The best horror movies are not based on some random fantasy world, separated from reality by magical forces, but those that are set in an extremely familiar environment. Hospitals, for instance, are largely ordinary institutions that are supposed to offer medical care, so they rarely rank high in terms of the fear quotient.
At the same time, anybody who has walked down a hospital hallway late at night would understand the feeling of enveloping dread that seems to pervade their entire being — in part due to the clinical odors of sanitizing liquids as well as the fact that these locations are where an inordinate number of deaths occur (regardless of their nature.) As such, some of the creepiest examples of horror cinema take place in hospitals.
10 Dead Ringers (1988)
David Cronenberg, known best for his oeuvre of body horror cinema, directed and scripted Dead Ringers; with Jeremy Irons playing a pair of identical twins (who also happened to be gynecologists). The two men work together, which allows them to “swap” patients for sexual purposes, and the women are none the wiser.
However, things take a dark turn when one of the twins becomes infatuated with Claire, and his journey down a spiraling hole begins at this point. Dead Ringers was quite a hit when it was released, with most of the acclaim directed towards Jeremy Irons’ performance.
9 The Ward (2010)
John Carpenter’s 2010 attempt at horror, The Ward, came long after his most famous creations (The Thing and Halloween, to name a couple). As such, it was not well received by many critics, some of whom derided the veteran directors “emphasis on a hectic pace over atmosphere.”
On the other hand, The Guardian referred to The Ward as having “some finely crafted shocks.” The movie begins in 1966, following the story of an arsonist who discovers that the asylum ward in which she has been kept is haunted by a horrifying specter of the past.
8 Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
Stonehearst Asylum has been roughly adapted from Edgar Allen Poe’s The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, and boasts of a starlit cast including Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale, David Thewlis, and Ben Kingsley.
The narrative follows a newly minted medical doctor from Oxbridge who finds himself falling in love with one of the ladies committed to the asylum in question. Unfortunately for him, his radical new ideas for compassionate treatment have to take a sudden backseat when something untoward emerges from the basement of the building.
7 Infection (2004)
A pre-eminent Japanese horror film, Masayuki Ochiai’s Infection is set in a decrepit hospital, in which one doctor’s error results in a flood of terrifying events that severely impact everyone working in the area.
A few symptoms of horror include people turning into fluid green gunk, which also pours out of various bodily orifices belonging to different characters. Infection was originally showcased together with another horror flick, Premonition by Tsuruta Norio, as a double feature.
6 The Eye (2002)
The Eye is a classic example of Hong Kong horror cinema, and was so popular that it has been remade multiple times — Naina in Hindi (2005), Adhu in Tamil (2004), and a 2008 American version with the same name.
A young violinist undergoes a blindness correcting surgery to restore her eyesight, but her new vision is peppered with apparitions of the damned. Her psychiatrist suspects that her ocular transplant has something to do with these sightings, which turns out to be true, but not in a way anyone would have expected.
5 The Jacket (2005)
John Maybury’s The Jacket is a loose adaptation of The Star Rover by novelist Jack London, and incorporates the theatrical talents of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keira Knightley, and Adrien Brody. The protagonist, Jack Starks, is a veteran of the Gulf War of 1990-1991, whose memory lapses, accidentally implicating him in a crime that he didn’t commit.
As such, he is sent to a psychiatric clinic, where he undergoes bizarre therapies performed by the equally strange Dr. Thomas Becker. What happens after this is a plot twist of epic proportions.
4 The Uninvited (2009)
The Guard brothers remade A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), a Korean-language horror movie, into their own version titled The Uninvited. Anna is forced to live in a mental asylum for attempting to kill herself when her mom perishes in an unfortunate accident, but her home life has taken an extreme turn by the time she is discharged from the hospital.
Everything becomes murkier than ever when her mother’s ghost starts haunting the house, claiming that her husband’s new fiancee is responsible for her death. The Uninvited didn’t fare very well in terms of critical opinion, but it is nonetheless a scarefest.
3 Grave Encounters (2011)
With The Blair Witch Project, the notion of “found-footage” horror movies began to rise in popularity. One of the outcomes of this phenomenon is Grave Encounters, in which the so-called video footage shows the film crew of a TV show about the supernatural trying to disprove that Collingwood mental hospital was as haunted as claimed.
Unfortunately for them, it is. A few critics disliked Grave Encounters for “beating a dead horse”, but audiences simply adored the film, a fact that helped in the development of a sequel the following year.
2 Unsane (2018)
Unsane by Steven Soderbergh is a departure from his usual style (Erin Brockovich, Magic Mike, Logan Lucky, and the Oceans franchise), but it remains true to his cinematic foresight as an auteur. Sawyer Valentini, the protagonist, accidentally commits herself to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center, and is unable to leave for several days.
Here, she believes that her stalker is out to get her, and does everything in her power to avoid being gruesomely murdered. Considering the movie was filmed to completion using the iPhone 7 Plus, it is an excellent accomplishment.
1 Session 9 (2001)
Session 9 is the story of a crew of asbestos cleaners who get themselves the unseemly job of removing the toxic dust from Danvers State Mental Hospital, which had been abandoned for over a decade at that point. The building looks like its about to fall apart, but this doesn’t explain why the citizens of the nearby town are afraid of the place.
It looks like these new guys are about to find out why. Directed by Brad Anderson, Session 9 was called ” a spine-tingler” and a “deeply unsettling journey off the edge and into the abyss of the human mind” by its initial reviewers.
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