Since it’s the month of October, one of my favorite months of the year, I thought it would be fun to write a short post on horror movies — but then I thought: perhaps that’s a bit too cliché. Instead of horror, why not terror? Is there a difference? There is. Horror is the sudden, jolting surge of fear we experience when confronted with something threatening. With horror, the source of the fear is obvious and out in the open for the viewers; it’s the sight itself that makes an experience horrifying. It’s a shocking experience. However, terror is more subtle in comparison, and more intellectual for that reason — terror is the sensation of dread for a threat that is not yet in front of us, a fear that is mixed with our ability to imagine the unknown.

Movies that bring terror to their audience aren’t always labeled as horror, because the nature of terror necessarily leans into the psychological, which is a broader realm. While thinking about this post, I was often gravitating towards thrillers more than horror movies. It was a bit more difficult to come up with a list of movies that focused primarily on creating dread rather than shock than it would have been had I gone for straightforward horror; after all, the majority of horror movies focus on shock, with only small portions of the experience dedicated towards terror. What I also learned in the process is that horror is a lot more fun, while terror leads to far more serious and somber kinds of movies. If those kinds of movies are what you’re in the mood for these days, I hope that my efforts below will help you discover something new to watch.

#10: Melancholia (2011)

What better way to gain a sense of dread than from witnessing the imminent end of the world by cosmic forces outside our control? Melancholia stars Kirsten Dunst as a young woman, who suffers from severe depression, on her wedding day. Though she starts the day with a smile on her face, as the day goes on, her conviction weakens and her false pretense crumbles, caused by various triggers (some initially outside her control, others due to the magnetism of her faltering mood), resulting in her jeopardizing the future of her marriage and her personal relationships. Lurking behind this ever-gloomier situation is Melancholia, a planet that has been recently discovered, which is apparently passing by Earth — passing by so closely that there is a chance the two celestial bodies will collide and end all life as we know it. The first half of the movie sets the stage for the dread that develops in the second half, and by the end of it, I found that the movie touched on an aspect of the darker side of the feminine spirit than most. Though the movie could have used a more diverse soundtrack (I do love Wagner, don’t get me wrong; but he’s a bit overused here), it is otherwise a decent watch for those looking to get their dread on.

#9: The Innocents (1961)

One of the greatest sources of dread is the self: little do we sometimes know about ourselves, and confronting the shadow in us can be a very terrifying experience. The Innocents is essentially about this. A governess, played by Deborah Kerr, is hired to look after two orphaned children at a remote estate while their uncle, who owns the estate, travels abroad. The governess quickly falls under the suspicion (read: delusion) that the children are hiding something — and that the young boy may be coveting inappropriate feelings for her. The Innocents has been lauded as an artistic case study for Freudian theory and is a must-watch if you’re into that.

#8: Don’t Look Now (1973)

Don’t Look Now was one of the first, if not the first, “scary” movies that I ever watched. Premiering alongside The Wicker Man in 1973, the story is about a grieving couple who has recently lost their daughter in a fatal accident. The husband (Donald Sutherland) is invited to Venice to help restore an old church. Both he and his wife (Julie Christie) travel there with the hope of alleviating their grief, though this does little to help, and strange occurrences begin to haunt them only to exacerbate the grief. A powerful movie all around with a strong mix of melancholy, mystery, and anxiety that come together to create quite a dreadful and memorable experience.

#7: Prisoners (2013)

If your child was abducted, how far would you be willing to go to bring them back home safely? Would you be willing to torture, perhaps even kill someone? Prisoners is a painful and morbid story of a father (Hugh Jackman) who decides to take the law in his own hands in order to save his daughter’s life. Though mostly a crime thriller, the premise of Prisoners is sufficiently dark enough (and Paul Dano’s performance is sufficiently unnerving enough) to create some serious dread.

#6: The Shining (1980)

Does anything really need to be said here? The Shining is no doubt a movie you’ve already seen. Still, it’s worth featuring on this list, and perhaps it’s also worth re-watching. Few movies are as dreadful thanks to Jack Nicholson’s fantastic performance here, and of course thanks to the chilling story written by Stephen King. What more could you ask for than a movie set in an isolated haunted hotel in the dead of winter where an axe-wielding alcoholic maniac becomes possessed and chases his wife and son?

#5: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

If Robert Mitchum’s serial killing Reverend Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter doesn’t give you a sense of dread, then I don’t know what will. After learning from a cellmate that he hid a stash of $10,000 from a bank robbery (which, in the 1930s, would be roughly $200,000), the reverend decides to pursue the robber’s family for the money. The reverend is a cold, socially manipulating man who marries women only to murder them and take their fortune, and isn’t afraid to kill children too — two of which are keeping the money a secret. Set in West Virginia, The Night of the Hunter takes influence from German expressionist films and has a borderline southern gothic tone, making it a uniquely dreadful experience.

#4: The Deer Hunter (1978)

There are many war movies, war being a powerful source of dread, that could fit on this list, but The Deer Hunter manages to be even more dreadful than most. I chalk this up to the fact that most of The Deer Hunter actually takes place outside of the battlefield, focusing instead on the personal lives of a group of men from a small town in Pennsylvania and how those lives are changed by the Vietnam war, and also because Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken put on amazing performances. One of the main themes of this movie is the self’s struggle over its environment, and how our perception of the world plays a part in our relationship to ourselves. If you’re not a big fan of war movies, consider making an exception for this one.

#3: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)

Perhaps the darkest movie on this list, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger would be the first and last time Hammer Film Productions attempted a movie that tried to tackle a taboo subject, due to its extremely poor reception. Nevertheless, among Hammer’s repertoire (which mostly consists of gothic horror and adventure movies), it is also perhaps the most terrifying movie they ever produced. Felix Aylmer, who never actually speaks a line in the movie, is the senior member of the wealthiest family in town, and for this reason has immense social power. When a young couple who has just moved into town learn that their daughter may have been taken advantage of by the old man, they attempt to press charges, but this soon blows up in their face as they discover that no one in town is willing to support them on it. Never Take Sweets from a Stranger is a gritty, oppressive experience that will surely create dread in any viewer.

#2: Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies is another war movie that made it to the list for the same reason as The Deer Hunter: because, rather than focus on events on the battlefield itself, it focuses on how personal lives are transformed by war. In this case, the story follows a young brother and sister who are orphaned and rendered homeless by an air raid in Japan during World War II. Being animated has no effect on the deep and lasting impact this movie has, as the writing is particularly realistic and grim, having been based on a semi-autobiographical book. Because the movie starts with a glimpse of what terrible fate is in store for the main characters, the entire experience throughout is one of enormous dread. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Grave of the Fireflies belongs on this list and is one any reader of any particular taste should consider watching.

#1: Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Set on the American frontier, Bone Tomahawk takes us on a heroes’ journey into the abyss — except in this abyss, rather than any mythological or supernatural threat, there’s only nature itself, portrayed in raw violence. Four heroes, played by Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, and Matthew Fox, venture out into no man’s land in order to rescue the foreman’s (Wilson) wife and the sheriff’s (Russell) young deputy from a pack of cannibalistic troglodytes. This is the dark adventure of Bone Tomahawk, and how we come to know all of its characters personally. Director and scriptwriter S. Craig Zahler blends the western and horror genres exceptionally well here, giving us what is perhaps the best example of such a genre mix out there. The performances are fantastic, the script is dense with details and quirky mishaps, and the cinematography and soundtrack are employed in such a way that every scene is tense and keeps the viewer on edge. At bottom, Bone Tomahawk is a psychological horror epic, consisting of archetypal characters and elemental forces, and my personal favorite example of a movie that will fill you with dread.

Horror is the name of the game this month, but terror can sometimes be even more frightening. What dread-inspiring movies would you add to this list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.