and the slow-burning plot, Under the Skin might not give you any jump scares, but it will leave you scratching your head while you consider its themes of isolation, loneliness, and the human experience.
5. The Thing
The Thing follows a group of scientists in Antarctica in their efforts to contain a monstrous “thing” that finds its way into their isolated station. This film is a horror classic featuring completely odd and unexpected body transformations, created using real, live visual effects—long before CGI took over horror. There’s also a new-ish sequel (which is, in fact, a prequel to this one) that’s not bad, but unfortunately, the computer animation just doesn’t have the same skin-squirming effect that the 1980s film had.
4. Session 9
Session 9 is an example of a relatively straightforward, low-budget horror movie, but one that is executed so well it leaves those little hairs on the back of your neck standing tall. Taking place in an abandoned mental asylum, the story follows a group of blue-collar dudes removing asbestos, until things start to get creepy, voices are heard, and lobotomies are performed.
3. The Skin I Live In
I wouldn’t know what genre to categorize The Skin I Live In under, except to say that it’s one strange film—and I like that about it. I would recommend not reading any previews in advance and instead simply stepping into the movie to let it take you where it goes. I will, however, drop a hint for you: Forced plastic surgery.
2. Drag Me to Hell
You either love Sam Raimi films, or hate them. Either way, Drag Me to Hell—which follows a young woman who has been cursed by an old gypsy after denying her an extension on her mortgage—has its fair share of skin-crawling scenes involving gross things either coming out of or being put into the protagonist’s mouth and nose. The movie is also chockfull of jump-in-your-seat scares for those who like that.
1. The Fly
David Cronenberg is famous for his use of grotesque imagery, with The Fly as a prime example. The movie follows Jeff Goldblum’s character, a brilliant scientist, as he slowly transforms into a human-sized fly, complete with peeling skin, teeth that fall out, and nasty digestive enzymes that spew forth from his fly mouth.