Horror That Hits You Where It Hurts

The movie watching experience is a very subjective one. What one person finds terrifying might not faze someone else and what upsets someone might not affect someone else as severely.

When I took to Twitter the question of “What horror movies, if any, have made you cry?” these were some of the titles that came up.

Happy Death Day (2017) and Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Whenever I hear people talking about their experience the first time they saw Happy Death Day to you, the phrase “pleasantly surprised” comes up fairly often. I was one of those people. The idea for this list stemmed from me admitting that I cried when I saw Happy Death Day 2U in a theater and people were popping up saying, “same.” 


Tree (Jessica Rothe) starts off as a “mean girl in a slasher movie” but as the story progresses you begin to root for her. All of that anger and sarcasm was a defense mechanism after her mother’s death, made even tougher by the fact that they shared a birthday. In Happy Death Day 2U, when Tree wakes up in the alternate Monday the 18th in another dimension where, not only is she surprised to see that her love-interest, Carter, is dating her suddenly nice sorority sister, Danielle, but her mother is alive. Tree is forced to consider all of the possibilities for her future, in multiple dimensions, and makes her decision after a heart-to-heart in a hotel room with her mother (as Creature From The Black Lagoon plays on the television).

The Final Girls (2015)

“Her hair is Harlow gold. Her lips are sweet surprise. Her hands are never cold. She’s got Bette Davis eyes.”

The movie opens with Max (Taissa Farmiga) watching a movie trailer on her phone of an ultimate-80’s-camp-slasher movie Camp Bloodbath that stars her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman). Trying to stay positive about their stressful financial situation after an awkward audition, Amanda cranks up “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes on the car radio as she and Max sing with the windows down. Boom. They get broadsided in an accident, killing Amanda. When Max and friends are at a special showing of Camp Bloodbath at their local theater, a fire sends them running for an exit and they end up the movie itself. They come face to face with the campy characters and Max comes face to face with her mother again as her movie character (aptly named Nancy). Max feels such guilt and instinct to protect her mother’s character in the movie and to prevent her from dying next to her again. Ultimately, Nancy sacrifices herself to make Max “the final girl”.

Train To Busan (2016)

Train To fucking Busan 

I started off feeling like I was just watching any other zombie movie then part way through I’m shouting at my television for Sang-hwa to shout out a baby name to his pregnant wife before he gets mauled by a hoard of zombies. The story focuses on Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) and his young daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) and the audience quickly gets an attachment to them and all of the characters surrounding them in an emotional and face-paced fight for survival. Seok-woo makes the ultimate sacrifice and stays behind after he’s bitten and Soo-an is screaming and crying but she’s safe on a departing train.

Was anyone else ready to throw something at their tv if that military guy pulled the trigger and shot them both at the end?

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Dream Warriors brought back our Top-Tier Final Girl Nancy (Heather Langenkamp)…made us feel her compassion and badassery again as she protects and relates to Kristen (Patricia Arquette) and all of the kids at the hospital…then Freddy finally got to kill the one who had outsmarted him so fantastically. Patricia Arquette’s performance during this scene makes it all the more emotional as she sobs, “I’ll dream you into a beautiful dream.”


Fans would get the return of Heather Langenkamp as she returned to play Nancy one last time in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

Hereditary (2018)

Give. Toni. Collette. Her. Damn. Oscar. 

And give Alex Wolff one, too, while you’re at it. 

The death of a grandmother is what strikes me personally so I was feeling Hereditary’s effects as soon as the movie started. The opening of the movie is really the most “tame” part of the entire movie. Charlie’s shocking death…the infamous dinner scene…the piano wire…

If you’ve ever been in the room or in the next room when someone gets news of a death and you just hear the wailing, then you know exactly what I’m getting at. 

Hail Paimon.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Let me apologize to you right off the bat if your theater experience with this was anything but a mostly quiet theater. My theater was silent minus the occasional sounds of an older woman in the row behind me munching on popcorn. 

Directed and starring John Krasinski as patriarch Lee, the movie opens with the family returning from a trip into the city as they do their best to silently step through the wilderness. When the youngest son drops a toy rocket that he had taken from the store, he’s viciously snatched up by the sound-sensitive monsters in a jaw-dropping moment. During the climax of the movie, the monsters have their two kids pinned in a truck, and Lee has one final option. As soon as Lee begins to sign “I love you. I have always loved you” to his deaf daughter, you start getting punched in the gut because you know he’s about to start screaming at the top of his lungs.

That was unexpected and the tears were also unexpected. 

Late Phases: Night Of The Wolf (2014)

“When the creature then kills his seeing eye dog, McKinley’s thirst for justice turns into a one-man vendetta against the monster that’s terrorizing his neighborhood.”

So it tells you right in the synopsis on the back of the DVD case that the dog dies but it doesn’t prepare you for it. Ambrose (Nick Damici) is holding his bloodied dog as he’s slowing dying, begging for someone to help him, and it fucking hurts. People always poke and prod at horror fans with things like, “You can watch Saw and be fine but feel sad when the ASPCA commercial comes on?” Fuck. Yes.

Honorable Mention

The Exorcist television series (2016-2018)

Possibly the most underrated horror television show in recent memory.

Season one brought the intensity and season two brought out the emotion. Foster parent Andy (John Cho) has to process his wife’s suicide along with the five foster kids that they had taken in. After the demon attacks everyone’s most vulnerable emotions, it makes its way to Andy, who sacrifices himself with a bullet to the head, delivered by Marcus (Ben Daniels), to put an end to the vicious cycle. Before dying, Andy is able to give a message to Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) to relay to each kid individually about how much he cares about them and what he loves about them each personally and, damn, the tears were streaming.

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