Horror movies are supposed to make you jump and scream as they scare the pants off you, not turn you into a ball of blubbering mush.
But since they often involve sacrifice (not always the “human” variety), dead children and tragedy, there are quite a few horror movies that are as likely to have you sobbing as quaking with fear.
Of course, it’s often the downbeat, crushing ending that brings on the sobs, so be prepared as you read on for both shivers and spoilers…
1. The Mist.
Fans of Stephen King’s novella were outraged when Frank Darabont changed the ending for his movie adaptation, but King himself loved it, and it ranks as one of the most tragic final scenes of a movie, ever .
Only the hardest of hearts will be able to refrain from loudly sobbing ‘Why?!!’ as David (Thomas Jane), his young son and three others (including The Walking Dead ‘s Laurie Holden) attempt to escape from the mysterious mist – and the creatures that hide within it – in a car, only for it to run out of gas.
Realising it’s all over, the group make a silent pact and four gunshots ring out, leaving all in the car except David dead. Devastated there are no bullets left for him, he steps out of the car only for the mist to dissipate, revealing army trucks full of survivors and soldiers (including Holden’s Walking Dead co-star, Melissa McBride).
If only David had waited just two minutes… (sob)… just two minutes…
2. The Sixth Sense
For a horror movie, The Sixth Sense is actually quite the sobfest, with the biggest punch to the gut coming when young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) reveals to his mum Lynn (Toni Collette) that not only can he see dead people, but he has also had beyond the grave chats with Lynn’s mum.
If you make it through that scene without needing a box of tissues, have them ready for the end when psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) realises he himself is a ghost, and he says a final goodbye to his wife. Possibly the only time Willis will bring tears to your eyes in a movie (unless you’ve had the misfortune to sit through A Good Day to Die Hard ).
3. Jacob’s Ladder
Adrian Lyne’s stylish psychological horror is a head-scratcher of a movie with a plot that may have you weeping tears of frustration, but hang in there for a sad ending that (sort of) makes sense.
Tim Robbins is Jacob, the Vietnam veteran experiencing hallucinations of his late son Gabe (a pre- Home Alone Macaulay Culkin), flashbacks to the war and horrific events occurring around him in New York. It turns out – spoiler! – poor Jacob was mortally wounded in Vietnam and the whole movie is us watching him letting go of life, until in his mind he returns to his home and is greeted by Gabe, who takes him up the stairs towards a bright light.
4. Bride of Frankenstein
It could happen to anyone – a bonkers scientist has squished together a handful of spare body parts to make you the perfect partner and then when you bring her to life she dislikes you so much she starts to scream. It’s like the worst Tinder date ever.
In this 1935 James Whale classic, Boris Karloff’s performance as the monster rejected by his ‘bride’ (Elsa Lanchester) is heart-breaking (“Friend? Friend?”), as is the final scene when he pulls the lever to bring on the destruction of the laboratory, condemning himself, his bride and mad scientist Pretorius to a fiery death.
5. Pet Sematary
The Creed family clearly hadn’t seen Poltergeist when they bought their house or they would have known it’s not a sensible idea to live on top of a cemetery or, in this case, have one lurking at the bottom of the garden. Dad Louis (Dale Midkiff) should have guessed something was up when he buried the family cat there and it came back as a psycho kitty, but because this is a Stephen King adaptation you know it’s only going to get much, much worse.
Even so, it’s a huge, upsetting shocker when the family are playing in the fields nearby and little boy Gage runs off with his kite. Oh no, he’s near the busy road. Oh god, there’s a truck coming. The sight of adorable Gage’s bloodied trainer will set you off, then seeing photos of the little cutie in happier times will bring on the sobs. Damn you, Stephen King, damn you.
6. The Fly
This could win the prize for being the squishiest, yuckiest movie to bring a tear to your eye. David Cronenberg’s 1986 movie has Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, the eccentric scientist who has invented telepods that allow teleportation from one to the other. Unfortunately, when he tries it out himself he doesn’t realise a housefly has hitched a ride, he ends up merged with the insect, and it’s not long before he takes on fly characteristics such as vomiting a corrosive liquid and scaling the walls.
As it gets more stomach-churning, we know it’s not going to end well, but the sight of a mutated Brundlefly, begging his love (Geena Davis) to put him out of his misery, is surprisingly sad and, thanks to Chris Walas’s creature effects, disgusting at the same time.
7. I Am Legend
Richard Matheson’s science fiction horror story has been adapted before (1964’s The Last Man on Earth and 1971’s The Omega Man ) but it is the 2007 version starring Will Smith that – flawed as it is – will give you the sniffles. It’s all because of the dog.
Smith is one of the only survivors of a virus that either kills you or turns you into a mutant, and he’s trying to find a cure. His only living companion is Sam the adorable German Shepherd, and when she gets bitten and infected herself, he desperately tries out his serum on her but it doesn’t work. Watch Will Smith’s face as he cuddles Sam one last time, knowing he has to kill her, and feel those tears start to come.
8. The Others
Nicole Kidman is at her best as Grace, a mother of two holed up in a remote, rambling house with three strange servants in the aftermath of World War II in Alejandro Amenabar’s superb gothic horror.
If you’ve seen The Sixth Sense , you’ll realise the twist before it comes but Kidman, and Alakina Mann and James Bentley as her children, are simply devastating to watch as she realises that they aren’t being haunted. They are the ghosts themselves – Grace killed the children and herself when grief and isolation consumed her after her husband was declared missing.
9. The Orphanage
Director JA Bayona is pretty good at tugging our heartstrings with movies like A Monster Calls and the tsunami drama The Impossible , but it’s actually his horror movie The Orphanage that’s the most gut-wrenching of all. The whole story is horrific – Laura (Belen Rueda) returns to the orphanage where she lived as a child with her husband and son Simon and finds out many orphans were murdered there after the accidental death of a boy, but it gets even worse – if that’s possible – when Laura realises she has caused the death of her own missing son.
It’s the ‘happy’ ending that will get you, as Laura takes her own life so she can be with Simon and the other children forever.
10. Train to Busan
If you thought commuting on the British railway network was bad, check out this South Korean horror movie (no seriously, do – it’s on Amazon Prime Video ) that has Seok-woo boarding a train with his daughter Su-an at the same time as a woman who is foaming at the mouth and has a bite wound. Uh oh. Yes it’s zombie time, and as the infection spreads through the train and the surrounding towns, you know it’s not going to be long until something really nasty happens.
Try holding those tears back after Seok-woo is bitten and he says goodbye to his daughter, before moving outside and remembering the first time he held her before he throws himself off the train. Yeah, just try it.